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Fountains Abbey: 11. Lay brothers' accommodation and bridge

(54°6′35″N, 1°34′56″W)
Fountains Abbey: 11. Lay brothers' accommodation and bridge
SE 274 683
  • Rita Wood
17 Jul 2001, 14 Aug 2001, 14 Jul 2002

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The lay-brothers' buildings were grouped to the SW of the cloister. The W range of the cloister was largely an area where they were active, and the S end of it was their refectory; their dormitory was above. The W range is dealt with in a separate report.

The infirmary bridge connected the abbey to its local orchard and farm areas south of the river (Coppack 1993, 78-97). The bridge is 'a rare survival, for few bridges of [the twelfth century] still exist in this country. Its three ribbed arches are separated by triangular cutwaters both upstream and downstream. Its parapets are of later date' (Gilyard-Beer 1970, 69, 74). It has no sculpture. The lower parts of the bridge are likely to be contemporary with the buildings that bridged the Skell, if not earlier.

The lay-brothers' infirmary was an aisled hall six bays long and on two floors. Like the W range, it bridges the Skell by four parallel vaulted tunnels. Only the N wall is standing, this has three plain round-headed windows above and a round-headed doorway below (Gilyard-Beer 1970, 68-9). The only sculpture is a capital on the N respond of one of the two arcades; it is octagonal, has a hollow chamfer and deeply moulded impost. The surviving pier base is similarly plain and octagonal. The three windows lit the upper floor; outside, these have a heavy string course, chamfered inside and out, continuous all round and terminating on the sill with a plain quadrant stop. Inside, the three windows are connected by a continuous string course which is plain and chamfered, probably both inside and out; it only runs round the head of the windows.

The lay-brothers' rere-dorter was connected to both the infirmary and the late twelfth-century S end of the W range; it also bridged the Skell. There is a large corbelled projection, perhaps supporting a staircase from the infirmary, there is also a series of nine arches at the S, ground level, entrance to the latrines, these are plain, continuous and chamfered.

A cloister was provided for the lay brothers on the outer side of the W range, somewhere between the W end of the nave and the lay brothers' day stairs (cellarer's office). It had a similar arcade to that of the galilee on the W facade of the church, but with single bases and columns. The single columns alternated in round or octagonal forms (Robinson and Harrison 2007, 181-2; fig. 30).

For further information, see report for Fountains Abbey, church.


The lay-brothers' rere-dorter, or latrine block, was probably an early work of the abbacy of Richard III, 1150-70 (Coppack 1993, 43-4).

The lay-brothers' infirmary, and its bridging of the river Skell, followed the extension of their refectory. It is some of the latest work relevant to this Corpus, Glyn Coppack describing it as 'a development in the Early English style that was to become the hallmark of Abbot Pipewell's buildings' in the south range of the cloister (1993, 49).


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features

Vaulting/Roof Supports


G. Coppack, The English Heritage Book of Fountains Abbey (London, 1993).

R. Gilyard-Beer, Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire (HMSO, 1970).