This SKETCH of one of the CELLS is based upon the foundations & fragments found upon the site.
This SKETCH of one of the CELLS is based upon the foundations & fragments found upon the site.


The western half of the main rectangular area was occupied by the great cloister and its surrounding cells with their gardens, a peculiar feature of a Charterhouse. The cloister court, in which the uncoffined bodies of the monks were buried, measured igoft. from east to west, and 186ft. from north to south, and was enclosed by a 36in. wall, three sides of which were parallel to, and at a distance of 43ft. within, the north, west and south precinct walls.

The strip of ground, forty-three feet wide, between the cloister wall and the outer wall on these three sides, was divided up into a number of little gardens, in which stood the separate cells of the monks. The five gardens and cells occupying the north side have been fairly well made out, though nothing now remains above the ground. Each garden was 43ft. square, but the one at the north-west corner was somewhat longer than the others, thus giving space for the entrance to the cell at the angle of the cloister. Allowing the same space for each garden there would be room for four more along the western side and five on the southern side of the cloister, which gives accommodation for the twelve monks of the original foundation, together with two others provided for by the foundation of a chantry by William de Aldeburgh, for which license was granted 1377-8. It seems probable that this addition to the number was made before the monastic buildings, which are evidently of subsequent date to the church, were laid out.1

The cells in the northern range were all of the same size and plan, and occupied the south-east angle of each garden. Each cell was a substantially-built house of two storeys, with an internal measurement of 20ft. square. The garden and cell, No. 3 on the plan, the middlemost on the north side, has been most thoroughly excavated, and by reference to the far more complete remains at Mount Grace, described by Mr. W. H. St. John Hope,2 we can reconstruct, in imagination, the dwelling in which a monk of Beauvale passed the greater part of his solitary life. (Plate III.)

Plate III. A detail plan shewing one of the cells.

The cell (No. 3) was entered by a doorway in the cloister wall, the doorstep having a broadly chamfered edge. By the side of the door there was a square opening or hatch in the cloister wall, running back about 2ft. in the thickness of the wall, and then turning at right angles to an inner opening in the jamb within the door. Through this opening, or “turn,” the daily supply of food was passed, silently and invisibly, to the monk within. Inside the door a bell was hung, by which the monk was aroused at 5.45 a.m. by the “excitator,” and which was also rung by the two monks whose duty it was to bring dinner to the hatch at 10 a.m. No one was allowed to enter the cell but the monk himself and the prior, except in the case of sickness, when the monk would be specially attended in his cell; for there was no infirmary in a Charterhouse.

The interior of the cell was divided by wooden partitions standing on a stone curb, into four rooms on the ground floor: (1) a lobby, 4ft. wide, into which the door from the cloister opened; on the right of this would be the wooden staircase leading from the living room to the upper floor, and at the other end of the lobby was a door leading into the garden; (2) a large living room with fireplace and tiled floor, a step higher than the lobby, with another door opening into the garden, and a window by the side of the door; (3) a smaller chamber, which served as bedroom and oratory, with a window looking into the garden; (4) a still smaller chamber in the free corner of the cell, which served as a study, and probably had two small windows. No actual evidence of the partition which separated this smaller room has been seen at Beauvale.

The upper floor probably consisted of one large room with windows looking into the garden. This was the monk’s work-room, in which the few hours not occupied with devotions, meals, and necessary work in cell or garden, were employed in literary, artistic, or manual occupations. A monk at Mount Grace is recorded as having a weaving loom in his cell.

The cell was roofed at a low pitch with stone tiles, the ridge set parallel to the cloister wall and abutting against stone gables, one being surmounted by the chimney of the fireplace, the other by a stone cross. The stones of an octagonal chimney with embattled top were found lying in this cell: the circular cap of a chimney of another design was found in another place. An ornamental cusped gable-cross was also found here, which may be seen among the fragments shown in Plate IV. It was fixed to its base by an iron dowel, but in another instance the gable top has a mortise-hole large enough to receive the foot of the cross.

In the garden there were two wooden pentises against the wall, each 4ft. wide, and erected on low curbs, 10in. wide. One ran from the lobby door along the cloister wall, and was provided with a gully which carried off the water from half the roof, and a leaden pipe with tap for the water supply. The leaden pipe was found in situ in No. 2 cell, where the cloister wall had been disturbed, no doubt in remedying a defect in the water supply. The other pentise led from the door of the living room along the division wall of the garden to the outer wall, where a small doorway gave access to a garde-robe built of wood over an open stream which ran round the outer wall of the monastery past the ends of all the gardens. Near to this door there is a water-tank about 2ft. deep. This part of the area is on rising ground, and consequently there is a step up from the first described pentise into the garden, and two steps at the further end of the other to the garde-robe door; a small retaining wall was built to keep the soil away from the north side of the dwelling, leaving a passage, along which runs a covered drain of stone slabs, to carry the water from the pentise and half roof on this side round the north-west angle of the cell. The garden walls were probably, as at Mount Grace, about 8ft. high, and had an angled coping of three courses.

Parallel to the cloister wall, and at a distance of 4ft. from it, the foundation of another 36in. wall was found, having buttresses, and forming a cloister alley. At the eastern end of the north alley the cloister wall is set back for the last 30ft., so as to give a wider approach of 8ft. to a door at its east end, through which access was gained to the north door of the church. The wider approach indicates that this was intended to be used by the monks coming from their cells, but the door appears to have been walled up in subsequent alterations.

Staircase doorway in Great Cloister, with fragments of masonry.
Staircase doorway in Great Cloister, with fragments of masonry.

The east side of the great cloister, beginning at this door in the north-east corner, is formed for 23ft. by a 24in. wall enclosing a small court between the cloister and the west end of the church. The next 30ft, is occupied by a building of three storeys, of which the upper part is of later construction, with a range of three windows overlooking the cloister. It fills the space between the cloister and the south-west angle of the church and will, with the small court, be more fully described later as the Prior’s house. Two doorways in the basement of this building open into the cloister. The wall in which they are set has been rebuilt, but the arches and jambs are no doubt original, and for­tunately preserve for us the pattern of the doorways to the monks’ cells all round the demolished cloister. The first door leads by a vaulted passage, rising a step in the middle, into a smaller cloister on the south side of the church; the second door opens on to a vice, or winding stair, giving access to the two upper storeys. (Plate IV.)

Two of the corbels, which carried the wall plate of the pentise roof of the cloister alley, remain in the wall over the doors, with the weather-mould above them, and the paving of the alley can still be traced on the ground below.

Continuing southwards, the cloister wall has been destroyed for 36ft., beyond which the farm-house wall has been built upon the line of its foundations, incorporating part of the old wall.

The general position of the west and south sides of the great cloister is indicated by some slight remains, particularly at the south-east angle of the outer wall. Between this angle and another portion of wall running east, there is an opening of 9ft. 9in., which may have been in connection with the drainage of the precinct. It has not at present been possible to ascertain the position of any more boundary wall or other buildings lying between the south-east angle of the great cloister and the gate-house block, to complete the circuit of the monastery.

(1) Tanner, Notitia, p. 411, states that at the dissolution the monks of Beauvale had increased to nineteen, but this number seems to include others from London, who took the oath to the King at the same time. The existence of other cells at Beauvale has not been ascertained. Pensions were awarded only to seven monks and two conversi, or aged men.