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Fountains Abbey: 12. Guest Houses

(54°6′35″N, 1°34′56″W)
Fountains Abbey: 12. Guest Houses
SE 274 683
  • Rita Wood
17 Jul 2001, 14 Jul 2002, 04 May 2015

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Feature Sets

A group of buildings in the SW of the Great Court. Both guest-houses provided a hall, chamber and privy on two floors (Gilyard-Beer 1970, 69-71). Coppack writes: 'Each building contained a separate suite of rooms on each floor: a hall with a wall-fireplace, a bed-chamber and a latrine which discharded into the river. The ground-floor suites were vaulted and of inferior quality to those on the upper floors, while the western guest-house was somewhat smaller than its eastern counterpart. Thus accommodation of four different qualities was provided by the two buildings' (Coppack 1993, 47).

The E guest house is a rectangle six bays by two, aligned roughly N-S, perhaps to take in the view of the W front of the church from its first floor windows. Five piers remain down the centre of the ground floor and have capitals; vaulting corbels remain on all four walls. Above that, the N gable has a blocked circular window, with two round-headed windows below, in which traces remain of sub-arches dividing them into twin openings. Architectural detail (doorways and windows) is plain and simple: the only sculpture is in the provision for vaulting.

The W guest house, aligned E-W, is more ruinous than the E guest house, but it has the remnants of a fireplace at first floor level, and a blocked circular window above that, in its W gable. Plain round headed arches, flush with the walling, are used for windows. There is no sculpture except for one vaulting corbel, on the W wall. The W guest house was eventually L-shaped, but nothing remains standing of the N unit.

For further information, see report for Fountains Abbey, church.


The guest houses were apparently the first building work of Abbot Robert of Pipewell, elected in 1170, who is recorded (by Serlo) as being a capable administrator and who had a name for hospitality to rich and poor alike (Coppack 1993, 47).


Interior Features

Vaulting/Roof Supports


G. Coppack, The English Heritage Book of Fountains Abbey (London, 1993).

R. Gilyard Beer, Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire (HMSO, 1970).