Kirkstall Abbey is one of the numerous ruined abbeys in Yorkshire – and probably one of the most beautiful. Just like the other abbeys at Fountains, Rievaulx, Roche or Jervaulx, it was founded in the Middle Ages, then abandoned during the Dissolution of Monasteries in the 16th century and later rediscovered in the Romantic period.
Compared to the other abbeys in Yorkshire which are mostly remote, Kirkstall is very easy to reach – it is located in a suburb of Leeds, 3mi from the city centre. It can be reached by bus (33, 33A, 757 from Leeds city centre) and by train – Headingley train station is a bit less than a mile away. It is also possible to walk to Kirkstall from Leeds station along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal (4mi). Access to the ruins is free, although the abbey has opening times. It is closed on Mondays. See website for more details.
Kirkstall was founded by the local Lord, Henry de Lacy, who lived in the reign of Edward I. He created the abbey to thank God to have cured him from an illness and he gave it to the monks in Fountains Abbey. Building was completed around 1182.
Kirkstall Abbey was not a very big abbey, but a large part of the buildings was saved. The church is especially impressive, with large remains of the tower and of the nave. Contrary to most of the abbeys in Yorkshire, Kirkstall was never rebuilt in Gothic style, so it is fully Norman, which adds to its value. Visitors can see remains of the cloister, the refectory and dormitory, and of the extensive sewage network. Part of the medieval flooring survive in a room.
Opposite the road stands the former guard’s house, which has been converted into a small museum – Abbey House Museum. It is dedicated to the history of the abbey and of Leeds, and it is popular among locals for its recreated Victorian streets and shops. Closed on Mondays, full-price admission £5.20, see website.
Around Kirkstall Abbey: