Feilden Fowles to extend Fountains Abbey tea room and restore 18th century gardens

Feilden Fowles has unveiled its designs for an upgrade of facilities at Fountains Abbey, a grade I-listed ruined monastery in North Yorkshire.

Plans drawn up by the 2021 Building Design Architect of the Year for the National Trust will extend the site’s tea room and restore its gardens to their original 18th century design.

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest ruined monasteries in Europe of the Cistercians, a Catholic order of monks which became wealthy and powerful in the middle ages.

Founded in 1132, the abbey, which is near Ripon, operated for more than four centuries and became one of the wealthiest in England before it was seized by the Crown in 1540 during the English Reformation.

It was later dismantled to provide stones for the construction of the nearby Fountains Hall, a late 16th century prodigy house built to impress Queen Elizabeth I.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey, part of the Studley Royal Park Unesco World Heritage site

Both sites are part of the Studley Royal Park estate, which was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1986.

Feilden Fowles’ £3.5m plan for the abbey aims to improve the visitor experience, which the National Trust admitted is currently “underwhelming and often frustrating”.

Several ad hoc buildings were added in a piecemeal fashion to the are during the 20th century, creating a space which is now confusing to navigate, has poor accessibility and suffers from queues.

“Many visitors leave disappointed by the lack of interpretation to help them discover the story of what makes this special place so significant,” the trust said.

The proposed improvements, which have been submitted for planning following a long delay caused partly by the covid pandemic, include a timber-framed and green-roofed extension to Studley Tearoom building and a new refreshment kiosk in the car park. The plans will not affect the site’s main visitor centre, which was designed by Cullinan Studio in 1992.

New landscaping and planting designed by Rankinfraser Landscape Architecture and based on historic maps, images and accounts of how the site was used in the 18th century will also open up the site and restore lost views.