Rievaulx Abbey

If you look carefully at our picture of Rievaulx taken from the cloister area you will see that the walls of the Southern transept splay outwards toward the top. When we first saw this on our raw files we thought that we had lens distortion, but in actual fact the walls do lean outwards, and this was caused by the immense weight of the vaulted roof, which, pressing down on the walls caused them to push apart. This was a problem common to all of these buildings, and is one of the reasons why they habitually fell down in time. In fact you can see the same thing happening on many of the preserved abbeys. Look down the the isles along side the naves and often as not you will see the walls leaning outwards. Some were saved from falling in Victorian times by some pretty staggering engineering feats : at Beverley the Northern transept was drawn back together by an iron framework attached to a huge horse powered screw jack – it was then winched upright ! At St. Albans Abbey the nave roof was removed and chains stretched across the top of the walls and this was winched together. The construction of St Albans is quite topical at the moment – in recent times people wanting to build a new house from re claimed bricks have had resistance from some councils and building regulators who say old bricks have had their life and shouldn’t be re used. St Albans was built by the Normans around 1140 from re claimed Roman bricks that were already 600 years old – and it is still standing to day ! In fact St Albans is the only abbey in Britain that has its original Norman tower, and yes, it’s built from Roman bricks !