Ground penetrating radar reveals more than 500 graves of Cistercian monks and lay brothers who once lived at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, now cared for by the National Trust (NT).
The abbey was built in the early 12th century but was closed in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. They are the largest monastic ruins in the country.
The Trust has worked with experts from the University of Bradford, Geoscan Research and Mala Geoscience. Geophysical techniques and ground penetrating radar provided images that have identified the location of the cemetery and the formation of the graves.
They show a ‘bunk-bed’ formation with bodies separated by stone partitions in the same grave. There are multiple burials in each grave, suggesting up to 2000 bodies in total, which would account for the majority of the monks and lay brethren that died at the site.
The project features in one of the National Trust’s series of podcasts on ‘Ten Places, Europe & Us’ presented by historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes.