The main abbey buildings were arranged round a cloister on the south side of the church.
Sheltered from cold north winds they would catch the sun. The cloister walks or alleys, marked out by the gravel paths, enclosed a garden and linked the adjoining buildings.
The north alley, next to the church, was the sunniest and warmest place for reading, study or the copying of manuscripts. Cellarers' accounts record the purchase of rush mats to improve its comfort. This was also a processional route into the church through a doorway at its western end.
The earliest cloister alleys had simple lean-to or pentice roofs. They were rebuilt in the 12th century, still with open arcades, cold and draughty in winter. From the mid-13th century traceried windows replaced these, and the cloister roofs were stone vaulted. Opposite on the surviving west range you can see remains of the arcades. The first two bays on the left are the earliest and date from the late 13th century. Those to the right belong to a further modernisation and rebuilding in the 15th century.
As part of the extensive works at the abbey the duchess of Cleveland laid out an elaborate formal garden here in the 19th century.
( photo caption )
- A reconstruction of the north cloister alley in
the 13th century. It shows monks working on manuscripts.