Founded in 1132 after a dispute and riot at St Mary's Abbey in York in 1132,
Fountains Abbey ruins near York are the largest monastic ruins in the country.The life of the Abbey was brought to an abrupt end in 1539 by Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. By 1540 glass and lead from the dismantling of Fountains Abbey had found their way to Ripon and York.
The buildings and parts of the estate were sold to Sir Richard Gresham, whose family subsequently sold them on to Stephen Proctor, the builder of Fountains Hall.
The Abbey passed through several hands until it came into the possession of the Messenger family. In 1767 it was sold to William Aislabie, who landscaped the Abbey ruins as a picturesque folly to be viewed from the Water Garden.