ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY -- RESEARCH
Studying and sharing Kent's past
Archaeologia Cantiana -
Vol. 93 1977 page 42
Excavations on the Site of Leeds Priory.
Part I - THE CHURCH By P. J. Tester, F.S.A.
Two parallel lead pipes were found running under the wall
beneath the position of the eastern aumbry. Their projected line would cross
the cloister garth in the direction of the layer beside the refectory
entrance — a fact of obvious significance.
Features of the west end of the nave were well preserved in
spite of having been covered by not more than a few inches of soil. The
north side of the main west entrance remained with the four marble bases of
its jamb-shafts (Plate VIIIB). The threshold had a long marble cill with a
square recess in the stone paving immediately inside, this probably relating
to a vertical draw-bar for fastening the double doors (Plate VIIIA). To the
north was a smaller doorway with a similar cill and marble bases for single
jamb-shafts on each side (Plate IXA). There were indications to suggest the
occurrence of a blind arch on the south side of the main doorway to balance
the appearance of the minor door to the north.
The central part of the west front was covered by a narrow
porch or narthex with three arches forming its west side, supported by two
pillars on quatrefoil bases (Plate XA) with trefoil-based responds at each
end of the arcade (Plate XB). In the corners of the porch were marble
bases for thin trefoil shafts suggesting strongly that the porch was
vaulted. A similar vaulted porch occurs at the west end of the fine
fourteenth-century church at Snettisham, Norfolk, where it
forms a lean-to structure like the narthex of a typical Cistercian church.
At Leeds, beyond each end of the porch was a chamber, covering the ends of
the aisles and of unknown use. Their walls appear to have been too slight to
have supported western towers. Projecting into the southern of these two
chambers was a rectangular footing, which might have formed the base for a
newel stair to a room over the porch. A chamfered plinth ran along the base
of the west front and was continued round the two buttresses.
The north transept was enlarged presumably at the same time as the
rebuilding of the nave. All traces of its north-east corner had vanished,
but against the north face of the Norman presbytery there was the short stub
of a wall cut through by the foundation of the later presbytery. This stub
is interpreted as remains of the east wall of the enlarged transept,4 the
Norman north presbytery aisle and the adjoining transept chapel having been
eliminated in the reconstruction.
The Late-Medieval Presbytery
The third major period of construction involved the replacement of the
Norman presbytery by a long, square-ended and aisled eastern limb.
4 An examination
of mortar samples tends to confirm this identification.
I am indebted
to our member Mr D. G. Thompson, for making the analyses
of the mortars.
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