Fountains Abbey near Ripon could be thought of as a quiet and secluded place of beauty where you can enjoy the rural landscape that surrounds it whilst marvelling at Britain’s biggest and most famous ruin. But, archaeologists have now revealed that it was in fact a busy, noisy and industrial as anywhere else back in the 12th and 13th centuries.
It has been announced by the National Trust that the abbey was home to a medieval tannery, the BBC reports. Mark Newman, a trust archaeologist has said “This really is a wonderful discovery, it is very important… when you discover a major building on this scale, that was completely unknown … you don’t get many of those in a career.”
It was assumed that there was nothing more to be discovered at Fountains Abbey, but there was a long extension close to the River Skell that had puzzled archaeologists.
Using ground-penetrating radar, they’ve discovered previously unknown buildings including one measuring 16 metres wide and 32 metres long. Lined pits and tanks around them along with the close proximity to water have led them to conclude it is the remains of a tannery where leather would have been made for belts, bedding and book bindings.
Newman spoke of the size of the tannery saying “A tannery of this size, spanning such a large area of the site, reveals an operation on an industrial scale.”
“We see now that the tannery was much closer and a far cry from the idea of a quiet, tranquil abbey community,” he said.
“It is so easy with a place like Fountains to think this is exactly as the monks saw it,” said Newman. “What we are finding is that there is a whole unrecognised history.”
Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust, said the findings had “provided a ‘missing link’ and represents some key named buildings the team wanted to identify on the site”.
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