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other works which the antiquary and architect will remember with gratitude and satisfaction, were the substantial repair of the great tower from the top to the bottom; the renewal of the transverse arches of the side aisles of the nave; the reconstruction of a great portion of the groining of the western cloisters that fell in the year 1822; and the application of an impervious floor to the roofless dormitory, whereby the cloisters belowthree hundred feet in length--were fortified against the percolation of the water that imminently threatened their destruction. Meanwhile, however, the velvet surface of the sward within and around the walls never induced suspicion of the wreck that existed below ; and even when an accumulation of rubbish was removed from the inside of the tower, the south aisle of the nave, the frater house, and other parts of the building, the old fictitious level was scrupulously maintained. Indeed, the antiquary searching diligently for portions of the structure which he was, inferentially, assured must have existed, could never have dreamed, as he gazed on the verdant lawn that disappointed his inquiry, that, even then, he was standing on the spot, with doorways, and windows, and massy walls, often sunk eight feet helow.
Among other places on the south side of the abbey, where the natural dip of the valley towards the river particularly favoured the accumulation of rubbish, without offence or suspicion to a careless eye, was one especially, at the south-east angle of the Lady Chapel, occupying a space about 300 ft. long and 180 wide, partly gained by covering the river Skell with four arches or tunnels, which have been immemorially 'matted over with trees and brushwood. From a general plan of arrangement evident in the Cistercian houses, supported by particular local inferences, derived from the records of the abbey, I have been induced, for some years past, to point out this as the site of the abbot's house, in opposition to the received idea that the hospitium, on the western side of the new cloister, had been appropriated to that purpose, and stated my reasons for this belief to the members of the Archæological Institute who visited the abbey in July, 1846. Beyond this, however, nothing was proposed or ascertained until November, 1848, when the Earl de Grey, who, fortunately for the lovers of antiquity, has recently come into possession of the abbey, directed that a portion of the watercourses or tunnels, which had fallen many years ago, should be repaired. The removal of part of the superincumbent soil being consequently necessary, a fragment of an Early English pavement was discovered, which indicated the important character of
the ruined mass, and, in some degree, corroborated the position I had maintained.
After some further trial of the rubbish, which varied in depth from three to six feet, his lordship immediately directed that an excavation of the whole site of the house should be undertaken. During its progress, it soon became evident, that when Proctor had required materials for the erection of Fountains Hall, in the time of James I., the whole of the noble pile had been pulled down as near the foundations as the rubbish accumulated in the work of destruction would allow. In several places, indeed, the foundation had been reached, and no elevation of masonry suffered to remain that rose above the height of four or five feet. Even the floors were torn up, and nothing was intentionally left on the site except such stones as, from their quality, form, or size, were unfit for further use. As the jambs of the doors and windows, groining ribs, brackets, string courses, and other ornamental portions of the building were, doubtless, best adapted to form grout work in the construction of the new hall, no particular traces of these ravages can be observed there, unless the string course, above the lowest tier of windows, has been removed from some Tudor portion of the older edifice.
For those who can recall his sad eventful history, whose restless ambition thus ravaged learth and altar alike, it is difficult, while contemplating the wreck of this ancient home, where, for three centuries, so much worth reposed, and benevolence and hospitality were diffused, to forget that a woe hath been denounced against him that “ buildeth his house by iniquity and his chambers by wrong," or to solve, antipapally, that motto on his purchase-deed of the estate, “ HODIE MIHI, CRAS TIBI.”
As far as remains enable us to judge, the building of this noble house was undertaken by the Abbot John de Cancia, who sat from 1219 to 1247, after he had completed the choir and Lady Chapel of the Conventual Church. We cannot, of course, conclude, merely from his name-derived, doubtless, from the county whence he came--that he had studied architecture in the school of Canterbury, but the fact that he was elected to the abbacy when abbot John was elevated to the see of Ely, and the building of the choir was then the great work of the house, is not worthless testimony to the fame of his acquirements. It is certain, however, from records of the abbey, that he finished the choir and Lady Chapel, and laid down the pictum pavimentum” of the church; that he erected also the new cloister, the infirmary, and the houses for the entertainment of wayfarers
con DD of Canteabbot Johthoir
works which still remain to challenge for him a high position among the best architects of his time. I have seen all that remains of him in his grave, and if the principles of the phrenologists may be received, his skull exhibits corresponding evidence of his intellect and benevolence. During the time in which this great man presided over the house its wealth and reputation were nearly at their height, and the sweeping donations it had received from the Percys, and Mowbrays, and Romilles, together with the immunities and franchises it had gained from popes and kings, bad enabled its inmates to realize their architectural designs on the largest scale. Until this time, when the buildings of the monastery only were completed, the abbot was perhaps satisfied with a residence of wood and plaster, as, indeed, the lodgings of the Prior of Bolton seem to have remained to the time of the Reformation.
The ruins of the house are situated at the south-east angle of the Lady Chapel-a situation dictated, apparently, by a general regulation, but unlikely, in this instance, either to promote cheerfulness or contentment in its inmates. They enjoyed, indeed, a few glimpses of the morning sun; but during the rest of the day were doomed to the sombre shade of the wonded steep which rose far above their roof; and the glorious sunsets down the picturesque Skell-worth the pilgrimage of many a mile to behold—were shut out by the lofty buildings of the convent that filled the bosom of the valley. This particular situation, however, was not obtained without an immense outlay of time and labour ; for Skelldale being, at this point, extremely contracted, and the river incapable of diversion, the only resource of the monks was to construct the house above the river, and four parallel tunnels or water courses, supporting the foundations, still attest their perseverance and skill.
With an inconsiderable exception, the whole house rested on these tunnels, each arch being ten feet high and as many wide. Their original direction, occasioned by the very precipitous character of the southern bank of the river, is north-east, for the space of about seventy feet; but they then turn full east, and so continue for the space of 197 feet and upwards, for the extremities are broken down. The main walls of the house were arranged with reference to the piers of these tunnels, the influence being particularly visible in the ground plan of the Refectory and adjacent apartments. The sides of these tunnels, based, like some parts of the abbey, on a rock, are of good ashlar work; but their semicircular arches are constructed of coursed rubble, and
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recently have required much repair, in consequence of the percolation of moisture and the vibration of large trees above. But though.the construction of the house above the river might originally be attended with inconvenience, yet the facilities of drainage, ventilation, and cleanliness, were not the least advantages it acquired ; and there are, consequently, many apertures and communications from the ground floor to the river, though their purpose has not been uniform, as I will show when I describe the localities where they are found.
The character of the abbot's house, like that of the abbey, has been plain and substantial, depending more on the amount and combination of the main outlines than on the elaborate decoration of parts. In amplitude of dimension, indeed, it far exceeded it; and at the time of its foundation was probably the most spacious house in the kingdom, erected irrespective of military occupation or defence. To this general immunity from assault, and freedom from combination with agricultural buildings, rather than the restricted capability of its site, may be attributed that disregard of a concentric or quadrangular arrangement which suggested a ground plan, having more respect to a Guild or Common-hall, not obnoxious to military assault, than to the embattled houses in which the feudal contemporaries and associates of the abbots were compelled to seek defence and security, in the turbulence of the times. It may be, therefore, both from its extent and antiquity, ihe most interesting example of a class of houses, hitherto insufficiently recognised in the history of our domestic architecture, of which, however few exist even in tolerable perfection, yet many would contribute, by the excavation of their ruins, to the history of architectural and social progress, as well as to the interest of the conventual structures to which they have appertained.
The ground plan will explain the arrangement of the house and its connexion with the abbey better than any verbal description I can adopt; and I need only add that it must either have been very commodious, or the domestic economy invariable, for it seems to have remained unaltered until that era of social change which heralded the sixteenth century, when one of those architectural reformers of the house-Abbot Darnton or Huby-built a spacious Refectory, and formed several apartments, by dividing the aisles of the great hall, which decreased simplicity of manners had rendered of unnecessary dimensions.
According to the usual Cistercian arrangement, dictated by the necessity of easy and immediate communication with the
monastery, and enforced, in this instance, by the peculiar contraction of the site, the chief, or state approach to the house was from the east side of the cloister court of the abbey. The intervention of the base court, with its unsightly accompaniments, demanding the deference of dignity to convenience, the communication was effected by a corridor, which reeling towards the south, in consequence of its junction at right angles with the house, faced a plain but once curiously painted doorway of the frater-house, instead of that which led to it from the cloistercourt, and occasioned a space between it and the chapter-house, so slovenly kept that an ash-heap was found there at the time of the excavation. After entering the house, the passage assumed a somewhat more spacious character, and, at least on the upper south and lower north side, was lighted and enriched, like the corridor, by an open, Early English, trefoil-headed arcade, supported on double cylindrical shafts, placed one above the other, on a plain flat base, not coursed, on the south side indeed, horizontally, but with reference to the swift inclination of the floor. At a subsequent period, however, doubt has been entertained of the security of the superstructure; and, besides the application of external support, the void space has been filled at intervals with masonry, on a plane with the centre of the inner shafts. This work, of which a tolerably perfect member remains only, on a kind of level half pace at the north-western extremity, must have been one of the most remarkable features of the house : indeed if it was erected, as I presume, by John de Cancia, it probably was suggested to him by the now unique staircase to the guest-hall at Canterbury, which, however, it must have far exceeded, both in length, reduplication of parts, and picturesque effect, occasioned by irregular insertion of the lights. To the aged and infirm occupants of the house, this ascent, amounting in the whole length of the passage to not less than seven feet, and caused by the elevation of the abbot's residence above the river, has presented, at least, no annoyance by the intervention of steps; for though its pavement has not been discovered, the substratum, and the base-line of the arcade proved that it had been only regulated by an inclined plane. Nearly midway the passage, another branches from it, northward, towards the Lady Chapel of the Abbey Church, opposite to which an equally capacious doorway opened into a space used at the time of the dissolution as a coal yard, but bearing evidence in its alteration and contraction that it was thus only intended to serve a subsequent arrangement.