Fountains Abbey

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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.[1] 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 [1], to Sir Richard Gresham, the London merchant, father of the founder of the Royal Exchange, Sir Thomas Gresham.[1]

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.[2]


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.

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