Enhancing history – Rievaulx Abbey
Major improvements to both museum and visitor facilities have just been completed at Rievaulx Abbey – a well-known and significant English Heritage site near Helmsley and Richmond in North Yorkshire.
Rievaulx was one of the first Cistercian monasteries to be founded in England and at one time was one of the wealthiest monasteries in Britain.
English Heritage invested £1.8m in this important project which provides a number of key benefits for Rievaulx.
The works included major improvements to the museum, which presents the story of Rievaulx, showcases its role within England’s monastic history in a completely new way, and displays its remarkable collection from the site.
This work also enables the museum to meet the criteria required to accept important monastic artefacts from regional and national institutions.
Further improvements include enlargement of the site’s visitor café, complete with views over the abbey, the provision of a more free-flowing visitor reception, an improved shop, toilets and other visitor facilities.
Planning and consultation for the project started in the autumn of 2014, with the works commencing in June 2015.
Main contractors for the visitor facility improvements were Simpson (York) Limited. Clea Warner, Area Manager for Yorkshire and the South Lake District at English Heritage said: “Rievaulx Abbey has such a beautiful setting that it was important to appoint a contractor who could work to the timelines and carry out the work sensitively with minimal disruption to visitors and the nearby community.”
Dr Mark Douglas, Properties Curator for English Heritage said: “We thought long and hard about how we could ensure the work would have the least impact on our visitors. Much of the initial work could not take place over the winter, so following consultation with our architects, we decided to work through the summer and into 2016 which gave us, with planning, the most time efficient and concentrated period of work to ensure we achieved all that we wanted.
“This enabled us to minimise disruption to our visitors and ensure we were not working within a protracted period.
“Rievaulx Abbey is located in a beautiful rural setting and we were keen to ensure that visitors, including leisure visitors who walk close to the site, and the residential community of nearby towns and villages, were engaged in our project as we valued both their support and patience.”
Liz Page, Historic Properties Director for English Heritage – North, added: “The quality of our visitor experience is paramount. We wanted to ensure that this prestigious location provides an excellent exhibition space to showcase our wonderful collection.
“Displaying Rievaulx’s artefacts within a revamped museum gives visitors a real insight into life at one of the wealthiest monasteries in Britain. Rievaulx Abbey is nationally recognisable and one of our most prestigious sites.”
Ian Hildreth, managing director for Simpson, said: “Simpson undertook the works with their own craftsmen sustainably and with a total sensitivity to the local environment, ultimately providing total comfort to all involved in the successful safe delivery of this high profile facility.”
Among the largest and most complete monastic remains anywhere in Britain, the ruins of Rievaulx include part of the immense abbey church which still stands to roof height, with extensive remains of the monastic buildings where Cistercian monks lived and worked.
English Heritage is the custodian of over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites through which we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million visitors each year.