A monastic wrought iron candlestick

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A monastic wrought iron candlestick

After digging communication tunnels during the first world war, my grandfather, a railwayman, took my mother, as a young child, on long walks in Yorkshire. She told me that he was forever 'scratching around in the dirt' at places such as Rievaulx Abbey and on one occasion they found a score of scattered pieces of wrought iron. Together they assembled it to find it was a small candlestick. As all the parts were found intact, she thought it doubtful that it had been thrown away broken. It was probably lost in the dissolution of the monastry by Henry V111 in 1538. By then, the monastry had abandoned poverty and monastic seclusion. There were more servants than monks and the Abbot probably led an affluent lifestyle. The candlestick is not only a poignant reminder of my mother and the dissolution of the monastries. Rievaulx Abbey also owned a prototype blast furnace efficiently producing cast iron. It has been argued that the closure of the Abbey delayed the industrial revolution by 200 years. When this simple wrought iron candlestick was in use, the monks of Rievaulx were pioneering the foundry of iron.

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