Abergavenny Tithe Barn

Abergavenny Tithe Barn

This medieval building was originally for keeping tithes for the monks of the Benedictine priory here.

A tithe was a tenth of the parishioners’ income, originally paid in crops or other produce from the farms owned. Land belonging to priories was often built on, or houses and land were given to the church, and then the tithes were paid as part of the rents in money value. This meant that large barns were no longer needed to store produce. Many were later converted for other uses or fell down. Tithes were abolished in 1936.

The size of this large tithe barn reflects the wealth of the surrounding countryside and the medieval landowners. That prosperity suffered several shocks. In 1249-50 poor weather affected crops and animals. A century later, the Black Death greatly reduced tithe income. Owain Glyndŵr’s attack on Abergavenny in 1404 including burning the tithe barn, archaeological investigations have revealed.

What we see now is the barn as rebuilt by townspeople in the late 15th or early 16th century, with some later alterations. It is likely that an original thatched roof was lost in Glyndŵr’s onslaught, and the greater weight of the replacement roof may have contributed to the bowing of the barn walls.

The walls, of stone rubble, have large barn doors on the side facing the church. Notice the circular windows and, under the eaves, the pigeonholes with perching ledges.

The barn has served as a theatre, coach house, grain store, timber warehouse, auction house, disco, Women’s Institute shop and carpet warehouse. The building was converted in 2002 into a visitors’ centre. Displays include an exhibition on the priory’s history and the Abergavenny Tapestry, which tells the town’s story and was stitched by more than 60 people to celebrate the new millennium in 2000.

Today the barn belongs to St Mary’s Church and is open when volunteers are available to staff it.

With thanks to Gill Wakley, of Abergavenny Local History Society

Postcode: NP7 5ND    View Location Map

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