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From humble beginnings the magnificent abbey was established by devout monks seeking a simpler existence. The atmospheric ruins that remain are a window into a way of life which shaped the medieval world.
Studley Royal Park is one of the few great 18th century gardens to survive substantially in its original form and one of the most spectacular water gardens in England.
The landscape garden is an outstanding example of the development of the English garden style throughout the 18th century, which influenced the rest of Europe.The use of all the landscape features, combined with the planning of the water garden itself, is a true masterpiece of human creative genius.
In addition, the ruins of Fountains Abbey are not only a key eye catcher in the garden scheme, but also one of the few Cistercian houses to survive from the 12th century. Situated in the deer park is St Mary’s Church, designed by William Burges in 1871, it is a masterpiece of High Victorian Gothic architecture.Official website
Studley Royal Park including the ruins of Fountains Abbey was one of the first seven World Heritage Sites to be designated in the UK in 1986.
The 18th century water gardens are designed around the river Skell – a complex system of 18th century sluices and tunnels is still used today by National Trust gardeners to control the flow to the ponds, lakes and cascades and manage water levels during floods.
The River Skell carries a huge amount of soil into the water gardens from the land upstream – the soil the National Trust has dredged from the river since 1983 would fill 17 Huby’s towers!
Fountains Abbey has featured in both the Secret Garden films – the first back in 1993 and the more recent 2020 release.
Although we’re known as Fountains our name on the WHS list is Studley Royal Park, including the ruins of Fountains Abbey WHS. This is because the site is inscribed for the magnificent 18th century Studley Royal water garden and designed landscape as well as the abbey ruins!
The WHS has 3 species of deer in its medieval deer park – Sika, Red and Fallow – and 7 miles of deer park wall to conserve.
The WHS is one of only 2 wholly owned by the National Trust – the Trust also owns Giants Causeway WHS.