Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is near to Aldfield, approximately two miles southwest of Ripon in North Yorkshire, England. It is a ruined Cistercian monastery, founded in 1132. Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved Cistercian houses in England. It is a Grade I listed building and owned by the National Trust. Along with the adjacent Studley Royal Water Garden, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fountains Abbey was founded in 1132 following a dispute and riot at St Mary's Abbey in York. Following the riot, thirteen monks were exiled and after unsuccessfully attempting to return to the early 6th century Rule of St Benedict, were taken into the protection of Thurstan, Archbishop of York. He provided them with a site in the valley of the River Skell. The enclosed valley had all the required materials for the creation of a monastery, providing shelter from the weather, stone and timber for building, and a running supply of water. The monks applied to join the Cistercian order in 1132. The abbey operated for over 400 years, until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Abbey buildings and over 500 acres (2 km²) of land were then sold by the Crown, on 1 October 1540 , to Sir Richard Gresham, the London merchant, father of the founder of the Royal Exchange, Sir Thomas Gresham. The excavation of the site was begun under the supervision of John Richard Walbran, a Ripon antiquary who had published a paper On the Necessity of clearing out the Conventual Church of Fountains in 1846.

Construction of the Abbey began in 1132, with rock quarried locally, although the original monastery buildings received considerable additions and alterations in the later period of the order, causing deviations from the strict Cistercian type. The church stands a short distance to the north of the River Skell, the buildings of the abbey stretching down to and across the stream. The cloister is to the south, with the three-aisled chapter-house and calefactory opening from its eastern walk, and the refectory, with the kitchen and buttery attached, at right angles to its southern walk. Parallel with the western walk is an immense vaulted substructure, incorrectly styled the cloisters, serving as cellars and store-rooms, and supporting the dormitory of the conversi ( lay brothers) above. This building extended across the river. At its southwest corner were the latrines, also built, as usual, above the swiftly flowing stream. The monks' dormitory was in its usual position above the chapter-house, to the south of the transept. Peculiarities of arrangement include the position of the kitchen, between the refectory and calefactory, and of the infirmary (unless there is some error in its designation) above the river to the west, adjoining the guest-houses. In addition, there is a greatly lengthened choir, commenced by Abbot John of York, 1203–11, and carried on by his successor, terminating, like Durham Cathedral, in an eastern transept, the work of Abbot John of Kent, 1220–47, and to the tower, added not long before the dissolution by Abbot Huby, 1494–1526, in a very unusual position at the northern end of the north transept. Among other apartments, for the designation of which see the ground-plan, was a domestic oratory or chapel, 46½ ft by 23 ft, and a kitchen, 50 ft by 38 ft. St Mary's Church (built c. 1873), designed by William Burges is nearby.

National Trust property
Fountains Abbey is maintained by English Heritage, and owned by the National Trust. It is immediately adjacent to another National Trust property, Studley Royal Park, with which it is jointly marketed. The Trust also owns Fountains Hall, to which there is partial public access. The Porter's Lodge, formerly the gatehouse entrance for the Abbey property, features a modern exhibit area with displays about the history of Fountains Abbey and the monks’ lives. In January 2010, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal became two of the first National Trust properties to be included in Google Street View, using the Google Trike.

Film Location
Fountains Abbey was used as a filming location by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark for their single Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc) during the cold winter of December 1981. In 1980, Hollywood also came to the site to film the final scenes to the movie Omen III: The Final Conflict. Other productions filmed on location at the abbey are the movies The Secret Garden, The History Boys, TV series Flambards, A History of Britain, Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, Cathedral and the games show Treasure Hunt.

Ground-plan of Fountains Abbey A. Nave of the church. B. Transept. C. Chapels. D. Tower. E. Sacristy. F. Choir. G. Chapel of nine altars. H. Cloister. I. Chapter-house. K. Base court. L. Calefactory. M. Water-course. N. Cellar. O. Brewhouse. P. Prisons. Q. Kitchen. R. Offices. S. Refectory. T. Buttery. U. Cellars and storehouses. V. Necessary. W. Infirmary (?). X. Guest-houses. Y. Mill bridge. Z. Gate-house. ABBOT'S HOUSE. 1. Passage. 2. Great hall. 3. Refectory. 4. Refectory. 5. Storehouse. 6. Chapel. 7. Kitchen. 8. Ashpit. 9. Yard. 10. Kitchen tank.


24 photos

Building Activity

  • Denis Drachev
    Denis Drachev updated 14 media and updated
    about 6 years ago via
  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via
  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator
  • rachelgreenwood
    rachelgreenwood updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • Lucy Gibson
    Lucy Gibson updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • Nadezhda Nikolova
    Nadezhda Nikolova updated
    about 6 years ago via
  • Craig Hardy
    Craig Hardy updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via