Sources for Rievaulx Abbey

This page summarises the main sources for our knowledge and understanding of Rievaulx Abbey.

Engraving of the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey from the west in 1721, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck

Engraving of the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey from the west in 1721, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck

Primary Sources (Unpublished)

British Library

  • Cotton MS Julius Dii: a late 12th-century cartulary containing the primary evidence for the abbey’s estate. It was published in an edited version with later charters by JC Atkinson in 1889 (see Secondary Sources (published) below).


Belvoir Castle

Papers relating to the suppression are principally owned by the duke of Rutland and are in the muniment room at Belvoir Castle, including:

  • MS Misc 105 (1): a rental list of abbey lands at Griff and Newlathes Granges and within the precinct
  • MS Misc 105 (4): a rental list of lands in Bilsdale and Raisdale of 1539
  • An uncatalogued inventory of the site probably dating to the spring of 1539 (also included in Atkinson’s publication of the cartulary, together with the grant of the site to the Earl of Rutland and the Ministers’ Accounts of Michaelmas 1539).

All these documents (apart from Belvoir, MS Misc 105 (4)) were republished by Coppack in 1986 or 1999 (see Secondary Sources (published)). Belvoir, MS 105 (4) has been transcribed by Coppack and a copy is held with the Rievaulx archive at the Helmsley Archaeology Store. 

            

Primary Sources (Published)

Atkinson, JC (ed), Chartularium Abbathiae de Rievalle, Surtees Society, 83 (1889)

Connor, E (trans), The Mirror of Charity: Aelred of Rievaulx, Cistercian Fathers Series 17 (Kalamazoo, 1990)

Dutton, M, Walter Daniel: The Life of Aelred of Rievaulx, Cistercian Fathers Series 57 (Kalamazoo, 1994)

Hoste, A and Talbot, CH (eds), ‘Aelredi Rivallensis opera omnia’, in Corpus Christianorum continuatio mediaevalis (Turnhout, 1971)

Powicke, FM (trans and ed), The Life of Ailred of Rievaulx by Walter Daniel (New York, 1951)

Material Sources

For the buildings and precinct layout of Rievaulx Abbey, the primary sources are the ruins themselves, the earthworks that surround them, and the 4,000 or more objects recovered by excavation and clearance in the 1920s. English Heritage holds the entire archaeological archive, including a paper-based archive as well as the finds, at its Archaeology Store at Helmsley.

Most of the collection consists of architectural stonework, which includes  a significant group of pieces decorated with human or animal heads and sculptures. There are also many small finds of communal and personal possessions ranging from coins to book fittings, keys, fixtures and fittings as well as large quantities of medieval floor tiles, window glass and ceramics. 

Visual Sources

The most well-known depictions of Rievaulx Abbey are published in W Richardson, The Monastic Ruins of Yorkshire from drawings by William Richardson, architect, with historical descriptions by Edward Churton, 2 vols (York, 1844) [accessed 13 February 2013].

Other key visual sources include:

  • Buck, N and Buck, S, ‘West prospect of Rievaulx Abbey near Helmsley in Yorkshire’, engraving, 1721
  • Cotman, JS, ‘Doorway of the Refectory, Rievaulx Abbey’, watercolour on paper, 1803, Tate [accessed 10 September 2014]
  • Cotman, JS, ‘Rievaulx Abbey’, graphite on paper, 1803, Tate [accessed 10 September 2014]
  • Cotman, JS, ‘Ruins of Rievaulx Abbey’, watercolour on paper, 1803, V&A [accessed 10 September 2014]
  • Girtin, Thomas, ‘Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire’, watercolour on paper, 1798, V&A [accessed 10 September 2014]
  • Turner, JMW, ‘Rievaulx Abbey’, etching and engraving on paper, 1812, Tate [accessed 10 September 2014]
  • Turner, JMW, ‘Rievaulx Abbey’, watercolour on paper, c 1826, York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery) [accessed 10 September 2014]
  • Turner, JMW, ‘Rievaulx Abbey’, watercolour on paper, 1836, Tate [accessed 10 September 2014]
  • John Chessell Buckler’s unpublished manuscript of Cistercian Abbeys and many associated original drawings, British Library, MS 27, 763–5.
  • Additional Rievaulx drawings by Buckler, British Library, Add MS 36395, fols 75b–94b (drawings of the transepts, presbytery, and gate chapel) and Add MS 36402, fol 54 (plan of the presbytery).

The Historic England Archive holds a substantial collection of photographs taken throughout the conservation and repair of the site.

Secondary Sources (Published)

Baker, D, ‘Ailred of Rievaulx and Walter Espec’, Haskins Society Journal: Studies in Medieval History, I (1989), 91–8

Burton, J, Monasticon Eboracense (York, 1758)

Burton, J, ‘The estates and economy of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire’, Cȋteaux: commentarii cisterciences, 49 (1998), 29–94

Coppack, G, ‘Some descriptions of Rievaulx Abbey in 1538–9: the disposition of a major Cistercian precinct in the early sixteenth century’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 139 (1986), 46–87

Coppack, G, ‘The outer courts of Fountains and Rievaulx Abbeys: the interface between estate and monastery’, in L’Éspace cistercien, ed L Pressouvre (Paris, 1994)

Coppack, G and Fergusson, P, Rievaulx Abbey (English Heritage, London, 1994)

Coppack, G, ‘Rievaulx Abbey’, in The Cistercian Abbeys of Britain: Far from the Concourse of Men, ed D Robinson (London, 1998) 160–64

Coppack, G, The White Monks: the Cistercians in Britain 1128–1540 (Stroud, 1998)

Coppack, G, ‘Appendix D: Suppression documents’, in Rievaulx Abbey: Community, Architecture, Memory, ed P Fergusson and S Harrison (New Haven and London, 1999), 226–37

Coppack, G, ‘The planning of Cistercian monasteries in the later Middle Ages: the evidence from Fountains, Rievaulx, Sawley, and Rushen’, in The Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation England, ed J Clark (Woodbridge, 2002), 197–209

Coppack, G, Fountains Abbey: the Cistercians in Northern England (Stroud, 2009)

Dunning, GC, ‘A lead ingot from Rievaulx Abbey’, Antiquaries Journal, 32 (1952), 53–63

Dunning, GC, ‘Heraldic and decorated metalwork and other finds from Rievaulx Abbey’, Antiquaries Journal, 45 (1956), 53–63

Dutton, M, ‘The conversion and vocation of Aelred of Rievaulx’, in England in the Twelfth Century, ed D Williams (Woodbridge, 1990), 31–49

Fergusson, P, ‘Early Cistercian churches in Yorkshire and the problem of the Cistercian crossing tower’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 29 (1970), 211–21

Fergusson, P, Architecture of Solitude: Cistercian Abbeys in Twelfth Century England (Princeton, 1984)

Fergusson, P,  ‘The twelfth-century refectories at Rievaulx and Byland Abbeys’ in Cistercian Art and Architecture in the British Isles, eds C Norton and D Park (Cambridge, 1986), 160–89

Fergusson, P, ‘Porta Patens Esto: notes on early Cistercian gatehouses in the north of England’, in Medieval Architecture and its Intellectual Context: Studies in Honour of Peter Kidson, ed E Fernie and P Crossley (London, 1990), 47–60

Fergusson, P, ‘Aelred’s abbatial residence at Rievaulx Abbey’, Studies in Cistercian Art and Architecture, V (1998), 35–54

Fergusson, P and Harrison, S, ‘The Rievaulx Abbey chapter house’, Antiquaries Journal, 74 (1994), 211–51

Fergusson, P, and Harrison, S, Rievaulx Abbey: Community, Architecture, Memory (New Haven and London, 1999)

Fergusson, P, Coppack, G, and Harrison, S, Rievaulx Abbey (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2006) [buy the guidebook]

Halsey, R, ‘The earliest architecture of the Cistercians in England’, in Cistercian Art and Architecture in the British Isles, eds C Norton and D Park (Cambridge, 1986), 65–86

Harrison, S, ‘Jervaulx Abbey and Gisborough Priory: how a study of architectural fragments can inform our understanding of these lost buildings’, Novi Monasterii, Jaarboek Abdijmuseum Ten Duinen 1138, 8 (2009), 73–92

Harvey, W,  ‘Nave excavations: Rievaulx Abbey’, The Builder (12 August 1921), 196–7

Harvey, W,  ‘Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire’, The Builder (10 November 1922), 703–06

Harvey, W,  ‘Rievaulx Abbey ruins; some details of masonry repair’, The Builder (13 July 1923), 58–61

Hoey, L, ‘The thirteenth-century choir and transepts of Rievaulx Abbey’, Yorkshire Monasticism: British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions (Leeds, 1988), 97–117

Hope, WH St John, ‘Rievaulx Abbey’, The Builder (7 July 1894), 9–12

Hoste, A, Bilbliotheca Aelrediana, Instrumenta Patristica: A Survey of the Manuscripts, Old Catalogues, Editions and Studies Concerning St Aelred of Rievaulx (Den Haag, 1962)

Johnson, D, ‘Rievaulx mill: a history trail’, Ryedale Historian (1963), 15, 22–4

McDonnell, J (ed), A History of Helmsley, Rievaulx and District (York, 1963)

Moorman, M (ed), The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth (Oxford, 1980)

Page, W (ed), ‘Houses of Cistercian monks: Rievaulx Abbey’, in The Victoria History of the County of York, vol 3 (London, 1914) [accessed 10 September 2014]

Peers, CR, ‘Two relic holders from altars in the nave of Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire’, Antiquaries Journal, 1 (1921), 271–82

Peers CR, Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire (HMSO guidebook, London, 1929)

Peers,  CR, ‘Rievaulx Abbey: the shrine in the chapter house’, Archaeological Journal, 86 (1929), 20–28

Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire, the North Riding (London, 1966)

Powicke, FM, ‘Maurice of Rievaulx’, English Historical Review, 36 (1931), 17–25

Powicke, FM (ed and trans), The Life of Ailred of Rievaulx by Walter Daniel (Manchester, 1922, reprinted New York, 1951)

Richardson, W, The Monastic Ruins of Yorkshire from drawings by William Richardson, architect, with historical descriptions by Edward Churton, 2 vols (York, 1844) [accessed 13 February 2013]

Robinson, D (ed), The Cistercian Abbeys of Britain: Far from the Concourse of Men (London, 1998)

Rye, HA, ‘Rievaulx Abbey: its canals and building stones’, Archaeological Journal, 57 (1900), 69–77

Scott, H, Rievaulx Village: Tenants and Cottages 1538–1930 (Helmsley, 1993)

Sharpe, E, Architectural Parallels; or the Progress of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England (London, 1848)

Whitaker, TD, A Series of Views of the Abbeys and Castles in Yorkshire, Drawn and Engraved by W Westall ARA and F Mackenzie with Historical and Descriptive Accounts by Thomas Dunham Whitaker (London, 1820) 

                   

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