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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The western range


Artist's impression of a lay-brothers' dormitory
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
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Artist's impression of a lay-brothers' dormitory

The lay-brothers’ dormitory occupied the upper level of the western range. Like the monks, the lay-brothers each had a mat, pillow and a light covering, but instead of a woollen blanket they had animal skins.(3) The lay-brothers also had their own latrine-block which probably extended to the west of their refectory and would have been accessible from the dormitory. This would have run over the drain allowing waste to be flushed away by running water. The privies here would have been arranged in a line, separated by wooden screens, just as they were in the monks’ latrines. Whilst nothing remains of the lay-brothers’ toilet block at Rievaulx, visitors to Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds, will soon be able to view a reconstruction of part of the medieval sewers and lay-brothers’ privies, with authentic sights, sounds and smells!

The declining number of lay-brothers in the fourteenth century led to the destruction of the southern part of the western range. The upper level of the remaining building was used as a granary, the ground floor was divided into separate rooms with fireplaces, and probably provided more private accommodation for the monks.

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