The scent-releasing qualities of hyssop meant that in the Middle Ages this was grown to strew on the floors. The hyssop plant still grows up the walls of the ruins at Beaulieu Abbey.
[Williams, The Cistercians in the Early Middle Ages, p. 209.]
The south, east and west cloister walkways essentially
functioned as passageways, while the north alley was used extensively
by the monks who sat on stone benches to read, meditate and perhaps
also to copy manuscripts. They might even lay out their parchment
here to dry.(26) In the later
Middle Ages there would have been carrels or desks for the monks
in the north alley.(27) The novice-master might
instruct novices here
and the whole community gathered in the north cloister walk for
the daily Collation reading.(28) The
cloister would have been warm and bright in the summer, but the
monks would have
found it rather bleak during the chilly winter months. When it
was extremely cold they were permitted instead to read or perhaps
copy manuscripts in the chapter-house.
The cloister was also used
for more practical activities. It was here that the monks shaved,
washed themselves and their clothes,
and hung the laundry to dry. Lead pipes carried water to a wall
arcade outside the refectory, where pewter basins were set in recesses.
This was not the original position of the wash-basins at Fountains,
and geophysical survey suggests that a free-standing laver-house
was in the SW corner of the cloister. Fountains was seemingly one
of the first communities to use the walled lavatorium,
which had bronze taps, rather than spots.(29) This
sheltered location for the water-basins would have helped prevent
the water from freezing
Water was piped to the basins via a series of
well-houses; Robin Hood’s well, on the south bank of the R. Skell, is
the only one to have survived. The entire water system at Fountains – as
elsewhere - was complex and remarkably advanced.