Icons of England
  • Introduction
  • The Icons
  • Nominations
  • News
  • Learn & Play
  • Your Comments

Fountains Abbey

927 of 1169 nominations


Fountains Abbey

Is this an icon?


Fountains Abbey

This breathtaking ruin in the valley of the River Skell in North Yorkshire was once populated with Cistercian monks and their lay brothers. Work on building the abbey, which is a World Heritage site, began in 1135 and continued for 400 years. The monks, who followed a strict regime with long periods of silence, little food and much hard work, wore cassocks made from undyed sheep’s wool, which earned them the name of the White Monks. It all ended with Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Fountains Abbey and more than 500 acres of surrounding land were sold the following year. The site passed through several owners, including William Aislabie, who bought it in 1767. He preserved the ruins and created the magnificent gardens that can be seen today, the site becoming popular as a visitor attraction from the mid-19th century. The estate has beeen owned by the National Trust since 1983.

Photo: Courtesy of Fountains Abbey, Ripon


Your comments

England's ruined abbeys are the living relics of our ecclesiastical past. Their superb architecture and eloquent surroundings make them among the widest visited heritage sites, both by English nationals and foreign tourists. Fountains Abbey remains the most well-known, most visited and most photographed of these ruins.

Dr Julian Litten FSA

UNESCO World Heritage Site Brief Description A striking landscape was created around the ruins of the Cistercian Fountains Abbey and Fountains Hall Castle, in Yorkshire. The 18th-century landscaping, gardens and canal, the 19th-century plantations and vistas, and the neo-Gothic castle of Studley Royal Park, make this an outstanding site.
Jim Conner



My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry