Posted by: marymarthatours | July 15, 2010

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens


Fountains Abbey: west front, cellarium, and guest house (photo by Klaus)

One of the priority stops for Martha and Mary’s week in York this September is Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. I visited Fountains Abbey for the first time on an overcast day in 1981. It’s an amazing place, one of the largest monastic ruins in Europe with a variety of buildings including the huge church, its cloisters and chapter house, kitchen, refectory, infirmary and more. What I remember most is the cellarium, which is 300 feet long with awesome vaulted ceilings supported by nineteen pillars. Even with its dirt floor and many shadows, there is a feeling of sanctity and lightness in the space.


Cellarium interior

Constructed in the 12th century by the Cistercian Order, the Abbey buildings fill the valley beside and directly over the River Skell. The Cistercians were very conservative in their religious observations, but forward thinking in other ways. They introduced a system of lay brothers that took on much of the work of the monastery, enabling it to attain great economic importance.


Bridge over River Skell with Infirmary spanning the river, 1981

Four hundred years of monastic life at Fountains Abbey ended in 1539 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. The property passed through several families and was purchased in 1767 by William Aislabie. On the property surrounding the Abbey, Aislabie created a formal water garden in the new English landscape style. Georgian elegance, open vistas, sensuous curving waterways, and classical structures and statuary are highlights of Studley Royal Water Garden. It is a garden that I am particularly keen to see, as I was not much into gardening on my first visit and missed it entirely then.


Temple of Piety and Moon Pond (photo by Mike & Kirsty Grundy)

I did get back to Fountains Abbey on one later occasion. And although the impressive ruins were bathed in sunshine that day, my memory of that visit is of a small creature that I saw in the wild for the very first time. Ambling along the lawn next to the ruined church, within feet of me, was a hedgehog. He, or she as the case may be, was much smaller than I had pictured, and much, much cuter. I wanted to pick it up and give it a cuddle…well, maybe not after looking at its spines.


European Hedgehog (photo by Jurgen Howaldt)

Martha and I plan to make a day of it at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. We’ll take an early bus from York, explore the Abbey buildings, wander through the gardens, have lunch at the National Trust tea shop, and maybe…if we are very, very lucky…we’ll see a hedgehog.

(by Mary)

YouTube of Fountains Abbey:


Photo credits:

Fountains Abbey from west: copyright Klaus and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Photo of Temple of Piety: copyright Mike & Kirsty Grundy and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Photo of Hedgehog: copyright Jurgen Howaldt and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license.


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