the  dormitory  or dorter


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The monks' dormitory was positioned stretching down from the chapter house to the river Kennet. It was in the upper storey of a two storey building and was reached by a staircase the remains of which can still be seen in the wall of the south-east of the cloister. Underneath the dormitory were storage rooms and probably the warming room. The warming room was the one room in the monastery which had a fire in the cold weather and the one room where monks relaxed their usual rule of silence to talk to one another. 

Throughout the year there was no heating in any of the communal area of the monastery except the Warming Room, probably situated below the Dormitory, where the monks might gather for half an hour a day and the usual rule of silence was relaxed to allow them some chat amongst themselves.

The day of the monks ended as light faded after the final service. They went up the stairs in the south-east corner of the Cloister to the Dormitory or Dorter, which stretched south from the Chapter House, the west windows looking towards the setting sun over Tilehurst. It was a long communal sleeping room with beds stretching down each side. No doubt each monk had a wooden chest where he kept his spare clothing and the items issued to him for his personal use, a pen, knife and needle. He undressed down to his 'long-johns' and lay down to sleep until the bell roused him for the first service of the new day.

Copyright Reading Museum Service from "Reading Abbey", published by Reading Museum & Art Gallery 1988.

To see more complete monastery dormitories visit Cleeve Abbey and Durham Cathedral.

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