Looking to the future at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

a view across studley lake towards the fishing tabernacles

Just like a vulnerable work of art, the years have taken their toll on the extensive eighteenth century garden at Studley Royal. With every passing year its features have become faded and blurred; clouding the former glory of this distinctive and much cherished part of Yorkshire.

Why conservation is important

Since the National Trust took on the estate in 1983, it has painstakingly cleared away the layers of silt clogging up the garden’s canals and ponds and trimmed the greenery obscuring historic vistas to reveal more of the eighteenth century masterpiece created by father and son, John and William Aislabie. The work we have completed so far has only just scratched the surface of this uniquely English, yet internationally important garden, and it is still a shadow of its former self. 

What we've been doing so far

As well as flood maintence, we’ve also been busy behind the scenes researching and debating how we can bring back the unique shapes, designs and features that the Aislabies dreamed up. With the help of historical paintings and visitor stories, we’ve been able to piece together the missing parts of the picture and uncover more about this unique place than we’ve ever known before. 

Living up to the enormity of the Aislabies’ original vision is no mean feat. Over the next few years we’ve set ourselves a big challenge to achieve an even bigger ambition.

Our conservation aims are:

  • Recasting the lost statues of the dying and conquering gladiators and return them to the moon pond lawns. 
  • Reinstating the planters and seating that we can see in Balthazar Nebot’s eighteenth century paintings of the moon ponds. 
  • Recreating the shell-shaped gravelled scalloping set within the lawns around the statue of the Wrestlers.
  • Replanting the yew hedges around the moon ponds amphitheatre.
  • Returning the lead urns to their rightful place on the balustrade overlooking the lake.
  • Undertaking repairs to improve the condition of the buildings and follies that punctuate the garden’s landscape. 
  • Returning the Roman Emperor busts to the niches below the bas relief of the Grecian Daughter within the temple.

On top of all that, in a bid to combat the damage caused by flooding and siltation in the garden, we will be looking to:

  • Install a new water control mechanism on the sluice gates at Rustic Bridge to reduce the effects of flooding in the lower parts of the garden.
  • Continue to remove the silt washed downstream which has collected in the canals and ponds. 
  • Replace the capping to the dam crest at the head of Studley Lake. 
  • Install new porous floor tiling inside the abbey to help combat localised flooding.

The total cost of all this work is £0.5 million.