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     Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 93  1977  page 43

Excavations on the Site of Leeds Priory Part  I  - THE CHURCH  By P. J. Tester, F.S.A.  continued

This was a very usual development in medieval monastic churches from the thirteenth century onwards and almost always preceded any reconstruction of the nave. At Leeds, however, as shown by evidence described below, the reverse was the case. A possible explanation is that the sharply rising ground to the east presented an obstacle until such time as means were available to overcome the practical difficulties involved in an extension in that direction.
   All that our trenching could discover were massive ragstone foundations lacking all architectural detail to indicate their date. Admittedly, the opportunity for excavation was extremely limited in this thickly wooded area, and we could attempt little more than to determine the main outlines. We traced four parallel footings, the inner two being 7 ft. wide and at least 6 ft. deep, the upper part being not more than a foot below the present surface. These latter would have formed the sleepers on which the pier arcade was based, while the outer pair, flanked by buttresses, belonged to the aisles, the buttresses indicating that the presbytery comprised five bays east of the transepts.
   Important evidence as to relative dating was provided at the junction of the northern inner footing with the west side of the transept. The footing was observed to pass without a break across the transept and met its west wall at the position of the doorway previously described as having been made earlier to allow communication between

the north aisle of the rebuilt nave and the transept. Part of the presbytery footing butted against the plastered face of the blocked Norman opening between aisle and transept, and its north side passed through the doorway, effectively blocking it and encasing its south jamb to a height of 2 ft. (Plate VII). From this evidence it appears that when the nave and its north aisle were widened there was no intention of rebuilding the presbytery on the lines eventually carried out.
   To overcome the problem of uneven ground levels, the floor of the new presbytery had to be raised well above that of the nave. From measurements taken, it is estimated that the floor at the extreme east end may have been as much as 6 ft. above the level of the cill of the west doorway. Part of a flight of steps ascending from the nave to the area of the crossing was observed (Plate VIIA) and these no doubt originally continued across the nave in line with the west side of the transepts.
   No indications of crossing piers contemporary with the rebuilt presbytery could be discovered. A deep excavation in search of the south-west pier encountered only debris, while the anticipated position of the north-east pier was occupied by the unbroken course of the presbytery footing without any trace of internal projection which might be expected to occur in line with the east side of the transept.

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