We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

Kirkstall Abbey: 04. Chapter House, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°49′17″N, 1°36′23″W)
Kirkstall Abbey: 04. Chapter House
SE 260 362
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now West Yorkshire
medieval York
  • Rita Wood
1 April 2010

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=2325.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


The chapter house is the chief space opening off the E side of the cloister. To the N of the chapter house was the sacristy (Kirkstall Abbey: 03. Sacristy), to the S was the parlour (Kirkstall Abbey: report 05); an archway that gave entry to the day stairs to the monks’ dormitory, and lastly, at the S end of the E wall an archway with a passage that may have led to the monks’ cemetery, and later to the infirmary and the abbot’s lodging. The first opening off this passage was to the monks’ dayroom (Kirkstall Abbey: report 06). Over the chapter house, parlour and dayroom ran the monks’ dormitory or dorter, with their rere-dorter at the S end of the range.

The chapter house is entered through an elaborate façade on the E walk. The earliest version of the interior survives as the four western bays, which formed a vestibule relatively open to the cloister. The ceiling is fairly low; it is vaulted 2 bays by 2, and is approximately 28ft (8.5m) square. An eastern space was entered up the steps and through two boldly moulded semi-circular arches; this inner room was the main area of the chapter house, which was rebuilt late in the 13thc (Hope and Bilson 1907).

The chapter house has sculpture on capitals and corbels of the facade and vaulting.

For History and Bibliography, see report Kirkstall Abbey: 01. Church.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

String courses

Interior Features

Vaulting/Roof Supports


Hope and Bilson emphasise the integral nature of the architecture of the chapter house facade. (Hope and Bilson 1907). They also describe the vault ribs in these terms: the main ribs have a large keeled roll flanked by a smaller quirked roll on each side; the diagonal ribs have a large keeled roll which is slightly narrower than the rib. Diagrams of these ribs (Hope and Bilson 1907, fig. 72) show how much detail has been lost; it is often hard to see the keel, let alone any quirks.

For the label stops along this façade, see Comments in report Kirkstall Abbey 01. Church; also Wood (2015).


W. H. St. J. Hope and J. Bilson, Architectural description of Kirkstall Abbey, Thoresby Society, vol. 16, 1907, 29-30; fig. 72.

R. Wood, 'Cistercian sculpture: Kirkstall Abbey and Elland church in the twelfth century', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 87 (2015), 65-100.