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Fountains Abbey ,Fountains Abbey , HG4 3DY map
Fountains Abbey with Studley Royal Water Garden, four miles west of Ripon in North Yorkshire, is of outstanding historic and aesthetic importance.
The Abbey, Britain's largest monastic ruin, was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks seeking a simpler life. They later became Cistercian monks.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII, the Abbey buildings and over 500 acres (202ha) of land were sold by the Crown to Sir Richard Gresham, a merchant. The property was passed down through several generations of Sir Richard's family, finally being sold to Stephen Proctor who built Fountains Hall probably between 1598 and 1604. These dramatic remains of a Cistercian Abbey with over 10 historic buildings, including a superb Victorian church. Elegant ornamental lakes lie amid the water gardens with walks beside them where there is a medieval deer park home to 500 Red, Fallow and Sika deer. John Aislabie inherited the Studley estate in 1693. A socially and politically ambitious man, he first became the Tory Member of Parliament for Ripon in 1695 and in 1718 became Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In 1720 disaster struck. Aislabie was a principal sponsor of the South Sea Company scheme. After this vast financial operation collapsed (the South Sea Bubble), he was expelled from Parliament and disqualified for life from public office.
Aislabie returned to Yorkshire and devoted himself to the creation of the garden he had begun in 1718. After his death in 1742, his son William extended his scheme by purchasing the remains of the Abbey. Between them, the two created what is arguably England's most important 18th century Water Garden.
Attracting approximately 300,000 visitors a year, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is the National Trust's most visited pay-for-entry property. Acquired by the Trust from North Yorkshire County Council in 1983, it was declared a World Heritage site in 1987.
Fountains Abbey, Hall and Water Garden Nov Feb 10am-4pm (closes at dusk if earlier) Mar Oct 10am-5pm Fountains Abbey Mill Jan Feb 10.30am 3.30pm (closes at dusk if earlier) Mar Oct 10am 5pm Nov Dec 10.30am-3.30pm (closes at dusk if earlier) Deer Park Open daily during daylight hours Car park free St Marys Church Open 12-4pm