How a Yorkshire MP's political downfall led to creation of Studley Royal's stunning water garden

Picture: Gary Longbottom'The moon pond of the water garden of Studley Royal surrounding the Temple of Piety.'Picture taken on a Nikon D3s digital camera with an iso of 250 using a 70mm-200mm lens at 116mm with an exposure of 1/200th sec at f5.6.
Picture: Gary Longbottom'The moon pond of the water garden of Studley Royal surrounding the Temple of Piety.'Picture taken on a Nikon D3s digital camera with an iso of 250 using a 70mm-200mm lens at 116mm with an exposure of 1/200th sec at f5.6.
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Visitors to Studley Royal Park can hardly fail to be aware of the amazing history surrounding them, not least because it contains the ruins of Fountains Abbey. But the fascinating story of the site by no means starts and ends with the Abbey, which was founded in 1132 and operated for over 400 years before its dissolution in 1539 on the orders of Henry VIII.

Originally developed as a hunting ground for deer in the late Middle Ages, today Studley Royal Park covers 300 acres and is an altogether more welcoming environment for the hundreds of deer that live there.

Picture: Gary Longbottom'Walkers enjoying a stroll up and down the drive leading to Studley Royal near Ripon, with Ripon Cathedral seen through some early morning winter fog in the background. 'Technical details: Nikon D850 camera, 70-200mm lens, 1/640th second at f9, ISO 360.

Picture: Gary Longbottom'Walkers enjoying a stroll up and down the drive leading to Studley Royal near Ripon, with Ripon Cathedral seen through some early morning winter fog in the background. 'Technical details: Nikon D850 camera, 70-200mm lens, 1/640th second at f9, ISO 360.

Storm Ciara prompts closure of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
Studley Park was the estate surrounding a grand Palladian mansion, Studley Royal, destroyed by fire in 1946. Perhaps the most notable owner of Studley Royal down the centuries was John Aislabie, a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer who was principal sponsor of the ill-fated South Sea Company.

It was formed in 1711 with the view of restructuring Government debt and was supposed to trade with South America and many people from all walks of life brought shares in it before it collapsed in 1720.

Fountains Abbey has made it on to a bucket list of best British experiences
The subsequent scandal saw Aislabie expelled from Parliament and he returned to Yorkshire where he devoted himself to creating a ground-breaking water garden in the estate that is little changed today and has now been recognised as a site of cultural importance that were granted World Heritage Status in 1986.

But the history does not stop at the park. Ripon Cathedral which dates back to the 7th Century and its famous Gothic frontage is located just a few miles away and is visible from the grounds of the park.

The cathedral, founded as a monastery by Scottish monks in the 660s, has its own fascinating backstory.

The church was destroyed in 948 as a warning to the Archbishop of York from the king, with a second minster then destroyed in 1069 by William the Conqueror. Today’s church is the fourth on the site.

It is fair to say history lies in all directions in this corner of North Yorkshire.

Picture: Gary Longbottom

Technical details: Nikon D850 camera, 70-200mm lens, 1/640th second at f9, ISO 360.