Our World Heritage Site at Fountains Abbey is the UK’s largest monastic ruin and a fine start to our seven wonders of Yorkshire. It is the most complete example of Cistercian abbey remains in the country.
A riot at St Mary’s Abbey in York led to the founding of Fountains Abbey in 1132. After pleading unsuccessfully to return to a more devout form of worship based on 6th century Rule of St Benedict, 13 monks were exiled and taken into the protection of the then Archbishop of York. He provided them with a site in the valley of the little River Skell described as a place “more fit for wild beasts than men to inhabit”.
Fountains Abbey thrived and the economic power was felt far and wide with activities including farming, lead mining, quarrying and horse breeding. I bet the monks never thought of tourism that is today’s main activity alongside a herd of deer. Then a series of mishaps including bad harvests, Scots raids, and the Black Death exacerbated by the effects of financial mismanagement saw a significant downturn in the abbeys fortunes. By the time of Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th Century the abbey started to loose its power.
In 1767 the ruins were sold to William Aislabie, who landscaped the site and added a folly and improved water gardens that form the basis for Studley Royal.
The man made building and rebuilding over the centuries has resulted in a mosaic of architectural styles.
To become a world heritage site Fountains abbey displayed 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’.
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Bird Watching another Seven Wonders of Yorkshire
- The walls of its ruins act as a cliff face for a colony of nesting Jackdaws. Fountains is also one of the best spots in the North of England for some of our song birds smallest birds. Hawfinches can be seen in winter months and waterfowl on the lake all year round.
- Between April- July Find yourself a quiet spot just beside the Abbey and watch out for Goldcrests, Coal Tits, and Great Tits.’
- Studely park is owned by the National Trust and contains mature parkland and deciduous trees and the water features.
Fountains Abbey (44) by roblz.com CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Fountains Abbey by flying_tiger CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Octagon Tower at Fountains Abbey by and in 9th place.CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
churches by dvdbramhall CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ‘By St. Mary’s, Studley Royal, in the Deer Park adjacent to the grounds of Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire. The church was built between 1870 and 1878, The architect – as at Skelton on Ure – was William Burges.’