Ewenny Priory

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are major building remains

NameEwenny Priory
Alternative NamesEwenni; Wenny
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthorityVale of Glamorgan
1974 AuthorityMid Glamorgan
CommunityEwenny

Ewenny Priory was a cell of the Benedictine abbey of St Peter, Gloucester, founded within the lordship of Ogmore in the early 12th century. It is exceptional for its remarkably intact Romanesque priory church and its fortified precinct wall. These fortifications, built in 3 phases from the later 12th century, were works of prestige, but they incorporate impressive elements of military character. The priory occupied completely flat ground extending southwards from the Ewenny River, and lying upstream and 3km east of Ogmore Castle, caput of the de Londres manor of Ogmore, which similarly lies beside that river. William de Londres built a new church at Ewenny, in the NW part of the monastic precinct, replacing a pre-Norman Welsh church attested by nine Early Christian memorial stones found on the site (see PRN 400m). There is contradictory documentary evidence for the foundation date of the new church, although an architectural study suggests that it was constructed in a single building campaign of 1116 and that it constituted a priory from the outset. After the Dissolution, only the prior and two monks remained. It was then sold, with the nave continuing to serve as the parish church while the rest of the monastic church was either altered, and/or eventually allowed to fall into ruin. The surviving parts of the monastic complex were incorporated into 16th and 19th century rebuilding and adaption. The C13 precinct walls at Ewenny Priory are fortified and enclose an area of around 1.56 hectares. They incorporate the north transept of the romanesque priory church in one section of their circuit and four mural towers and two gatehouses were irregularly disposed around the rest of the perimeter. The two gatehouses, reconstructed around 1300, incorporate simple Norman vaulted gateways in their passages

(From Coflein and Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological TrustHER record both referencing RCAHMW, 2000)

The E part of the surviving Priory complex, on the S bank of the Ewenny River, NE of Ewenny village and due N of Corntown, bordered by Ewenny Priory (house) gardens to S and churchyard N.

William de Londres (d 1126) of Ogmore Castle built a church at Ewenny which was consecrated by Bishop Urban of Llandaff (1107-34). In 1141 William's son Maurice de Londres confirmed the gift of St Peter's Abbey Gloucester (now the Cathedral) of the churches of Ewenny, St Brides Major and Ogmore Chapel with all their possessions 'in order that a convent of monks might be formed'. Maurice was buried in the Abbey and his still surviving tombstone calls him the founder. CA Ralegh Radford explained this gap in dating by proposing an initial church pre-1126 enlarged for monastic use after 1141, though architectural evidence suggests a date for the whole building in 1120s, the style derived from Gloucester, as propounded by M Thurlby. Some remodelling expecially of tower probably contemporary with erection of defensive precinct walls and gatehouses c 1300. Following Dissolution Ewenny was acquired by the Carne family who created Ewenny Priory (house) out of the conventual buildings, leaving the E end of the Priory church consisting of chancel/presbytery, crossing, tower and S transept unused, the W end being used as the parish church. E section conservatively repaired 1869-86 under Thomas Picton Turbervill on advice of antiquary E A Freeman. Painted by Turner. Now a scheduled ancient monument maintained by Cadw.

Interior not in use. Walls of ashlar with some lime plaster. Main entrance in N chancel wall. At crossing each pier has a pair of half round columns rising from a zigzag impost band about 2/3rds up ending in fluted capitals, these merging into a cornice from which the plain 2 order round arches spring; replaced boarded crossing ceiling in 9 panels between moulded beams rests on plain corbels; crossing and S aisle floor of crushed stone, lime and earth; 2 segmental arched doorways to pulpitum with reset medieval tiles on floor. S transept E wall has two 2 ordered blocked arches with billet moulding and zigzag impost band, between them a trefoil headed niche with roll moulded surround; blocked square headed opening above left. S wall has deep splays to windows on two storeys; at ground level a 4 centred arched tomb recess with roll moulded hood and hollow chamfers above a defaced slab; SW narrow square headed tower doorway with staircase in angle. W wall triforium is a 7 bay gallery with chunky piers and very heavy fluted capitals, the piers round except for 2 square; high round arched ground floor doorway where transept adjoins nave. Many monuments on walls and tombs on floor: important decorated coffin shaped tomb chest with floriated cross and vine scroll border and incised inscription to Maurice de Londres early C13; other tomb slabs including ones possibly to Maurice's son William (d 1205) and grandson, to Haweis de Londres (d 1274) and to priors and monks; weathered truncated figure of a knight with chain mail and shield lying on a later tomb chest ornamented with relief coats of arms in 6 quarters on each face; black and white table tomb to Carne family from 1650 with poem inscription, ledgers from C17; a baroque early C18 oval tablet to Richard Carne; C18-19 wall monuments to Turbervill family. Many fragments of carved masonry. N wall has door to vestry with 3 light square headed window above, similar to those in nave. Renewed boarded ceiling. Step up to chancel which is divided by an unusual composite dark wood screen consisting of C16 linenfold wainscot panels and C14 canopywork with close set mullions and quatrefoil tracery, moulded bressumer above; door a replacement but old hinge marks show there was an original; back of panels ie E facing side are plain. Chancel has encaustic tiled floor. Round headed opposing doorways on N and S walls. To right of N entrance a deep round headed niche; squint through wall giving view from outside to altar. Stone tunnel vault in 3 bays, each main rib an ashlar band rising from a pilaster with lightly moulded capital, intervening ribs with double roll moulding; at wallplate level is a chamfered cornice and below is a band of zigzag ornament from which the pilasters rise. 3 renewed stone steps to sanctuary; here the double roll moulded ribs intersect, no boss; zigzag band as sillband to the windows and from it spring in corners 2 attached small colonettes with scallop caps which carry the ribs. Stained glass is grisaille with coloured border with centre E window incorporating a panel of St Michael in Morris style. S side has semicircular headed piscina. Deeply chamfered stone altar with consecration crosses on reconstructed base. Traces of wallpainting on E wall, figurative and masonry pattern.

Romanesque of rubble formerly lime-rendered with ashlar dressings at E end; Welsh slate roof. Plan of crossing tower, wall footings of N transept and transept chapels, incorporating later lean-to extension, intact S transept and chancel. Tower is low and wide, the former roofline of the N transept adjoining at a string course below the shallow upper storey which has two small round headed windows on each side; stepped battlemented parapet on corbels has arrow loops, corner pinnacles and water chutes, probably c 1300; weathercoursing and old roof line of nave on W face; low pitched slate roof. At lower level is the blocked round crossing arch with an inserted square headed 3 light C16 window. Ruined N transept with 2 E chapels, the outer formerly abutting precinct wall; 2 bay inner chapel has remains of tunnel vault, Romanesque entrance arch intact with zigzag moulding to imposts and billet moulded hood ending in grotesque stops; former piscina in wall right. Round headed N doorway is now the main entrance; decorative hinges to door; adjacent is a squint. N chancel wall has a single round headed light to sanctuary. E end has clasping buttresses, 3 stepped round headed lights, a string course separating the gable which has a further light to vault. S transept E wall has two blocked round headed arches with zigzag imposts to former chapels, whose footings survive, with square headed doorway above and a battlemented parapet with arrow loops. In S transept wall the side parapets run out into deep corbelled offsets to corner buttresses, between which are 3 round headed lights above a string course where the former cloister adjoined; corbel table above, with some corbels in the face stonework and putlog holes below. In corner of W wall abutting nave is a doorway, very similar to the one adjacent at E end of nave, but with roll moulding. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Despite the impression frequently given of almost constant warfare in Wales throughout the C11-C15 of the two dozen monastic houses in Wales, some sizable and wealthy others small and isolated, only Ewenny and Caldy Priories are ever described as fortified. Caldy Island was clearly at threat from pirates, a real but rather unreported threat. At Ewenny the fortification are "works of prestige".

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSS912777
Latitude51.4887084960938
Longitude-3.56918001174927
Eastings291240
Northings177790
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Books

  • < >RCAHMW, 2000, An Inventory of Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan Vol. 3 Part 1b: The Later Castles (London: HMSO) < > p. 125-147
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge) p. 692-3
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 95
  • Newman, J., 1995, Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan (Yale University Press) p. 345
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 50
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 175
  • Hague, D.B., 1971, in Pugh, T.B. (ed), Glamorgan County History Vol. 3 The Middle Ages (Cardiff) p. 440
  • Randall, Henry John, 1961, The Vale of Glamorgan, Studies in Landscape and History (Newport: R.H.Johns Ltd) p. 78
  • Turbeville, J.P., 1901, Ewenny Priory, Monastery and Fortress (London)
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • King, Edward, 1799-1805, Munimenta Antiqua or Observations on ancient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 4 p. 166-71 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 400
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 59-60 online copy

Antiquarian

  • Dugdale, William (Caley, J., Ellis, H. and Bandinel, B. (eds)), 1817-30 (originally pub. 1655-73), Monasticon Anglicanum (London) online copy

Journals

  • Thurlby, M., 1988, Jour. Soc. Arch. Hist. Vol. 47 p. 281-94
  • Haslam, R., 1986, ‘Ewenny Priory, Mid Glamorgan’, Country Life 180 p. 1270–5
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • Baddeley, W. St Clair, 1913, 'Ewenny Priory, or St. Michael of Ogmore' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 68 p. 1-50
  • Brakspear, 1911, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 68 p. 391-6

Guide Books

  • Radford, C.A.R., 1952, Ewenny Priory, Glamorgan (HMSO)