Built in North Yorkshire in the early 12th century, Fountains Abbey very quickly grew into one of the largest and wealthiest abbeys in England as a 'mother house' for further monasteries in the north and into Scotland. As unlikely as it may sound, a large part of that wealth was based on sheep; surrounded by vast grazing fields and mills, Fountains was known for its wool, and trading in that wool brought enormous wealth to the abbey over the entire medieval period. A large amount of that wealth was put into enlarging the abbey buildings and enriching the architecture.
The fruits of that wealth can be seen today in the rich decoration of the abbey ruins, particularly the vaulting of the undercroft which in its prime would've showcased Fountains as the most important Cistercian house in England. It has survived remarkably well following the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century which, like all abbeys in England, saw the upper levels mostly brought into ruin by the Kings order. I have also documented the many out-buildings linked to the operation of the Abbey and will share their history soon.