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ST MARY'S CHURCH, ABERGAVENNY

Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 377

Map Reference SO31SW

Grid Reference SO30101413

Unitary (Local) Authority Monmouthshire

Old County Monmouthshire

Community Abergavenny

Type of Site CHURCH

Broad Class RELIGIOUS RITUAL AND FUNERARY

Period Post Medieval, Medieval

Site Description St Mary's Church was originally the conventual church of the Benedictine Priory in Abergavenny. It was founded in about 1100 and became the parish church following the dissolution in 1536. It is built in the Gothic style, is of gable entry type, and built mostly of red sandstone rubble. There are also dressings in white limestone, particularly the tower quoins. A prominent feature is the integral tower. Architecturally it is mostly decorated and perpendicular. There are fine tombs from the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries, fourteenth to fifteenth century choir stalls and a rare fifteenth century Jesse figure carved in oak with great skill. The church was restored in the nineteenth century.

A number of wall paintings are recorded including painted tombs in the Herbert Chapel, a gilt rood loft (now destroyed), Royal Arms of around 1700 above the arch in the south chapel, and painted texts in the vestry. (undated notes by A.J. Parkinson).

RCAHMW, February 2011

[Additional:] The complex architectural development, including the C19th reorganisation, is summarised by John Newman in the Buildings of Wales: Monmouthshire/Gwent. Recent archaeological/restoration work is discussed by the contributors to George Nash (ed), 'Anatomy of a Priory Church: The Archaeology, History and Conservation of St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny' (2015).


Architectural discoveries continue to be made during repair and conservation work. Most recently (2017) repairs to the roof of the Lewis (N) Chapel has shown that a late-medieval waggon roof survives above the C19th plaster barrel vault. The Lewis Chapel seems to have been extended and raised and re-roofed c.1500. The late-medieval roof is in situ with 25 closely-spaced trusses which are alternately plain and moulded. A slot above the moulding occasionally retains the ends of broken laths showing that the roof was originally plastered between the trusses. The horizontal ribs have been removed but small sections were used to strengthen the roof in the C19th. The moulding on both trusses and ribs is a hollow + ogee (cyma reversa) although the moulding of the trusses is largely hidden by C19th plasterwork. Finds between the outer and inner wallplates include a section of stone tile, several pegs for the tiles, and pieces of shoe leather, including offcuts. Several speculative samples were taken by the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory on 17-Aug-2017.

The tower retains a heavy, moulded roof with bosses above the present ringing chamber which supports the bell-chamber. Presumably this was originally visible from the crossing. The bells have been re-cast and re-hung and the old bell-frame has not survived.

Information from Kath Hilsden, DAC, and Harvey Faulkner-Aston, architect. R.F. Suggett/August 2017.

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