Thursday, 22 February 2018
Fountains Abbey was a vast and important Cistercian monastery from 1132 until 1539, when it was abruptly closed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Lay brothers, attached to the monastery, relieved the monks of the day to day work and allowed them to pursue a life of prayer. The estates belonging to the Abbey stretched far across the Yorkshire Dales and the Abbey became wealthy from farming, wool production, breeding horses and cattle, lead mining and stone quarrying.
The photo above shows the Abbey ruins approached from the bridge that led to the guesthouses, where visitors would be accommodated. Below is the Cellarium, an immense vaulted structure that was a storeroom, with the lay brothers' dormitory above.
When the monastery closed, the estate was sold to a merchant, Richard Gresham, and he and subsequent owners sold some of the fabric of the site and used the stone to build nearby Fountains Hall. Nevertheless, the remaining ruins are the largest monastic ruins in the UK. The surrounding estate is now parkland and formal gardens, dating back to Georgian times. The whole estate became a World Heritage Site in 1986.