A Second Group of English Monasteries

In dealing with a second group, we may commence with the venerable and picturesque ruins of the monastery of Easby, which are near the village of that name, about a mile and a half from Richmond, and on the rocky and well-wooded banks of the Swale. Rould, Constable of Richmond Castle, was the founder, about the year 1152. Its inhabitants were members of the then recently introduced order of Premonstratensian Canons, who lived according to the rule of St. Austin. Their dress was entirely white—a white cassock, with a white rochet over it, a long white cloak, and a white cap; and a picturesque addition to one of the most picturesque of houses and scenes, these white canons must have formed. Our cut (Fig. 711) shows the more important of the existing remains, which are well described in Dr. Whitaker’s ‘Yorkshire:’—

“By the landscape painter and the man of taste the ruins of this house, combined with the scene around them, have never been contemplated without delight. But admiration and rapture are very unobserving qualities; and it has never hitherto been attended to, that this house, though its several parts are elaborate and ornamental, has been planned with a neglect of symmetry and proportion which might have become an architect of Laputa. Of the refectory, a noble room nearly one hundred feet long, with a groined apartment below, every angle is either greater or less than a right angle. Of the cloister-court, contrary to every other example, there have been only two entire sides, each of which has an obtuse angle. From these again the entire outline of the church reels to the west, and though the chapter-house is a rectangle, the vestry is a trapezium.

* Trapezium, a figure where the four sides are neither equal nor parallel.

Once more: of the terminations of the north and south aisles eastward, one has extended several yards beyond the other; the choir also is elongated, out of all proportion. The abbot’s lodgings, instead of occupying their usual situation, to the south east of the choir, and of being connected with the east end of the cloister-court, are here most injudiciously placed to the north of the church, and therefore deprived, by the great elevation of the latter, of warmth and sunshine. The abbot’s private entrance into the church was by a doorway, yet remaining, into the north aisle of the nave. To compensate, however, for the darkness of his lodgings, he had a pleasant garden, open to the morning sun, with a beautiful solarium,

* Solarium, as the name implies, signifies a place exposed to the sun, and was applied originally to places on the tops of houses, where the Romans used to take air and exercise. In the present instance it means simply a garden or summer-house.

highly adorned with Gothic groinings at the north-east angle.

But to atone for all these deformities in architecture, many of the decorations of this house are extremely elegant. Among these the first place is due to the great window of the refectory, of which the beauties are better described by the pencil than the pen. This, with the groined vault beneath, appears to be of the reign of Henry III. North-west from this are several fine apartments, contemporary, as appears, with the foundation; but the whole line of wall, having been placed on the shelving bank of the Swale, has long been gradually detaching itself from the adjoining parts, and threatens in no long period to destroy one of the best features of the place. On the best side of the imperfect cloister-court is a circular doorway, which displays the fantastic taste of Norman enrichments in perfection. A cluster of round columns, with variously adorned capitals, is surmounted by a double moulded arch, embossed with cats’ heads hanging out their tongues, whicli are curled at the extremities. Above all is an elegant moulding of foliage. Not far beneath is a large picturesque tree (perhaps truly) distinguished by the name of the Abbot’s elm. The abbey gateway, still in perfect repair, is the latest part of the whole fabric, and probably about the era of Edward III.