|intro - history - tour 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 - plans - photos - links - news|
A TOUR OF THE PRIORY
|The following description of the priory is set out in the form of a
tour, starting in Burgess Court and proceeding through to the Monastic Precinct. In the Precinct, it proceeds from
the southwest Precinct, through the outer court, the cloister and claustral ranges, into the priory church, and
finally concludes in the northeast Precinct. The site has not been re-surveyed and measurements are approximate.
Full use should be made to the ground-plan of the priory (Figure 8) while exploring the priory (green numbers in brackets in the text correspond to the numbers on Figure 8). The monastic ranges are all ruined now, many of them reduced to their foundations, but.the artist's impression on the centre pages (Figure 4) can be used as an aid to envisaging them at the time of their most complete development. Technical terms are highlighted and simply defined where they first occur in the text.
Note that since the upper levels of most of the towers are inaccessible without scaffolding or ladders, a degree of educated guesswork has had to be used to interpret the details of some of their upper storeys. With a little imagination, however, almost everything can be learnt from careful observation of the positions of internal doorways, the directions in which these open into mural passages and the external arrangement of windows.
|The location of the priory
The Monastic Precinct is the oldest part of the priory, defining its full extent up to the middle of the fifteenth century. It occupies what was then an island on the floodplain of King's River, between the south bank of the main channel and a narrow stream which has since silted up. From the hill above Burgess Court the narrowing floodplain east and west of the Precinct is still low, flat-lying and often marshy ground. Slightly higher ground immediately outside the walls on both sides may have served for cattle or sheep grazing (as in Figure 4).
Whereas the river would regularly have flooded during the winter months it is likely that the floodplain and the stream along its southern boundary were dry, or nearly so, during summer months. The canons probably constructed a weir across the river somewhere alongside the priory (perhaps as suggested in Figure 4) to ensure a constant flow of water, for driving the mill, for sanitation purposes and for human consumption.
This would have had the added effect of creating a shallow pond above the weir, extending around the southern shore of the island on which Geoffrey fitz Robert built his castle and beneath the impressive but now largely redundant bridge there (Figure 1A). It would also have provided the canons with a fish pond adjacent to the priory, a vital factor in maintaining their staple diet!
When the site was extended to include Burgess Court in the fifteenth century, it was necessarily to the south of the stream where the land rises from the floodplain. Most of Burgess Court falls on the gently inclined lower slope of the valley, but the floodplain is narrower in the east and the steeper upper slope falls within the southeast corner of the Court.
(c) Daniel Tietzsch-Tyler