The Ewenny priory was founded in 1141 by Maurice de Londres, who donated the nearby Norman church of St. Michael to the Benedictine abbey of Saint Peter in Gloucester. The priory church was built in the 12th century by Maurice’s father, William de Londres, one of the Norman knights from Glamorgan. Soon afterwards, the Ewenny settlement grew around the temple and priory, which population treated the priory church as a parish, only the chancel and transept were reserved for monks. The monastic foundation was fortified early enough to protect against Welsh armed raids. The fortifications were staffed by a permanent garrison, and at the beginning of the fourteenth century they were rebuilt and reinforced. Edward I used the man at arms from Ewenny in his attack on Wales in 1284, and Henry IV used Ewenny as a base to attack Coity Castle during the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in 1405.
The convent was dissolved in 1536 and, in the same year, rented to Sir Edward Carne. In 1545, he bought monastic buildings along with its belongings and transformed them into a residence, although the temple still served as a parish church. At the end of the 17th century, the estate passed into the hands of the Turbervill family, and in the nineteenth century, the estate was taken over by Colonel Thomas Picton-Warlow and then his heirs. In 1803, the northern transept and side chapels of the church were destroyed.
The priory was surrounded by a defensive wall on a square plan of 173×118 meters and a length of about 550 meters, reinforced with four towers and two four-sided gatehouses, located on the north and south sides.
The romanesque priory church in its final form during the late Middle Ages had the shape of a basilica on the plan of the latin cross. It consisted of three naves, a northern and southern transepts, a tower at the intersection of naves and a chancel with adjoining chapels. To the south side of the nave was a courtyard surrounded by cloisters and monastery buildings with all the rooms required by the order’s rule: a dormitory, a refectory, a chapter-house and an economic and utility buildings.
Until now, the priory church survived, without the destroyed northern transept and the chapels that once surrounded the chancel. The remaining monastic buildings have not been preserved or have been drastically rebuilt, losing their original stylistic features. The most interesting element are the priory fortifications visible on the west side of the church, unique in Wales. A large section of the defensive wall and five towers and gatehouses have survived. The priory church is an excellent example of Norman romanesque architecture. Inside the magnificent chancel you can see a rood screen from the fourteenth / sixteenth century. Only the church is open to visitors, as the remaining buildings remain in private hands and are inhabited. Of course, you can view the monastery’s fortifications from the outside.
Wooding J., Yates N., A Guide to the churches and chapels of Wales, Cardiff 2011.
Website britishlistedbuildings.co.uk, Ewenny Priory Church.
Website wikipedia.org, Ewenny Priory.