Conservation work reveals an insight into Rievaulx Abbey’s past

Rachael Bowers, Collections Documentation Assistant at English Heritage, uses a specialist steam cleaner to gently clean the voussior which is due to go into the new museum at Rievaulx Abbey. Picture: Anthony Chappell-Ross
Rachael Bowers, Collections Documentation Assistant at English Heritage, uses a specialist steam cleaner to gently clean the voussior which is due to go into the new museum at Rievaulx Abbey. Picture: Anthony Chappell-Ross
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THE SKILL and artistry of those who built one of the country’s finest abbeys will be seen first hand after painstaking renovations of a 12th century doorway arch-stone.

The arch-stone, or ‘voussoir’ was once situated between the original abbot’s house and the Chapter house at Rievaulx Abbey, in Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

As part of a major renovation scheme, the doorway, which is one of the earliest decorated examples from a time when plain and austere was the order of the day, has been conserved before going on display at the Abbey’s new museum which is due to open in May.

It will be displayed alongside thousands of architectural stones that were recovered at the site in the 1920s during excavations by war veterans - much suffering from weather and vegetation damage.

Caroline Rawson, collections conservator at English Heritage said: “Rievaulx was built from a fine sandstone which is such a beautiful colour and texture, it has been very rewarding to clean some of the architectural fragments. These were soiled with dust, dirt and lichen which has built up over the hundreds of years since they formed part of the Abbey buildings. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see these stones displayed in the museum and get close enough to really appreciate the skill and artistry of the masons who built the Abbey.

“By bringing the stones out of storage and exhibiting them, visitors get a more complete picture of the lives of the monks who lived and worked at the abbey as well as an insight into the grandeur of the building. It’s having such significant pieces like this that allows us to tell the story better.”