Yorkshire nostalgia: Fountains Abbey’s ripples in time

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Fountains Abbey was founded by monks exiled from St Mary’s in York in 1132.

It is the largest monastic ruin in Britain. In 1132, a group of 13 reform-minded monks were exiled and taken into the protection of Thurstan, Archbishop of York.

The archbishop provided the monks with a site in the valley of the little River Skell in North Yorkshire, described as “more fit for wild beasts than men to inhabit.”

A hundred years later the Abbey was one of the richest religious houses in England with 400 Cistercian monks, and 800 lay brothers.

For the next 400 years, the monks prospered in what is now considered an idyllic valley owned by the National Trust and part of the designated Studley Royal Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Over the next few centuries, successive abbots expanded and enhanced the original wooden structures to create a 70 acre site.

The abbey’s life was brought to an abrupt end in 1539 by Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries order. It was later pillaged for lead and glass, some of which went to Ripon and York. Since 1987 it has been a World Heritage site. Today Fountains is the most complete example of Cistercian abbey remains in the country.

It has also served as the location for a number of films, including Omen III: The Final Conflict, The Secret Garden and The History Boys.

Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds, was founded in 1147, when a group of twelve monks came from Fountains Abbey, remaining there until 1539.