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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Studley Royal Park

Studley Royal Park is a park containing, and developed around, the ruins of the Cistercian Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, England. It is a World Heritage Site. The site also contains features dating from the eighteenth century such as Studley Royal Water Garden.

Studley Royal ParkThe Fountains Abbey was founded in 1132 by thirteen Benedictine monks. They later became Cistercian monks. Following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII, the Abbey buildings and over 500 acres or 2.0 km2 of land were sold by the Crown to Sir Richard Gresham, a merchant. The property was passed down through several generations of Sir Richards family, finally being sold to Stephen Proctor who built Fountains Hall probably between 1598 and 1604. A remarkable Elizabethan mansion, Fountains Hall was built partly with stone from the Abbey ruins. Today there are two rooms open to the public.

John Aislabie inherited the Studley estate in 1699. 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, the bill for which was promoted by him personally. After this vast financial operation collapsed, 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 and Fountains Hall. He also extended the landscaped area in the picturesque romantic style, contrasting with the formality of his father's work. Between them, the two created what is arguably England's most important 18th century Water Garden.

After Williams death, the estate passed to his daughter, then her niece. It escaped major reshaping and the garden and park passed to the Vyner family, descendants of the Aislabies. In 1966 the estate was purchased by West Riding County Council and was acquired by the National Trust in 1983. The Abbey part of the estate is currently managed by English Heritage on behalf of the National Trust. In 1986 the entire Park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Along with the Abbey itself and Fountains Hall, the Park contains a number of other notable historic features. The water garden at Studley Royal is one of the best surviving examples of a Georgian water garden in England.

The garden was created by John Aislabie in 1718. It was expanded by his son, William, after Aislabies death. William expanded the property, purchasing the adjacent Fountains Estate. The garden's elegant ornamental lakes, canals, temples and cascades provide a succession of dramatic eye-catching vistas. The garden is also studded with a number of follies including a neo-Gothic castle and a palladian style banqueting house. The 16th-century house at Studley Royal, rebuilt in Palladian style, as it appeared in 1880; it burned to the ground in 1946.

St Mary's Church was one of two, late Victorian, memorial churches in Yorkshire, built by the family of the First Marquess of Ripon in memory of Frederick Gratham Vyner. The other is the Church of Christ the Consoler at Skelton-on-Ure, and the architect of both was William Burges. Vyner was murdered by Greek bandits in 1870 and his mother, Lady Mary Vyner, and his sister, Lady Ripon, determined to use the unspent ransom, gathered to obtain his release, to build two churches in Vyners memory on their respective Yorkshire estates.

Water Garden and TowerBanqueting HouseBurges appointment as architect was most likely due to the connection between his greatest patron, John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute and Vyner, who had been friends at Oxford. St Mary's, on Lady Ripons estate at Studley Royal, was commissioned in 1870 and work began in 1871. The church was consecrated in 1878. As at Skelton, Burges' design demonstrates a move from his favoured Early-French, to an English style. Pevsner writes of a Victorian shrine, a dream of Early English glory. The interior is spectacular, exceeding Skelton in richness and majesty. The stained glass is of particularly high quality. St Mary's is Burges ecclesiastical masterpiece.

The church stands in a medieval deer park, home to 500 deer and a wealth of flora and fauna. The Deer Park once enclosed Studley Royal House, but this was largely destroyed by fire in December 1716 and had to be almost entirely rebuilt. The replacement building, was, in turn, extensively damaged by fire in 1946 and was demolished soon afterwards. Only the large stable block, built between 1728 and 1732, has survived. This is now a private house. Until about 2000 it belonged to Sir Paul Sykes, but has since been purchased by the author Susie Bulmer. The mill is the only 12th-century Cistercian cornmill left in the UK and the oldest 'intact' building on the estate.

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