The monks performed their devotions in the church, singing God’s praises during eight services each day.
The uninterrupted openness of the church today is deceptive, as it was originally divided up by screen walls. The western end, the nave, was reserved for the lay brothers, members of the community who worked on the abbey’s estates. Their accommodation was in the ruined range to the west of the cloister.
The monks’ stalls and the high altar were screened off from this area. Here, the monks attended services each day, rising from their beds for the first at two o’clock in the morning.
The bases of three of the four great piers of the transept-crossing, in the centre of the church, have symbols and an inscription carved on them. They commemorate the construction of the church by Henry III, the abbey’s royal patron.
When the abbey became a house, the church was converted by Sir William Paulet into a great hall, used for entertaining guests. The western end became the kitchen, where ovens and hearths were installed. The east end was a private chapel, and the south transept housed Sir William’s private apartments.
The text and pictures on this page are derived from the 'Heritage Unlocked' series of guidebooks published in 2004. We intend to review, update and enhance the content in the near future as part of the Portico project, whose objective is to provide information on the history, significance, research background and sources for all English Heritage properties.