Spotlight on Ampleforth Abbey

by Handy Mag
Published: Updated:

History, Modern Comforts, and New Visitor Experiences

Ampleforth Abbey is set in over 1,200 acres of land in the Howardian Hills and the newly refurbished Alban Roe House, built in 1916, has recently undergone a major restoration, bringing it back to its former glory and adding modern comforts and services.

The building houses a new Visitor Experience, Tea Room, and Abbey Shop on the ground floor, with accommodation for retreat guests and school groups on the upper floors, and conference rooms for hire on the top floor. We spoke to Jo Little, Marketing & Communications Manager, about the changes…

How has Alban Roe House changed?

The building has been completely restored with repairs to the exterior pointing and stonework as well as new heating, plumbing, and wiring throughout.

How has the restoration preserved historical features while adding modern comforts and services?

A careful approach has ensured that original features have been retained, for example, wiring and pipework have been surface-mounted so that oak panelling and other features haven’t been disturbed. A lift has been added to improve accessibility, but elsewhere the original staircases have been restored and retained.

What activities can visitors expect in the ‘story’ and ‘activity’ themed areas of the Visitor Experience?

Visitors can learn about the history of the Abbey, and what daily life is like in the monastery. There are activities that investigate the valley and natural world surrounding the Abbey, and others which are more contemplative. Young visitors particularly enjoy the brass rubbing, and colouring activities.

Can visitors still see the Mouseman oak furniture and the trademark mouse?

Yes, we are blessed with a large collection of Mouseman furniture. The oak choir stalls in the Abbey are a lovely early example, and the Tea Room and Abbey Shop are furnished with Mouseman pieces. If you look carefully, there are mice everywhere!

What does the tearoom offer?

The Tea Room serves breakfast rolls, lunches, cakes and our fantastic homemade scones daily. Dietary requirements are catered for – simply ask your server. Children are very welcome in the Tea Room. We have a children’s menu, highchairs and plenty of space to park buggies.

Anyone can pop in whenever they like. The Tea Room is open 7 days a week, 10am to 5pm.

What other activities are available for visitors at the Abbey?

There are some lovely walks in the valley, across to Gilling and into Yearsley woods for those that really want to stretch their legs.

Tell us more about the Retreat Experiences for adults?

We offer a range of monastic-led retreats, or groups can hire our facilities for their own activities. Details can be found on our website.

Do you have any events planned at the Abbey over the summer?

We have artists from North Yorkshire Open Studios exhibiting from 20th to 27th July, and the Grasscrete Ryedale Grand Prix on 18th August.

The Abbey is open 7 days a week throughout the year. Everyone is welcome to look around, explore the history or simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity. Entry is free. For more information visit ampleforthabbey.org.uk.

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