The Records of St. Bartholomew's Priory and St. Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield: Volume 2. Originally published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1921.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
CHAPTER VIII - THE MONASTIC BUILDINGS
Rahere, we may assume, set out on his plan the position and arrangement of the conventual buildings as well as those of the church, but there is no evidence that any of them were built during his lifetime (pl. LXVIII).
The usual practice seems to have been, as pointed out by J. T. Micklethwaite, to build as much of the quire as was necessary for the services of the convent, then to proceed with the monastic buildings which were essential to the life of the monastery, and afterwards to complete the church. At any rate this course seems to have been followed at St. Bartholomew's, because the architecture shows that about sixty or seventy years must have elapsed between the completion of the conventual quire and the building of the nave; and also it shows that the cloister, chapter-house and dorter were commenced at the same time as the conventual quire was completed. Whether the frater, infirmary, guest-house, and other offices were built at the same time there is no evidence to show, but judging from the time before the nave was built they probably were so.
The arrangement of the monastic buildings, which were on the south side of the church, was on the usual Augustinian plan which resembled that of the Benedictines. The cloister was on the south side of the nave with a western processional door, as at Westminster and elsewhere; the chapter-house was on the east side of the cloister, separated from the south end of the transept by the slype. The dorter ran south from the chapter-house extending into the close with an undercroft beneath, the south end of which was probably used as the warming house; the frater was on the south side of the cloister, with a misericord at its eastern end and a library over. The great hall, or guesthouse, we may assume was as usual on the west side of the cloister, with the cellarer's building below, combined with which was probably, at first, the prior's lodgings; new lodgings were built in the sixteenth century by Prior Bolton at the south-east of the quire. The farmery, or infirmary, was somewhere east of the dorter, as at Westminster, but the actual site is not determinable at present with exactness. The woodhouse and bakery are shown by the older plans to have been near the farmery. The brewhouse was in Long Lane outside the walls, where the Manchester Hotel now stands. The garner is shown on Agas' map in the north-east corner of the Fair ground; the buryingground of the canons was, as usual, on the south-east side of the church; that of the parishioners was on the north side.
The present bounds of the parish were, with a small exception at the south-east corner, the bounds of the monastery; the wall on the north being of stone, that on the east of brick, where they did not consist of dwelling-houses, as they did on the western and southern bounds.
The main entrance to the monastic precincts was in the south-west corner in what is now Little Britain. The entrance to the Fair ground was on the north side of the church in Smithfield, as now; Agas' map also shows a small gate to the north-west into Long Lane.
In the year 1616 a survey was made for Henry Lord Holland of his possessions in the parish. Those houses which had been originally part of the church or of the monastic buildings are called in the survey the Capital Mansion House. The surveyor's description of them is very exact and it is evident that during the seventy years that had elapsed since the suppression, the walls of all these houses had remained unaltered, although they had been internally adapted for dwellinghouses. The survey is therefore a valuable record of the position of these houses and the purpose for which they were originally built. For this reason the 'particular' given of each house is here transcribed and can be followed on the plans given on pages 77 and 199.
The entrance from the church is by the original twelfth-century doorway, in which now hang once more the pre-suppression doors of the fifteenth century. This doorway has shafts with scalloped caps and a base which indicates a date not earlier than 1160. It leads directly into the three bays of the east walk which were recovered and restored in 1905 (pl. LXIX).
That this east walk was built in the third quarter of the twelfth century is confirmed by a portion of the plinth remaining at the base of the east wall, and by the drawing of the doorway with trefoil cusping made by Sir Thomas Jackson in 1858 (if our assumption is correct that this represents the entrance from the cloister to the slype). (fn. 1)
That this east walk was rebuilt early in the fifteenth century, as stated by the pope, (fn. 2) there is ample evidence remaining in the vaulting shafts, springers and ribs, and the work was probably done about the year 1405, as was the other work mentioned by the pope (pl. LXX); but there are indications that the rebuilding was in contemplation at an earlier date, for in the year 1387 John Royston, who—as already stated—bequeathed twenty pounds to be expended about the high altar, also bequeathed ten pounds to the fabric of the cloister. (fn. 3)
The north walk was probably not built until the nave and aisles were completed early in the thirteenth century. Archer (fn. 4) certainly in 1851 speaks of a remnant then existing beneath the 'Coach and Horses' public-house (fn. 5) containing 'the remains of a clustered column belonging to the transition period of the twelfth century', but as he also refers to a window of Early English character in that part of the cloister, and as the western processional doorway into the church was also Early English, it is highly improbable that this walk was built before the nave wall along which it ran; we must therefore conclude that it was of the later date.
The walk of the cloister next the church was not included in the Sunday monastic procession, and was sometimes enclosed at both ends to allow of study; there is evidence of this being so here, at any rate during the occupation of the Dominicans (1555–1559), because a brick wall was built at the east end of the walk in which still remains the stone jamb of a Tudor door. (fn. 6)
Of the south walk, Carter, when writing in 1809, (fn. 7) said: 'the avenue on the south side of the cloister, lately destroyed (which I unfortunately neglected to sketch in 1791) if my recollection does not fail me, had arches and corbels corresponding to those in the chapter-house'. The work in the chapter-house here referred to was probably the thirteenth-century mural arcade, fragments of which were found on the site in 1912, and are now preserved in the cloister. Carter also described this south walk as 'an avenue of much rich work'. From these statements the work would seem to have dated from the thirteenth century, but Hardwick's plan of 1791 at the Society of Antiquaries has a semicircular dotted line at the west end of this south walk, such as he was accustomed to use to indicate the groined vaults of the twelfth-century undercroft of the dorter. If his plan in this instance can be relied upon, this suggests that the south walk was of that date and points to the refectory (or frater) having been built at the same time, which for other reasons is highly probable.
It may be that the building itself dated from the latter part of the twelfth century and that the arches and corbels referred to by Carter were a thirteenth-century insertion, marking the site of the lavatory used by the canons for washing their hands before entering the frater. A lavatory is found in this position at Chester, and elsewhere.
Of the west walk there are no records other than the approximate plan indicated by the arrangement of the existing houses and that of the west processional door at its northern end which led into the church.
The internal dimensions of the cloister walks were 12 ft. 6 in. in width and about 108 ft. in length, as regards the north and south walks; and 112 ft. as regards the east and west walks: though Hardwick's plan of 1791 shows the length a little more in each case.
The length of the north walk is fixed by the position of the western processional door, the foundations of which remain in the church path, and which Hardwick's plan shows to have been central with the west walk of the cloister.
The south walk Hardwick shows of the same length as the north walk, the length being fixed by an old building at that time standing at the western end of it. The same building also fixes the south boundary of the west walk.
The length of the east walk at first presented some difficulty; for at the southern end of it there is, in the back yard of No. 62 Bartholomew Close, an arch which is not a transverse arch of the cloister vault, for its height, from the ground to the apex, is only 10 ft. 6 in. instead of 14 ft. as the arches of the vault; and its internal width is apparently (for one-half is still embedded in a wall of the house) only 10 ft. instead of 12 ft. (fn. 8) This arch is therefore an evident insertion. But on the supposition that the bays of the cloister all measured 12 ft. 6 in. in length, like the bays now in the possession of the church, this arch came very awkwardly in about the middle of the eighth bay (pl. LXXI).
When, in the year 1912, the chapter-house entrance was exposed on the east side of the cloister wall, leave was obtained to tunnel from the base of the south jamb of the arch to the cloister side where the base of the vaulting shaft on the south side, and the remains of the other shaft on the north side, were found. By these and the arched openings on either side of the arch of entrance it was possible to prove that the width of the three bays of the cloister in front of the entrance to the chapter-house was less in length by 18 in. each than the other bays, which, when put on plan, brought the inserted arch—referred to above—immediately beneath the transverse arch of the vault between the eighth and ninth bays, instead of in the middle of the eighth bay. We may therefore assume that this arch was inserted to carry, as at Westminster, a gate to shut off the east walk, or to carry the wall of a building projecting over the cloister at this point.
The ninth bay thus occupied the whole of the yard of 62 Bartholomew Close, making the backs of the houses 62–65 Bartholomew Close conterminous with the south wall of the south cloister walk, and giving a total length to the east walk of 112 ft. Maitland in 1737, Vetusta Monumenta in 1784, and Malcolm in 1803, all stated that this east walk consisted of eight bays only; but Carter, in 1809, said that he was inclined to think there was a ninth bay to the south, (fn. 9) as has now been proved to be the case. Hardwick concurred with this and indicated a ninth bay with dotted lines on his plan, and this was copied by Wilkinson in Londina Illustrata.
The east wall of the three northern bays of the east cloister walk was conterminous with the south transept and had no opening, but the fourth bay before destruction contained the entrance to the slype. The sketch of what we assume to have been the doorway, referred to above, was made by Sir Thomas Jackson within the precincts of the priory in the year 1858. It shows a twelfth-century arch with trefoil cuspings of the same date as this part of the cloister (fig. 6, p. 130). (fn. 10) It is difficult to assign any other position for this doorway in work standing in 1858. There is corroborative evidence of the correctness of the assumption in the fact that previous to the year 1877, when this part of the cloister was again made into a stable, it was in the occupation of a timber merchant and portions of timber appear in the sketch. (fn. 11)
The next three bays were occupied with the entrance to the chapterhouse and the windows on either side of the arch of entrance opening into the vestibule. In the eighth bay was the arched entrance to the dormitory stair, exposed for a few hours in the rear of the City of London Union Offices, 61 Bartholomew Close, in the year 1903. (fn. 12) Hardwick's plan shows a wall about 10 ft. south of the dorter stair in the undercroft, which may have formed a passage to the infirmary, as at Kirkstall, but we incline to think that the approach was by a passage farther to the south (Middlesex Passage), as at Westminster.
As to the roof of the east walk, it is evident that when built in the twelfth century it had a wooden lean-to, as was customary at that period, because there is still existing—though now hidden by the temporary roof over the three northern bays of the east walk—a Norman string on the wall above the north bay in such a position as to prove this. It is also evident that there was a groined vault over the portion rebuilt in the early fifteenth century, with bosses at the intersections, to the beauty of which all the writers testify.
Above the east walk was a gallery, probably added as a scriptorium at the time of the rebuilding in the fifteenth century; translated it is thus referred to in Lord Rich's grant to Queen Mary in 1555: (fn. 13)
'All the enclosure or square ambulatory now or late called Le Cloyster with its appurtenances and the ground soil walls and buildings of the aforesaid enclosure or ambulatory with their Appurtenances parcel of the said late priory and all those four sides of the same enclosure or ambulatory with their appurtenances, and also all and singular the houses chambers places and erections with their appurtenances above and beneath the said enclosure or ambulatory and also a long chamber or corridor with its appurtenances being above the eastern side of the aforesaid enclosure or ambulatory.'
It is likewise referred to in the re-grant from Queen Elizabeth to Lord Rich in 1560: (fn. 14) thus:
The reference in Henry VIII's grant to Rich, in 1544, is simply les Cloysters le Galleries, (fn. 15) which may mean that there was only one gallery, but at the junction of the north and west walks there was a chamber or gallery which still existed in 1851, and then formed a floor of the Coach and Horses public-house (pls. LXXIV–V). It was thus described by Archer (fn. 16) at that time:
'It has originally been a noble apartment about thirty-four feet in length and upwards of twenty feet high with an arched roof, the ends of which being distorted by the pull of the strong timbers which help to support it . . . the wall is three feet in thickness. . . . A heavy cornice which skirts the spring of the roof belongs to the style of the end of the fifteenth, or beginning of the sixteenth century, and some indications of a small door which has been built seem to refer to about the same period.'
The cloister garth measured about 83 ft. by 77 ft. It was used occasionally as a burial-ground, probably for the priors, because in 1851 two stone coffins were discovered by the Messrs. Palmer beneath their premises (No. 69 Bartholomew Close), which ran east and west across the middle of the garth. The coffins were about 12 ft. below the ground level; they measured 6 ft. 6 in., and each contained a skeleton but in one coffin there were two skulls. (fn. 17)
At the time of the suppression and until Queen Elizabeth's reign the cloister apparently remained intact, for it was conveyed as a cloister by Rich to Queen Mary and by Queen Elizabeth to Rich. After the second suppression in 1559, the cloister was given up to secular occupation; but there is no direct record of what occurred, because the property was evidently sold by Rich quite early, no mention being made of it in the Rental of 1616. But it was probably owned by Sir Walter Mildmay, who lived in the parish, and with his wife lies buried in the church, for he addressed a letter on the 6th February 1560–1561 to Sir William Cecil (afterwards Lord Burleigh) dated from St. Bartholomew's; and although nine years later Lord Burleigh in his diary says that Sir Walter had his house in Paul's Wharf, still in the Subsidy Rolls of 1563–1564 Mildmay appears as owner of lands in the parish assessed at £100, which probably included lands which had been sold to him by Dr. Bartlett (as will be seen later); and among the MSS. of the House of Lords mention is made, in the year 1691, of 'the house in the cloister which had formerly belonged to Sir Walter Mildmay'. We consider that this house in the cloister was the frater, and that Sir Walter purchased the frater and cloister from Rich, and was succeeded there by William Neale and later by Sir Thomas Neale. Further, indirect evidence that Mildmay owned the cloister is contained in the fact that the present 'Coach and Horses' public-house was, up to the year 1746—and later—called the 'Flying Horse Inn' (fn. 18) and the stable-yard the 'Flying Horse yard'. (fn. 19) Now Mildmay, in the year 1552, had a new coat of arms granted him consisting of a winged horse on a bend, (fn. 20) and nothing is more likely than that the public-house should have taken its sign from the arms of the owner of the property. The name of the inn was changed before 1755, for in April of that year the vestry resolved that the parish stocks 'should be fixed in the churchyard by the wall of the Coach and Horses ale house'. (fn. 21)
We have no other record of the cloister until the year 1739, when Maitland says (fn. 22) that the east walk was 'reduced to the mean office of a stable'. In the year 1784 we are told that it served as a stable to the Black Horse Inn (fn. 23) (which, by the way, was in Long Lane), (fn. 24) and it may have been so used by Mildmay and Neale.
In the year 1809 Carter calls the east cloister 'a very comfortable eight stall stable' (fig. 7, p. 130, and pl. LXX b, p. 133). This probably refers only to the three northern bays, for Knight, writing in 1841, thus describes the condition of the eight bays, beginning at the southern end: (fn. 25)
'Much of this beautiful part has been lost of late years by the fall of the roof and part of the wall on one side. Climbing, however, as well as we can, and on the double or treble row of great barrels which fill the entire space, we find that on the opposite or eastern wall are five arches, more or less entire, yet remaining, and one on the west'. . .
These five arches in the east wall there can be little doubt were those of the entrance to the slype, of the entrance to the chapter-house, of the windows on either side of it, and of the entrance to the dorter stair.
'Further north the space is walled up with an arch. . . . The space within, extending to the church, which was entered by a fine Norman arch still existing, includes the remainder of the cloister; and one can only lament that, as it not only possesses the arches on both sides but (also) the groined roof, it should be completely walled up. We had ourselves to break a hole in another part of the wall to obtain admittance, and then to reclose it. Here the delicacy and proportion of the style, the fine finish of the groins and keystones, and the elaborate workmanship of the many curious devices and historical subjects carved in different parts are alone visible in their natural combination. Over this part is now built a house in a line with and joining to the tower of the church.'
Carter (fn. 26) speaks of the bosses as having 'a variety of historic bassorelievo shields and foliage'.
Malcolm (fn. 27) (1802) describes them as 'most delicate and exquisitely proportioned'.
Five bosses are reproduced by Malcolm, but in whose possession they may now be is not known. They represent: the Legend of St. Nicholas and the three Children; the Emblems of our Lord's Passion; the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence; three Fleur-de-lis on a shield, but what the fifth boss represents is not clear.
Three other bosses are now preserved in the cloister: one—a mermaid with the usual mirror and comb (pl. LXVII (13), p. 129); another, an angel with a lyre; and another, an uncouth head. These, in the middle of the nineteenth century, came into the possession of Mr. E. B. Price, F.S.A., and in the years 1852 and 1854 two were reproduced in the publications of the Antiquarian Etching Club. (fn. 28) Price's original drawings of all three are in the Gardner Collection. The three stones later came into the possession of Mr. Alfred White, F.S.A., and were inherited by his son Mr. Paul Thomas White, who, in the year 1911, presented them to the writer, who restored them to the church.
The vaulting of the east cloister is said to have fallen on the 8th August 1834, with the upper gallery and part of the wall, but from the above it would seem that the vault of the three northern bays was standing in 1841. The house above was destroyed probably in the fire of 1830, but, whatever the date was when it was rebuilt, it was made to encroach upon the west wall of the south transept, as already described. (fn. 29) It was not the first encroachment, for in the year 1726 Thomas Hunt, the publican, was granted leave by the vestry 'to break a window or two out of the vault into the green churchyard', (fn. 30) the closing of which, by the way, gave great trouble at the restoration of the transept.
The North cloister, after the suppression, suffered as much as the eastern walk; for it too was used in part as stables and in part as a blacksmith's smithy; also in part by the public-house already referred to. The latter was rebuilt in 1856 (fn. 31) and all the remains of the cloister destroyed. The south end of the west cloister walk was used as a cowshed, and in 1791 the south cloister was in part used 'as a broker's shop'. (fn. 32)
To return to the east cloister: (fn. 33) the five southernmost bays were demolished about the year 1886, and the present stables erected on their site. The cloister walls doubtless still exist below the ground. The three northern bays were—at some time unknown—filled with earth up to the ground level (about 7 ft.) and continued to be used as stables until the year 1904. In the year 1900 the Restoration Committee of the church opened negotiations for the purchase of the freehold of the site of these three bays. The matter proved to be very complicated so that possession was not obtained until Michaelmas 1904, and even then the leasehold interest in the western portion had to be left to run out until June 1926. (fn. 34)
There being 7 ft. of earth on the floor of the cloister, the horses' manger was at that time on a level with the crown of the twelfthcentury doorway leading into the church. In 1905 the earth was excavated, the vaulting restored and tracery inserted in the cloister windows. The excavation brought to light the twelfth-century door jambs and the lower portions of two slender shafts attached (measuring about 2 ft. in height). The capitals of these are still in position; that on the east side shows the scallop ornament, but that on the west is much mutilated. The bases also remain, but the one on the east side only is in good condition with mouldings almost Early English in character.
The round-headed arched doorway had a hood mould, a fragment of which remains on the west side. A portion of the Norman wall also remains in the north-east corner with a small portion of the original floor tiles and about 10 ft. of the Norman plinth. For some reason the face of the twelfth-century wall in the north-east bay was not followed in the fifteenth-century rebuilding but a new face was brought forward some 7½ inches, as is seen in the lower part of the centre bay of the east wall where the original face remains. The fifteenth-century rebuilding is well seen in the transverse rib above the north door and in the shafts with caps and bases from which the rib springs. There is also a fairly perfect cluster of shafts on the west side at what was the south-west angle of the north and east walks.
Fragments of other shafts and the springers of the vaulting, all much damaged, also remain and, having been left in the same condition as they were found, they are easily distinguishable from the restored portions. The only window arch in good condition is the southern one on the west side, which retains its original boss. The tracery of the windows is entirely the work of 1905. The wall below the windows is original and part of the stone bench remains, but the sills have all disappeared.
The new vaulting corresponds with that of the fifteenth century, the setting out of which was found on one of the springers in the centre bay. The portions of the original ribs, found during the excavations, have been re-used, some being placed in each bay. Five small original bosses have also been refixed, two in the north bay and three in the south. The new bosses bear shields emblazoned as follows:
The new floor tiles correspond with the old portions found by the north door. There are also other portions in the north-west bay, at a level 7½ inches below those by the door. The matrix of a brass, found during the restoration of 1865, and a seventeenth-century head-stone, the inscription on which is illegible, have been inserted in the flooring.
The entrance doors were taken down at the suppression in 1539, and the opening built up with rough fragments of stone. When this filling was removed in 1905, a wooden lintel was found therein in such a position as to suggest that a temporary entrance had been formed in it by the Dominicans in 1555. There was also found a piece of finely worked stone of Early English date, which has the appearance of having formed a canopy to a tomb. (fn. 35) It is preserved in the cloister.
The doors at the time of the suppression had been used for the entrance to the west porch. These were taken down at the restoration of 1864, to make room for a window, and were stored in the triforium. When it was found, in the year 1905, that they exactly fitted the cloister door they were once more hung in their original position (pl. XVIII, p. 10; pl. LXIX, p. 132).
Outside the west wall of the cloister the excavations exposed the lower portion of the angle buttress at the junction of the north and east walks, and of the two buttresses between the bays southward.
The glass case at present in the cloister contains the matrix of the priory seal used during the occupation of the priory by the Dominicans in Queen Mary's reign, and a manuscript copy of a book of Spiritual Exercises written by William Perrin, the prior at that time. There is also a portion of a leather sandal from the foot of Rahere, a portion of his wooden coffin, some late twelfth-century carved stones, and several fifteenth-century bosses from the cloister vaulting. On the bench against the wall is a twelfth-century stoup or mortar from the infirmary; an arm of the prior's chair from the chapter-house dating from the thirteenth century (pl. LXVII (13), p. 129); an incised grave slab with a French inscription of the fourteenth century, and other worked stones of different periods found from time to time in the church during excavations. There is also a badly damaged seventeenth-century almsbox (pl. XXXIIb, p. 26). On the floor is a stone coffin from the chapter-house believed to be that of Prior Thomas; also twelfth, thirteenth, and early fifteenth-century fragments from the same place. These have all been referred to in previous chapters.
In the parish safe are plans (fn. 36) made by the architect in the year 1906, at the suggestion of Sir Borradaile Savory, for building a dwelling-house over the cloister, the rent of which it was intended should be applied to the cost of the maintenance of the services of the church; but, as counsel's opinion was that it was impossible to separate the rent of a building so situated from the glebe of the rectory, it was decided, in the meanwhile, only to erect a temporary roof over the cloister.
The observations in the Observator of August 21st, 1703, as to the cloister of St. Bartholomew's being used at that time as 'a market of lewdness' do not refer to the cloister of the priory (fn. 37), (fn. 38).