Much Wenlock’s mystery object

Thank you to everyone who entered my short quiz, asking what this intriguing structure was used for:


It is a ‘lavabo’ or bath, which was used by the monks who lived in Much Wenlock Priory.

Built around 1180, this three-tiered stone basin incorporated a siphon system, which supplied water through spouts set into carved heads.  Up to 16 monks at a time could wash here before eating in the refectory.  The lavabo was not, as it is today, open to the sky and to the view of interested passers-by;  instead, it was enclosed in an octagonal building, which thankfully preserved the monks’ modesty.

Much Wenlock Priory is a serenely beautiful place, with soaring arches and dark shadowy cloisters.  You can read the full article here.

Wenlock (17)Photos copyright © Jo Woolf


  1. Magnificent ruins on the second picture, excellent !

  2. David Rayner says:

    “Lavabo” is a Latin word meaning “I will wash”; it’s not a bath but a place for communal hand-washing before and after meals, built in about 1180. It is situated within the cloister, just outside the refectory. About 16 of the Cluniac monks of Wenlock Priory could stand under a timber roof (now gone) and wash their hands at the same time. Many other monastic sites had less elaborate facilities, but almost always with carefully channelled water supplies and drains which did not exist in castles, manor houses or the homes of the rich at that time.

    • That’s very interesting, David! Thank you very much for the explanation. I can imagine it now. It’s good to think that they did have a relatively comfortable lifestyle.

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