A History of the County of Durham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1928.
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The monastic buildings are grouped on the south side of the church around the cloister and follow the usual arrangement of the Benedictine plan, with the chapter house in the east range and the frater on the south. The dorter, too, was originally in the usual position on the first floor of the east range, south of the chapter house, but was afterwards moved to the west range, a change of plan perhaps determined by the fact that the river forms the western boundary of the site and affords special convenience for drainage, and also possibly by the west range being on the side farthest from the town houses. A part of the old east range was then used as a prison, while the rest was taken by the prior's lodging. The nature of the site, which is longer from north to south than from east to west, also determined the position of the outer court, which was placed south of the cloister, and the infirmary stood between the west range and the river, a position dictated by convenience. With these variations, and allowing for the inevitable changes to which the buildings were put after the Dissolution, the normal arrangements of a Benedictine house can perhaps be nowhere better studied than at Durham. Although a certain amount of rebuilding has been done since the 16th century, especially in the south range, the references to the various parts of the buildings in ' Rites of Durham' can generally be followed, and afford a vivid picture of the life of the monastery in the years immediately preceding the surrender.
Mention has already been made of work in the east and south ranges which is earlier than any part of the existing church, and in all probability forms part of the buildings begun by Walcher. According to Simeon, Walcher began the erection of ' suitable buildings for a dwelling place of monks,' (fn. 1) but met his death before they were finished. It is not unlikely, however, that the existing undercrofts at the south end of the east range and the east end of the south range, with the passage between them, were completed by 1080, and it would seem probable that Walcher's work was planned round a cloister about 115 ft. square, the north side of which was formed by Aldhun's White Church. The evidence for this was set forth by Sir William Hope in 1909, (fn. 2) and though not conclusive, as no trace of Aldhun's church was found, furnishes strong probability that Walcher's buildings were attached to it, and that the east and south sides of the present cloister preserve the lines of the first cloister. When the site of the lavatory opposite the frater door was uncovered in 1903 the foundations of a 12th-century conduit house were also found, built against an earlier wall running north and south, which seems to have been the garth wall of the west alley of the first cloister. (fn. 3) There is reason to suppose that the Norman conduit thus stood in the south-west angle of the early cloister, the alleys of which would therefore be of the same width as at present, and from this and other evidence (fn. 4) the extent of the cloister planned by Walcher can be deduced. If these deductions be correct, the south wall of Aldhun's church must have been some 30 ft. south of that of the present building, or approximately in a line with the projection of the vice-turret of the south transept, (fn. 5) and the west wall of the first west range would coincide with the east wall of the existing range, which there are grounds for believing was built upon it. (fn. 6)
The superstructures of the two undercrofts, consisting of the dorter in the east and the frater in the south range respectively, were probably finished during the exile of St. Calais (1088–91) if not before, and after the completion of the existing church the chapter house was begun probably by Flambard, and completed by Geoffrey Rufus (1133–40). (fn. 7) In the 12th century the south range appears to have been extended westward and the west range rebuilt on its present plan, the dorter then being moved to it. Part of the walling of this period, including the dorter stair doorway at the north end, still remains, but the range was again rebuilt in the 13th century. To the 13th century also belongs the prior's chapel at the south-east corner of the group of buildings now forming the Deanery at the south end of the east range. The main structural part of these buildings, chiefly of 14th-century date, is noticed later; the existing great kitchen of the monastery was erected in 1367–70. The cloister was rebuilt in more or less of its present form at the beginning of the 15th century, being begun by Skirlaw (fn. 8) (d. 1406) and finished by Langley about 1418. (fn. 9) Of what immediately preceded it little or nothing is known, but if Leland (fn. 10) is right in stating that Pudsey built a cloister it may have subsisted down to Skirlaw's time. Nothing of it, however, remains, unless some marks on the north and east walls indicate the lines of its lean-to roof. (fn. 11) The upper part of the west range was rebuilt in its present form in 1398–1404, (fn. 12) and during the same period considerable reconstruction of the prior's lodgings took place. Later in the century Prior Wessington (1416–46) also extensively repaired the prior's lodgings and other parts of the monastery buildings, and Prior Castell (1494–1519) made further changes, all of which are noticed later. Castell also rebuilt the gatehouse.
After the Dissolution, apart from the different uses to which the buildings were put, the chief change was the rebuilding of the frater, or 'fair large hall' on the upper floor of the south range, by Dean Sudbury, so as to serve as the Chapter Library. The hall was described in 1665 as having 'long been useless and ruined,' (fn. 13) but was finished in its present form soon after Sudbury's death in 1684. The cloister was repaired in 1706–11 and on a larger scale in 1764–69; it was again restored in 1856–7. The dorter was restored in 1849–53, and Dean Sudbury's Library in 1858, the latter by Salvin.
The CLOISTER is approximately 145 ft. square, (fn. 14) and is surrounded by covered alleys about 15 ft. wide, each of eleven bays divided by buttresses, with a pointed window of three lights in each bay. The diagonally flagged pavement of the alleys is of 18th-century date, (fn. 15) but the flat oak panelled ceilings are substantially of Skirlaw's and Langley's time, though much restored in 1828, when many new shields of arms were introduced. (fn. 16) The original windows were destroyed in the 18th century, apparently during the restoration of 1764–9, when the present uninteresting mullions and uncusped tracery were substituted. About one-third of the east side of the cloister is overlapped by the south transept of the church, beyond which are the slype (or parlour), chapter house, and a portion of the early building containing the prison and the stairs to the first dorter. The entrance from the outer court is at the end of the east alley farthest from the church and opposite the eastern processional doorway. All the stone wall benches have disappeared, but there is one along the garth wall in the east alley. The roofs are flat and lead covered, behind straight moulded parapets. The north alley, between the processional doorways, was probably screened off at both ends, and was divided by short partition walls into a number of studies or carrels, (fn. 17) three to each window, 'all fynely wainscotted and veri close, all but the forepart which had carved wourke that gave light in at ther carrell doures of wainscott,' (fn. 18) and over against the carrels against the church wall were ranged 'great almeries,' or book cupboards. The church wall has been refaced in grey stone.
The first doorway in the east alley beyond the transept is that to the SLYPE, or passage separating the chapter house from the church, which gave access to the 'centory garth,' or cemetery of the monks, and is said to have been used in the later days as a parlour, to which merchants were allowed to bring their wares for sale. (fn. 19) It has a plain barrel vault and intersecting wall arcades (fn. 20) similar to those of the chapter house, with which it is contemporary. The doorway has a semicircular arch of two cheveron moulded orders with label, the inner order continuous and the outer on single jamb shafts with cushion capitals, but the detail has suffered considerably at the hands of restorers and the cheverons are almost obliterated: the cheveron also occurs on the inside of the doorway. The slype now serves as an ante-room to the chapter house and place of assembly for the choir on weekdays, and has a modern doorway to the church cut through the transept wall and another to the chapter house. (fn. 21) The east wall is modern, with a single round-headed window. A staircase, still partly remaining in the south-west corner, led up to a room above built in 1414–15 as a library, usually known as Wessington's Library, though it appears to have been completed before he became prior in 1416. Some time between that year and 1446 he repaired the roof and put in a large five-light window at each end. Wessington's flat-pitched roof of four bays remains, but the windows have been wholly renewed. This upper room is now used as a song school, access to it being by a modern wooden staircase. (fn. 22)
The CHAPTER HOUSE is entered from the cloister by a semicircular headed doorway of three orders, the two outer on nook-shafts with cushion capitals and the inner on cushion capitals and moulded jambs. The two outer orders (fn. 23) have cheveron ornament, but the inner is simply moulded; internally there are also three orders of the same type with nook-shafts in each jamb, the capitals and abaci of which are elaborately carved. (fn. 24) On each side of the doorway, and forming with it a single composition, is a window of two round-headed lights with cylindrical mid-shaft and plain tympanum enclosed by a semicircular cheveron arch on nook-shafts with cushion capitals, the whole set within a shallow moulded outer order. These openings were originally unglazed, but are now filled with fragments of painted glass from the church. (fn. 25) Before the destruction of its eastern portion in 1796 the chapter house was 78 ft. 6 in. in length, with a breadth of 34 ft. 6 in. and an apsidal east end. In the apse were five three-light windows with flowing tracery inserted in the 14th century and at the west end above the cloister roof a large 15thcentury pointed window of five lights, which still exists in a restored form, but with these exceptions the building seems to have remained pretty much as completed in the first half of the 12th century. It consisted of two bays, each covered by a quadripartite vault, and a third bay over the apse, the vault of which was set out by keeping the four western ribs in straight lines on plan, thus making them of unequal length and throwing the keystone to the east of the centre of the apse curve. (fn. 26) The transverse arches were semicircular, and the ribs of the vaults had a slightly pointed soffit roll flanked by cheverons of convex profile: in the apse the ribs sprang from large figure corbels and the soffit roll was flanked by a row of star ornaments and cheverons. (fn. 27) A wall arcade of semicircular intersecting arches ran round the building, except at the west end, below which was a stone bench raised on two steps, and in the middle of the east wall, standing on a dais, was a contemporary stone chair in which the bishops were installed. The floor was covered with monumental slabs of the bishops buried beneath it, including those of St. Calais, Flambard, Geoffrey Rufus, and Pudsey, and at the west end of the south wall was a doorway with flat lintel and semicircular relieving arch similar to those of the transept turret staircases. (fn. 28) The destruction of its east end reduced the length of the chapter house to about 35 ft., making it practically a square room. The whole of the vault was demolished and a new coved roof erected, cutting across the great west window, the walls being covered with lath and plaster, and the windows flanking the west doorway blocked. In 1830 part of the lath and plaster on the north side was taken down and the whole was removed in 1847, when the wall arcades were restored. In 1857 the west wall, including the doorway and the window above, was restored, and in 1874 excavations were carried out on the site of the destroyed part of the building, the floor of which was exposed and the graves of Bishops Flambard, Geoffrey Rufus, William de Ste. Barbe, Robert de Insula, and Kellaw were opened. (fn. 29)
The rebuilding of 1895–6, under the direction of Mr. C. Hodgson Fowler, restored the chapter house to something like its former appearance, the east end being erected on the old plan, though the original design of the apse vault was not followed, and round-headed windows of 12th-century type take the place of the 14th-century windows destroyed by Wyatt. The height to the crown of the new vault is 44 ft., above which is a low-pitched lead-covered roof. The stone bench and steps round the building have been reconstructed and the wall arcades renewed. The removal of the floor in the western part, constructed in 1796, brought to light several fragments of early sculptured crosses, probably of late 10th-century date, and also the arms of the stone chair, which have been worked into a new chair in the original position.
The reconstructed doorway (fn. 30) at the west end of the south wall leads to a small chamber belonging to the earliest buildings, against which the chapter house was erected. The juxtaposition of the two walls is plainly seen within the recess of the doorway, the depth of which is about 5 ft. This chamber, which in the later days of the monastery was used as a PRISON for light offences, is about 23 ft. long from west to east, and 12 ft. wide, and is lighted by a round-headed window. It has a flat wooden ceiling, and on its south wall are traces of painting representing Our Lady in glory, (fn. 31) while in the north end of the west wall is a triangular-headed recess. A doorway in the south wall leads to two smaller chambers, or cells, in the first of which is a hatch for conveying food to the prisoner, and in the inner a latrine. These cells were under the stairs to the first dorter, the doorway to which still remains in the cloister wall, together with the first two or three steps of the staircase itself. The face of the wall here is of rubble, in contrast with the squared ashlar north of it, a break, or setback of 14½ in., in the wall at the south end of the chapter house marking the junction of Rufus' work with that of Walcher. The staircase doorway is, however, an early 12th-century insertion and has been much restored; it has a semicircular arch of three orders, the innermost square and the others with a roll on the edge, springing from moulded imposts on single nook-shafts with cushion capitals and moulded bases. (fn. 32) Beyond this, at the end of the eastern cloister wall, is the so-called 'Usher's Door,' (fn. 33) a restored 15thcentury pointed doorway with a single continuous hollow moulded order with label, which opened to 'the entrie in under the Prior's lodginge, and streight in to the centorie garth.' (fn. 34) This doorway appears to have replaced one contemporary with the earlier buildings, for the passage it leads to has at the end a round-headed window which may have been the arch of the doorway to the cemetery. The passage now communicates by a stair with the Deanery.
The SUB-VAULT OF THE FIRST DORTER, now a cellar under the entrance-hall of the Deanery, lies on the east side of the passage from the cloister to the outer court, from which it was entered by a doorway now blocked. It is 38 ft. long from north to south, and 23 ft. wide, and is divided into two aisles by an arcade of four semicircular arches supported on short square piers. The walls are quite plain, and each aisle is covered by a barrel vault. (fn. 35) The arches are now closed with masonry and cross walls have been built to form cellars.
The contemporary passage between this sub-vault and that of the monks' frater in the south range has a wall arcade of low roundheaded arches on each side, but the archway from the cloister is of 15th-century date, with a continuous hollow-chamfered moulding and label, while at the south end to the outer court the entrance is modern. The level of the passage floor is two steps below that of the cloister.
A doorway in the west wall of the passage opens into the FRATER SUB-VAULT. This begins at the east end with a narrow chamber running north and south the full width of the range, and covered by a plain barrel vault; from this a round-arched opening leads to the main apartment (50 ft. by 32 ft.) running east and west, which is divided into three aisles by two rows of short, massive, square piers, four in each row, supporting a groined vault of the simplest form, without ribs or transverse arches. The height to the crown of the vault is only 7 ft. 6 in. The piers have plain abaci chamfered on the lower edge and there are pilasters of the same type along the side walls. (fn. 36) To the west of the main apartment, and opening from it, are two long narrow chambers like that at the east end, covered by barrel vaults, and beyond these again a third of less length. The whole of the sub-vault was lighted from the south by small round-headed windows, five in the main area and one in each of the narrow chambers, now blocked by the modern passage from the Deanery to the great kitchen. The extent of Walcher's work is marked by the thick wall west of the third chamber, which is now pierced by a doorway to the later buildings erected against it. The whole of the north wall on the cloister side was refaced by Dean Sudbury and all traces of ancient work obliterated, but a bonding mark west of the library doorway indicates its term.
The whole of the upper story of the south range having been rebuilt, no part of the arrangements of the MONKS' FRATER or REFECTORY as set out in Rites (fn. 37) can now be seen above the sub-vault. The Frater is described as having been 'a fair large hall finely wainscotted on the north and south side,' and was entered at the west end from the cloister by a doorway and staircase in the same position as the existing library doorway and stair. It was an aisleless hall about 106 ft. long (fn. 38) by 32 ft. in width, with timber roof, and the high table at the east end. The screens, or kitchen passage, were at the west, and adjoining them a pantry above the cellar known as the Covey, which abutted Walcher's basement on the west. Over the pantry, the roof of which was on a much lower level than that of the hall, there was a room known as the Loft, used in later days for the daily meals of the monks, (fn. 39) who used the frater only on certain festivals, leaving it on ordinary days to the novices. (fn. 40) At the west end of the hall was a stone bench from the cellar door to the pantry door, (fn. 41) and above the bench was 'wainscot work two yards and a half in height, finely carved and set with embroidered work, and above the wainscot there was a fair large picture of our Saviour Christ, the Blessed Mary and St. John, in fine gilt work and excellent colours.' (fn. 42) The 'picture' had been washed over in lime, and the wainscot bore an inscription recording its erection by Prior Castell in July 1518. On the left of the entrance doorway was a strong aumbry in the stone wall, with 'a fine work of carved wainscot before it … that none could perceive that there was any aumbry at all,' (fn. 43) in which was kept all the chief plate used in the Frater house on festival days, (fn. 44) and on the right a large wooden aumbry or cupboard, 'having divers ambries within it, finely wrought and varnished all over,' which contained the table linen, salts, mazers, cups and other things pertaining to the frater house and loft. (fn. 45) The frater pulpit is referred to as 'a convenyent place at the south end of the hie table within a faire glasse wyndour, invyroned with iron, and certain steppes of stone with iron rayles of the one side to go up to it and to support an iron desk there placed'; (fn. 46) here one of the novices read some part of the Old and New Testament during dinner time.
The frater is said to have retained the name of the Petty Canons' Hall till Dr. Sudbury erected the Library in its place. (fn. 47) Nothing of it has survived except the wall at the east end, which is part of the west wall of the first dorter. The long north and south walls are Sudbury's, but the tall two-light windows (fn. 48) date only from 1858 and the embattled parapets are also modern. Sudbury's doorway in the cloister, however, remains unaltered and is characteristic of the period, with semicircular keystoned arch below a classic entablature supported by Doric pilasters on panelled pedestals. (fn. 49) The oak bookcases and other furnishings of the Library and of the librarian's room adjoining it on the west, which partly occupies the place of the Loft, (fn. 50) are of Sudbury's time.
Below the librarian's room are the 'Covey' and a cellar north of it. This cellar, which runs east and west, has a restored window to the cloister and a square opening in the middle of its vault; beside the door leading to it from the covey is a small opening which has had a small door and fastenings as if to serve drink from the cellar to the covey without opening the door. (fn. 51) Between the cellar and the sub-vault of the west range is another doorway, now blocked.
The MONKS' LAVER stood in the cloister garth 'over against the fraterhouse door,' and is described in Rites as 'being made in forme round, covered with lead, and all of marble saving the verie uttermost walls.' (fn. 52) The basin had in it 'many little conduits and spouts of brass, with twenty-four cocks of brass round about it,' and in the walls were 'seven (fn. 53) fair windows of stonework' with a dovecote on top covered with lead. The basin still exists in the centre of the garth, but is not in its original position. The foundations of the Laver house were discovered in 1903, opposite the eighth bay (from the east) of the garth wall. (fn. 54) There is reason to believe that the structure was of 13th-century date, (fn. 55) and that it had been joined to Skirlaw's cloister alley by a short length of pentise. A statement of accounts still preserved shows, however, that the basin and trough surrounding it were made in 1432–3 and that the marble came from Eggleston. (fn. 56) The basin is wrought from a single block and is octagonal in form, the sides sloping outwards, each with a blank shield in the middle and another at each angle. (fn. 57) It now rests on the ground, but was no doubt originally raised a convenient height above the floor of the Lavatory.
The GREAT KITCHEN or MONASTERY KITCHEN adjoined the frater on the southwest. It is now attached to the Deanery by a modern passage built against the south side of the frater sub-vault, and is the only early monastic kitchen in England still in regular use. (fn. 58) It communicated originally by a doorway and passage on the north-east side with one of the rooms under the Loft, from which food was carried up to the frater, or to the Loft itself. A doorway on the east side (now the external entrance) may have originally communicated with the prior's lodgings, and another doorway on the west, now blocked, opened to the cellarer's chequer, which adjoined it on that side. This building was later absorbed into one of the canons' houses and was pulled down in 1849. (fn. 59)
The kitchen is a semi-detached building, generally described as octagonal, but built in reality on a square plan with fireplaces at the angles, the arches of which support an octagonal superstructure and vaulted roof, the smoke from the fireplaces being conveyed through flues to a central louvre. The bursar's rolls for the period 1366–71 set out the cost of making 'the new kitchen,' but whether it took the place of one on the same site can only be conjectured. The main structure at least appears to have been completed in Fossor's time, but it was not finished in its present form till the episcopate of Langley (1406–37), who contributed largely to the work. (fn. 60) Internally the octagon is 36 ft. 8 in. in diameter and is covered with a vault consisting of eight semicircular ribs, each extending over three of its sides, the space left within their intersection (14 ft. in diameter) forming the lantern. The ribs are chamfered and spring from moulded corbels in the angles high up in the walls; the wall ribs are sharply pointed. The openings of the louvre were not filled with glass till 1507. (fn. 61) The six sides, other than the east and west doorways, have each a chimney, one of which (on the north-east) was used as a curing-room. The principal fireplaces were north and south, but the former is now modernised. The other sides show remains of fireplaces of different kinds, and there are small larders, or store-rooms, behind the fireplaces in the south-east and south-west angles in the thickness of the walling. (fn. 62) About 1752 Dean Cowper put two 'gothick windows' in the kitchen on the south side, and these still afford the principal means of lighting. (fn. 63) Externally the kitchen has angle buttresses and finishes with an embattled parapet, with a series of gabled roofs over the vault abutting on the louvre. The flanking structures on the east side have been modernised with larder below and bedrooms above. The Treasurer's chequer was a 'little stone building' between the kitchen and the Deanery, erected before 1371. (fn. 64)
The GREAT DORTER or DORMITORY occupied the whole of the upper floor of the west range, the south end of which overlapped the frater some 20 ft. The early 13th-century SUB-VAULT OF THE DORTER is a good example of the work of the period and remains substantially unaltered. It is about 194 ft. long and 39 ft. wide internally, and is vaulted in twelve bays of two spans, divided by a central row of circular pillars with moulded capitals and bases. Each bay is thus covered by two plain quadripartite compartments, about 15 ft. in height to the crown, with pointed transverse and wall ribs. There are half-round responds, similar in detail to the piers, against the walls. The floor is five steps below that of the cloister alley. The sub-vault was originally divided into a treasury (in the bay next the church), the common house, (fn. 65) a passage from the cloister to the infirmary, while the four southern bays contained the great cellar or buttery with entrances at one end from the infirmary passage and at the other from the cellarer's checker and the kitchen buildings. There was a window in each bay on the west, but none of the original openings remain, all the existing windows being modern. Of these divisions only the treasury (fn. 66) remains, being still separated from the rest by a thick wall. It is entered from the cloister by a pointed doorway with a single continuous order, probably a 15th-century insertion, in which are still the 'strong door and two locks' mentioned in Rites. The 'strong iron grate' within also remains. Here the muniments of the convent were kept until quite recent times, when they were removed to the room over the gatehouse. In the cloister 'over against the treasury house door' the novices were taught, for whom there was a 'fair stall of wainscott' and their master had a seat opposite on the south side of the doorway. (fn. 67)
The Common House had 'a fyre keapt in yt all wynter, for the mounckes to cume and warme them at, being allowed no fyre but that onely,' and belonging to it was a garden and bowling alley, 'on the backside of the said house towards the water, for the novyces sume tymes to recreat themeselves.' (fn. 68) All traces of the fireplace, as well as of the dividing walls, have disappeared, but the garden and bowling alley still exist in a modern form on the west side. The common house appears to have been entered at its south end from the infirmary passage, on the other side of which was the 'great cellar' of Rites entered from a doorway, now blocked, at the foot of the stair to the loft; the buttery was probably in the end bay. The infirmary passage occupied the eighth bay from the north, but the doorway from the cloister is a later insertion with a single continuous moulded order; the passage walls have disappeared and a wide modern opening has been made in the west wall. The present arrangement is that the eight southern bays of the subvault form a single apartment, in which (at the north end) are preserved a large number of mediaeval grave covers and moulded and carved stones of various kinds from the cathedral and other churches in the county. (fn. 69) The two bays north of this (third and fourth from north) are now used as vestries for the choir men and boys, with a single modern doorway, and that next the treasury is the minor canons' vestry, the doorway of which has a flat four-centred head in one stone. (fn. 70)
The entrance to the DORTER or DORMITORY was at the north end by a stair from the cloister, close to the church, in the recess formed by the projection of the south-west tower. The doorway and the wall in which it is set belong to the 12th-century west range, and a round-headed opening, now blocked, still remains in a portion of this older walling on the west side overlooking the garden. The doorway has a semicircular arch of three moulded orders, the two inner on jamb shafts with cushion capitals, the outer resting on extended imposts. The whole surface has been pared down and the label and outer order cut away.
The dorter was divided by wainscot partitions into a series of cubicles, or 'little chambers,' with a passage down the middle. Each cubicle was lighted by a window (fn. 71) and contained a desk, while in the wall above on each side were widely spaced two-light pointed windows lighting the whole of the apartment. The lower windows are square-headed and of two trefoiled lights divided by a transom, and all are restorations; the upper windows have cinquefoiled lights, vertical tracery and labels. (fn. 72) At the south end is a modern pointed window of five lights below a plain flat-pitched gable, and the side walls have embattled parapets on corbel tables. The dorter still retains its original open roof with plain oak principals, barely touched by the axe, (fn. 73) wall pieces on stone corbels, and struts, the span of which is 41 ft. The upper windows occur in every third bay. The novices occupied the south end, 'having eight chambers on each side … not so close nor so warme as the other chambers,' there being no windows to give light 'but as it came in at the foreside.' (fn. 74) The middle passage was paved with 'fine tyled stone,' which in part remained till past the middle of the 19th century, (fn. 75) and at either end of the dorter was a large four-square cresset stone each with a dozen bowls. The sub-prior's chamber was 'the first in the dorter for seinge of good order keapt.' (fn. 76) A doorway at the north end, now blocked, opened into the church under the south-west tower, and led probably by a wooden gallery by another doorway into the tower staircase and so to the church itself. (fn. 77) The original fittings have disappeared and the room is now used as a part of the Chapter Library, bookcases being placed along the walls below the upper windows. The room also contains a series of Roman altars and inscribed stones from Lanchester and other stations in the county, and on the line of the Roman wall, a collection of crosses, grave-slabs and other work of pre-Conquest date, and the relics from St. Cuthbert's tomb. At the south end of the east wall a modern doorway opens to the Librarian's Room, in the position of the Loft, which formed the dining room of one of the prebendal houses constructed partly in the south end of the dorter. (fn. 78)
The RERE-DORTER was a 'faire large house and most decent place adjoining to the west of the dorter towards the water … which was made with two great pillars of stone that did bear up the whole floore thereof, and every seat and partition was of wainscot.' (fn. 79) Each seat had a window, but these were afterwards walled up 'to make the house more close,' and in the west end were three glass windows and on the south another, above the seats which gave light to the whole. (fn. 80) This building, lying at right angles with the dorter, opposite the sixth and seventh bays of the sub-vault (from the north), is shown in part on Carter's plan; it appears to have been about 68 ft. long from west to east internally by about 30 ft. wide, with a ground floor passage between it and the dorter. The pit remains, with an outlet westward, (fn. 81) and the south wall of the structure still stands as high as the sills of the little windows, forming the north wall of the stables built over the 'lyng house,' which adjoined the reredorter on that side. (fn. 82)
The 'lyng house' was a strong prison for great offenders, described in Rites as within the INFIRMARY underneath the master's chamber. (fn. 83) The upper building is shown on Carter's plan running east and west opposite the passage through the sub-vault, but it had been greatly altered after the Dissolution and converted into stables. It was about 60 ft. long by 40 ft. wide and the prison was in the basement. In clearing this during 1890–95 the floor was found to be 23 ft. below the present ground level. The chamber is 24 ft. 3 in. long and had a barrel vault supported by wall arcades 'made up of older material, some of the capitals of the shafts being of 12th-century, and others of 13th-century date.' (fn. 84) The entrance was by a round-headed doorway (fn. 85) on the south leading into a vaulted passage carried along that side of the building to the west end 'where a newel staircase with a projecting turret ascends into an upper room on the level of the stable floor,' (fn. 86) no doubt the master of the infirmary's chamber. This room was lighted by a round-headed window, now blocked, in the west gable, but with this exception no part of the infirmary remains. Its site was south of the rere-dorter and south-west of the dorter range. In it was a room known as the Dead Man's chamber (fn. 87) and adjoining it a chapel dedicated to St. Andrew.
Excavations in 1890 under the monk's garden revealed a passage commencing at a depth of about 30 ft. at the north-west corner of the stables and rising with a gradual ascent to the south wall of the Galilee, into which it formerly had access. This passage has a barrel vault and is lighted by three narrow slits with sloped sills in the west wall, which abuts upon the river bank; the east wall is blank. (fn. 88)
The GUEST HOUSE was within the abbey garth 'on the west side towards the water,' south of the infirmary and south-west of the kitchen. (fn. 89) The hall is described as 'a goodly brave place, much like unto the body of a church, with very fair pillers supporting it on ether syde and in the mydest of the haule a most large raunge for the fyer.' (fn. 90) The chambers and lodgings were 'swetly keapt and richly furnyshed,' especially one chamber called the King's Chamber 'deservinge that name in that the king himselfe myght verie well have lyne in yt.' Some walling of 12th-century date remains in the house built on the site on its north and west sides and in the interior, but the only apartment that has survived is a vaulted basement, now used as a kitchen. The vault is in three bays of two spans, supported by two pillars with moulded capitals. (fn. 91)
The PRIOR'S LODGING, now the DEANERY, was built eastward of and incorporating the early dorter at the south end of the east range. Assuming that the dorter was abandoned before or about 1140, it is reasonable to suppose that this part of the monastic buildings would then, or soon after, be handed over to the prior, and that he constructed various chambers to the east of it. To these a chapel was attached in the 13th century in the southeast corner, but in the existing buildings nothing between the chapel and the old dorter is earlier than the 14th century, the intervening rooms having presumably been rebuilt at that period, and they have been altered more than once since. The many references in the Rolls of the Convent to work done in the prior's lodging are tantalisingly vague and Rites has little to say about this part of the monastery. The earliest rolls do not begin until 1278, at which time there was glass in the prior's rooms, and Graystanes mentions the prior's chamber twenty years earlier. The checker of the prior's chaplain was 'over the stairs as you go up to the Dean's hall … and his chamber was next to the prior's chamber,' (fn. 92) but neither room can be identified. (fn. 93) Of the date of the erection of the chapel there is no record, and its attribution to Prior Melsonby (1233–44) is conjectural. Fossor did a great deal of work in the monastery buildings, but it is not specifically stated that 'the two separate chambers, namely, the high chamber and the low one,' were in the prior's lodging, though probably they were. In Wessington's time a sum of £419 was expended 'for construction and repairs of various chambers belonging to the Prior,' but no details of the work done are given. The Deanery is said to have been 'very much improved' by Dean Comber (1691–99) who 'built a new apartment to it,' (fn. 94) but this cannot be located, and no adequate record has been kept even of the 18th-century reconstructions and alterations.
The detail of the chapel is very simple and in striking contrast to Melsonby's work in the Nine Altars; though apparently early in the pointed style, it is possible the work may be as late as the middle of the 13th century. The chapel was internally about 50 ft. long from west to east by about 16 ft. wide, over a vaulted basement, and stands in front of the face of the main building, which it overlaps at the east end about 20 ft. The upper part, or chapel proper, has been divided up and turned to domestic uses, but the sub-vault remains substantially unaltered. In 1914–15 it was fitted up as a chapel by Dean Henson and later used by the women students of St. Mary's College, and the windows were opened out. It is of four bays, each covered by a single quadripartite vault, with pointed wall-ribs and transverse arches, springing from half-round responds against the side walls, with moulded capitals and bases. The height of the vault is about 11 ft. and the ribs are chamfered. This apartment ('the chamber under the vault') was lighted by four narrow windows with wide internal splays on the south side, one at the east end of the north wall, and one at the east end, and the entrance is at the west end from the garden. The windows were made squareheaded after the Dissolution and so remain. The west doorway has a pointed continuous chamfered arch with hood mould, and there is also a door at the west end of the north wall from the lower floor of the house. The entrances to the chapel above were in the same relative positions, the internal one directly from the prior's solar (camera superior) and the other from the outside, the method of access to which is no longer apparent. It was probably reached by a wooden stairway, but all traces of this or any other means of approach have long since disappeared. The doorway is of two orders with hood-mould, the outer order moulded on jamb shafts. Above in the west wall are two tall lancets, now blocked, and at the east end two similar windows. The eastern windows are deeply recessed, with an outer order carried on jamb shafts with moulded capitals and bases, and are widely spaced, the wall between being now rebuilt as a chimney in a way which makes it difficult to determine whether there was originally a middle opening. On the south side all the original windows of the chapel have disappeared, five large square-headed sash windows having been inserted on each floor in the 18th century, but in the overlapping north wall are the remains of two grouped lancets, placed lower than those at the east end, which suggest that originally the windows on the south may have been in pairs. Externally the chapel has wide flat clasping buttresses at the angles, and there have been buttresses on the south side and at the ends. The conversion of the chapel into rooms took place in the 18th century, when a floor was inserted and two sitting-rooms with a smaller room between were formed on the lower floor and four smaller rooms on the floor above. These are all lighted from the south by the sash windows already named, and the lower rooms have fireplaces with carved mantels in the end walls. The date of these alterations is not known, but they may have been the work of Dean Cowper (1746–74). The chapel fabric now has a straight parapet and flat-pitched leaded roof; the original roof has been destroyed and all traces of the chapel internally have been obliterated.
The main part of the building between the chapel and the great hall consisted of the prior's solar, or camera superior, on the principal floor, with the camera inferior, or servants' hall, under it. The former was a lofty apartment about 62 ft. long from west to east and 22 ft. in width. It now forms the drawing-room of the Deanery, but its east end, which overlaps the chapel some 16 ft., has been partitioned off as a lobby. The drawing-room is thus 46 ft. long, and in its present aspect dates from the 18th century and later, but its walls are ancient. The south or outer wall is of 14th-century date, probably Prior Fossor's reconstruction of a former building erected against the old rere-dorter, the south wall of which, with its pit, was retained, and still forms the inner wall of the drawing-room and hall below. Whatever the original appearance of the prior's camera, it seems to have been a good deal altered late in the 15th century, or early in the 16th, when a fine flat-pitched, open-timbered roof of oak was erected and lofty windows with vertical tracery inserted, some indications of which still remain outside. (fn. 95) This roof is still in position, but hidden by a later plaster ceiling, except at the east end, where it is visible over the lobby. In the south wall, near its east end, is a vice turret by which direct access was obtained from the servants' hall to the prior's camera and thence to the roof. The turret projects externally as a half octagon and terminates above the parapet with a short pyramidal roof. It is of 14th-century date, and the doorway in the lower room has a continuous moulded shouldered arch: the opening in the upper room is now covered by panelling, but can still be used. The present four great square-headed sash windows were put in by Dean Cowper about 1748–49, (fn. 96) but the coved plaster ceiling appears to be subsequent to Cowper's time (1746–74), as a panel with his arms is now above it at the west end of the room. (fn. 97) The fireplace is modern.
The camera inferior has been modernised, and except for the doorway to the vice is architecturally uninteresting. Partition walls now divide it into three, and the windows have been enlarged and made into sashes. It has a flat ceiling. On this floor the double wall of the old rere-dorter, enclosing the pit of the latrines, stands clear its full width from the wall of the old dorter range, with a passage between; on the floor above it has been cut through at the ends, perhaps in the 17th century, to form a passage-way through the house. The site of the rere-dorter is now occupied by rooms which in their present aspect are of comparatively modern date, but probably took shape in the 15th century. They consist of a morning room (28 ft. by 20 ft.), and a smaller room opening from it at the east end, but are without architectural interest. (fn. 98)
Immediately north of the chapel was the minor camera of the prior, (fn. 99) now the Dean's library, and to the north of this again, and originally communicating with it, a room called 'King James's Room,' (fn. 100) but probably in the first instance the prior's sleeping chamber. Both these rooms appear to have been originally of 14thcentury date, and their outer walls, including a buttress on the east side and part of a window on the north, (fn. 101) are still largely of that period, but the outer wall of the library was rebuilt in its present form, with a bay window, early in the 19th century, when an external stone staircase to the garden was erected. (fn. 102) The library (28 ft. by 22 ft.) has an oak ceiling of four bays, probably of late 15th-century date, the main beams carried on stone corbels and shaped wall pieces, each bay having three panelled compartments with carved bosses at the intersection of the ribs. The fireplace is modern.
The ceiling of King James's Room is of panelled oak, with a series of carved bosses and shields at the intersections of the ribs. On one of the shields is Prior Castell's badge of the winged heart pierced by a sword, and others have the arms of the See and of the prior and chapter. The work is apparently of Castell's time, (fn. 103) and may be as late as the second decade of the 16th century. (fn. 104) The carved bosses include the sacred monogram, the Agnus Dei, the cross of thorns, Tudor rose (repeated), chained hart, fleur-delys, three rabbits nibbling at fruit, and other subjects. Below the ceiling is an embattled cornice with deep-cut flowing floral pattern on the underside. The bedrooms over the Library and King's Room are without interest, but the chamfered wall pieces of an old roof, apparently of early 16th-century date, remain on both sides. Probably the whole of this floor was originally one room, but it is divided into four, with a passage on the west side connecting the rooms over the chapel with a staircase on the north side of the house. To the west of this staircase are three bedrooms opening from one another over the rooms north of the drawing-room. All the internal arrangements and the windows on this floor are 18th-century or later, though the outer walls are old. The basement story of the block north of the chapel has been modernised, and contains a laundry and coal cellar with a passage between. From this a trap door opens to a large stone-built chamber, or cesspool, 12 ft. deep, divided by a semicircular arch into two bays, with a flanking arch over each. This chamber, which is 8 ft. 6 in. by 8 ft., has a roundheaded opening, now blocked, on the east side, and may have been the cesspool connected with the early buildings on the east side of the cloister, though it is some 30 ft. east of the old reredorter. It was perhaps used later in connexion with the prior's privy chamber.
The Great Hall of the prior's lodging, as already stated, was formed from the old dorter by lengthening it at the north end up to the chapter house, so as to include the dorter stairs and landing. Since the days of the deans the Great Hall has been divided horizontally by the insertion of a floor over rather more than half its length, providing bedrooms in the upper part, and vertically by the erection of a partition on the ground floor, and has thus lost all its ancient characteristics. The side walls belong to the Norman building, and on the west, overlooking the cloister, is still a round-headed window, now blocked, but no other features of this period survive. The modern doorway on the east side, which opens on to a lobby between the Great Hall and the northern apartments, is, however, in the same position as the original doorway to the rere-dorter. Above this is a blocked squareheaded three-light window of 15th-century date, and there is another, blocked in its lower part, on the west side, the upper portion of which lights one of the bedrooms. The hood mould of another opening still remains on this side above a modern sash window. Prior Fossor placed a window at the south end of the hall, but the existing window in that position is a restoration of a four-light square-headed opening which replaced the earlier one in 1476, (fn. 105) and the other windows and the oak roof were probably erected a few years later. (fn. 106) It is almost certain that the Great Hall was re-roofed and otherwise altered about this time, assuming then the aspect it retained until the Dissolution, but there are no records of actual work done. As then reconstructed, the Hall must have been a very noble apartment, lighted by great windows on either side at its north end, some 13 ft. above the floor, and by a large window in the south end. In length it was about 75 ft. and in width 24 ft., with a height of about 40 ft., but the floor was raised four steps some 10 ft. from the south end so as to clear the vault of the undercroft. The 15th-century roof still remains over the whole of this space, but can be seen only from the inner hall at the south end, the remainder being hidden by the flat plaster ceilings of the bedrooms. The north end of the Great Hall, now the dining hall of the Deanery (42 ft. by 24 ft.), has a plaster ceiling imitating oak, and is lighted by three modern windows on the east side. The south end, now the Inner Hall, is panelled all round with two tiers of late 15th or early 16th century oak traceried panelling, and the partition dividing it from the dining hall has three tiers of similar panelling with plaster above. Dean Kitchin was of opinion that all this panelling was the wainscot from the monks' frater reerected here by Dean Sudbury when he converted the frater into the chapter library, (fn. 107) and if so it dates from 1518. The tracery of the wainscot was from time to time replaced by sham work in painted putty or plaster, but has since been restored in oak. (fn. 108) Modern doorways on the west side of the inner hall open to the Chapter Library and to the passage to the kitchen. The Great Hall had a buttery attached to it, but its position cannot be accurately located; it may have been to the south-west of the Hall, approximately where the modern butler's pantry, built by Dean Waddington over the passage to the cloister, now stands.
The GATEHOUSE, on the east side of the abbey garth, still remains in a very perfect condition, though restored. The gateway proper is set in the middle of the entrance passage, and has the usual greater and lesser doorways. The outer porch, as well as the gate hall, has a vaulted roof of quadripartite form with ridge ribs and tiercons, the boss in the porch being carved with the arms of the See of Durham, borne by an angel, while that of the inner compartment has the badge of Prior Castell. Each compartment has a wall arcade of three plain chamfered arches, and the great arch at each end of the entrance passage is a pointed one of two continuous chamfered orders. The upper story is lighted at each end by a four-centred three-light window with vertical tracery, and terminates in a flat-pitched gable. Both windows are modern restorations, and the upper part of the walling is much rebuilt. On the east side, facing the Bailey, are two empty canopied niches—one on each side of the window. (fn. 109) In the room over the archway Castell renewed the former chapel of St. Helen and the sleeping room of its priest. After the Dissolution the room was used for a long time as the exchequer of the Dean and Chapter, (fn. 110) and it is now the treasury. On the north side of the Gatehouse was a building containing a loft, where the children of the Almery 'had diet' at the cost of the convent. The loft had a 'long porche over the stairhead, slated over, and at either side of the porch or entry there was a stair to go up to it and a stable underneath it.' (fn. 111) After the Dissolution this building was converted into a dwelling-house for the first prebendary of the sixth stall, when the stairs were taken down and the stable made into a kitchen. (fn. 112)
The CHAMBERLAIN'S EXCHEQUER was to the north-west of the Gatehouse. It was rebuilt as the residence of the prebendary of the first stall, and again in part by Dr. J. Bowles (1712–21). (fn. 113) The chamberlain 'kept a tailor daily at work in a shop underneath the Exchequer,' and at the back was a walled garden called Paradise. An infirmary for lay folk with its own chapel stood outside the monastery gate. (fn. 114)