Llanthony Priory

Llanthony Priory

Llanthony Priory is a picturesque, partly ruined [ [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/123619 Arches at Llanthony Priory:: OS grid SO2827 :: Geograph British Isles - photograph every grid square! ] ] former Augustinian priory [ [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/145095 Llanthony Priory:: OS grid SO2827 :: Geograph British Isles - photograph every grid square! ] ] in the beautiful and secluded Vale of Ewyas, a steep sided once glaciated valley within the Black Mountains area of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Monmouthshire, south east Wales. It lies seven miles north of Abergavenny on an old road to Hay on Wye at Llanthony.



The priory dates back to around the year 1100, when Norman nobleman William de Lacy reputedly came upon a ruined chapel of St. David in this location, and was inspired to devote himself to solitary prayer and study. He was joined by Ersinius, a former Chaplain to Queen Matilda, the wife of King Henry I, and then a band of followers. A church was built on the site, dedicated to St John the Baptist, and consecrated in 1108. By 1118, a group of around 40 monks from England founded there an Augustinian priory, the first in Wales.

In 1135, after persistent attacks from the local Welsh population, the monks retreated to Gloucester where they founded a daughter cell, Llanthony Secunda. However, around 1186 another member of the de Lacy family, Hugh the fifth baron, endowed the estate with funds from his Irish estates to rebuild the priory church, and this work was completed by 1217.

The Priory became one of the great medieval buildings in Wales, in a mixture of Norman and Gothic architectural styles. Renewed building took place around 1325, with a new gatehouse. On Palm Sunday, April 4th 1327, the deposed Edward II stayed at the Priory on his way from Kenilworth Castle to Berkeley Castle, where he is alleged to have been murdered.


Following Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion in the early fifteenth century, the Priory seems to have been barely functioning. In 1481 it was formally merged with its daughter cell in Gloucester, and after 1538 both houses were suppressed by Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The 18th and 19th centuries

The buildings at Llanthony gradually decayed after the Dissolution to a ruin by the end of the eighteenth century, when they were bought by Colonel Sir Mark Wood, the owner of Piercefield House near Chepstow, who converted some of the buildings into a domestic house [ [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/274816 The Abbey Hotel, Llanthony:: OS grid SO2827 :: Geograph British Isles - photograph every grid square! ] ] and shooting box. He then sold the estate in 1807 to the poet Walter Savage Landor.

Landor needed an Act of Parliament, passed in 1809, to be allowed to pull down some of Wood's buildings and construct a house, which was never finished. He wanted to become a model country gentleman, planting trees, importing sheep from Spain, and improving the roads. There is still an avenue of trees in the area known as "Landor's Larches" and many old chestnuts have been dated back to his time. [ [http://www.breconbeaconsparksociety.org/The%20Beacon/pstbWalterSavageLandor.htm John Sansom "Note for Brecon Beacons Park Society] ]

Landor described the idylls of country life, including the nightingales and glow-worms in the valley to his friend Robert Southey. However the idyll was not to last long as for the next three years Landor was worried by the combined vexation of neighbours and tenants, lawyers and lords-lieutenant and even the Bishop of St David's. Many of his troubles stemmed from petty squabbles, arising from his headstrong and impetuous nature. He wasted money trying to improve the land, and the condition of the poorer inhabitants. The final straw was when he let his farmland to one Betham who was incompetent and extravagant and paid no rent. After an expensive action to recover the debts from Betham he had had enough, and decided to leave the country, abandoning Llanthony to his creditors - which was principally his mother. The estate was administered in his absence by his mother and cousin, but many of the buildings continued to disintegrate thereafter.

Later history

The ruins have attracted artists over the years, including JMW Turner who painted them from the opposite hillside. The abbey was acquired by the Knight family in the 20th century..fact|date=March 2008

Wood’s house later became the small Abbey Hotel. The remaining ruins are protected by Cadw.

The Offa's Dyke Path runs close by on the Hatterall Ridge above the Llanthony Valley and also marks the English Welsh border here.


*J. Newman (2000) "The Buildings of Wales – Gwent / Monmouthshire" (ISBN 0-14-071053-1)

External links

Photographs:Priory Buildings and Ruins: [http://www.origins-photography.co.uk/acatalog/Llanthony%20Priory.jpg] , [http://www.britainexpress.com/wales/tour/brecon/images/LlanthonyPriory%203.jpg] , [http://www.fishing-in-kite-country.co.uk/images/labbey.jpg] , [http://www.livinggloucester.co.uk/files/images/monasteries/ynphyiublilxopr.jpg] , [http://www.livinggloucester.co.uk/files/images/monasteries/jmjcaxemdolywlh.jpg]

* [http://www.castlewales.com/llantho.html Castlewales website: informative account with photographs]
* [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/text/chap_page.jsp?t_id=Cambrensis_Tour&c_id=5 Description of Llanthony in the 12th century by Giraldus Cambrensis]
*CathEncy|wstitle=Llanthony Priory

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