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Fountains Abbey: Location

Fountains Abbey: History
Trials and Tribulations
Strength and Stability
End of Monastic Life

Fountains Abbey: Buildings
Chapter House
Warming House
Day Room
Lay Brothers' Range
Abbots House
Outer Court

Fountains Abbey: Lands

Fountains Abbey: People

Cistercian Life






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Fountain Abbey: Precinct


The precinct wall at Fountains
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
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The precinct wall at Fountains

The monastic precinct at Fountains was remarkably extensive, covering some seventy acres. Even by Cistercian standards this was large: Kirkstall’s precinct was about forty acres and Roche’s about thirty acres. Rievaulx, however, spanned over ninety acres. The entire precinct at Fountains was enclosed by a wall, which was built in the first half of the thirteenth century. This stood almost 3.5 metres high and remains standing to the south and west of the abbey.(1)

The slaughter-house
Fountains had its own slaughter-house within the precinct. Hides from here were sent to the tannery where they were de-haired by skinners and cured to make leather products such as belts, blankets, hoods and parchment. This was s a long, hard and smelly process.
Kingswood Abbey sold some of its hides, which included horseskins, cowskins, calfskins, oxskins and mare skins.
[Michelmore, The Fountains Abbey Lease Book, p. xxvii; Williams, The Cistercians in the Early Middle Ages, p. 207]

Read more about the tannery at Fountains

The Fountains precinct was bisected by the River Skell and comprised of three zones. The church and claustral buildings stood at the centre of the precinct where they were sheltered from the hustle and bustle of all the activity. This meant that the monks could carry out their spiritual observances in relative peace and tranquillity. An inner court housed domestic buildings including workshops for the tailors and other craftsmen. Industrial and agricultural work was carried out in the outer court, which lay to the south of the river. Two remarkable buildings in the outer court, the corn-mill and the wool-house, have survived and can be visited today. Other buildings here would have included the tanneries, granaries and even a slaughter-house, as well as orchards, bridges, ponds and pastures. The precise layout and nature of work carried out here, however, remains largely unknown. The function and structure of the precinct was adapted throughout the Middle Ages, in accordance with the community’s needs.

Fountains’ precinct was bordered by the abbey’s home granges, which directly served the community. Swanley and Morker could be accessed from the outer court of the monastery via a gate, a reflection of their close connection with daily monastic life.(2)

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