Random thoughts from Pencefn

…. an engineer, singer and photographer living in Scotland

Fountains Abbey from the east


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Fountains Abbey – 20 September 2016

Founded in 1132, Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved of the ruined abbeys in the United Kingdom. The Cisterian foundation operated for around 400 years until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

Fountains Abbey from the south west

Fountains Abbey from the south west
20 September 2016

The abbey complex is located in the valley of the River Skell which cuts across the site, with some of the building spanning the river.

River Skell running through the Abbey complex

River Skell running through the Abbey complex
20 September 2016

The foundation started following a riot in the Benedictine House of St Mary’s Abbey in York in 1132. Some fo the monks were expelled and were taken under the care of the then Archbishop of York (Thurstan) who gave the land as it was ideal for the development of a monastic community, with the river and local topography providing shelter. Natural resources where available is the shape of timber and stone for building. Following the winter of 1133, the monks applied to join the Cistercian order. They were successful becoming the second Abbey in the North Yorkshire to follow the order after Rievaulx.

Walking around the ruins, many features are still discernable.

Undercroft below the Great Cloister

Undercroft below the Great Cloister
20 September 2016

Immediately underneath the great East Window, with the mullions no longer present is the centre section (three altars) or the Chapel of Nine Altars. The base of the High Altar is slightly further west.

East Window

East Window
20 September 2016

Part of the chapel of Nine Altars

Southern third of the chapel of Nine Altars
20 September 2016

Looking west from below the west window the High Altar is in front of you with the Nave stretching away

High Altar, Chancel and Nave

High Altar, Chancel and Nave
20 September 2016

As with many Abbeys, a tower was built which still stands basically intact.

The Tower of Fountains Abbey

The Tower of Fountains Abbey
20 September 2016

The abbey thrived with many endowments, even surviving the looting of Northern England by the Scots after the Battle of Bannckburn. In 1539, the Abbey was surrendered to The Crown following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was subsequently sold on to a London Merchant in 1540, who dismantled part of the complex to sell materials (timber, stone, lead) to offset to cost of the purchase.

In the 18th century it became part of the Studley Royal Estate. In 1966 the Abbbey came under the guardianship of the country, being managed by the National Trust since 1983.

In 1986, the Abbey and associate parkland was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

The eastern aspect of Fountains Abbey

The eastern aspect of Fountains Abbey
20 September 2016

Mount Grace Priory


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Mount Grace Priory – 20 September 2016

At the end of the 14th century, Thomas Holland, 1st Duke of Surrey founded the Carthusian house of Mount Grace Priory.

Mount Grace Priory church from the cloister

Mount Grace Priory church from the cloister
20 September 2016

There is a small church at the centre of the enclave. The tower (added in 1420) and some of the walls still stand, whilst the outline is clear to follow. A feature of the ruin is a recent statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child in the form of a cross, which combines the symbolism of the birth and crucifixion. The artist, Malcom Brocklesby, title this Madonna and Child when it was made in 1996.

Madonna and Child by Malcom Brocklesby

Madonna and Child by Malcom Brocklesby
20 Spetember 2016

As we found later in the date there is another depiction of this statue in Ripon Cathedral.

Unlike the Monastic foundations at Fountains, Bylands, Rivealux and Whitby (all visited later in our holiday), the Carthusian monks lived alone in individual cells around the Great Cloister, to the north of the church. They only ventured out to attend services in the church. This does mean that although the Priory has a large footprint there were few monks in residence (around 20 to 25).

Plan of Mount Grace Priory

Plan of Mount Grace Priory
20 September 2016

In their cells the monks slept, engaged in private prayer and meditation, work (e.g. weaving) and had a small garden. Cell 8 has been restored to give the visitor an impression of how the monks lived. As you enter, there is a small hatchway by the door for the monk to receive his meals, with an angle in it such that there is no direct line of sight through it.

Entrance to Cell 8

Entrance to Cell 8
20 September 2016

Downstairs there are two rooms:

A bedroom with a prayer desk

Bedroom in Cell 8

Bedroom in Cell 8
20 September 2017

A study with a table

Study in Cell 8

Study in Cell 8
20 September 2016

Upstairs there is one big room, which (in Cell 8) house a loom and other work areas.

Upstairs Workroom in Cell 8

Upstairs Workroom in Cell 8
20 September 2016

Going outside of the cell there is a covered walkway to the latrine and an enclosed garden that the monk would tend.

Garden of Cell 8

Garden of Cell 8
20 September 2017

Following the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, the Guest House remained intact until substantially altered by Lord Darcy [of Mount Grace] in the mid 17th century.

Mount Grace Priory Guest House

Mount Grace Priory Guest House
20 September 2016

The residence and the ruins passed through various hands until the 1950s when it was given to the state in lieu of death duties and put into the care of the National Trust, who entrust the management of the property to English Heritage.