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THE CLOISTER (2)
Only a solitary round-headed window remains from the first floor dorter, recessed into the short stretch of wall above the chapter house. The row of rectangular holes above the stress-relieving arch in the chapter house are probably for dorter flooring.
Night-stairs descending into the south transept of the church, giving direct access to the church for night Offices, are partially preserved below the ruined doorway in the north wall of the dorter. Day-stairs probably descended from close to the centre of the room and there may have been access to an upper reredorter level from the south end of the room.
The dorter was originally designed as an open dormitory but private cubicles were introduced later in the middle ages. Each cubicle would have had a window, a desk and perhaps a bookshelf as well as a bed. In the beginning the prior slept here too, but at an early stage he would have taken larger and more private rooms across the cloister.
The South Range
The south wall of this range is supported by a massive buttress close to its mid-point. Within, the ground floor comprises three rooms and a passage (31) between the cloister and the outer court at the eastern end. The frater or dining room occupied the whole upper floor.
There is a narrow slit window recessed into the south wall of the passage at the east end, and a door at the opposite end on the west side enters the eastern ground floor room (32). A window in the south wall of this room, probably of two lights, has lost its frame. The central room (33) is entered from the outer court. If it had windows, they were in the south wall. Both of these chambers were probably store-rooms. The western room (34) could be entered from the cloister through one of two doorways. The western doorway had a wide and ornately moulded frame. The room is lit by a narrow slit window in the centre of the south wall and there was a doorway from the Precinct outside in the northwest corner (now walled-up).
A long narrow trough with a central drainage hole is set into the ambulatory wall alongside the western room. This was the lavabo (35) (also lavatorium or lavatory) where the canons washed themselves and combed their beards in the morning and before their afternoon meal. A stone-lined soak-away was found during excavation in 1973. The fine doorway into the western room and the lavabo beside it suggest that the room housed the main staircase by which the prior and canons processed to and from the frater above. Square holes at different heights in the south wall may have been for timbers supporting the staircase.
The first floor frater is preserved well enough to provide a complete
picture of its original appearance. It was 17m long and was one of the brightest rooms in the priory during daylight
hours. There was a large window 2m across in the west wall, of which the springer for tracery (a skeleton of ornate
stone-work filling the arch) can be seen on the surviving south frame. Significant illumination also came from
the south wall which contained five pairs of lancets -narrow windows with Gothic (pointed) arches. Four pairs are
west of the shallow bay towards the east end of the room and the fifth is over the passage beyond it. The window
west of the bay is perfectly preserved, but traces remain also of the one next to it and of the westernmost one
and the one over the passage.
The West Range
The foundations of the west range tell us little about its former
internal organization and nothing about its upper storey. A wide passage at the north end communicates between
the Precinct and the cloister. A passage in this position commonly served also as an outer or public parlour (37)
where community members could meet with lay people, perhaps family members.
(c) Daniel Tietzsch-Tyler