The land at Fountains was granted to 13 Cistercian Monks back in the year 1132 AD, when there was unrest at St Mary’s abbey in York.
The monks fled under the protection of Archbishop Thurstan who gave them the land to start a new abbey.
The beautiful Fountains Abbey and a good proportion of the ruins remain intact today. There is sound evidence of the Romanesque architectural methods used to construct this stunning building.
Fountains Abbey is a grade l listed building and is said to be one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England.
It is located roughly 3 miles (5 km) south-west of Ripon in North Yorkshire, near to the village of Aldfield. The abbey, founded in 1132, operated for 407 years, becoming one of the wealthiest monasteries in England until its dissolution, by order of Henry VIII, in 1539.
Studley Royal Park including the ruins of Fountains Abbey are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It gained recognition as it fulfills the criteria of “being a masterpiece of human creative genius, and an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history.”
Since 1994 the estate has been within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Fountains Abbey After the Dissolution
The Abbey buildings and over 500 acres (200 ha) of land were seized by the Crown after the dissolution act of King Henry VIII, and were sold on 1 October 1540 to Sir Richard Gresham, who at the time was a Member of Parliament and had previously been the Lord Mayor of London, also the father of Sir Thomas Gresham.
It was Richard Gresham who had supplied Cardinal Wolsey with the tapestries for his new residence of Hampton Court and who had paid for the Cardinal’s funeral.
Sir Thomas Gresham despoiled a sacred site that was a world-class architectural marvel, he stripped some of the fabric of the site, stone, timber, and lead etc for sale as building materials to help recoup some of the cost of the purchase.
In 1597 the site was acquired by Sir Stephen Proctor, who further vandalized the monastic complex for stone to build Fountains Hall.
Between 1627 and 1767 the estate was owned by the Messenger family. They sold the hall to William Aislaby who was responsible for combining it with the Studley Royal Estate.
The Abbey passed through several hands until it became the property of John Aislabie in 1693.
After his death in 1742, the ownership of the ruins were taken by his son William who landscaped the abbey gardens, incorporating statues and follies. Between the two of them they created what is believed to be the most important water garden in England.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens have been used as a film location on many occasions including an appearancein the final scenes of Omen III in 1980: The Final Conflict.
Other productions that have used locations at the abbey include the films Life at the Top, The Secret Garden and The History Boys; and the TV shows Flambards, A History of Britain, Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives, Cathedral, Antiques Roadshow, Treasure Hunt, and Gunpowder.
Studley Royal Park and Water Gardens
The water garden is one of only three remaining throughout the country. The National Trust have owned the estate since 1983 and English Heritage carry out any conservation work need on the abbey.
The gardens are currently being restored back to their original 18th century design and visitors can see progress being made there.
The site, in North Yorkshire has an area of 323 hectares (800 acres.) Studley Royal House (or Hall) stood in the north-west corner of the park.
The hall was originally a medieval manor house, having a main block with forward projecting wings, it unfortunately burned down in 1716 and it was rebuilt by John Aislabie.
He filled in the centre, to which his son William added a portico in 1762 to complete its Palladian appearance. The building was destroyed by fire in 1946.
A large stable block, built between 1728 and 1732, survived and is now a private house.
Fountains Abbey and Gardens are abundant with history and have a special ambiance like no where else. The walks are beautiful and steeped in history, with a surprise at every turn.
Even on a dull day, the estate is beautiful and views of the abbey from Ann Boleyn’s seat is one to behold. Let the imagination take over and take time to absorb the past. A magical place for all.
Location and opening times
Location details for a sat nav or other devices is: Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY
Opening times vary depending on time of year.
Summer opening hours are;
Abbey 10:00 – 16:30
Visitor centre 10:00 – 16:30
Water Garden 10:00 – 16:30
Visitor centre car park 10:00 – 18:30
Shop 11:00 – 17:30
Restaurant 10:00 – 17:00
Studley tea-room 10:00 – 16:30
Mill Café 11:00 – 16:00
Deer-park 06:00 – 18:00
Studley Royal car park Open all day