Summary: Rievaulx is a village in the picturesque valley of Ryedale on the edge of the North York Moors. It is famous for its ruined Cistercian abbey, which became in the 18th century the focal point for a notable landscape garden (Rievaulx Terrace) on the estate of a nearby country house, Duncombe Park. It is also well known to industrial archaeologists as the site of an important 16th-century water-powered iron-smelting furnace. Vernacular houses of the 17th and 18th centuries and a medieval church or capella ante portis, restored by Temple Moore in 1906, add further interest to the small settlement.
Issue: Both the Abbey (English Heritage) and Rievaulx Terrace (National Trust) have long been important visitor attractions but the wider interest of the landscape, and the important historical links between its main elements, were not apparent to the casual visitor, who was also obliged to drive along narrow lanes between two adjacent sites for want of other communication.
Strategy: The objective of the study, part of a linked series exploring key elements of the Ryedale landscape as part of the Can-Do consortium of English Heritage, the North York Moors National Park and other partners, was to extend understanding of the landscape at large by probing neglected aspects and focusing particularly on interrelationships between the various elements. Given the complexity of the individual monuments, ranging from much altered 17th-century longhouses to the abbey ruins themselves, the study inevitably relied heavily on a range of earlier work, including researches over many years by Gerry McDonnell, a systematic investigation of the housing by the RCHME in the 1980s, and a recent published account of the architectural development of Rievaulx Abbey. Additional architectural and archaeological fieldwork focused on testing and extending existing understanding and did not involve the production of formal records of individual structures and features.
Outcome: The resulting overview of the development of the landscape was synthesised for lay consumption in an attractive broadsheet, for distribution at visitor attractions, tourist information centres and other outlets in the locality. Using a mixture of field and documentary evidence this explains the various features visible in the landscape, adding interest to a visit and providing reasons to explore local lanes and footpaths more fully, turning the eye away from the monument in isolation and towards its wider context.
Keywords: ASSESSMENT AND CHARACTERISATION
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