Studley Royal & Fountains Abbey
Extensively restored by the National Trust, Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey is one of the few great 18th century ‘Georgian green gardens’ in Britain to survive substantially in its original form. Created between 1716 and 1781 by John Aislabie and his son William, its setting was the wooded valley of the twisting river Skell and its inspiration the dramatic ruins of the great Cistercian monastery of Fountains Abbey. The deer park once enclosed the medieval Studley Royal manor house which John Aislabie inherited. This house was destroyed by fire in 1716 and was rebuilt entirely. Sadly this building too was extensively damaged by fire in 1946 and was demolished shortly afterwards. Only the impressive stable block has survived. Also of architectural interest on the estate is the mellow and romantic Fountains Hall, built around 1600, and William Burges’s High Victorian Gothic Anglican church of St Mary the Virgin.
The two Aislabies created what is arguably the most spectacular water garden in England. Laid out in the sheltered flat bottom of the narrow valley, the garden merged at one end with a cascade and fishing pavilions into a lake and fine deer park. At the other end it culminated in a view of the romantic remains of the great abbey. Its design of still water, lawns, temples and sculptures against a dark background of trees is the perfect fusion between a wild landscape and the carefully crafted planning of the 18th century landscape . See the surprise view of the Abbey as Aislabie intended it, from Anne Boleyn’s Seat.