We took a drive last weekend to Ripon, and on the way back decided to follow the road out towards Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, and go exploring.
We took a tiny road signposted to Aldfield, which turned out to be a beautiful, historic-looking and rather well heeled little village, but somewhere along the way suddenly spotted a tower high on a hill. As we drew nearer, we saw that it looked like some sort of chapel, although clearly not used as such.
My husband, who has lived in the Harrogate area for most of his life and used to work on the Ripon Gazette, had never seen it before and had no idea what it could be. It looked both well built and solid, in stone, and yet spooky, as if it should be in Transylvania rather than North Yorkshire.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and spent that evening on the internet, trying to find out what I could. And here’s what I found on the Historic England website.
It’s called How Hill Tower, alternative name the Chapel of St Michael de Monte. Described as a chantry chapel and folly on How Hill, south of Studley Royal Park, the website piece explains that the Chantry Chapel of St Michel de Monte was constructed circa 1200 and rebuilt by Abbot Huby circa 1495-1526 but fell into ruins until John Aislabie, MP for Ripon and former chancellor of the exchequer (a corrupt one, by all accounts) incorporated it into his garden scheme at Studley.
It was actually the first garden building to be built by Aislabie, and its construction is documented in letters he wrote in 1719. It is likely that the tower was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh. The tower was used as a gaming house in 1737-8 and the chapel ruins were converted and reused as farm outbuildings during the later 18th century. The outbuildings, says the piece on Historic England, resemble a nave to the tower from a distance.
The next day, I had to go back and look again. This time we parked and walked up to it. And there it was – boarded up, but it looks very well maintained. I wonder what sort of gaming went on in there in the 18th century?
There are some National Trust cottages, called How Hill Cottages, at the bottom of the hill, and they look as if they are probably lovely places to stay. Very atmospheric, especially with the tower looming overhead.
Anyway, I had to share my discovery with you. If you know any more about it, please let us know.