Gerry McDonnell gives a talk for the Ian Ramsay Seminar Series on 24th February 2011.
Iron was fundamental to the construction and operation of any large scale building in medieval Europe, whether castle or abbey. The long-standing interpretation of the development of iron smelting technology in England argued for a step change in technology in the late 15th Century when small scale bloomery iron production was replaced by blast furnaces producing a tonne of cast iron per day. This model has been undermined by the recent evidence of 'blast-furnaces' in Scandinavia in the 10/11th centuries AD. Therefore the Cistercians monasteries with their strong European network could play a major role in the evolution of iron technology in Europe spanning the critical period of technological development between 1000-1500AD. This presentation will outline the history of Rievaulx Abbey. It will summarise the results of archaeological fieldwork conducted on the home granges of Rievaulx. It will include examples of survey and excavation, and post-excavation analysis of the material. It will demonstrate that the development of iron technology is not revolutionary as argued by the earlier model but evolutionary. The presentation will conclude with a brief discussion of the post-monastic Rievaulx iron industry, which will argue for a continuity of technological development that culminated in the Industrial Revolution