Created by disillusioned Benedictine monks from St Mary’s abbey in York, Fountains rose from inauspicious beginnings to become one of the most significant monasteries in Britain.
Built from the local Millstone Grit sandstone, the remains of Fountains Abbey exhibit an older style of architecture. This may be to do with the fact that the stone was less suitable for fine masonary than other forms of sand and limestone. Building of the abbey only took off after the recruitment of some wealthy individuals in 1135, and this cash injection fuelled the usual Cistercian vigour for successful enterprise.
The establishment had a roller coaster ride over its 400 year life, including many scandals. Despite this Fountains spawned many “daughter” houses including Roche, Maux and Woburn.
The best preserved Cistercian ruin in Europe and now a World Heritage site, the abbey remained largely intact as Henry VIII intended to make it a Catherderal. However this never materialised and the new owner of the site was ordered to make the site untenable. This he did with less vigour than was experienced elsewhere.
Our picture shows the diverted course of the river Skell which allowed the appropriate layout of the monastery, and the Guest House tucked into the bend of the river.