Skip to content

Studley Revealed

Studley revealed - illustration of new pathways and open outdoor seating from Studley cascade
An illustration of how new pathways and the outdoor seating might look | © NT/Fielden Fowles

The Studley Revealed project will deliver conservation benefits by restoring historical sightlines and vistas that have been lost over time. It will also provide more information about the garden and include improved visitor facilities, to ensure we give a welcome to the garden worthy of a World Heritage Site. Learn more about our plans for the project.

What is the Studley Revealed project?

The Studley Revealed project will help to tell the important story of this World Heritage Site and will make improvements to a busy area of the water garden, creating a more accessible café, admission point, toilets.

We've now submitted applications for planning permission and listed building consent to North Yorkshire Council and are excited to share the designs for a new building and landscape project at the Studley Royal.

The plans for improvements to this area were first presented in 2019 during a public consultation but the project was paused during the Covid-19 pandemic.

You can view all the planning documents via North Yorkshire Council's website - consultation has now closed, but use application references ZC23/02883/FUL and ZC23/02884/LB to read our submission. You can also find out more about the Studley Revealed project by emailing

Studley revealed - illustration of new entrance to the building from canal gates
An illustration of how the new entrance to the building from inside the water garden might look | © NT/Feilden Fowles

Our vision for Studley 

When John Aislabie began creating his masterpiece of Georgian water garden design, he intended visitors to arrive at Studley Royal.  

The ornate gates and lake views have impressed thousands who flocked to explore these spectacular gardens since the 18th century. Today, the visitor centre at the other end of the estate, is our main entrance and most visitors arrive at Studley from the water gardens halfway through their journey through the site. Although the way visitors use this area has fundamentally changed since Georgian times, we want to ensure that the welcome at Studley is fitting of a World Heritage Site. 

We are ready to enhance the appearance and facilities at this part of the estate and to bring the important story of Studley Royal to life.

One of four views of the water garden at Studley Royal Water Gardens, North Yorkshire, by A Walker after Balthazar Nebot (fl 1730-62), coloured mezzotints, 1758
Visitors have been flocking to Studley for over 300 years | © National Trust Images

Our plans to restore and improve the garden

Over time, we have lost some of the original spirit of the water gardens and the lakeside at Studley Royal and how it was designed to be experienced. The traditional English garden style used ‘conceal’ and ‘reveal’ to hide significant views before revealing them to visitors in spectacular style. 

Views and routes lost over time

Temporary structures and extensions have been added over the years and some of the original garden planting has become overgrown or has self-seeded with species that are not in keeping with the Georgian design. This means important views and walks have been removed or obstructed. The gardens are no longer experienced as their designers’ intended. 

Improving navigation

Navigation is confusing for visitors and we don’t currently tell the important story of Studley Royal and what makes it a World Heritage Site. The tea-room is frequently overcrowded at peak periods with long queues, which also make access for wheelchair users and pushchairs difficult. 

As a conservation charity, committed to caring for this special place, our vision is to create a new place to tell the story of Studley Royal and more accessible facilities for our visitors.

Enlisting landscape architects

To achieve this, we have engaged world-class building and landscape architects to help us carefully balance the needs of our visitors with the landscape of this special place and the original spirit of the water garden.  

Lost 18th century views will be opened up from the tea-room across the canal and cascades and Studley lake. We will recreate the route that once enabled this area to be accessed from both sides – a path that has been inaccessible since we took on care of the estate. 

Studley revealed - illustration of admissions and interpretation space
An illustration of how the new admissions and interpretation space might look | © NT/Fielden Fowles

Justin Scully, General Manager of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, says:

"The Studley Revealed project is an exciting part of the ongoing conservation of the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal World Heritage Site. It has long been our ambition to improve the appearance of this area of the site and how visitors experience it. Crucially, it means we can create a place for our visitors to learn more about the fascinating history of Studley Royal, its international significance and our role in caring for it, whilst simultaneously having a more enjoyable and accessible experience.

As General Manager of this special place, I’m delighted that we've now submitted our plans. The project was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but I'm pleased that it gave us extra time to consider the feedback from our consultation in 2019, which we've used to update our plans. I feel that the final proposals we're working towards offer a delightful presentation of the history, welcome and design of this World Heritage Site."

Studley revealed - illustration of view from approach to car park
An illustration of the view of the new building and landscaping from the Studley lakeside. | © NT/Fielden Fowles

A World Heritage Class design  

A world-class vision requires world-class designers.  

The building architects are award-winning heritage architects, Feilden Fowles, who specialise in arts and culture design projects. They have grown a reputation for delivering exemplary projects in highly sensitive and challenging historic settings like ours including Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Chatsworth Estate.  

The landscape architects are rankinfraser, an Edinburgh based practice. They have over 30 years combined experience of delivering multi award-winning projects from conception through to completion. 

Rooted in history 

This project is part of our longer-term vision to offer historical information about the World Heritage Site and the story of what makes this place special. Our plans are rooted in history and the detailed study of historic maps, images and accounts of how the water gardens have looked and been used since the 18th century. 

Design proposals 

Images seen on this page and more detailed information below show the final designs which have been submitted for planning and listed building consent.  

The plans also see the building move from the deer park side of Studley Royal to sit inside the water garden and pay-for-entry part of the site. Following feedback from the local community, a separate, but concurrent planning application has also been submitted for an additional refreshment kiosk in the deer park car park. This will serve refreshments for those for those who are not National Trust members and prefer not to purchase a day ticket to access the site. The restaurant and parking at the main visitor centre will remain free for all to access. 

You can find more information about the details of the Studley Revealed project here


How the building might look - illustrations 

2 pages of illustrations that show how the proposed new building at Studley might look


How the landscape might look 

The planned planting scheme diagram, explanation an illustration of how the improved landscape might look.


How the Studley revealed project has developed 

Details about the updates we've made in response to the consultation that was presented in 2019


Landscape and the environment 

A description of the environmental sustainability that has been considered through every aspect of the design


Why is Studley special? 

A brief history of Studley Royal and how visitors have used the site over 300 years


The conservational and operational challenges at Studley 

A description and images of the current issues that will be addressed by the Studley revealed project


The design approach - a building formed by the historic landscape 

A description and plans of how the history of the landscape has influenced the Studley revealed project


The new visitor experience at Studley 

A floorplan of the new building and description of what visitors will be able to see and do in the new proposed building