Along the valley of the River Skell, about two miles west of Ripon, lies Fountains Abbey, Britain’s largest monastic ruin.
Fountains Abbey today
Founded in 1132 by thirteen Benedictine monks from St Mary’s Abbey in York, and named after the natural springs of water in the area. During its glory days, Fountains Abbey was very rich and prosperous, primarily based on the trading of wool and lead. The soon to be Cistercian monks owned vast areas of land across western Yorkshire.
Fountains Abbey reconstracted
However, times changed beginning with William Thirsk, abbot of Fountains from 1526-1536 being executed by King Henry at Tyburn for plotting against the king. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII, the Abbey along with 500 acres of land were sold to a merchant named Sir Richard Gresham.
Several generations later, the property was sold to Sir Stephen Proctor who built Fountains Hall in 1611, partly with stone from the Abbey ruins.
The ruins are truly awe-inspiring, surviving almost to its full height and boasting a vaulted cellarium over 300 ft long. The ruins are located in the grounds of the Studley Royal Estate, stretching over 650 acres of park, woodland and ornamental gardens. It was here that John Aislabie devoted many of his years creating the Water Garden, his work was continued after his death by his son, William.
Surrounded by the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, this World Heritage Site has a lot to offer its visitors.