Go medieval at Swanley Grange

Man weaving at Swanley Grange

Visitors to Swanley Grange at Fountains Abbey can now try their hand at traditional heritage crafts and activities, including knitting, weaving, crocheting and felting.

‘We’ve been working hard to create an atmospheric and welcoming space which illustrates the strong connection between the Abbey and the wealth it made through the wool trade, and the importance of the Grange to monastic life,’ says Bronwen Harlow, visitor experience assistant at Swanley Grange.

Granges were outlying monastic farms that provided food for the monks. Swanley was one of three ‘home’ granges servicing Fountains Abbey.

Making wool

In the craft barn at Swanley we have samples of different wool and fleeces and visitors can experience ‘hands on’ how wool was processed in mediaeval times.

This begins with carding, in order to straighten the fibres, then moves on to spinning. Finally, we demonstrate the weaving process on our wooden looms.

‘We also have a selection of wonderfully coloured naturally dyed yarns on display, ranging from soft earthy shades to vibrant zingy tints, all dyed with naturally occurring substances, mainly plants,’ says Bronwen.

In addition to the ‘drop in’ craft experience we are also trialling some specialist paid workshops, including natural dyeing, felt making embroidery. Get in touch for more details.

Medieval garden

‘Visitors can also explore our wonderful mediaeval inspired vegetable garden, created by Steve Elton and the gardening team, with a wonderful selection of vegetables, herbs, fruit and nuts,’ says Brownwen.

There is also a flock of Herdwick sheep. ‘We are eagerly anticipating the arrival of lambs next spring!’ says Bronwen.

‘I have kept some of the fleeces from this summer’s shearing, and at some point they will be washed, carded and processed into rugs using a peg loom.’