The ruins are in a lovely setting along the evocatively named Otter Hills Beck just south of Richmond. With only the church and Easby Hall to keep it company this has a timeless feel miles from anywhere. It is a lovely site and well worth a visit. It is next to St Agatha’s Church which has some good wall paintings and is also worth visiting.
The ruins are one of the best examples in Britain of a monastery belonging to the Premonstratensian Order (the White Canons) and is larger and better preserved than nearby Egglestone Abbey which also belonged to the order. The members were ordained priests rather than monks.
The Abbey was founded in around 1150, next to the site of a Saxon Minster by Roald who was Constable of Richmond Castle. In the 14thC, the abbey came under the patronage of the Scrope Family of Bolton Castle who enlarged the abbey church as they intended to use it as their burial vault. After the Dissolution, the Scropes took over the abbey and its land. The buildings were stripped of their lead and were partially demolished.
The splendid gatehouse is separated from the rest of the buildings by the road. The Refectory is the most impressive part of the abbey ruins. The undercroft on the ground floor was used for storage with the refectory above. The kitchens were in a separate building. Little is left of the abbey church which was almost completely demolished after the Dissolution.
The large group of buildings to the north was the infirmary. The kitchen still has the remains of a large fireplace and a servery hatch linked this to the infirmary hall. There are several other buildings in the complex which may have included the Abbot’s private chamber and accommodation for important guests.
The site is now in the care of English Heritage, is free and is open 10-6. Access is from the road beyond the church car park and through a gate. The buildings are partially accessible over mown grass although parts of the buildings can only be reached by steps into the buildings and to the rest of the site.