Studley Royal Park & Fountains Abbey, YCAA study trip Saturday, 29 September, 2018

By Lily Liu, MA in Conservation Studies postgraduate (Class of 2018-19)


It was a beautiful sunny day and the perfect trip to mark the end of a technical orientation week. Thanks to the Alumni Association of the University of York, the new 2018/19 cohort of Conservation Studies and fellow alumni were able to visit the World Heritage Site of Studley Royal Park and Fountains Abbey. Led by Dr. Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments and an expert long-involved with the conservation management of the site, the tour offered a fascinating glimpse of English architecture, landscape and culture over the span of several centuries.

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St Mary’s Church, Studley Royal


The tour this year took a more academic approach compared to how last year’s MA students experienced Fountains Abbey. It was also an interesting ‘back to front’ approach, starting from the far end of the World Heritage Site at the Victorian church of St. Mary, where special access was granted for us, and ending at the abbey itself.

St Mary’s illustrious Gothic Revival interiors by William Burgess were a visual feast, and all were keen to take in the splendour of the gilding, sculpture, painting, stained glass, and other impressive crafts of art present in the building. Dr. Emerick also elucidated some major building phases, pointing out evidence of past structural issues and the importance of understanding the root of these problems from a conservation perspective.

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The “Surprise View” from Anne Bolyen’s Seat, with modern art installation (rather camouflaged here) on the mound in the centre of the picture.


From the church, the group meandered through the Georgian Water Gardens and its associated landscape and architectural follies. Though controversy over some modern art installations ensued over the course of intellectual debate, all agreed the views were nonetheless breathtaking and form part of an important historic environs. The aptly named “Surprise View” from the hideaway of Anne Boleyn’s seat did not disappoint, and acted as the perfect prelude to our finale: the spectacular ruins of the 11th-century Fountains Abbey.

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Dr. Keith Emerick illustrating conservation issues associated with one of the Abbey’s remaining arcade columns.


The monumental remnants of Fountains Abbey made for fitting ambience to stir the hearts of all conservation enthusiasts present. We began by stepping through the history of the vaults, into the open corridors of stone arches stretching toward the sky. Previous evidential values of plaster were examined, as Dr. Emerick drew our attention to the markings on the walls which showed a historic preference for more “
regular” drawn-on stone blocks, over the top of the uneven natural cut ashlar — though of very fine quality itself.

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Evidence of historic plaster on the Abbey’s walls, with drawn lines added to ‘improve’ the stonework by making it appear more regular.


The visit to Studley Royal Park – including all its gems of the Church of St. Mary, the Water Gardens, and the ruins of Fountains Abbey – was a highlight to the start of the year, and a trip that all participants involved will remember fondly, for the beautiful weather, picturesque settings as well as educational discussions.

 

The YCAA would like to thank Dr. Keith Emerick for kindly giving up his time to lead this visit, current students and alumni for attending, Lily for this fine write-up, and the University of York’s Office of Philanthropic Partnerships and Alumni for help in assisting the visit. 

[All images by Lily Liu]

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Studley Royal Park Student & Alumni Trip, September 2017

Written by Jenna Tinning, Conservation Studies postgraduate (2017-18).

At the end of a busy first week for the new 2017/18 Conservation Studies cohort, the students and alumni gathered together on Saturday 30 September 2017 for a study to trip to the World Heritage Site of Studley Royal Park, known by many as home to the ruins of Fountains Abbey. We were very lucky to be led through the day by the extremely knowledgeable Dr Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England, who has been involved in the conservation management of the site for many years.

As one of National Trust’s flagship sites (though interestingly managed by English Heritage!) the visit was a brilliant example of sustainable management of a cultural heritage asset as a visitor attraction. Keith picked up on a number of interesting points about the challenges that are faced in making this a reality. We started the day with a bit of background to the site, where we discovered just how many partners are involved in its running and what it means to be a world heritage site – including the fact that ‘fountains’ must have a management plan for every six years, which in turn forms the guidelines for the conservation work on site.

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Current students and alumni listening to Dr Keith Emerick’s (unseen) outlining of Fountains Abbey’s conservation challenges

 

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Study day 2017 Part IV: Church of St Michael, Mytholmroyd

Written by Sean Rawling

Our final visit of the day took us to the Grade II-listed St. Michael’s Church in Mytholmroyd (1847-1848), which was majorly affected by the Boxing Day floods of 2015. The rivers Elphin and Calder reached record heights, leaving 1.2m of water in the church and its adjacent hall, as well as causing devastation throughout the homes and businesses of Mytholmroyd. The Church still holds a relatively large congregation of between 60 and 80 people. It is difficult to imagine the heartache for those who not only lost their homes, but also their community building as a result of the flooding!

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Study day 2017 Part III: Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Heptonstall

Written by Dan Edmunds

Following on from the visit to Heptonstall’s Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and Sunday school, the group made its way up to the village’s twin churches of St. Thomas. Upon arriving at the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle (1850-1854), the Churchwarden, Graham Kidd, gave us a brief context of the building.

The church is a good example of reflective and progressive approaches to architectural development. Continue reading

Study day 2017 Part II: Heptonstall Methodist Chapel and Sunday School

Written by Eric Carter

The first site visit on the study tour was Hepstonstall Methodist Church (grade II*) and its neighbouring Sunday school building (unlisted but in the setting of a listed building). The church dates from 1764 and is said to be the oldest Methodist chapel in continual use (although apparently Yarm Chapel also makes this claim!). Originally the building was an interesting octagonal shape as approved by John Wesley, and used in a number of other Methodist chapels, but was extended in 1802. The Sunday school was built in 1891. Both buildings have significant condition problems. Continue reading

Study day 2017 Part I: ‘The Scene Stands Stubborn’ – Churches and chapels in the Upper Calder Valley

Written by Eric Carter, Dan Edmunds & Sean Rawling, edited and introduced by Duncan Marks (all current York University MA in Conservation Studies students)

Reflecting recent developments in conservation, one of the running themes in the MA in Conservation Studies programme at York is the impact of climate change, and how this requires us to consider sustainability, retro-fitting, and post-disaster management of the built historic environment. Recently, too, the YCAA co-facilitated Resilient York, a successful day conference that explored ways in which York’s communities and historic buildings can be better prepared for the city’s frequent flooding.

It was therefore both timely and very much welcomed when YCAA member, Richard Storah of Storah Architecture, invited members, especially current MA students, to visit three sites in West Yorkshire’s beautiful Upper Calder Valley where he is leading restoration projects addressing different effects of climate change. Continue reading