Thursday, 22 February 2018

Evocative ruins

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.


  1. Super photos. The wealth of the monasteries, and the greed and corruption that went with it, is quite astounding.

  2. The cellarium is particularly impressive!

  3. I love that vaulted ceiling!

  4. Henry VIII was determined to stem the huge sums being sent from Britain to finance St.Peters in Rome. It was a massive battle of wills between himself and the Pope who excommunicated Henry. Later all England was subjected to a seven-year interdict by the Pope. Priests were forbidden to hold church services, toll bells or bury the dead. Henry responded by banishing the monks from their monasteries and requisitioning the extensive church land and property which he sold off.

  5. I am pretty sure I visited Fountains Abbey years ago, probably in the 1970s, but I suspect that I couldn't find any records now to prove that.


No WV here but I've enabled comment moderation on older posts so I don't miss any of your messages. I love reading them - thank you! And thanks for visiting my blog.