55 Astonishing Fountains Abbey Facts That You Never Knew | Kidadl


55 Astonishing Fountains Abbey Facts That You Never Knew

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Fountains Abbey is the perfect place to soak up in the history of England and marvel at the breathtaking architectural wonders of the time.

Located in North Yorkshire, Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and oldest Cistercian monastery ruins in England. It was founded in 1132.

Although the extensive remains of the abbey are proof of its stone framework, the original church was a simple structure made of wood. Once known for its wealth, Fountains Abbey had a rather humble beginning when a group of Benedictine monks came from York searching for a peaceful monastic life. They set up Fountains Abbey, which soon went into the hands of the Cistercian order. In their early days at the abbey, the monks had to labor daily to get by. It wasn't until the lay brothers took it upon themselves to deal with the daily labor that fountains turned into a powerful and flourishing abbey. Despite shortcomings, Fountains Abbey stood the tests of time until it was shut down by King Henry VIII in the 16th century. Following the shutdown, Fountains Abbey and its adjoining property went into private hands and was long handled by them until the National Trust took over. Today, Fountains Abbey is part of the beautiful Studley Royal Estate. Scattered with ornamental gardens, lawns, statues, and magnificent buildings, the estate grounds are a popular tourist destination.

Location Of Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest monastery ruins in England. It belonged to the monks of the Cistercian order.

Fountains Abbey is located about 3 mi (5 km) southwest of the city of Ripon in North Yorkshire, England.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins of the 12th-century abbey church stand amidst the picturesque landscape of the Studley Royal Park.

The estate is an 18th-century water garden and one of the rare ones to have retained its original form.

The garden landscape of the estate is one of the most spectacular examples of the quintessential English gardens that influenced the whole of 18th century Europe.

The River Skell integrates into the water garden, further enhancing the natural beauty of the area.

The Cistercian abbey ruins are not the only attraction at the World Heritage Site. The water garden is dotted with ponds, canals, hedges, lawns, cascades, elegant gateways, garden buildings, and statues.

Located on the west end of the Studley Royal Estate is the Elizabethan Fountains Hall, with parts of its structure built from stones reclaimed from the abbey buildings.

The Elizabethan building with its magnificent facade and curated garden is a grand reminder of the period's architecture.

Also part of the sprawling estate's medieval deer park is the St. Mary's Church, a High Victorian Gothic architectural marvel created by William Burges in the 1870s.

History Of Fountains Abbey

The history of the sacred site of Fountains Abbey, located in North Yorkshire, England, dates back to the 12th century.

Being a cradle of monasticism since the seventh century, the Yorkshire county of northern England is dotted with abbeys that have stood the ravages of time.

The impressive Fountains Abbey church located in North Yorkshire is known for its expansive ruins set amidst the breathtaking landscape of the Studley Park Royal Estate.

Situated along the picture-perfect valley of the River Skell, the Cistercian abbey ruins are one of the oldest and largest in Britain.

The abbey church was founded in 1132 by a group of 13 Benedictine monks seeking a simple monastic life away from the extravagance of York. They named Fountains Abbey after the water springs in the area.

The lay brothers introduced a turning point in the Cistercian monks' new way of life. They relived the monks from daily grills like farming so that they could devote more time to God, and the routine labor was left to the lay brothers.

It was the effort of the lay brothers that added to the wealth of Fountains Abbey through activities like cattle rearing, wool production, lead mining, stone quarrying, and horse breeding.

Fountains Abbey turned prosperous and owned vast swathes of land throughout Western Yorkshire. However, Fountains Abbey had its share of misfortunes too.

Bad harvests and Scottish raids in the 14th century were major blows to the peaceful life of the Cistercian monks.

The Black Death or bubonic plague that hit Europe as a pandemic made situations worse.

Fountains Abbey witnessed a revival under the abbacy of Marmaduke Huby.

The abbey was shut down in 1539 under the Dissolution of Monasteries ordered by King Henry VIII.

After the shutdown by Henry VIII, Sir Richard Gresham acquired the abbey buildings.

Subsequent generations of Sir Richard's family inherited the property until it was sold to Sir Stephen Proctor. He built Fountains Hall, an imposing Elizabethan mansion, in 1611.

John Aislabie fell heir to the estate in 1693, and it was a separate property from Fountains Abbey till 1767. He devoted himself to creating the Studley Royal Water Garden.

After John Aislabie's death in 1742, his son William bought the abbey ruins.

William further developed the abbey grounds and the Seven Bridges Valley.

The estate was private property till the 1960s.

In 1983, the National Trust bought the Studley estate from West Riding County.

Fountains Abbey facts reveal the architectural wonders of the medieval period.

Architecture Details About Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey ruins are not the only historical landmark. Apart from the magnificent medieval abbey, the Victorian St. Mary's Church, the Georgian Water Garden, and the medieval deer park add to the splendor of the place.

The original layout of Fountains Abbey comprised a group of scattered timber buildings which were later organized into formal monastic cloisters.

Beginning with the church, the wooden buildings were gradually rebuilt in stone.

Fountains had grown into one of the wealthiest abbeys of England, and a significant part of the wealth went into expanding the buildings and refining the architecture.

The abbey precinct was spread over an area of 3049200 sq ft (283279 sq m) with an 11 ft (3.3 m) wall along its periphery.

The River Skell flows across the abbey grounds from west to east, with the church and cloisters located in the middle of the precinct, north of the river.

While the inner courthouses the domestic buildings, the outer court contains agricultural and industrial buildings.

The rebuilt version of the abbey in stone has several additions, including the lantern tower at the church's crossing.

The cloister made of white sandstone and black marble is situated south of the church; its eastern side opens into the parlor and three-aisled chapter house, while the monk's dormitory is located above.

The cloister's southern face has the warming house, the kitchens, and the refectory.

Running parallel to the western walk is a vaulted cellarium.

On the southwest corner of the cloister are the communal latrines and to their east is the infirmary that had its own chapel and kitchens.

The western side of the cloister has the lay brothers' infirmary and two guest houses beyond it.

The monks' cemetery is located to the north of the infirmary and east of the abbey, details of which were discovered in 2016.

Purpose Of Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey was established in 1132 by a group of Benedictine monks from York who were fed up with the way of life at St. Mary's Abbey and were looking for a peaceful monastic existence.

Although Fountains Abbey began as an abode for Benedictine monks, it was soon given to the Cistercian Order. They intended to use Fountains Abbey as a motherhouse and a base for missionary activities in Scotland and the north of England.

Fountains Abbey became a prominent Cistercian House in England.

It was one of the wealthiest abbeys abuzz with activities such as wool production, mining, quarrying, horse breeding, and cattle rearing.

Fountains Abbey also serves as a prime shoot location for television and cinema.

Prominent films that have been filmed at this location include 'Life At The Top' (1965), 'Omen III: The Final Conflict' (1981), 'The Secret Garden' (1993), and the 'The History Boys' (2006).

In addition, a number of television programs such as 'Terry Jones' Medieval Lives', 'Gunpowder', and the Netflix original 'The Witcher' have several scenes shot in the Fountains Abbey and its surroundings.

Fountains Abbey has a lot in store for visitors. You can walk through the ancient monastery ruins and relive history or immerse your senses in the sublime beauty of the landscape.

The family-friendly spot also serves as an excellent picnic location.

If you happen to be at fountains during the winters, you can take a refreshing winter walk and experience nature at its best.

The site is always abuzz with events to keep visitors engaged. For instance, you can take a tour of the ruins and form an idea of how life was for the abbey's monks.

Winter-end activities include planting a snowdrop that you can take home.

The place offers ample activities that even children will enjoy, such as making a flower using only a fork!

The estate also has arrangements for visitors to stay. There are five cottages at How Hill that may be booked together for bigger groups of friends and family.

The National Trust offers 14-holiday places to choose from, including beautiful Yorkshire stone cottages, an Elizabethan manor house, and 17th-century barns with a stylish makeover.

You can even arrange for a stay at the grand Fountain Hall and experience the most of English luxury.

Nearby places you can visit include the Brimham Rocks, Braithwaite Hall, East Riddlesden Hall, Mount Grace Priory, Rievaulx terrace, and the Beningbrough Hall, Gallery, and Gardens.

Written By
Moumita Dutta

<p>A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.</p>

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