Families of the estate
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The first group of people to call Fountains home were thirteen devout Benedictine monks who fled from St Mary’s Abbey in York in 1132. Under the leadership of Abbot Bernard, Fountains became one of the largest and wealthiest religious houses in England.
The monks were divided into Laybrothers and Choir monks. Laybrothers took care of the day-to-day running of the abbey, so that the choir monks could devote their lives to prayer.
William Mallorie became the first lord of the manor in the late 1400s when the Studley Royal estate was still separated from the Abbey. The Mallorie family lived at Studley for over two centuries.
Sir Stephen Proctor built Fountains Hall between 1598 and 1604 partly using stone from the ruined abbey.
He was a Protestant and rumoured to have spied on his Catholic neighbours for James I. He had many clashes with the Mallories who owned Studley Royal at this time and died in debt following many legal bills.
In 1627 John Messenger bought Fountains Hall. As a Catholic during this period it was risky for him to hold the title, so his father-in-law Richard Ewens was the legal owner. He was the first of five Messengers to live in the Hall until it was sold to William Aislabie in 1768.
John and his son William Aislabie are best known as the creators of Studley Royal Water Garden between 1716 and 1781.
John inherited the estate through his mother’s family, the Mallories, in 1693, and during their lifetimes John and William transformed the wild and wooded landscape into the formal gardens that we know today.
John rose to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, but was expelled from Parliament due to his involvement in the South Sea Bubble.
It was William who finally brought the two estates together in 1767 when he purchased the Abbey from the Messengers.
The Vyner family were the last permanent residents of Fountains.
Commander Clare Vyner bought the estate in 1923 and the family lived in Studley Royal House in the Deer Park until the outbreak of the Second World War. During this time Queen Ethelburga’s boarding school from Harrogate moved into the house and the Vyners made Fountains Hall their home. This became their final home on the estate as sadly Studley Royal House was destroyed by fire in 1946.
The Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) were family friends and often stayed with the Vyners; enjoying tennis matches on the lawn and shooting at Studley.
The family finally left the estate in 1979 when it was sold to the West Riding County Council.