A weekend in North Yorkshire in the pleasant small market town of Helmsley provided the opportunity to visit the ruins of the very splendid Rievaulx Abbey
Rievaulx Abbey is located in the North Yorkshire Moor National Park and was founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Monastery in Ville-sous-la-Ferte in north eastern France.
Headed by the Abbot of Rievaulx, the Abbey became one of the wealthiest in England providing its monks with total self sufficiency as required by the order.
The Abbey and its surrounding lands provided food, leather and wool, Water was provided by the nearby River Wye, which was diverted by the monks to bring water closer to Monastery. They also built up a profitable business in the mining and processing of iron ore and lead.
The population of the Monastery was made up of of Choir Monks and Lay Brothers. Choir monks were ordained into the Catholic Church, whilst Lay Brothers provided the workforce for building projects, agriculture and other menial tasks.
In its hay heyday Rievaulx was home to some one hundred and forty Choir Monks and many more Lay Brothers. However by 1381, following the Black Death and a serious outbreak of sheep scab, the numbers fell to fourteen choir monks, three Lay Brother and the Abbot.
The abbey was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1538. At that time there were reported to be 72 buildings occupied by an abbot and 21 monks, attended by 102 servants, with an income of £351 a year.
The Abbey is now owned and managed by English Heritage and well worth a visit