Picture Post: Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds

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The autumnal sunshine highlights the golden hues in the grounds of Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds.

It’s the kind of scene which over the centuries has attracted artists like JMW Turner, Thomas Girtin and John Sell Cotman to the ruins of the Cistercian monastery, which lie just a couple of miles from the city centre.

Dating back to the 12th century, the Abbey was home to monks for more than 400 years. However, like many religious buildings in England, its end came in the 16th century when Henry VIII embarked on his brutal Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Kirkstall Abbey was surrendered to the King on November 22, 1539 and three years later it was awarded to Thomas Cranmer, leader of the English Reformation and a previous Archbishop of Canterbury.

These were, however, uncertain times and Cranmer’s ownership did not last long. When Roman Catholic Mary I ascended the thrown, Cranmer was put on trial for treason and heresy and was finally executed in 1556.

Bought first by Sir Robert Savile, the abbey later passed into the hands of the Brudenell family and as the years ticked on much of the stone was removed for re-use in other buildings in the area, including the steps leading to Leeds Bridge.

Today, Kirkstall Abbey is a Grade I listed Scheduled Ancient Monument and following a £5.5m renovation programme there is now a new visitor centre with interactive exhibits.

It has also provided the backdrop for a number of high profile events. In 2011 it was the setting for the BBC Live in Leeds event Frankenstein’s Wedding and later the same year, the Kaiser Chiefs took over the ruins for two sell-out concerts.

Technical details, Nikon D3s, 28-70mm lens, 60th @ f13, 200ISO (TJ1001/34c).

Picture: Tony Johnson

Words: Sarah Freeman