Llanthony Secunda Priory in Gloucester is a site where we have carried out a number of tasks being preparatory work for the huge restoration project for which they have just received £3 million in funding. Our contribution has been our normal slash and burn of scrub to expose various parts of the site to allow access by expert surveyors etc, which indeed was our task on 18 September.
The task went well, we cleared the areas of scrub to which we were directed and we cleared large quantities of rubble to central positions.
We burned vast quantities of new and previously cut brash (unfortunately setting off the smoke alarms in the main buildings)
Our work is normally conservation of the landscape but it as we were working partly inside one of the retained buildings it was interesting to discuss the conservation of that building and its archaeology with the warden on site. The priory was founded in 1136 and by 1500, the medieval period, it had become one of the most prosperous and influential priories in England. King Henry VIII stayed there in 1501 and in preparation for his visit the priory had constructed in 1500 a substantial new building comprising stables and accommodation over, now referred to as the Great Stable. We were able to see the handmade brick external walls, built in two skins with rubble fill between, with brick on edge course where the upper floor ran.
We saw from the putlog holes in the wall the original level of the floor joists at ground and mezzanine floors
and the stepped holes where the supports for the staircase had been.
Unique in my experience were tapered recesses in the walls where vertical supports for each upper floor beam had been inserted.
The window openings have been greatly amended over time but interesting were the original natural stone lintels with flat soffits but tapered or even curved top surfaces and the brickwork courses above them which followed the slope or the curve!
Other lintels were the classic Tudor shape
and yet others looked as though they had been salvaged from ecclesiastical buildings.
There were some apertures in the external wall which looked as though they might have been connected to fireplaces, though at ground floor in a stable this is unlikely and they may indeed have been related to ventilation.
The end gable of the building is missing and it is likely that the original building was double its present size, which of course it would have to have been to house all the King’s horses and all the King’s men.