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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

View Movies The gatehouse (1)

The entrance to the abbey precinct was via a great gatehouse that stood to the north of the monastery, but which no longer survives. From here a lane ran some 300 metres to an inner gatehouse, built c. 1152-82, which gave access to the inner court. It was here that the porter of the house, a monastic official of some standing, officiated between Lauds and Compline each day receiving visitors and administering alms. Buildings would have stood to either side of the gatehouse.(2)

The inner gatehouse comprised two parts: a large rib-vaulted porch (the gat-porch) was in the northern part and a vaulted hall in the southern part. The hall had an upper level which contained a small chamber for the gatekeeper, although in the early days he would have returned to the cloister after Compline and slept in the dormitory with the rest of the community. This chamber was accessed by a stone stairway. A road originally ran through the gatehouse and there were two archways through which traffic could pass – a large archway gave access to vehicles, a smaller one to those on foot.

An old stone coffin was found in the gatehouse and is now in the garden of the Abbey Museum. Read more about the tombs at Kirkstall.

The inner gatehouse at Kirkstall is well-preserved for it has been in constant use since the dissolution of the abbey in 1539. John Ripley, the last abbot of Kirkstall, was said to have lived here until his death in 1568, and was responsible for various alterations - he closed the gateway, added rooms and inserted windows in either end. Thereafter the gatehouse was used as a residence and in June 1925 it was sold to Leeds Corporation. Since then the gatehouse has accommodated the Abbey House Museum.

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