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Friday 7th April: Visit to Abergavenny Priory Church at 1.30pm followed by a visit to Abergavenny Castle and Museum at 2.30pm:

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April 7, 2017
February 17, 2018

Visit to Abergavenny Priory Church

This was an informal visit during which we pooled our knowledge. We met at the Priory Church Abergavenny at 1.30pm. Some people arrived earlier and had lunch in the Tithe Barn close by. Anne Dunton led the discussion and began at the oldest part of the Priory which was the Norman font. Jeremy Knight told us about the bells and how at the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536-39, the parishioners bought the four bells, weighing a total of 45.5 cwt, which were hung in the Priory Church. Anne told us that St Mary’s Priory was founded in 1087 as a Benedictine Priory alongside the castle by Hamelin de Ballon, the first Norman Lord of Abergavenny.

Priory 4       Priory 6

Here Jeremy is describing how medieval fundraising raised the bells and saved them from destruction at the Reformation. You can also see the oldest item in the church, the Norman font.


Priory 8       Priory 9

Here we are in the Herbert chapel.  Centre is the tomb of William ap Thomas and Gwladys Ddu, and on the right his son Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook and his wife. He was executed after the Battle of Edgecote. On the right is the tomb of William ap Thomas.

William ap Thomas was responsible for beginning the construction of Raglan Castle as we recognize it today. He obtained Raglan through his marriage to Elizabeth Bloet, widow of Sir James Berkeley shortly after 1406. When Elizabeth died in 1420, ap Thomas retained Raglan as a tenant  for the rest of his life. William’s second wife was the heiress, Gwladus, the daughter of Sir Dafydd Gam and the widow of Sir Roger Vaughan and all these men had fought with King Henry V in France at the battle of Agincourt. William ap Thomas was knighted by Henry VI, becoming known to his compatriots as Y marchog glas o Went (the blue knight of Gwent). Gradually he began to establish himself as a person of consequence in south Wales. When he died in London in 1445, his body was brought back to Wales to be buried in the Benedictine priory church at Abergavenny. His wife Gwladus (the star of Abergavenny), as she was called by the poet Lewys Glyn Cothi, died in 1454. William was succeeded by his eldest son, another William (d.1469) who took the surname Herbert.

Priory 10

Here Anne is pointing out the alabaster carving of the Annunciation and saints Catherine and Margaret on the tomb of Sir Richard Herbert.

Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook

On the north side of the Herbert Chapel is the tomb of Sir Richard Herbert and his wife Margaret, who lived at Coldbrook. Both Richard and  his brother William Herbert, were prominent in the wars of the roses and they were both beheaded at the battle of Edgecote. They brought up Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, at Raglan Castle under their guardianship. We then took the opportunity to look at the Jesse Tree which was carved from a single piece of oak in the 15th century and depicts the lineage of Christ from Jesse.

Abergavenny Castle 

At Abergavenny Castle Jeremy spoke about its history. Both the Priory and the Castle were focal points in the turbulent times of the Welsh Wars which followed the Norman incursion into Wales, particularly into the areas known as the ‘Welsh March’.

Priory 3       Priory 11

In 1087 the wooden keep was built, followed in 1190 by a replacement keep built of stone. As the castle of Marcher lords it had an interesting history, changing hands between English and Welsh. It was slighted by Charles I during the Civil War and became a source of stone for building material. Jeremy had pointed  out that the Caerleon Antiquarian Association, as it was then called, had visited in 1898 when they held their Annual Meeting at the Castle.  They used to travel to places by train and took picnic hampers with them which were piled into carts and transported to the historical site they were visiting. Here is a map that they drew and provided for members on that the occasion of their visit to Abergavenny.

Abergavenny Castle (poss 1898)


Copyright MAA.

The Museum is situated in a nineteenth century hunting lodge which is on the site of the former motte. It  has an interesting collection of artefacts. There is a Victorian Welsh farmhouse kitchen and a saddler’s workshop amongst other displays. When we visited the current exhibition was ‘Monmouthshire Women Making Change’ which was very interesting.

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