In 1930, the Great Depression created an almost 100% unemployment situation on Tyneside. Commander Clare Vyner wanted to do something for the boys who had nothing and even less to look forward to. He wanted to give them a future.
He set up the Settlers Society at Fountains Abbey. He owned Fountains Hall, Abbey and Studley Royal at the time and set up a camp in the grounds where the boys could learn to work. They were taught many skills that ensured them a decent future.
And they all wore woollen socks with their names sewn on them.
The socks above are part of an exhibition in Fountains Hall, celebrating the work of Commander Vyner. A true philanthropist, he gave hope to around 100 boys who otherwise would have had nothing.
We visited Fountains Abbey today and thought it amazingly beautiful. The gardens, as well, are extraordinary.
The abbey was completed in 1132. It was established when a small group of monks were pissed off with St Mary’s church and decided to branch out on their own. From a small group of monks a mighty abbey grew. The land was cultivated, and things were very successful until Henry VIII put paid to it all in 1539.
Unlike a lot of the religious houses which Henry closed down, Fountains is extraordinarily intact. Well, there’s lots of walls and some roofs, is what I mean. It’s not like a bunch of monks could just move in now. Though, the cellarium is pretty complete.
Basically, the cellarium was a huge storage place. Fountains made a lot of money from wool so I imagine this place was full of wool just gone shearing time. That makes me wonder how hard shearing must have been before the discovery of Australia and electric shears.
One of the most impressive remains at Fountains has to be the abbey church. It was huge. The ruins are still huge. You look at it and wonder how they built something so massive, so long ago. Actually, I was wondering how the remaining walls are still standing when they seem to be supported on the spindliest of columns.
Standing outside the abbey church, you get an idea of how impressive it would have looked in the 13th century. No wonder the peasants in their leaky, cold, wet and dirty hovels were frightened by god.
Actually, this mention of god reminds me of a story on the World Service this morning. Apparently the pope is leading a push for all Catholics to do something about climate change ahead of COP26. He did something similar back in 2016. A bit like the Covid19 plague, this clearly demonstrates that even the head of the church doesn’t believe in god.
I mean, seriously, if there was a god and if he actually loved the people he created why would he allow the climate to change? For his son’s sake! He made the bloody climate in the first place. Why don’t Catholics understand that this proves there is no god?
Of course, Fountains Abbey was originally Catholic, so the preceding paragraph is highly relevant. And, if you really think about it, if god was real, how come he let Henry VIII dissolve all of his buildings and sell them off to the landed gentry. Unless, of course, god was on Henry’s side when he declared that he was actually god’s representative on earth rather than the pope.
Anyway, leaving my atheism behind, suffice it to say that Fountains is a glorious ruin and, had it not been for religion, it wouldn’t be there.
Having nothing to do with religion, the water garden in the Studley Royal Estate, was created by John Aislabie back in around 1718. He was a bit of an independent in the House of Commons and was, at one time, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position he found untenable when his involvement in the South Sea Bubble came to light.
Apart from his wheeling and dealing, John was rather keen on his garden and went to great lengths to make it very impressive. And it remains so today. We walked the length, breadth and depth of it, so we know. Well, we didn’t climb the heights to either the Banqueting House or the Temple of Fame, which would have been a folly, but we did see everything else.
The complete property is spread over 800 acres and includes a deer park (which we didn’t visit) and has 2.5 miles of path through the water garden. We walked right around, taking in the Georgian views as John would have liked.
Our circumnavigation even took in the artwork called Bridged, a rather odd red covered construction hiding a bridge beneath it. The original designs for the garden did include a bridge at this point in order to create a circular route.
Not that we did the whole walk in one go. Halfway round we made a stop in the tearoom. I say tearoom, it’s actually a tea terrace overlooking the big pond at the garden entrance. It was very popular.
I was happily queuing with Mirinda when I realised the tables were being snatched up by various men to hold in reserve, like Germans on the Med, while their other halves queued for food. I decided it would be better if I went and staked a claim as well.
I settled at a too big table and waited. And watched the predatory nature of the men as they entered the terrace. Like ancient hunters, they would wait for their moment to strike. Standing quiet and still, scoping out the terrain. At the first sign of movement, they’d spring forward, grabbing the free table almost before the previous occupant had gone.
I was lucky. During a lull, a nearby table became empty and I pounced, deserting the too big table I had bagged earlier. This, too big table, became the way station table for other hunters as I sat, happily at the better one I had bagged.
Mirinda eventually appeared at the tearoom (terrace) exit, clasping two coffees and a couple of hot pasties. She then told me about the sad state of the food supplies at the counter. The women in front of her was disappointed with the lack of everything she asked for so, when it was Mirinda’s turn she simply asked what there actually was, in the way of food.
The woman behind the counter suggested there were sandwiches in the cabinet, which Mirinda, correctly point out, was, in fact, a lie. There were no sandwiches. She suggested that perhaps the sandwiches were held up due to the general lack of HGV drivers.
Suddenly, a tray of pasties appeared from within the kitchen and Mirinda said she’d have two of them. Which is why the National Trust made me eat such a carb-horrific lunch.
After devouring our delicious pasties, we started the walk back to the West Gate and Max.
We loved Fountains so much that we’re returning on Saturday for the night light show which we booked for as soon as we returned to our accommodation.
I almost forgot to mention the fact that Studley Royal gardens and the abbey are a UNESCO World Heritage Site which, obviously, is another great feature. And another one to tick off our proverbial box.
Following a good old rest up, we headed off to an excellent Turkish inspired restaurant at the Greyhound at Bagby. I can wholeheartedly recommend the sardines. They were so delicious that I waylaid the chef to tell him as much. I think he was pleased.
And I had the Ali Nazik for main course which, again, was superb. Then, as an excellent dessert, we had ice cream featuring Turkish delight flavour. What an amazing meal. Highly recommended.
A perfect holiday day.