St Mary’s Priory Church
The history of worship on this site goes back to the 11th century. By 1071 a priory had been founded here as a dependency of Cormeilles Abbey in Normandy, France. This was the first Norman religious establishment in Wales. The monks paid an annual fee to Cormeilles and celebrated mass each week in the chapel of Chepstow Castle. The priory became independent in 1442.
The priory was dissolved in 1536, and its church became the parish church. The central tower collapsed in 1701. The church was substantially rebuilt then, and in 1841 and 1890. Surviving elements of the original church are thought to be the west arch, west font and the skeleton of the nave. The west door, with its chevron decoration, is a notable feature.
Information about other priory buildings which once stood on the site were gleaned from excavations in the 1970s.
Among the tombs at St Mary’s is that of Elizabeth Browne (1500-1565). She married the Earl of Worcester and became a lady-in-waiting for Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s wife. There were tales around the time of Anne Boleyn’s execution that Elizabeth Browne had helped smear her name. Also buried here is Henry Martyn, a close friend of Oliver Cromwell and a signatory to King Charles I’s death warrant.
Today St Mary’s is a thriving church with its own bellringers, choir, music group and other groups and activities. It comes under the Church in Wales’ Diocese of Monmouth.
Chepstow has been twinned with Cormeilles since 1976, commemorating the monastic connection between the towns.
Postcode: NP16 5HP