Studley Royal entrance to Fountains Abbey in Ripon

Plans released for Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

13 December 2022

The National Trust have released plans to develop the Studley Royal entrance to Fountains Abbey in Ripon.

The proposals make improvements to a busy area of the water garden, creating a more accessible café, admission point, toilets, and a place to tell the important story of the World Heritage Site.

The National Trust is sharing the designs for the new building ahead of a formal application for planning permission in the new year.

The plans for improvements to this area were first presented in 2019 during a public consultation but the project was paused during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now updated designs, which have been shaped following the feedback from the consultation, can be seen online and in person at Studley Royal.

The proposed building will be based around the existing tea-room which sits at a halfway point for most visitors as they make their way through the site.

This area is currently muddled with 20th century buildings and additions which make up an admission point, toilets, and the boundary of the pay-for entry area. For years this has created many conservation and operational issues which are not appropriate in a World Heritage Site.

Operationally Issues

  • No provision for  any interpretation to help visitors to understand the importance of the World Heritage Site water gardens or to help orientate them to plan and get the most out of their visit.
  • The facilities are not fit for the number of people who want to use them, particularly during peak periods.
  • There is congestion and long queues, which also makes wheelchair and pushchair access difficult.
  • A majority of users, who are members or paying day visitors, access the tearooms from the Fountains Abbey end of the site.
  • They find it confusing that they have to exit the pay-for-entry area and re-enter to use the tearooms.

Conservational Issues

  • There is a muddle of 20th century buildings and planting in this historic area which do not fit with the original design of the site. This project presents the opportunity to improve the appearance of this this part of the estate. A huge amount of research into historic maps an other archives means that the proposed landscape design will echo the 18th century plans which is a key part of our ongoing conservation work in Studley Royal.
  • The updated improvements will consolidate these facilities into one building and improve the way visitors move through this area. Detailed landscape plans will open up lost views and create walks that echo the original 18th century design. New facilities including historical information, accessible toilets and a ‘space to change’ have also been included to better meet the needs of current and future visitors.
  • The plans also see the building move from the deer park side of Studley Royal to sit inside the water garden and pay-for-entry part of the site. Following feedback from the local community, a separate, but concurrent planning application will also be submitted for an additional refreshment kiosk in the deer park car park. This will serve refreshments for those for those who are not National Trust members and prefer not to purchase a day ticket to access the site. The restaurant and parking at the main visitor centre will remain free for all to access.

As well as consultation with the public, the National Trust has also worked with a wide range of organisations and individuals to help shape the plans, including Historic England, Harrogate Borough Council, World Heritage Site partners and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The current café with fence between the main site and Water Gardens area
Artistic Impression of how the café could look following development

The building architects for the Studley revealed project are heritage architects, Feilden Fowles, who specialise in arts and culture design projects. They have grown a reputation for delivering exemplary projects in highly sensitive and challenging historic settings including Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Chatsworth Estate.

The landscape architects are rankinfraser, who are an Edinburgh based practice. They have over 30 years combined experience of delivering multi award-winning projects in historic settings from conception through to completion.

Justin Scully, General Manager of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, said:

The Studley Revealed project is an exciting part of the ongoing conservation of the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal World Heritage Site. It has long been our ambition to improve the appearance of this area of the site and how visitors experience it. Crucially, it means we can create a place for our visitors learn more about the fascinating history of Studley Royal.

As General Manager of this special place, I’m delighted we’ve reached this stage where we’re ready to share our designs and we aim to apply for planning permission early next year. The project was delayed because of the pandemic which has given us extra time to consider the feedback from the consultation in 2019 and update our plans. I feel that the final proposals offer a delightful presentation of the history, welcome and design of this World Heritage Site.



The project will cost approximately £3.6m to complete, in addition to the £1m that is spent annually on conservation work at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

The National Trust aims to open the new facilities to visitors in late 2024.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



Go toTop