Yorkshire’s Fountains Abbey has topped a survey to discover the most inspiring National Trust property as voted for by top historical writers.
Members of the Historical Writers’ Association awarded 28% of the vote to the Cistercian abbey and water garden, with Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire and Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland tied in second place with 11%. Meanwhile, Orford Ness in Suffolk and Housesteads Roman Fort came in fourth place with 9% each. The survey, which was conducted to celebrate the relaunch of Historia, also asked readers to vote on their pick of their most inspirational National Trust property too. Historia readers crowned Housesteads at Hadrian’s Wall their winner with 20% of the vote.
‘I think it’s fascinating to see that both writers and readers are inspired by ruins,’ says HWA chair Imogen Robertson. ‘Ruins demand after all that we imagine and create a world from fragments and what could be more inspiring than that! Perhaps it is the writer’s obsession with the tangible day to day which makes Hardwick Hall an important inspiration for writers, and the layers of history visible in the landscape of Fountains that makes writers fall in love with it, while readers prefer the isolated wildness of Housesteads. It’s probably also a tribute to the excellent historians and novelists who are currently at work making the Roman period in Britain so vivid and fascinating for readers.’
The survey was focused on ten properties nominated by ten authors, with each writing a passionate argument for their chosen location (read them here). During May, the membership and Historia readers were asked to think about how they are inspired by their visits to National Trust properties. It was the Crusades series author Tom Harper who championed Fountain’s Abbey.
‘Fountains Abbey was the first place I went when I moved to Yorkshire, and it’s the place I’ve been back more than any other,’ says Tom. ‘Even in the 21st century, you feel the tranquillity that drew the monks to this valley. History isn’t stratified like layers of old newspapers: it’s living around you, constantly borrowing from itself to create something new. It’s an idea I love exploring in my books, and at Fountains Abbey, you see it made real in water, trees and stone.’
The triumph was greeted with delight by the National Trust North East, as well as the staff who run the picturesque site.
‘We’re absolutely delighted that Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, has been voted the most inspirational National Trust property by the Historical Writers’ Association,’ says general manager Chris Fowler. ‘It’s just wonderful to know that the abbey ruins, in particular, provide some rich inspiration for writers when they come to visit. This place really does have a special atmosphere and a timeless quality that you feel when you’re here and clearly, writers feel that connection and bring it through in their work.
‘In both the writers’ and readers’ poll, it’s not surprising to see places like Hardwick Hall, Lyme Park and Housesteads Roman Fort appearing so prominently,” continues Chris. “The varying landscapes, historic buildings and of course, their former occupants, have so many stories to tell. Writers help to share these stories through their work, which in turn generates interest for people to visit these inspirational places – and long may that continue!’
The full results:
HWA Members Results
1. Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire – 28.30%
2. Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire – 11.32%
Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland – 11.32%
3. Orford Ness, Suffolk – 9.43%
Housesteads, Northumberland – 9.43%
4. Chedworth Roman Villa – 7.55%
Castle Drogo, Devon – 7.55%
5. Lyme Park, Cheshire – 5.66%
Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk – 5.66%
6. Wordsworth House, Cumbria – 3.77%
Historia Readers Results
1. Housesteads, Northumberland – 20.99%
2. Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland – 12.35%
3. Chedworth Roman Villa – 11.11%
4. Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire – 9.88%
5. Lyme Park, Cheshire – 8.64%
Orford Ness, Suffolk – 8.64%
6. Wordsworth House, Cumbria – 7.41%
Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk – 7.41%
Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire – 7.41%
7. Castle Drogo, Devon – 6.17%
Photo of Fountains Abbey © Andrew Butler