Rievaulx Bridge

Turners Rievaulx SF 221x150 Rievaulx Bridge

View of Rievaulx as close to Turner's painting of 1826 as you can now get

Rievaulx Abbey is a wonderful place to visit, with extensive ruins as can be seen in our pictures of it at The picture taken from inside the chancel is looking out towards Reivaulx Bridge over the river Rye. When you go to Rievaulx it is well worth taking time to travel further down the road South to the abbey bridge. This is where Turner sketched two views of the abbey in 1816, and went on to paint the famous water colour of 1825 which is done from standing on the bridge. If you stand there now all you will see is the mature trees lining the banks of the river, and you may notice that the river has cut a lower bed by some three feet since 1816. This is less than 200 years ! In Turner’s painting the stream running into the river from the South West is forming a delta with no cut into the flood plain at all, yet now this same stream falls some three foot over the river bank. At first I was baffled as to why the river had cut down so quickly in 200 years when the river must have been running over that flood plain for thousands of years. Then I realised that the river hadn’t been there at all – it was the monks who diverted it to where it is now, at the valley side – in order to build the monastery where they did ! So in fact the river channel is only 900 years old anyway.

This caused them some recurring problems with the foundation of the bridge piers – the river kept on undercutting them. This again was a common problem, the action of the water pushing past the bridge piers caused the river bed to be sucked out – like the sand around a large rock on the beach. The bridges would end up with the central supports actually hanging down from the bridge rather than supporting it – and the bridge would break in two. If you climb down the bank to the base of the bridge you can see the extensive repairs and underpinning that have been done. There is a fine view of the abbey ruins not too dissimilar to Turner’s painting from the road just before the bridge. The cows are still grazing in the meadow, the abbey ruins still glow in the evening sun, only the river is missing from here. We may produce this view in our own style at a later date. Keep watching our site.