Fountains Abbey (Ripon)
|Adm. div.||West Riding of Yorkshire|
|Vicinity||4.75 km SW of Ripon|
|First Record||c. 1650|
By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-07-20. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-06-09.
Fountains Abbey is the home of the "Curtal Friar" and the scene of the main action of the ballad of Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar (Version A in MS of c. 1650, version B first printed 1663). This Cistercian monastery was founded in 1132 and dissolved in 1539. The ruins are a grade I listed building owned by the National Trust. Together with the gardens and adjacent deer park they form the UNESCO World Heritage site Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey.
Although the play of Robin Hood and the Friar (printed c. 1560) has essentially the same plot as the ballad of Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar it never mentions Fountains Abbey or refers to Robin Hood's adversary as the Curtal Friar. The ballad is the first known source to connect the friar with Fountains Abbey.
Within the abbey grounds lie (or lay) two places named after Robin Hood: Robin Hood's Wood and Robin Hood's Well, while a third, the Lady Chapel, has Robin Hood associations. In Nidderdale, some 12 km west of the abbey grounds, Fountains Abbey owned an extensive, mainly moorland, area known as Fountains Earth, within which was found a place named Robin Hood's Park and another Robin Hood's Well.
When Robin came to Fontaines Abey,
Wheras that fryer lay,
He was ware of the fryer where he stood,
And to him thus can he say.
That causd Will Scadlock to laugh,
He laughed full heartily:
'There lives a curtal frier in Fountains Abby
Will beat both him and thee.
'That curtal frier in Fountains Abby
Well can a strong bow draw;
He will beat you and your yeomen,
Set them all on a row.'
'If thou wilt forsake fair Fountains Dale,
And Fountains Abby free,
Every Sunday throughout the year,
A noble shall be thy fee.
The picturesque effect, the magnitude, and the beautiful architecture of these ruins are not their only claim on our attention. They powerfully appeal to the mind by their association with ages past, the palmy days of monastic prosperity — the abbey, a place of learning when all around was ignorance &hdash; exercising an unbounded influence over the minds of men, when dominion elsewhere was held by force — entire in its magnificence, "when the castles of the nobility were dungeons, and the mansions of the gentry little better than hovels." Even a favourite legend of our boyhood has its locality here; and if we should task imagination to restore this roofless and tenantless pile, and people it with grave Cistercians, habited in coarse white robes and long black hoods, some gayer person- [p. 27:] ages in Lincoln green might intrude upon the scene, and the foreground be enlivened by the aquatic adventure of Robin Hood, and the merry outlaws' encounter with the Curtal Friar and the Ban-Dogs of Fountains.
Now, all attention is naturally centered in the abbey, and fortunately, there is nothing intervening to distract the eye. We begin, immediately, to hasten down a precipice, arched, [p. 89:] deeply and picturesquely, in the woods; and, on arriving at the path by the side of the stream, will perhaps scarcely glance the diversity of scenes which the union of the dense woods with their liquid mirror presents.
Yet awhile may fancy beguile us with merry visions of the past. On this glade — doubt who can — the "Curtal Friar" of Fountains encountered Robin Hood, whom, as the old ballad goes, he at length threw into the Skell, and so grievously belaboured, that Robin, for once, turned coward, and called in the aid of his fifty stalwart yeomen; also that then the Friar, who
"Had kept Fountain-dale,
Seven long years and more,"
was brought to his senses and a truce. Before we reach the abbey, we shall be reduced to halt on a shady knoll; and, while reclining by the crystal Well that still bears the Outlaw's name, may chant the "Rime of Robin Hood" in one of the sweetest spots associated with his name.
Tradition points to the figures of a large bow and arrow and hound, graven on the north-east angle of the Lady Chapel, as a record of this dire affray. They bear no affinity to the symbols used by the masons; but have, I fancy, induced the report, mentioned in Ritson, that Robin's bow and arrow were preserved at Fountains Abbey.
- Not included in Dobson, R.B., ed.; Taylor, J., ed. Rymes of Robyn Hood: an Introduction to the English Outlaw (London, 1976), pp. 293-311.
- Child, Francis James, ed. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (Boston and New York; Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, [1882-1898]), vol. III, p. 123.
- Child, Francis James, ed. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (Boston and New York; Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, [1882-1898]), vol. III, pp. 124, 126.
- Smith, A.H. The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire (English Place-Name Society, vols. XXX-XXXVII) (Cambridge, 1961-63), pt. V, p. 191.
- 6" O.S. map Yorkshire 119 (1856; surveyed 1849-53)
- 6" O.S. map Yorkshire CXIX.SW (1910; surveyed 1907)
- 6" O.S. map Yorkshire CXIX.SW (1930; surveyed 1928)
- 6" O.S. map Yorkshire CXIX.SW (1947; surveyed 1938)
Many items here have not been seen. Although several briefly mention the Robin Hood traditions connected with the abbey, they are of more interest for the general background information they provide on the abbey.
- Anonymous. Title: History of Ripon: With Descriptions of Studley Royal, Fountain's Abbey, Newby, Hackfall etc. (Ripon, 1806).
- Anonymous. The History of Ripon, comprehending a Civil and Ecclesiastical Account of that Ancient Borough. To which is added, a Description of Fountains Abbey, Studley, and Hackfall. And an Appendix, containing Charters, etc. (Ripon, 1806).
- Anonymous. The New Harrogate Guide: Being a Concise Description and History of what is most Remarkable in that Neighbourhood, for Antiquity, Elegance or Rural Beauty (Harrogate, 1828).
- Anonymous. The Tourist's Companion; being a Description and History of Ripon, Studley Park, Fountains Abbey, Hackfall, Brimham Craggs, [...] Newby Hall, Knaresborough, [...] Harrogate and Harewood House [...] (Ripon, 1828).
- Anonymous. The Tourist's Guide; being a Concise History and Description of Ripon, Studley Royal, Fountains Abbey, Markenfield, Brimham Rocks, Hackfall and Newby Hall, etc. (Ripon, 1838).
- Anonymous. The History of Ripon, with Historic Notices and Descriptions of Fountains Abbey, Studley, [...] Forming a Compendious Guide for Visitors (Ripon, 1839).
- Anonymous. 'The Sanctuary, Westminster', Notes and Queries, Series 8, vol. VII (1895), p. 181.
- Anonymous. Guide to the Yorkshire Dales, Harrogate, Ripon, Ilkley, Bolton Abbey, Fountains Abbey, York (London & Melbourne, ).
- Anonymous. Title Guide to Harrogate: Knaresborough, Ripon, Ilkley, Bolton Abbey, Fountains Abbey, York and the Dales (Ward Lock's Illustrated Guide Books) (London, 1950).
- Anonymous. Look at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal (Bessacarr, ©1988).
- [Armstrong, J L]. Armstrong's Harrogate Hand-Book, and Visitor's Vade Mecum (Harrogate, ), pp. 82-85.
- Baddeley, Mountford John Byrde. Yorkshire (Part II.) (London, 1890), pp. 55-61.
- Barber, Fairless. An Essay in explanation of Fountains Abbey, etc. (Leeds, 1874).
- Beckett, Lucy. Rievaulx, Fountains, Byland & Jervaulx: the Cistercian abbeys of North Yorkshire (Norwich, 1998).
- Charles Carlyle. The Story of Fountains Abbey (London, ).
- Black, Adam; Black, Charles. Black's Picturesque Guide to Yorkshire (Edinburgh: Adam and Charels Black, 1858), pp. 216-23.
- Black, Adam; Black, Charles. Black's Guide to Harrogate and Vicinity: Including Fountains Abbey, Bolton Priory, and Ripon (Edinburgh, 1871), pp. 36-53.
- Borough of Harrogate. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (1986).
- Bunnett, Reginald James Albert. Fountains Abbey: its History and Buildings. With Notes on the Principal Officers, etc., of a Cistercian Abbey ([Harrogate], ).
- Collins, Henry; Flower, Robert. The Spirit and Mission of the Cistercian Order: Comprising the Life of S. Robert of Newminster, and the Life of S. Robert of Knaresborough: With an Account of the Foundation of Fountains Abbey (London, 1866).
- Coppack, Glyn. English Heritage book of Fountains Abbey (London, 1993).
- Coppack, Glyn. Fountains Abbey (Stroud, 2003).
- Fry, Plantagenet Somerset. Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire (London, 1981).
- Goldsmith, Tessa; Groves, Anna, ed. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire: A Souvenir Guide ([Great Britain], ©2011).
- Grainge, William. Annals of a Yorkshire Abbey: A Popular History of the Famous Monastery of Fountains (Harrogate, [c. 1880]).
- Henderson, Arthur Edward. Fountains Abbey Then and Now (London, 1948).
- Hodges, George. Fountains Abbey: The Story of a Mediæval Monastery (London, 1904). Has several atmospheric "photogravures" of the abbey ruins and surroundings.
- Hope, W.H. St. John. 'Fountains Abbey', Yorkshire Archæological Journal, vol. XV (1900), pp. 269-402.
- Lefroy, William Chambers. The Ruined Abbeys of Yorkshire (London, 1891), pp. 77-122.
- Lowther, Kenneth Ernest; Hammond, Reginald J.W. The Yorkshire Dales: Harrogate, Ilkley, Ripon, Bolton Abbey, Fountains Abbey (London, 1980).
- Macquoid, Thomas; Macquoid, Katharine. About Yorkshire (London, 1894), pp. 246-57; Robin Hood pp. 248-49.
- Michelmore, David John Harold, ed. The Fountains Abbey Rental, 1495/6 (Leeds, 1974).
- Michelmore, D.J.H., ed. The Fountains Abbey Lease Book (Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Record Series, vol. 140). [Leeds] (1981).
- Moody, C.H. Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey: Historical and Descriptive Sketches Ripon, [193?]).
- Moody, Charles Harry. Fountains Abbey and Fountains Hall (London, 1978).
- National Trust: Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal World Heritage Site Management Plan 2009-2014
- Newman, M.A. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Estate: An Archaeological Survey ([s.l.], The National Trust, 1996); not seen.
- Newman, Mark A. Observations and recording at Robin Hood’s Well, Fountains Abbey, March-Sept 06. [s.l.]: National Trust, 2009; not seen.
- Oxford, Arnold Whitaker. The Ruins of Fountains Abbey (London, 1926).
- Oxford, Arnold Whitaker. Guide to Fountains Abbey (Ripon, 1954).
- Parker, George. Ripon Cathedral, Studley Royal, Fountains Abbey and District (Ripon, ).
- Parker, George. Ripon, Studley Royal, Fountains Abbey, &c. ([Ripon], [c. 1905]).
- Parker, George. Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey (Ripon, [1910?]) .
- Phillips, Alan. Fountains Abbey: Yorkshire ([s.l.], 1970), see especially p. 39.
- Pickford, John. A Week in the Yorkshire Dales. Second Edition (Manchester, 1882), pp. 13-14.
- Reeve, J. A Monograph on the Abbey of S. Mary of Fountains (London, 1892).
- Robson, Peter. Fountains Abbey: A Cistercian Monastery (Helperby, York, ©1983).
- Sopwith, J. Eight Views of Fountains Abbey [...] etched on Copper-Plate, from [...] Drawings by J. Metcalf, and J. W. Carmichael: With Historical and Architectural Description (Newcastle, ).
- Storer, James Sargant; Storer, Henry Sargant. Delineations, Graphical and Descriptive, of Fountains' Abbey, in the West Riding of the County of York. With Historical Notices (London; Cambridge, [1820?]).
- Thomas, Cyril Leonard Ross. Fountains Abbey (London, ).
- Tute, J.S. Handy Guide to Fountains Abbey (1890).
- University of California Davis: Fountains Abbey. Excellent series of photographs.
- [Walbran, John Richard]; [Smith, Alfred]. The Harrogate Visitors Hand Book (Ripon, 1847), pp.25-31; Robin Hood: pp. 26-27.
- Walbran, John Richard. A Guide to Ripon, Harrogate, Fountains Abbey, Bolton Priory, and Several Places of Interest in their Vicinity (Ripon, 1851), pp. 63-91: 'Fountains Abbey'.
- Walbran, John Richard. On the Excavation now in Progress at Fountains Abbey, with Some Remarks on the Early History of the Monastery (London, 1854).
- Walbran, John Richard. A Guide to Ripon, Harrogate, Fountains Abbey, Bolton Priory, and Several Places of Interest in their Vicinity (Ripon, 1856), pp. 65-100: 'Fountains Abbey'.
- Walbran, John Richard. The Shilling Guide to Ripon, Studley, Fountains Abbey, Hackfall, Harrogate, etc. (Ripon; London, 1863).
- Walbran, John Richard, ed.; Fowler, J.T., ed. Memorials of the Abbey of St. Mary of Fountains. (The Publications of the Surtees Society, vols. XLII, LXVII and CXXX) (1863-1918).
- Walbran, John Richard. A Guide to Ripon and Fountains Abbey. Abridged from Mr. Walbran's Guide (Ripon, 1873).
- Walbran, John Richard; Raine, James, revis.; Stephenson, William Fowler, revis. A Guide to Ripon, Fountains Abbey, Harrogate Bolton Priory, and Several Places of Interest in their Vicinity (Ripon; London, 1875), pp. 90-136: 'Fountains Abbey'.
- Wardrop, Joan. Fountains Abbey and its Benefactors, 1132-1300 (Cistercian Studies Series, No. 91) (Kalamazoo, Mich., 1987).
- White, Walter. A Month in Yorkshire (London, 1858), pp. 302-306.
- Whone, Herbert, photog. & ed.; Gibson, Lord, introd. Fountains Abbey (Otley, 1987).
- Fountains Abbey website.
- Wood, E.S. The Ancient Buildings of the Harrogate District ([Harrogate], 1946).
- Fountains Abbey place-name cluster
- Fountains Earth place-name cluster
- Places named after Friar Tuck.
- Fountains Abbey website.
- Curtal Friar A, st. 5.
- Curtal Friar B, sts. 6-7, 39.
- [Walbran, John Richard]; [Smith, Alfred]. The Harrogate Visitors Hand Book (Ripon, 1847), pp. 26-27,
- Walbran, John Richard. A Guide to Ripon, Harrogate, Fountains Abbey, Bolton Priory, and Several Places of Interest in their Vicinity (Ripon, 1851), pp. 88-89.
Click any image to display it in the lightbox, where you can navigate between images by clicking in the right (or left) side of the current image.
Fountains Abbey viewed from the west / Photo by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountains_Abbey#/media/File:Fountains_Abbey,_Yorkshire,_UK_-_Diliff.jpg David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0.]
Fountains Abbey, south transept doorway / From Macquoid, Thomas; Macquoid, Katharine. About Yorkshire (London, 1894), p. 254.