Fountains Hall

David Davies

Weymouth, Canada

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Artist's Description

( This Jacobean mansion, by Fountains Abbey near Ripon, North Yorkshire, England has an impressive façade with symmetrical lawns to the front flanked by topiary elephants.

Three rooms are open to the public; the Stone Hall with its minstrels’ gallery, the Arkell room, which is used as exhibition space and the Reading room complete with comfy chairs for you to relax in.

The history of the Hall is shrouded in mystery and many legends have sprung up about it, including it being a hiding place for Catholics during the Civil War, and being haunted by the Blue Lady.

Fountains Hall was built by Sir Stephen Proctor between 1598 and 1604, partly with stone from the Abbey ruins. It was built during the peaceful and prosperous final years of the reign of Elizabeth I. The building style has been attributed to the influence of the Elizabethan architect Robert Smythson, who designed Burton Agnes Hall and Hardwick Hall.

Proctor re-used sandstone blocks and a stone staircase from the abbey, but had fresh limestone cut for the windows and main façade. Still visible today, are Sir Stephen’s initials and bade (an otter with a fish in its mouth) carved in stone over the impressive entrance.

In 1604 Proctor played host to the young prince destined to become the ill fated Charles I, during his first royal progress from London to Edinburgh.

After Proctor’s death in 1619, the Hall eventually came into the hands of distant relatives the Messenger family. They were Recusants [Catholics] but outwardly conformed to the Protestant religious settlement: this enabled them to lead quieter lives and may have preserved their finances, but they were still denied much social and all political positions.

In 1768 William Aislabie purchased the estate and Fountains Hall became virtually redundant since the entire estate of Fountains and Studley was administered from Studley Royal House in the Deer Park (which burnt to the ground in 1946). The Hall was leased to various tenants and at one time parts of it were used for farm storage.

It was not until 1928-31 that the Hall was extensively repaired with many internal additions. The Hall once again played host to royalty during the 1930s when the Duke and Duchess of York – later better known as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth – often visited their close friends calre and Doris Vyner. The Vyners were the last private owners of the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal estate.

During the Second World War, the Hall and other estate buildings were used to house evacuees, including pupils of Queen Ethelburga’s School near York. However, after the war, the Hall again fell into a state of serious dilapidation.

Fountains Hall has been one of the National Trust’s major restoration projects since acquiring the estate in 1983.

You can now experience what it would be like to live in the hall by staying in one of the National Trust holiday apartments. The two apartments have been named after the first and last occupants; Proctor and Vyner and their furnishing and décor take inspiration from two of the leading designers of the twentieth century, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Edwin Lutyens.

Olympus OM-2, 50mm 1.2

Artwork Comments

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