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Archaeologia Cantiana -
Vol. 93 1977 page 38
Excavations on the Site of Leeds Priory.
Part I - THE CHURCH By P. J. Tester, F.S.A.
From the east side of the north-east pier there projected a
surviving length of the north wall of the Norman presbytery, standing 2 ft.
6 in. above the original floor level. Unfortunately, its eastward extension
could not be followed as it appeared to have been completely robbed out in
the course of later alterations.
The north wall of the twelfth-century north aisle of the nave
was found below later floor levels and its ashlar-bonded junction with the
north transept was observed. Part of what appeared to have been an external
buttress was noted although its position did not coincide with any likely
bay intervals of the nave.
Absence of any trace of the nave pillars makes it impossible to
estimate accurately the number of bays although it may be assumed that they
were narrower and therefore more numerous than the five bays of the
Decorated rebuilding. The south pier arcade must have occupied the same
alignment as its successor.
The main deficiency in our knowledge of the Norman church is in
regard to its layout east of the transepts. Evidence at present available
indicates that there was a presbytery flanked by aisles, with the addition
of a pair of short apsidal chapels. Most likely the presbytery was apsidal
and probably of no great projection, the western part of its side walls
being solid, as shown by excavated remains.
Rebuilding of the Nave
Early in the fourteenth century a reconstruction of the nave took place.
The opening between the north aisle and the transept was blocked and
plastered over on the eastern side A new arcade of five bays was then built
on an alignment some distance north of its Norman predecessor. The outer
wall of the new aisle had buttresses which are assumed to have coincided
with the positions of the piers. Only in the eastern bay could actual traces
of a pier be observed by an impression of the square plinth in the mortar of
the sleeper foundation, but the base of the eastern respond was well
preserved (Plate VIIA). It possessed a marble2 bench on its south
and west sides and the chamfered lower part of the plinth was of the same
material. From its form it may be deduced that the arcade piers were
octafoil in plan, with four major foils separated by lesser shafts, a
conclusion confirmed by the discovery of a complete capital of the same size
and form elsewhere on the site and almost certainly derived from the nave
arcade (Fig. 3, no. 1).
Communication between the transept and the new aisle was
2 The word ‘marble’ is used
throughout this report for shelly ‘Paludina’ Limestone of Wealden origin
much used in medieval buildings for decorative purposes. Dr. R. P. S.
Jefferies informs me that the fossil fresh-water shells which used to be
called Paludina are now recognized as Viviparus. The stone is sometimes
called Sussex Marble.
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