Fountains: Once England's richest abbey
This evening, I am posting information on Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, one of England’s top heritage attractions. Location is about thirty miles N.W. of York.
A brief history of this site is as follows:
- Founded in 1132 by a small cadre of Benedictine monks from St.Mary’s Abbey in York.
- The new community attracted tangible support from Cistercian monks in Clairvaux, France. All Cistercian abbeys adopted identical architecture. Men had the choice of two roles, either choir monk in prayer of lay brother in manual labour.
- Fountains reached an early peak of prosperity and power in the 1200s but by end of that century its fortunes began to wane as a function of financial difficulties, sheep disease, failed harvests and Scots raiders.
- In 1349-50 the Black Death took its toll of the monks.
- By the late 15th century a revival had occurred under Abbot Huby who instituted a reform programme and attracted new monks. At about this time Fountains became the richest abbey in England.
- Fountains existence as a religious establishment came to an abrupt end in 1539 due to the Reformation and attentions of Henry VIII who was keen to acquire the Abbey’s wealth.
- Later, the new owner, Richard Gresham, initiated physical destruction and asset stripping which resulted in the buildings’ current state.
- In the 1760s William Aislabie acquired the property.