The Great Kitchen
The magnificent priory kitchen was built between 1366 and 1374, its octagonal shape and rib vaulted ceiling not unlike the architecture of southern Spain.
The kitchen’s scale reflects the size of the community that would have lived here. In 1346 (20 years before the construction of the kitchen in its current form) the kitchen would have needed to feed 70 monks, 16 novices and various guests and helpers.
Presumably, roofing a kitchen with stone vaults rather than wooden beams was a precaution against fire, which would have been a high risk in a building of this scale. The height of the ceiling would have meant that the hot air would rise far above the ground, making the environment much more bearable for the kitchen staff.
A Week’s Shopping in 1346
The shopping list for Whit Week in 1346 includes “600 salt herrings; 400 white herrings; 30 salted salmon; 14 ling (a member of the cod family); 55 kelengs (?); 4 turbot; 2 horse-loads of white fish and a conger eel, plaice, sparling (young herring), and eels and fresh water fish; 9 carcasses of oxen, salted; 1 carcase and a quarter fresh; a quarter of an ox, fresh; 7 carcasses and a half of swine in salt, 6 carcasses, fresh; 14 calves, 3 kids; 26 sucking porkers; 5 stones of hog’s lard, 4 stones of cheese, butter and milk; a pottle (half a gallon) of vinegar; a pottle of honey; 14 pounds of figs and raisins, 13 pounds of almonds, 8 pounds of rice, pepper, saffron, cinnamon and other spices, and 1300 eggs. (from Durham City By Keith Proud).
The Great Kitchen now forms part of Open Treasure, Durham Cathedral’s world-class visitor experience, with state-of-the-art display cases designed to showcase some of the most precious artefacts from the Cathedral’s collections.