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Historic England Research Records

Fountains Abbey

Hob Uid: 51860
Location :
North Yorkshire
Harrogate
Lindrick with Studley Royal and Fountains, Markington with Wallerthwaite
Grid Ref : SE2739068169
Summary : A Cistercian monastery situated within the grounds of Studley Royal Park (Monument HOB UID 51924). It was founded in 1132 by monks from the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary, York, adopted by the Cistercian Order in 1133 and intended as a Cistercian mission centre to found colony houses in the north and Scotland. During the 1140s the abbey was transformed as the informal timber buildings were replaced by formal cloister enclosure. Much of this was destroyed by a fire in 1146. Further improvements, made under Abbots Henry Murdac (1144-47), Robert of Pipewell (1170-80) and Marmaduke Huby (1495-1526), saw the abbey expand in size and grandeur until it became the most powerful, and wealthiest, house in England. Following its suppression in 1539, the abbey was robbed of stone to create Fountains Hall (Monument HOB UID 51877). In 1768 William Aislabie incorporated the abbey as a romantic ruin (Monument HOB UID 1057373) into the park. Archaeological surveys of the abbey in 1989 and 1991 recorded much of the precinct wall (Monument HOB UID 975400) as extant and identified an earthwork complex of agricultural and industrial features linked by a series of trackworks within the southern area of the precinct known as Kitchen Bank (Monument HOB UID 975311). Listed and scheduled.
More information : [SE 275683] Remains of [T.I.] Fountains Abbey [G.T.]
(Cistercian Founded A.D.1132) [T.I.] (1)

Fountains Abbey: a Cistercian house founded 1132 and surrendered 1539. (2)

Material from the outbuildings of Fountains Abbey was used to build Fountains Hall (Monument HOB UID 51877). Clearance of the remains and excavations carried out by Walbran, 1848-56, and by Hope, 1888. (3-6)

There are no associated earthworks. (7)

Fountains Abbey - comprehensive guide book and official handbook. (8-9)

Structural remains are well maintained by the DOE, and are open to the public. More of the bakehouse/malthouse has recently been uncovered and consolidated. Published survey (25") revised. (10)

Fountains Abbey, with ancillary buildings. Abbey Church, with precinct buildings, river walling and two bridges. Founded 1132, main building phases 1170-1247 and late C15/early C16th. Grade 1. (11)

Detailed recording of the upstanding masonry began in 1984 and continues as part of an on-going research project. Parts of the precinct were surveyed in 1989 and 1990-1 by RCHME field staff. Much of the precinct boundary wall survives, in some areas to its original height and was included in the survey (Monument HOB UID 975400).

Kitchen Bank is an area within the southern part of the precinct which contains an earthwork complex of industrial and agricultural features linked by a series of trackways surviving as hollow ways and terrace ways. This complex also includes boundary features defining medieval and later closes, fields and yards (Monument HOB UID 975355). A survey taken after the Dissolution suggests that the whole precinct had been divided into a number of closes. (12a)

Several access routes were also identified within the northern part of the precinct including one giving access from the valley floor to Swanley Grange at top of the scarp to the north; at the top of the slope it survives as a terrace way. A second track, linking the garden at Fountains Hall to the higher ground, cuts it.

Further details are contained in the account held in the NMR archive. [ Some of the details were originally recorded in separate records but now have combined within this record and Monument HOB UID 975311and the individual records deleted; The deleted records were; Monument HOB UID 975333 NMR no. SE 26 NE 38 and Monument HOB 975355 - NMR no. SE 26 NE 39]. (12)

Scheduled (RSM) No 26930. (13)

Fountains Abbey was founded in 1132 by a party of monks from the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary, York, and in 1133 was adopted by the Cistercian Order. It was intended as a Cistercian mission centre to found colony houses in the north and Scotland. During the 1140s the abbey was transformed replacing the informal timber buildings with formal cloister enclosure. However, much of this was destroyed by a fire in 1146. Further improvement under Abbots Murdac, Pipewell and Huby saw the abbey expand in size and grandeur until it became the most powerful, and wealthiest, house in England.

Following its suppression in 1539, the abbey was robbed of stone to create Fountains Hall (Monument HOB UID 51877). Ownership passed through a succession of hands until 1768 when William Aislabie bought it for £16000 to incorporate into Studley Royal Park (Monument HOB UID 51924). (14-15)

The abbey was founded on the 27 December 1132 and within 50 years had become the principal house of the Cistercian Order in England. It started as a timber monastery comprising an oratory, dormitory, refectory, chambers for guests and a porter's lodge. In 1136 the church was replaced by a stone built one. This was enlarged under Abbot Henry Murdac (1144-47) who also laid out the cloister buildings. Further major rebuilding programmes were undertaken by Abbot Robert of Pipewell (1170-80) and Abbot Marmaduke Huby (1495-1526). The abbey followed the Cistercian system of lay brothers who worked in the the abbey and its estates including extensive sheep farms, allowing the monks to devote all their time to devotion and prayer. By the mid 13th century Fountains Abbey had become one of the richest religious houses in England with wool providing its main source of wealth. However, a combination of poor harvests, Scots raids, and the Black Death during the 14th century lead to economic collapse. The abbey estates were leased to tenant farmers and the lay brothers were replaced by laymen who were hired servants. These were housed within the Outer Court, part of the precinct to the south of the River Skell. This was the public area of the abbey which also contained the agricultural and industrial functions needed to support the abbey. The Dissolution of the abbey took place in 1539 and the abbey and 500 acres of land were sold by the Crown in the following year. Fountains Hall was built using some of the stone from the abbey in 1598-1611. In 1768 the abbey was bought by William Aislabie, owner of Studley Royal Park. He incorporated it into the gardens as a romantic ruin (Monument HOB UID 1057373) which involved the selective demolition and addition of new features. His work has been recognised as an early example of a managed monument. However, most of his new additions were removed during archaeological excavations of the abbey in the 1850s. (16)

There is excellent NMR specialist air photo coverage of the abbey and its setting. (17-19)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1957.
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Source Number : 2
Source : Medieval religious houses : England and Wales
Source details :
Page(s) : 108
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Source Number : 11
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Harrogate, 11-JUN-1986
Page(s) : 20-21
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Vol(s) : 1610
Source Number : 12
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Keith Blood and Mark Bowden/05-APR-1989 and 20-MAR-1991/RCHME: Fountains Abbey Surveys I and II
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Source Number : 12a
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Walbran J (ed) Memorials of Fountains Abbey Vol. 1 Publications of the Surtees Society vol.42
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Source Number : 13
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 13-May-96
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Source Number : 14
Source : Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Estate: an Archaeological Survey. The National Trust
Source details :
Page(s) : 115-141
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Source Number : 15
Source : Medieval religious houses in England and Wales
Source details :
Page(s) : 359
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Source Number : 16
Source : English Heritage book of Fountains Abbey
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Source Number : 16
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : [Accessed 02-JUN-2010]
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Source Number : 17
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR SE 2768/93 NMR12568/28 29-JUL-1994
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Source Number : 18
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR SE 2768/41 NMR4992/002 05-AUG-1990
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Source Number : 3
Source : The Yorkshire archaeological journal
Source details : (WH St John Hope)
Page(s) : 269-400
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Vol(s) : 15, 1900
Source Number : 19
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct/ink survey
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct (eastern part)/pencil survey
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct (western part)/pencil survey
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Source : Fountains Abbey, northern approaches/ink survey
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct, feature numbers
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct (eastern part)/pencil survey
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Source : Fountains Abbey, northern approaches
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct/pencil survey
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Source Number : 4
Source : Associated Architectural Societies' reports and papers [Lincoln, York, Northampton, Bedford, Worcester, Leicester and Sheffield ]
Source details : (J.R. Walbran)
Page(s) : 263-92
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Vol(s) : 1, 1850-51
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct/ink survey
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Source : Fountains Abbey, south side of precinct/ink survey
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Source Number : 5
Source : Associated Architectural Societies' reports and papers [Lincoln, York, Northampton, Bedford, Worcester, Leicester and Sheffield ]
Source details : 1854 (JR Walbran)
Page(s) : 54-66
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Vol(s) : 3
Source Number : 6
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Recent History of Fountains Abbey, 1958, (C.H.Moody) Plans & photos.
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Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : R W Emsley/27-FEB-1963/Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigator
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Source Number : 8
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Ministry of Public Buildings and Works Guidebook - Fountains Abbey, 1967
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Source Number : 9
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Department of the Environment Official Handbook - Fountains Abbey 1978
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Source Number : 10
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : R W Emsley/27-AUG-1981/Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigator
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Founded 1132
Monument End Date : 1132
Monument Start Date : 1132
Monument Type : Cistercian Monastery, Abbey
Evidence : Ruined Building, Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Rebuilt in stone 1140s
Monument End Date : 1149
Monument Start Date : 1140
Monument Type : Cistercian Monastery, Abbey
Evidence : Ruined Building, Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Additions-rebuilding 1170-80
Monument End Date : 1180
Monument Start Date : 1170
Monument Type : Cistercian Monastery, Abbey
Evidence : Ruined Building, Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Additions-rebuilding 1495-1526
Monument End Date : 1526
Monument Start Date : 1495
Monument Type : Cistercian Monastery, Abbey
Evidence : Ruined Building, Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Suppressed 1539
Monument End Date : 1539
Monument Start Date : 1539
Monument Type : Cistercian Monastery, Abbey
Evidence : Ruined Building, Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : From 1768
Monument End Date : 1768
Monument Start Date : 1768
Monument Type : Folly
Evidence : Ruined Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (North Yorkshire)
External Cross Reference Number : MNY21532
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NY 5
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NY 421
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 94093
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 26930
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 331040
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 12018/24
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : AA98/04878
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 369
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SE 26 NE 3
External Cross Reference Notes :

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Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1767-01-01
End Date : 1767-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1790-01-01
End Date : 1790-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1848-01-01
End Date : 1888-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SE 26 NE 3
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1963-02-27
End Date : 1963-02-27
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1969-01-01
End Date : 1972-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1977-01-01
End Date : 1980-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1978-01-01
End Date : 1978-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1979-01-01
End Date : 1980-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SE 26 NE 3
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1981-08-27
End Date : 1981-08-27
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: OS SWEEPS
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, VISITOR CENTRE, SWANLEY GRANGE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: FOUNTAINS ABBEY I (NORTHERN APPROACHES)
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1989-03-29
End Date : 1989-04-18
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: FOUNTAINS ABBEY II (SOUTH SIDE OF PRECINCT)
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1990-12-05
End Date : 1991-03-21
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SKELL VALLEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1995-01-01
End Date : 1995-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : PHOTOGRAMMETRIC SURVEY
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 2003-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, COFFIN LAWN, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NORTH TRANSEPT, FOUNTAINS ABBEY CHURCH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOAL COTE FARM, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY, EAST GUEST HOUSE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS HALL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, HUBY'S TOWER/NORTH TRANSEPT OF ABBEY CHURCH, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY KITCHEN, EAST WALL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY, KITCHEN BANK WATER MAIN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FOUNTAINS ABBEY, PORTERS LODGE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, DE GREY WALK AND THE INFIRMARY, FOUNTAINS ABBEY
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31