Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chepstow Priory, Monmouthshire

This lovely weather has meant it is difficult to stay at home. Last Thursday (21st April) saw me hop over the Severn Bridge for a small crawl, intent on getting inside one stubborn church, the only medieval one that I have not been inside for miles around, plus two others which I had never stopped at before but Mr Neil had encouraged me to visit through his postings.
St Mary at Chepstow is none of these, a church I have been too many times before and one that is usually open. It is not a beautiful church, the rump of an originally larger priory church, interesting though and enlarged in the C19 for the growing town. However this was my first digital visit. The early Norman nave remains stately, although shorn of its aisles and triforium, the arches blocked and/or glazed, and no longer vaulted. The west doorway is an impressive Norman piece, but the tower above is rather pathetic against such a powerful base and dates from 1705-6. It was built after the central tower fell and destroyed the Norman transepts (the choir had been demolished at the Dissolution). The transepts date from 1838-41 and were in a dull routine neo-Norman design and included a chancel in the same style. Oh how this must have been hated as again in 1890 a grand design to replace the crossing and east end and open up the aisles to a restored nave was started. The chancel was done first, then the south transept remodelled and south chapel built a the start of the C20. The scheme was abandoned incomplete so the north transept survives in its 1840 state and the aisles were never rebuilt. The base of the original NW crossing pier survives, a massive piece. There are also two important coloured monuments with effigies, one with the ladies husbands kneeling behind (in south transept) with wall paintings (redone in 1984) of a skeleton and Father Time.

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