J C Dickinson, The Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, 1956  Chapters 4-6 (‘Archaeological’)

Chapter 4 The Church and Cloisters [Page 71] THE architectural history of the priory of Walsingham cannot as yet be written with anything like the detail desirable, partly because very little documentary evidence concerning it has so far been discovered, but principally because the site has not been scientifically excavated. If the poem quoted above can be believed, the priory was quickly destroyed, and certainly no drawing or print has survived to show substantially more of the remains than are visible today. The earliest re-presentations of the ruins that the writer has been able to discover are the engraving by Van der Gucht after Bardslade (1720) and the well-known East View by Buck (1738),1 the former giving no useful information not found in Buck. From these it seems that the church was much in its present condition at that date2 and, as far as can be seen, not much more remained of the monastic buildings, though a useful sketch of later date shows a few remains of the south end of the western range, and gives a little extra information about the refectory.3 Much of the present house was built some-where in the very late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, for a writer in 1814 notes that the then owner ‘Henry Lee Warner Esq. has built a mansion here, on   1  Plate 1. 2 Buck shows some remains at the south-east angle of the cloister not now visible. They are probably not very accurately depicted, though the remains of the eastern range north of the passage may well have been more considerable then than now. 3 Below, 89.    [Page 72] THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS the site of the priory’,1 but it evidently incorporates a good deal of earlier work. A reference, evidently of 1790, to ‘the avenues of trees and shrubs’ suggests that the layout of the site was then what it had been in Buck’s day.2 But in 1814 Britton thought fit to dedicate his plate of the eastern gable of the priory to ‘John Haverfield Esq., who has displayed much taste in laying out the grounds around these ruins’,3 and it is probable that not a little levelling of the site occurred at this time which involved at least the demolition of the scanty remains of the western range.4  In 1853–4 a series of excavations was carried out. They appear to have involved clearing the extreme western end of the church and of the area around the eastern part of its north wall, and the running of two understandably unhelpful trenches north from the church. The first report of these was given by the Rev. J. Lee Warner in the Archaeological Journal for 18565 which was supplemented by Henry Harrod in his Gleanings among the Castles and Convents of Norfolk,6 both of which have plans worthy of study. A large but very rough plan of the same excavations is preserved at the Abbey House. Harrod refers to a plan of excavations made ‘nearly a quarter of a century ago. . . by a person in the employment of Mr Lee Warner, of the name of Grannan’,7 but I have been unable to get any further information about this.  The cartulary gives no useful indications about the original buildings, though, as we have seen, it records the purchase of certain property in the town to permit   1 J. Britton, The Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain (1814), iv, 104. 2 G. J. Parkyns, Monastic and Baronial Remains (2 vols. 1816), 1, 2. 3 Op. cit. iv, 103. 4 Below, 89. 5 xiii (1856), 115-34. 6 (Norwich, 1857), 154-97.  7 Op. cit. 170.   [Page 73] THE ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY an enlargement of the priory precinct. Only the slightest clues can be found elsewhere. A late twelfthcentury seal of the priory has survived in the British Museum1 and bears on one side a simple representation of a cruciform church with a central tower and round-headed arches and windows. This is the sort of building that one would have expected to have existed at Walsingham at the time, but it would be unwise to assume that the seal gives more than a rough representation of the church. The only stone recognizable as of this date so far discovered on the site is a loose compound waterleaf capital which belongs to the late twelfth century.2 At the time of writing it is in the small garden by the pond, but nothing is known of its original position. The next oldest relic is the round-headed doorway in the garden east of the church. This is of two orders though the detached shafts have gone.3 The rather sophisticated mouldings, which include dog-tooth ornament, suggest that it belongs to the early years of the thirteenth century; it should be noted that this archway is not in its original position.4  The first clear reference to the architectural history of the priory occurs in 1232, when the Close Rolls for the year record that the king had ordered the sheriff to supply the prior of Walsingham with forty oak trees to make beams (cheverones) for the work on his church.5 Two years later the king had sent the house ten oaks from his forest in Colchester and another ten from Newcastle upon Tyne to make a certain building (camera) as the gift of the king’.6 In our present state of know-ledge it is not possible to assess the significance of these   1 Below, 108. 2 Plate 7(a). 3 Plate 3(b). 4 Below, 94-5. 5 C.C.R. (1231-4), 82. 6 Ibid. 379.   [Page 74]  THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS two entries. The first certainly suggests building or repair operations, but their precise nature is not clear. As the present buildings at Cartmel, Lanercost, Hexham and Brinkburn show us, it was by no means unusual for the lesser houses of Austin canons to require fifty years or more to erect their permanent churches. In view of the smallness of Walsingham in its early years it is not impossible that the priory did not acquire all its subsidiary buildings until a good half century or more after its foundation. If we place our faith in the seal we must conclude that the 1232 grant refers to some minor work. What the building was to which the 1 234 entry refers can only be guessed at. It may well have belonged to the outer court and does not sound as if it was a place of importance.  It is a little surprising that the Chancery enrolments for the late thirteenth century have so far yielded no clear information regarding building at the priory at this time; there is no doubt that this took place, for the present remains of the western tower and the refectory can be roughly assigned to the later years of Edward I (1272-1307).1 It is possible that the adjoining cloister (now vanished) had been constructed a little earlier, as there are in the stables two twin caps of what was almost certainly the cloister arcade, and which belong to about the middle years of the century. It is worth noting that the plan of the priory, as shown in the air photograph, suggests an extensive rebuilding of the cloister that probably dates from the late thirteenth century, and it may explain why the priory was seriously in debt in 1280.2 It was the all but invariable medieval practice for the east range of the cloister to be aligned on the central tower, where this existed. At Walsingham,   1 Below, 89. 2 Above, 23.    [Page 75]  MEDIEVAL REBUILDING however, we find the range lying half a bay to the east of this.l It is difficult to avoid the conjecture that the priory had a small eastern range in the normal position but, desiring to increase the size of the cloister and its buildings, the canons built an entirely new set of buildings immediately to the east of the old ones. It is not clear why this course was followed, instead of the more usual one of extending the cloister on its western side. That this change took place originally in the late thirteenth century is suggested principally by the refectory, which is of this period and was clearly designed to fit the south side of the enlarged cloister. In the writer’s opinion it is likely that the first priory church and cloister were finished by the early years of the thirteenth century and that the former was of the simple cruciform type portrayed on the seal. In the middle and later decades of the same century, following the rapid growth in Walsingham’s fame under Henry III, the size of the convent increased and an enlarged cloister was begun, evidently working eastward, contrary to usual practice. As we shall see, the capitals from the north-west corner of the cloister belong to the middle of the century, the western tower and refectory to a generation or so later, and the south end of the eastern range to the early fourteenth century.  However this may be, there is no doubt about the date of the next building phase, probably the most splendid in the history of the priory, involving the extensive rebuilding of the church. The list of canons already mentioned opens with the note: ‘Be it remembered that in the year of [our] Lord one thousand three hundred and eighty-four John Snoryng was the 13th   1 See Plate 3 (a). Projection of a lantern slide of this leaves little doubt about this unusual arrangement.   [Page 76] THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS prior of Walsygham [sic], John Ieryngham alias Waryn was subprior and the principal assistant over the building of our church.’1 Now the famous eastern gable of the church could be assigned to about the priorate of Snoring (1374—c. 1401) on archaeological grounds alone, though it was evidently begun a little earlier; for in 136o Lady Clare left bequests ‘a 1’overaigne de 1’église de Walsingham’,2 and Sir Thomas Uvedale in his will of 1367 left 10 marks for work on the choir of Walsingham.3 The list also shows that work on the furnishing of the church was going on at this time. It is noted of the canon Thomas Lynne that ‘with his own hands he assisted the craftsmen of the high altar’,4 whilst one John Yarmouth, subprior (presumably the canon of that name mentioned in 1383),5 had the roof of the body of the church painted and the chapel of St Nicholas with the image (‘tabula’) therein.6 This evidence, adequate in itself, is supported by a reference in 1385 to the chapel of St Anne newly built by the said prior and convent within the said monastery’.7 Of the chancel built at this time the principal relic is the eastern gable as already noted; a large gargoyle, shaped like a lion’s head8 and now in the small garden near the wells, from its size and style may well have belonged to this date and place. The only other building reference in the list concerns the making of a library by William Lynne who evidently flourished in the time of Prior Hunt (1437-74).9 A few other isolated references of interest in this connexion have survived. In 1437 we have   1 Below, 136. 2 Above, 36. 3 Surrey Arch. Coll. iii, 151, ‘lego decem marcas fabricae chori ecclesiae de Walsingham’. 4 Below, 136. 5 Above, 29. 6 Below, 136. 7 C.P.R. (1381-5), 557-8. 9 Plate 7(c). 9 Below, 137.   [Page 77] WILLIAM OF WORCESTER’S NOTES mention of the chapel of St Thomas within the precincts of the priory of Walsingham’.1 Half a century later—in 1193—Bishop Alcock of Ely granted an indulgence to all who hear mass at the Cheyney altar in Walsingham Priory for the souls of Sir John Cheyney, Lady Agnes his wife and certain others.2 The episcopal visitation of 1514 refers to ‘the building commonly called the halibred house’,3 and we also hear of a treasury here4—an obvious necessity with so many valuables about. It is to be hoped that future research will greatly augment the above, very scrappy, documentary evidence on the history of the building of the priory.  Two valuable supplementary sources for a knowledge of the final plan of the church and cloisters should be mentioned. An air photograph has shown very clearly much of the foundations of the church and cloister5 and provides a useful supplement to the measurements of the church recorded by William of Worcester. William toured Norfolk in 14796 and the considerable accuracy of his notes on the Franciscan friary at Walsingham was shown when that site was excavated.7 His notes on the priory of Our Lady are as follows :  The length of the new building of Walsyngham consists of 16 yards, its width below the platform of i o yards. The length of the chapel of blessed Mary consists of 7 yards 30 inches, its width of 4 yards to inches. The length of the whole church of Walsingham as far as the beginning of the chancel consists of 136 paces, its breadth of 36 paces. The length of the nave from the west door as far as the belfry in the middle of the church consists of 70 paces. The crossing or belfry   1 Norwich Epis. Reg. xv, fo. 11r, ‘capella sancti Thome infra precinctum prioratus de Walsyngham’. 2 Ely, Epis. Reg. Alcock, fo. 93. 3 Norwich Visitations, 117. 4 Ibid. 147. 5 Plate 3(a). 6 Itineraria ... Willelmi de Worcestre (ed. J. Nasmith, 1778), 303 ff., 312.  7  A. R. Martin, Franciscan Architecture in England (1937), 130.   [Page 78]  THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS  area consists of 16 paces each way. The width of the nave of the church alone without the two aisles is 16 paces. The length of the cloister, which is completely square, 54 paces. The length of the Chapiterhouse alone consists of 20 paces and its breadth 10 paces, but the length of the portico of the Chapiterhouse from the cloister consists of 10 paces, thus totalling 30 paces.1   The combination of these two sources with the evidence of excavations and visible remains makes it possible to construct a reasonably accurate general plan of the church and adjacent buildings.2    The GATEHOUSE remains, though it has lost its original roof and parapet. It is considerably smaller than that of many monasteries of similar size, comparing unfavourably in this respect, for example, with the gatehouse of such less wealthy, East Anglian Austin priories as Pentney, Butley and St Osyth. This is almost certainly due to the fact that Walsingham Priory did not, as was usual, own the local court, and therefore had no need for the large room over the gateway which   1 Itin. Willelmi de Worc. 335—6: WALSINGHAM. longitudo noui operis de Walsyngham continet 16 virgas. latitudo continet infra aream. 10 virgas. longitudo capelle beate marie continet 7 virgas 30 pollices. latitudo continet 4 virgas 10 pollices. longitudo tocius Ecclesie de Walsyngham usque ad principium cancelle continet 136 gressus. latitudo eius continet 36 gressus. longitudo navis ab occidentali porta usque ad campanile in medio Ecclesie continet 70 gressus. Intersticium siue spacium campanilis continet 16 gressus quadrate.  latitudo proprie nauis Ecclesie preter 2 elas continet 16 gressus.  longitudo Claustri ex omni parte quadrate continet 54 gressus.  longitudo propria de le Chapiterhous continet 20 gressus, latitudo  eius continet 10 gressus sed longitudo introitus do le chapiter hous  a claustro continet 30 gressus; sic in toto continet 30 gressus.  2 See Plan, facing p. 106.   [Page 79] THE GATEHOUSE AND PORTER’S LODGE normally served as a court house. The date of the present building is not certain, but architectural evidence suggests it was built about the first half of the fifteenth century. The porter’s lodge adjoins it on the north side.  Entrance is through a single archway, which, by an unusual arrangement, has the door set across the middle, with a shallow, single bay sloping outward on either side of it; both bays have lost their original vault but retained the springers. In the north wall of the outer bay is a small window, whilst on the same wall of the inner bay are the remains of a small doorway with shouldered head, now blocked up. Both arches of the gateway have wave mouldings with a sunk chamfer and three-quarter hollows and have four-pointed heads. Above the outer one are three plain shields set in square panels and surmounted by a dripstone, on either side of which are two large canopied niches, devoid of statues. Two grotesque human figures project from north-east and north-west corners of the wall and another from a quatrefoil below the middle of the parapet. Between the latter and the row of shields are curious perforated stone panels. The room over the archway is very plain and has a modern roof. Its west wall has a flue with a much altered fireplace. At its northern end and in a corresponding position in the opposite wall are squints terminating in quatrefoils, giving views down either end of High Street. The eastern wall of the gatehouse has in its centre a large square window with a transom and mullion; its soffit is scalloped and has over it some four-petal ornament. Outside on either side of this window are two canopied niches similar to those already mentioned; beneath is a large, plain, stone shield. The workmanship is notably inferior to that of the remains of the church and cloister.   [Page 80] THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS  The PORTER’S LODGE adjoins the gatehouse on the north side. It is approached from the precinct by a small door-way in a wall, which, like its entrance doorway, has a four-centred arch; the latter has an elaborate drip-moulding. Inside, a vice leads up to the first floor on the left and to the living-room on the right. The original windows of the ground floor of the lodge have gone, but its first floor retains two windows, of one and of three trefoil-headed lights respectively, both with moulded dripstones. The present roof is modern.  From the gatehouse the ground slopes steadily down to the site of the church. There is no doubt that horticultural operations at various dates have greatly interfered with original levels here. Buck’s print of the abbey’ shows that by his day (1738) formal gardens had been laid out, with hedges circling the gable end of the church. The accounts by Harrod and Lee Warner make it clear that gardening operations obstructed their research in 1853–4 whilst as late as 1879 it was noted that ‘the site of the renowned sanctuary of Our Ladye has recently been deeply buried beneath a terraced parterre’.2  The plan given by Lee Warner3 shows foundations running from the south end of the western wall of the church towards the gatehouse. This is just possibly part of a porch but is more likely to have been part of a wall separating the buildings from land on the south of the church (which were given over to the convent) from that to the north which was open to the public. The visitor would enter by the great gate, proceed to the church, and thence to the Lady chapel on the north side of the nave and the chapel of St Laurence to the east.   1 Plate 1. 2 Waterton, Op. cit. 220. 3 Op. cit. 115.   [Page 81]  THE PRIORY CHURCH  Little remains of the CHURCH above ground but it is possible to get a good idea of its plan.1 The combination of available sources shows a rectangular church some 250 feet long by 70 feet broad with a short unaisled east end. This is by no means the normal plan for a house of Austin canons and excavation of this part of the site is highly desirable. From the scanty evidence at present available it would appear that the rebuilt church had transepts flush with the aisles and not projecting beyond them. This is a highly unusual feature, though a similar arrangement is found at Glasgow Cathedral c. 126o, and Holy Trinity, Hull, half a century later, has transepts which project only very slightly.2 There is a superficial resemblance between the plan of Walsingham and that of the great friars’ churches of the period but this cannot be pushed too far, as the replacement of a crossing in the latter by a narrow passage with a small belfry overhead inevitably leads to a tendency to abandon the transept.  In this connexion we should remind ourselves that Walsingham, though a great pilgrimage centre, was maintained by a comparatively small convent3 which would not need the additional altar space provided by transepts in an enlarged church. The large nave would accommodate the flood of pilgrims and would contain ample space for the various private altars likely to be endowed at a place of this sort.  As we have seen, it is at least likely that a small transeptal church was originally built here; but only excavation can solve this question. The foundations of a    1 See Plan, facing p. 106.  2 I am indebted to Mr John Harvey for drawing my attention to these parallels.  3 The brethren of Walsingham numbered between twenty and thirty as compared with about seventy at the shrine of St Thomas of Canterbury.   [Page 82] THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS central tower show very clearly on the air photograph and their existence is confirmed by William of Worcester’s reference to the belfry in the middle of the church’. Remains of another belfry tower at the west end can still be seen. Twin axial towers of this type, though rare, are not unknown in medieval England, and this particular instance finds very close parallels in the neighbouring Benedictine abbeys of Bury St Edmunds and Ely with later ones at Wymondham and St Benet’s, Hulme. There were, apparently, four bays east of the central tower and five west of it, including the one occupied by the western tower. The normal screen would divide the conventual choir from the nave and one may suspect that this occupied the western piers of the central tower, as anything further east would have exposed the main entrance to the cloister to public view. It should be remembered that Walsingham, unlike many houses of Austin canons, was not parochial, and that therefore the altar before the screen was not strictly a parish altar. As we shall see, the relic of the ‘Holy Milk of Blessed Mary’ was preserved at the high altar.l Such a position was clearly a convenient one, being on the pilgrims’ way from the main western entrance of the church to the chapel of St Laurence, which lay to the east.2  The only remains of the church above ground are the extreme eastern end of the chancel and the bases of the western tower. The former has lost the tracery of its once magnificent east window but its frame and the gable remain, the latter having a curious, small, circular window with its tracery in its head. In either angle is a stone vice opening into the church. Each corner is supported by a pair of buttresses set at right angles to the wall. These are of three stages, the outer face having   1 Below, 91. 2 See Plan, facing p. 106.   [Page 83]  THE EAST END OF THE CHURCH large niches with heavily cusped ogee heads surmounted by crocketed gables; the niches have bases for statues, though it is uncertain whether these were ever added. The outer wall space between these faces is panelled with the fine local flint work; the lower stage has blind arches of two lights with a quatrefoil in each triangular canopied head; the canopies have crockets and finials. The two upper stages are panelled into lights with cusped heads of a rather later style. In the more westerly of the northern buttresses is a small aumbry, similar to one in the parish church, evidently reset, as it is now in what was an external face.  In the excavations a century ago much of the eastern part of the north wall of the church was uncovered, and there were found on the north side of the second bay, west of the north aisle, remains of what is described as ‘a porch or vestibule, in one corner of which there still exists in situ a red and yellow glazed tile, a portion of its chequered pavement’;1 the foundations of this projection show up clearly in the air photograph. We are also told that the wall of the church at this point was ‘formed below the ground line with a massive arch, turned to a span of 6 feet, apparently the entrance to a vault or crypt beneath the original pavement of the church. It is filled with loose mould and circumstances did not permit an exploration of its interior:2 If this projection was a porch, which is likely enough, it was probably built primarily to provide access from the church to the chapel of St Laurence and to the wells which lay east of the church and perhaps to the cemetery (which may have been on the northeast). This necessitated the convent opening the north side of the chancel to the public; but this would not be much of an   1 Arch. Journ. xiii, 122. 2 Ibid.    [Page 84]  THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS added inconvenience since one of the relics venerated by the public was kept at the high altar.  Of the main body of the church nothing remains above ground. The west end had got badly overgrown by the time of the 1853 excavations and the present artificial banking-up of the level beyond the west wall of the church and the presence of a good many trees would make the examination of this area one of considerable difficulty. The work done a hundred years ago did, however, reveal ‘portions of the two western piers with the corresponding abutments of the western wall, the jambs of the western doorway and the exterior buttress’.1 The chief remains are ruins of the two southern piers which stand to the height of about 5 feet; their massiveness makes it clear that they were intended to support a western tower. They are of comparatively simple design with engaged columns separated by hollow chamfers; parts of them appear to have been slightly reset. Of the northern piers less remains and considerable signs of rebuilding are apparent. Between the piers and the nave wall were discovered foundations of some inferior walling, as also along the inside of the last bay of the south aisle; this is of uncertain, possibly post-Reformation, date. The ‘jambs of the western doorway’ are not now visible and the same applies to the signs of a small doorway in the south wall of the westernmost bay of the south aisle found in 1853- 4.2  It is clear that there was some medieval rebuilding at the western part of the church. Harrod informs us that the floor shown in the view is of the Perpendicular period and six inches above the original one, and deprives    1 Arch. Journ. xiii, 118, where a woodcut of these is given; since then the west wall has become much overgrown.  2 Ibid. 119.   [Page 85]  THE EAST RANGE OF THE CLOISTER the base of much of its beauty of proportion’,1 and the rough plan of the excavations preserved at the Abbey House shows that at least the first pillar east of the south-eastern pier of the tower was rebuilt on an older circular base. Pending excavation, we must remain uncertain whether the whole of the church was rebuilt as part of Prior Snoring’s plan (as seems likely), and also about the history of the central tower. As we shall see, the chapel of Our Lady lay on the north side of the church and was enclosed in a larger building.2    On the south side of the church lay the cloister and its attendant buildings, of which the only portions now above ground are the refectory and the south end of the east range (now built into the modern house). The layout of the whole court can be approximately ascertained with the aid of the air photograph, William of Worcester’s measurements and the rough plan preserved at the Abbey House. At the north-east angle of the EASTERN RANGE was a small, almost square building. It is not impossible that this was the sacristry, as apparently its door gave into the church. It is conceivable that over or near it was the library known to have been built by Brother William Lynn.3 The books needed in the cloister were normally kept in a special cupboard in this angle of the cloister and were read in the northern alley. Immediately to the south was the vestibule to the chapter-house; the latter lay east of the cloister range and the air photograph confirms William of Worcester’s observation that it was twice as long as it was broad, with a long vestibule. Further south, the   1 Harrod, Gleanings among the Castles and Convents of Norfolk. , 172. 2 Below, 95ff.  3 Above, 76.   [Page 86]  THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS range continued as an undercroft of three bays separated from a passage by a thin wall.  Only the southern end of the outer walls of the range remains, but the eastern side of this contains two interesting squints. Their purpose can only be guessed at, but it may not be coincidence that the northern one points directly at the site of the wells and the now vanished chapel of St Laurence. It is exactly similar in measurements to one further south in the same wall.1 South of the first squint was a partition wall (not shown in Harrod’s plan) in the thickness of which was perhaps a door leading to a passage which crossed the eastern range at this point. At either end of the passage arches remain but they have been very extensively modernized and repaired. The eastern one has a semicircular outer face but this is almost certainly modern; its inner face has remains of one order of a pointed arch, which is moulded and may well be fourteenth-century. The western arch has its jambs and eastern face heavily re-paired with modern brick but retains considerable remains of a pointed arch of two orders; this is note-worthy as being of medieval brick and has a drip-moulding formed of tiles. The mouldings are principally hollow chamfers and the arch had apparently no capitals; its date is uncertain.  South of the passage and now incorporated in the Abbey House is a fine UNDERCOFT2 having two aisles of three bays. Its vault is a quadripartite one with plain chamfered ribs and small, unpretentious bosses of early fourteenth-century character. The central pillars are octagonal. The walls have been much altered and patched. At the southern end of the aisles were two windows now also much altered: that to the east retains   1 Below, 87. 2 Plate 5.   [Page 87] THE UNDERCROFT AND SLYPE some of its original tracery but has been converted into a door; the western one retains its original sill but has been blocked up and modernized as has a similar window at the southern end of the east wall. In the south-east corner is a small door which probably originally led to a stair to the floor above. Near the southern window of the east wall is a small squint. It is of exactly the same size as the one in the continuation of this wall north of the passage, but points in the opposite direction and has been blocked on the outside; the rebate for a shutter and traces of hinges and a lock remain—its purpose is problematic. At the north end of this east wall is a small pointed doorway with a semicircular niche on either side of its inner face, probably intended to hold lights.1 The windows in the north wall are modern. The west wall of the undercroft seems to have been much patched, and has a doorway in the middle of it. This has a head of brick that may be medieval, but the jambs have been heavily modernized and are of uncertain date. The doorway leads to a vaulted passage of two narrow bays. This has remains of a doorway at its southern end, now blocked, which seems to have led into an outer court ; the north wall of the passage is modern, so one cannot be certain if there was originally another doorway here, but this is likely enough; a passage at this point would be very convenient and it is worth noting that this small vaulted chamber is known as the slype, the medieval word for a passage of this kind. There is no documentary evidence of the date of this eastern range but all the architectural details are consistent with one of about 1320-30, and it may very well form a late part of a scheme for the general rebuilding of the cloister begun in the thirteenth century.   1 Plate 5.   [Page 88]  THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS  The purpose of the undercroft south of the passage and its lost first floor cannot be certainly established, but it is not unlikely that it was used as the prior’s apartments, the ground floor providing the living-room with the stair leading to the bedroom and chapel above. It would not be surprising to find this set of rooms in the opposite (that is, western) range of the cloister, as, for example, at Bridlington and Michelham. But at Walsingham the constant influx of pilgrims into the church would doubtless make such a site noisy and inconvenient.  East of the entrance door to the undercroft are some foundations of a wall running east. South of these, to judge by the Abbey House plan, was a small rectangular building attached to the undercroft, and perhaps forming another side of a small court. The only important relic of it visible is a fine doorway with a four-centred head and shallow mouldings of fifteenth-century type, built into an inner wall of the Abbey House, but probably in situ.  Adjoining the undercroft on its western side is the monastic REFECTORY,1 most of which remains, though much of its north wall has gone and the eastern one has been refaced in modern times. This was the normal position for such a building and its purpose is made quite certain by the survival of the washing-place adjoining its main entrance (at the west end of the north wall) and the very fine refectory pulpit at the opposite end of the south wall. The latter is of three bays with boldly cusped heads and graceful, slender pillars and is little damaged. Near by, among some pseudo-Gothic work are remains of a large fifteenth-century inscription; it is in a fragmentary condition and commemorates a benefactor named   1 Plate 4(a).   [Page 89] THE REFECTORY AND WESTERN RANGE Robert, and his wife and children. There can be little doubt that the building belongs to about 1280–90 when, as we have seen, the priory was high in favour with Edward I. The south wall has two small windows, both of two lights, one having simple bar tracery, the other a large trefoil in its head. There are two doorways. One is a small plain one in the south wall which probably led to a kitchen yard. West of it are what have been taken to be remains of a hatch through which food was passed from the adjoining kitchen. The other doorway is at the west end of the north wall and is an elaborate piece of work with a series of alternate pointed and filleted rolls separated by deep hollows and having a scrollmoulded label. East of it are the damaged remains of the arcaded washing-place or lavatorium. The west wall contains a fine, late thirteenth-century window, some-what restored. Its head has one large and two small quatrefoils, beneath which are four pointed lights with uncusped heads and trefoils above. A useful sketch of the south-west angle of the cloister made in 17901 shows that the refectory had then a somewhat damaged roof and that the remains of the washing-place were covered by a leanto shed.  This drawing also depicts some slight remains of the  undercroft of the WESTERN RANGE, showing ruins of a  vault and a small nondescript doorway in the eastern wall; but these details are inadequate for dating purposes. The drawing was perhaps made before the present house was built. The erection of the latter was accompanied by more of that horticulture to the detriment of archaeology which is so melancholy a feature of Walsingham’s history, and it is probable that these    1 Parkyns, loc. cit.; cf. Blomefield, op. cit. ix, 278, who (1808) describes the building as ‘very entire with an old very good roof on it’.   [Page 90]  THE CHURCH AND CLOISTERS remains of the western range disappeared then. Little further is known of the western range of the cloister. Harrod’s plan shows it as a simple rectangular building communicating with the church by a doorway in its northern wall, which lay several inches south of the church wall and was not, as one would have expected, identical with it at this point. He assigns it to the Dec-orated period and terms it a guest hall. His reasons for so doing are not convincing, but what may well have been a guest-house at the nearby Franciscan friary was a prominent and unusual feature of its plan.1 The priory at Walsingham almost certainly had an unusually large amount of guest accommodation within the precinct, so there may have been additional space allotted for the purpose here, but this is doubtful.  Of the CLOISTER itself little is known. The plan in the Abbey House indicates its arcades by a number of blobs, but how accurate these are is not clear. In Harrod’s plan, two of the buttresses projecting into the close are shown with the foundation of the western and part of the northern cloister arcades. It is likely that this work belonged, in part at least, to the mid thirteenth century. There are at present preserved in the stables of the Abbey House two small twin capitals.2 These are probably several decades earlier than the refectory. They may well be associated with* ‘the bases and shafts of an external arcade on the south side of the west end . . .particularly early English in character’ found by Harrod.3 We have seen that the cloister was evidently extended eastward in the late thirteenth century, but these capitals probably came from the part of it which may not have been rebuilt.   *words handwritten by Dickinson in the margin of his own copy. 1 A. R. Martin, Op. cit. 135. 2 Plate 7 (b).  3 Op. cit. 158.
Chapter 5       Chapter 6
Chapter 5       Chapter 6

Dickinson 4