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Llanthony Abbey, Monmouthshire

Historical Description

Llanthony Abbey, a chapelry in Cwmyoy parish, Monmouthshire, on the river Honddu, in the deep mountain vale of Ewias, under the Black Mountains, on a tongue of Monmouthshire, projecting between Herefordshire and Brecknockshire, 5¼ miles NW of Pandy station on the G.W.R., and 10¼N of Abergavenny. It has a post office under Abergavenny; money order and telegraph office, Llanvihangel Crucorney The living is a vicarage, united with Cwmyoy, in the diocese of Llandaff; joint net value, £155 with residence. This part of the vale of Ewias was selected by St David as the place of his hermitage, and it was thence called LLindde-n-i-Nant-Honddu, a name which signifies " David's church on the Honddu," and came to be corrupted into Llanthony. Drayton in his " Polyolbion " says- " 'Mongst Hatterill's lofty hills that with the clouds are crowned, The valley Ewias lies immersed so deep and round, As they below that see the mountains rise so high Might think the straggling herds were grazing in the sky. Where in an aged cell with moss and ivy grown, In which, not to this day, the sun hath ever shone, The reverend British saint, in zealous ages past, To contemplation lived and did so truly fast, As he did only drink what crystal Hodney yields, And fed upon the leeks he gathered in the fields."

William, a Norman knight, and a retainer and kinsman of Hugh de Lacy, became a recluse at St David's cell in 1100; Ernisius, chaplain to the Empress Maud, joined him in 1103; and they two founded a priory for Austin Canons in 1108. Henry and Maud soon visited the rising abbey; Walter de Gloucester, Earl of Hereford, and captain of Henry's guards, became an inmate of it; Robert de Betun, afterwards Bishop of Hereford, entered it as a monk in 1130, a party of Welsh, immediately afterhebecame Bishop of Hereford, assailed and desolated it; and in 1136, with aid from Milo, Earl of Hereford, De Betun founded another monastery of the same name, and in lieu of it, at Gloucester. The original Llanthony Abbey, however, continued to be maintained till the Reformation, and it numbered among its priors Geoffrey Henelaw, afterwards Bishop of St David's, and Henry Dean, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. The property passed through a number of hands after the Reformation, and came eventually to Sir M. Wood, and latterly to Walter Savage Landor, author of "Imaginary Conversations" and other works. The church was cruciform, and had a central tower and two W towers. The nave was 172 feet long and 48 wide, the transept was 96 feet long and 86 wide, the choir was 72 feet long and 28 wide, the Lady chapel was 37 feet long and 25 wide, and the central tower was 24 feet each way and 100 high. There was also an oratory 24 feet long, 11 wide, and 15½ high, and a chapter-house 64 feet long and 26½ wide. The architecture is chiefly of the Transitional period between Norman and Early English, but some is as late as the 14th century. The three lower stages of the W towers, the lower stage of the W front between them, the N side of the nave, portions of the transept and of the central tower, part of the choir, all the oratory, the ruined chapterhouse, the prior's house, and a fragment of the Earl of Hereford's tomb still remain, and they form in the aggregate an imposing and picturesque mass. A portion of the ruins was fitted up by Sir M. Wood as a shooting-box, and the prior's house, together with an adjoining tower of the church, was converted into an inn. A monastery was founded in 1870 near Capel-y-Ffyn, 4 miles higher up the valley by Father Ignatius (Mr Lyne).

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyMonmouthshire 
Civil parishCwmyoy 
Poor Law unionAbergavenny 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

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