|intro - history - tour 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 - plans - photos - links - news|
THE MONASTIC PRECINCT
|THE OUTER COURT (15)
Around the east, south and west sides of the outer court were ranged the reredorter (lavatory block), a workshop, the infirmary and the kitchen. This would have been the workplace of most of the priory servants under the supervision of the canons.
Entry was from the west through a gateway beneath a bridge (16) between the kitchen and the frater (refectory or dining room). There was also a passage or slype) leading out to the east between the reredorter and the workshop (17) (Figure 8). Another passage connects the northeast corner of the court with the cloister. Square holes high in the refectory wall on the north side of the court may have been for a covered walkway around the court, similar to that around the cloister though perhaps not paved (not shown in Figure 4).
The prior had overall responsibility for administration of the priory. However, this had to be combined with numerous other roles including senior church official, judge, lord of parliament and host to important guests. Routine daily administration was almost certainly left in the hands of a sub-prior, himself in charge of a range of officials known as obedientiaries.
It is unlikely that there were ever more than eight or nine canons at Kells. An average-sized monastery might have had about fifteen obedientiaries, twice the total complement of canons here. So, apart from their daily worship and any parochial duties they had, the canons were probably full-time administrators! Routine daily tasks would have been left to a retinue of servants employed by the priory.
Obedientiaries had a wide range of duties. The sacristan (or sacrist) was in charge of the church and its repair and security.
With responsibility for furniture, altar vessels, vestments and other valuables, the sacristan commonly slept in the church. The precentor had charge of prayer and hymn books, the choir, church services and a library. Perhaps the most important official was the cellarer. He was in charge of the buildings, lands and revenues of the priory. He had responsibility for the kitchens, bakery, brewery and for provisioning the priory with food and clothing. Commonly he was assisted by a sub-cellarer. Kitchener, refectorer, infirmarer, hosteller and almoner had respective charge of meals, refectory and lavabo, infirmary and patients, guests and guesthouse, and charitable contributions to the poor. The half dozen canons under the sub-prior must have divided these duties between them, each with responsibility for more than one.
The small number of canons in most Austin priories is almost certainly why they employed far more servants than most, averaging about three for every canon. With a complement of only eight or nine canons at Kells, there may have been up to thirty servants working for the priory. Between the Precinct and the farms and mills, a significant proportion of the population of Kells must have been employed by the priory. Most of them probably lived with their families in Kells, but some may have lived in the priory, perhaps in dwellings like those illustrated in the southwest Precinct in Figure 4.
Priory servants are likely to have included chamberlains, butlers, bakers, brewers, cooks, table servants, bath attendants, scullions, washerwomen, lamplighters, porters, gardeners, grave-diggers and ground-keepers among their number. In addition there was probably at least one personal servant for the prior.
The Reredorter (18)
The reredorter (or domus necessarium)
The main priory drain (19)
A steady flow of water from the millstream entered the main priory drain south of the Infirmary. It flowed beneath a crudely vaulted tunnel under the west wall of the infirmary before following a curved course beneath the outer court towards the reredorter (Figure 8). The drain is over one metre deep and dry-walled. Its course beneath the outer court is paved with stone slabs and has raised stone curbs on each side. From the reredorter the drain flowed eastward, exiting the Precinct beneath the postern gate (not quite as shown in Figure 4!), and into King's River.
A Workshop (20)
The room forming the southern end of east range is entered from the
passage to the north (Figure
8). Evidence from recent excavations suggests that the room
served as a general workshop for maintaining the priory buildings.
(c) Daniel Tietzsch-Tyler