Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is in ruins. I liked this church very much, as the structure, not the decoration, was the emphasis. No windows, statues, mosaic floors (except for one)–just the walls, the layout and the gloriously sunny sky. This was one of our more well-documented sites, so please forgive the number of photos.

The abbey ruins are approached from walking through pastures above the site, and the tower aside the north transept is visible just over the trees. We read from the guide pamphlet as we walked around, and I’ve excerpted some of it below.

A group of monks left St. Mary’s Benedictine Abbey in York in 1132 to found a more devout monastery. One of their vows was not to be within an arm’s length of each other, so this abbey is very large in scale, although it only housed about 80 choir monks.

This is the view taken from the abbey guest house, also in ruins. I found a map (later in this post) that identified what all the parts of the structures were at one time, plus I’m getting the hang of this church logo after all the churches we’d toured thus far in our trip.

View from what would have been the front door, toward the window behind the high altar.

The side corridor flanks the nave, with small hollows where chapels used to be. Most of the abbey buildings date from between 1140 and 1270, though the north tower was added during King Henry VIII’s reign.

Through the roof and side chapel to the tower. We weren’t allowed underneath to look up: falling rocks.

The window over the front door. This little settlement at Fountains was part of the austere Cistercian Order.

Not a monk.

View from the high altar towards the back of the abbey.

The only mosaic left was the altar floor. The abbey was closed down in 1539 and the Abbot, the Prior and the monks were sent away with pensions. The estate was sold by the Crown to a merchant, and remained in private hands until the 1960s.

The North Transept.

Between the high altar and the huge window, was an area they identify as the Chapel of the Nine Altars. This view is looking toward the north side of that area.

Looking from the south side of the Chapel of the Nine Altars through to the infirmary passageway walls.

Windows of a small chapel in the South Transept.

The nave is the portion of the church that runs from the front door to the back window, and the transept runs crossways, forming a cross-shape. At that intersection in this church is the choir and, except for the built-in seats, is indistinguishable by any remnants. Maybe it was because in the early 17th century, Sir Stephen Proctor build a mansion using sandstone blocks and a stone staircase from the abbey. However I’m sure this cleaned-up version of an abbey that we see now happened only after carting out tons of fallen rock.

The choir seats.

Several groups of school children were there. They donned habits to emulate the monks. The 80 choir monks were known as “white monks” because they wore habits of undyed sheep’s wool. The lay brothers worked the farms (or granges) that belonged to the abbey and they wore darker wool. They may have numbered several hundred in the early years.

We are on the south side of the cloister, a large square area that is on the other side of the side corridor of chapels. They are passing what would have been the doorway to the Chapter House. (I have no idea what that is.)

View into the Cellarium from above.

Above the Warming House. I liked the blue light on the stone floor.

The vine-covered walls in one corner of the cloister.

The Cellarium, or as they refer to it on the map, the Lay Brother’s Refectory. They had a separate eating area for the monks. One end of this was for their “stores” and the other is where they ate. It’s all mossy and green, but intimate with its low, yet vaulted ceiling.

The map.

Looking again toward the high altar and the Chapel of the Nine Altars.

We decided to walk down along the meadow, catching a different view.

We took the “High Ride” walk up in the forest to Anne Boleyn’s Seat and Surprise View. The Half-moon Pond is a nice counterpoint to our surprise view.

Some tourists.

John Aislabie inherited the estate in 1693. He was the Member of Parliament for Ripon and became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1718, but was discredited for his part in a financial scandal just two years later. After spending some time in the Tower of London, he retreated to this estate and threw himself into plans to create a formal water garden in the River Skell Valley. This project kept him busy for the rest of his life.

The Temple of Piety was first named Temple of Hercules, perhaps to commemorate the huge labor of constructing the garden. In 1768, the temple was furnished with “six chairs, a tea table and a little stand,” which gives us an idea of how it was used in his day.

A statue of Neptune, the Roman sea-god (1740).
William Aislabie, John’s son, took over and worked on some of his own ideas from the garden, fashioning it into a more natural state, which was popular at the time. In 1768, he managed to buy the abbey ruins, “securing the romantic vistas along the valley,” says the guide sheet. The High Ride walk (with the Surprise View) was his creation. He holds the record as the MP with the longest period of continuous service: 66 years.

“The Cascade” is a the last small falls in the Water Gardens, but the place where John Aislabie began construction. The work took three years, as nearly 100 men were needed to dig the canal.

We didn’t see everything, but enjoyed the day in the gardens. Stopping back by the visitor center, we had a bite to eat before driving further into Yorkshire.

The City of York

The Grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up the hill,
And marched them down again.

And when you’re up, you’re up;
And when you’re down, you’re down.
And when you’re only halfway up,
You’re neither up nor down!

This old song kept running through my head as we went up and down the walls. It refers to the wars over York that apparently took years and years to settle out. I’m a little fuzzy on my history, but when you show up in York, you know they had some.

Maybe it’s because this pub has the year it began–1454–on the front window?

Or this gate was built ages and ages before George Washington ever crossed the Delaware? Oh yes, said one British tourist to a fellow American traveler (they were teen-aged), American history only takes one day to cover in our schools.

You can also tell the age of something (someone) by how much they’re sagging in the midsection. I like how the window has kept right up with the leaning.
The half-timbered buildings were quite common–obviously this one’s been restored.

And when you’re up, you’re up. . . Yes, on our tour arranged by the local tourist office (free!) we went up these stairs to the wall surrounding York. This bar (or gate) is called Bootham Bar.

Our guide had great stories. I did want to see ruined castles, and was happy to note that York had a ruined building right in their main park: St. Mary’s Abbey. They’re big on ghosts around here, with ghost tours of all the gruesome things that have happened over the ages. I guess America’s ghosts, by comparison, would be toddlers.

Some local sights: an ice cream trailer. It’s only here in the day.

These school boys posed for me in their feather boas–I don’t know why they had them, but shortly after this, they all took them off.

After school games on the green in the back of the York Minster.

Morris Dancers.

This group of women dresses all up in official bell-adorned knee socks, green skirts, sashes, kerchiefs, white blouses and black athletic shoes to dance in the little square across from Barnett’s Hardware store, by the sagging building shown above. This happens every Wednesday evening, and according to the flyer, you are invited to join. There used to be a church on this square, and the steps up to the high altar remain. They danced down in what used to be the nave.

The accordion player was nimble on the keyboards, and the violinist, spritely. Unfortunately for them, York is a weird tourist town: bustling by day, ghost town by evening. Later on, we found out why: the buses that carry the tourists to the car parks on the outside of the city stop running at 8 p.m. Yes, that would be OUR bus. Because of this, the audience for these energetic, middle-aged women was limited. We put some money in their hat.

The insignia of the crossed keys were everywhere. The tour guide said later it was a key to the Gates of Heaven and the Gates of Hell. After Evensong that night, I asked the kindly man in York Minster (who was sporting a badge with the same design) if he thought that’s what they represented. He said the design represents the keys given to St. Peter. He had a sly smile on his face and mused aloud: “I can see why one might want the keys to heaven. But the other place? No, I think it means keys–plural–to heaven.”

After dinner, Dave and I meandered to the main touristy street: Shambles. Apparently it used to be a street where the butchers plied their trades. It takes its name from the Saxon word shamel, meaning “slaughterhouse.” Only one butcher remains.

Mostly it’s (and to quote from our Lonely Planet travel guide): “. . . the quaintly cobbled Shambles, complete with overhanging Tudor buildings, hints at what a medieval street might have looked like if it was overrun with people told they have to buy something silly and superfluous and be back on the tour bus in 15 minutes.”

Obviously all the tourists have cleared out. The u
pper buildings do lean in toward each other.

We’re still trying to perfect that photo-by-arm business.

This is taken the next day. We were walking around after our museum visits and decided to go walk the other side of the wall. Storm clouds were gathering, but Dave paused to snap the photo of the River Ouse, which divides the town, plus this elegant light post.

York Minster from the other side of the city walls (near Lendal Bridge).
See next post for more York Minster.

Elizabeth on Lendal Bridge. Before storm hit.

When the street lights started to flicker on, we knew it was time to go home to our B & B.

I don’t know what this tower was–maybe to a church? The dark one in front is now a bank.

So we head to our bus stop and discover that we had purchased roundtrip tickets on a park-and-ride bus, which stops running at 8 p.m. It was now 8:40. So we decide to take a city bus and head to the other side of the street, where one was supposed to come at 9:08. The chef for the local cafe was hanging out there talking to a friend, and they offered to help us. We showed them where we needed to go. “Oh, that’s a 15 minute walk, easy.”

Because this was the first time I’d gotten an estimate from a Brit about how long a walk something was, I believed him, and set out on our tired tourist feet towards home.

We pass some locals on their way to a frat party, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

After about a half-an hour, I sat down to rest at a bus stop. When is that bus coming to this stop? Shortly, it turned out. However, it was a city bus, but the kindly female bus driver with a deep gravelly male voice let us on, as lost as we were. Then she took a turn off the main street. The lady Dave was sitting by said “not to worry,” and the man I was sitting by said “It’ll be back on the main road. Don’t you worry.” So after a detour around the edges of Fulham and back, we were dropped off at our bus stop in front of our B&B close to 10 p.m. It was still dusk, however, so it didn’t feel that late.

Of course, if you’d asked our feet, they would have said something different. I learned to double whatever time someone would give for an estimate for distances or walking. And to check the time of the last running bus.

York on the Sly

Some little tidbits and sly adornments and items of interest from York:

Part of the wall around the city, that is to say, the wall around the city is in parts.

The York Castle Museum had a series of exhibits on how people’s lives were lived in York through the ages. I loved the iron’s cord dangling from the light fixture, as well as the girdles hanging up to dry.

I read Kristen’s blog about Andrew and then saw this baby, rowing in the washbasin.

I looked in vain for a Keagangate, a Rileygate, a Megangate, an Alexandergate or an Emileegate, but this is the only grandchild I could find up on a signpost. “Gate” means street in this town.

After our bus stopped running, and we realized it was long walk home and we’d better get going (we eventually caught a bus about a mile away), Dave caught the local girl scouts having a night out at the firehouse.

The York emblems and the York rose, on a bridge railing.

When you get discouraged, remember to. . .

They used to refer to the young apprentices in the printing trade as little devils (or so the guide said). This building used to house a printing shop.

A cast-iron cat crawling up the Barnitt’s Hardware Store building.

This is what I look like at the end of the day of touristing.
(And at least one of my children had a street named after them!)


June 30

Mr. Titus Salt had a windfall for his woolen mill when he cornered the London market on alpaca and wool and put it into production. Secure now in his business, he turned his attention to finding a place for a new factory that would have adequate water, a breeze to carry off pollution and other sundry requirements. He chose a place about 5 miles outside of Bradford, building his factory near the river Aire. He came to Bradford in 1822, and in 1853 his mill opened.

But what made him famous today, as well as getting a World Heritage Site designation, was the fact that he provided housing—good housing—for his workers. He didn’t allow “public houses,” or pubs, but instead encouraged home industry, sports, schooling and of course, a church. The building of the village was completed in 1872.

These houses are small, but according to one man who invited us to see his garden, delightful to live in.

The defunct factory has been converted into shops, a gallery, and and a lunch place. I was enamored of the enamel pots—in vivid shades.

I was intrigued with the gallery, named “1853” in honor of the year Salt opened his factory and featured works by David Hockney, a Bradford-born boy made good. Hockney’s fabrics are the curtains, and his works are displayed throughout Saltaire.

The church is interesting-looking from the outside—a sort of classical column—albeit with different proportions. This church–the Saltaire United Reformed Church–opened in 1859.

Inside: a harmonious blue with brown woodwork and a large organ. The shortest pipe is 3/4 of an inch and the largest is 16 feet.

A medallion lamp hanging from the decorative ceiling. (As always, click to enlarge.)

This was the resting place of the Salt family, with a terrific marble angel. (Sorry about the reflection–it was all glassed in.

Although his eyes are closed, the man on the left with the gripmarks in his coke can and a wild belt, rebuilt the organ in its last incarnation. With him is his helper, and to the far right, the lady who opens up the church in the afternoons for the visitors.