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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The gatehouse


Women, hawks and dogs, except those ready barkers used to drive
thieves from houses, do not enter the gates of the monastery.
[Walter Daniel, Life of Aelred.]

A John Surdeval of Beadlam granted the monks of Rievaulx his territorial rights in Nawton (of one carucate of land) and stipulated that these revenues should be used for distributing alms at the gatehouse.
[Rievaulx Cartulary no. 355 (p. 249); cited Burton ‘The estates and economy of Rievaulx’, p. 67].

The entrance to the abbey precinct was via a great gatehouse that stood to the NE of the monastery; by the sixteenth century this had a slated roof. A second gatehouse controlled access to the inner court and it was here that the porter officiated between Lauds and Compline each day receiving visitors and administering alms.

The gatehouse at Rievaulx
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
The gatehouse at Rievaulx

A gatehouse chapel stood between these two gates. Here visitors were blessed, prayed and edified. It was probably here that Aelred, Walter Espec and their companions were met by the prior, porter and guestmaster of Rievaulx when the party visited the abbey in 1134. Aelred, we are told, was so moved by the power of their preaching that he decided to enter the Cistercian life.(2) The chapel is now used as the parish church; the main walls and one window are original.

Little now survives of the inner gatehouse at Rievaulx, which was, at least in the later Middle Ages, a two-storey building.(3) It probably comprised of two parts: a two-bay gateway on the north and a single-bay gatehall on the south, allowing access to the inner and outer courts. Similar gatehouses remain at Kirkstall and Furness. (4)

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