St Mary’s Priory Church

link_to_french_translationSt Mary’s Priory Church, Chepstow

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.

The church lost one of its bell ringers in the First World War. Cyril Francis Priest died in Belgium in 1915, aged 19, while serving as a Rifleman with the Monmouthshire Regiment. He is commemorated on the war memorial in the church and on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres.

St Mary's still has its own bell ringers, along with a choir and other groups and activities.

Chepstow has been twinned with Cormeilles since 1976, commemorating the monastic connection between the towns.

With thanks to the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers

Postcode: NP16 5HP    View Location Map

Parish website

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