The Great Hall
During monastic times the Great Hall was an even larger room. As part of his alterations to turn Forde into a family home, Edmund Prideaux shortened it to create a private dining room. He also filled in the north windows to build a chimney and a large fireplace. The austere Cistercians heated only one small room in the entire building. It seems likely that the oak panelled ceiling was already in place by the time Prideaux took ownership.
The Monks' Dormitory
The 160ft long Monks’ Dormitory was built in the 13th Century and was once much wider. The rooms along the right hand side were only installed in the 18th century by Fraunceis Gwyn as bedrooms for his servants. The vaulted ceiling was created at the same time although the original medieval roof timbers remain above it. During monastic years the room was open to the rafters and was separated into cells on either side of a central walkway by 8ft high wooden panelling. In keeping with their vow of poverty the cells contained only a narrow bed, a desk for study and a candle in the window.
The Cloisters, which once formed part of a quadrangle to the Abbey Church, were used for walking and meditation. This one side remains from Abbot Chard’s renovations in 1520 although his work was left unfinished. His construction was rather more elaborate than the earlier work, as can be seen by the 13th century facing that has been left exposed. This is the remains of the Lavatorium where the monks washed their hands before entering the refectory whose doorway is immediately behind.
Formerly a chapter house, this is where the monks would have met to discuss the business of the day. The 12th century vaulting can still be seen and looks much as it did when it was built. Edmund Prideaux converted the chapter house into a chapel by inserting the carved oak rood screen. The intricate and unusual pulpit was added by Sir Francis Gwyn. Members of the Prideaux and Gwyn families are buried in the crypt below the chapel. The Cistercian abbots however, were buried in the cloister floor between the church and the chapter house. The exact location is difficult to identify.
An Undercroft is the name for a crypt, but the Abbey Undercroft was a place of industry and not burial. It was originally divided by screens into different sections separating the activities. The archway which now divides the wing was created in the 14th century. Works to the North Undercroft (now home of the Eeles Family Pottery Exhibition) in 1991 revealed a wall painting of the crucifixion, dating between 1270 and 1320. It is the earliest Cistercian figure painting to survive in England. The southern part of the Undercroft is now the tearoom.