Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Where is Fountains Abbey?

Fountains Abbey Britains largest monastic ruin and the Studley Royal Park water gardens are owned by the National Trust. They are located off the B6265 to the west of Ripon.

Both attractions are located in the same parkland and the setting is one of the most beautiful and peaceful that I have ever encountered. Try to visit on a sunny day to get the best atmosphere. A very pleasant couple of hours at least can be spent inspecting the ruins and taking a circular walk around the park, including the Moon Pond and the Temple of Piety in the water gardens, and return alongside the river.

The Abbey a designated world heritage site, was founded in 1132 by thirteen Benedictine monks exiled from St Mary’s Abbey in York following a dispute. The archbishop of York provided them with the site in the valley of the little River Skell, where three years later the exiled monks became part of the Cistercian order, with a diet barely above subsistence level. Their circumstances improved following the introduction of the Cistercian system of Lay Brothers, which allowed the Abbey monks to prosper in farming, lead mining, quarrying and horse breeding, and by the middle of the 13th century it was one of Englands richest houses. In the 14th century economic collapse followed after bad harvests, Scots raids and the Black Death. The Abbeys fortunes revived for a time until its life was brought to an abrupt end in 1539 by Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. Today the Abbey ruins provided a dramatic backdrop for Studley Royal Park.

ruins of the great Cistercian abbey of Fountains
The ruins of the great Cistercian abbey of Fountains lie in the valley of the River Skell, several kilometres west of Ripon.

The Studley Royal Estate, a separate estate from Fountains Abbey until 1767, was inherited by John Aislabie in 1693. After his expulsion from Parliament in 1721 he devoted himself until his death in 1742 to creating the Water Garden.

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