You can`t talk about Llanthony or the Vale of Ewyas with out mentioning or visiting the Priory. Personally I don`t like the building or its remains very much, never the less its worth a visit as it played an important part in the populating of the valley. The history of mankind winds its way through the valley just like the meandering river Honddu. I won’t attempt to write a history essay about the Priory as this has been done many, many times before by people who are a lot more educated and eloquent than myself but I will give it a crack.
A knight known as William or Walter De lacy who was somewhat disillusioned by his feudal masters stumbled upon the vale of Ewyas whilst on a hunting trip and fell so in love with the remoteness of the place he jacked in his knightly life style and became a hermit settling in the valley living in the remains of the ruined chapel of saint David on the now location of the Priory. With a humours twist of fate and a massive dose of irony the site was soon to attract all manner of people from chaplins to the royal family right the way to a band of monks. Who set about building what was to become the largest medieval building in Wales ( not so remote and quiet then ! ). Well by this time the valley would of been pretty well turned up side down with the building works of the Abbey. Farm land would of been taken, itinerant builders, stone masons and labours would of all flooded in, set up camp in the valley and caused all sorts of trouble with the local hill farmers and their young families. This all came to a head at sometime in 1135 when the monks made a rapid retreat to safe ground over the border in Gloucester and not wanting to have idle hands for the devil to find work for. They set about building another Abbey ” llanthony Secunda “. The locals would of had a field day and ripped it all down and stuck two fingers up to all it stood for, well I ask you, a bunch of English marching into the valley building a massive building using up all the local stone and cutting down the trees for timber, they very near wrecked the valley good riddance to em I say.
Sadly this wasn`t the last the De Lacy`s had to do with Llanthony as sometime in 1186 he ” Hugh ” arrived in the valley with buckets of cash cleaned from his Irish estates and probably fleeing the troubles. Set about rebuilding the Abbey and even managed to secure some cash backing from Rome and the blessing from Pope Clement III in finishing the restoration off sometime in 1217.
Things seemed to of settled down a bit for a while with not much really happening in the valley apart from the ” establishment imposing there power and control over the area with a mixture of fire and brimstone and taxes, that`s until 1327 when the deposed Edward II decided to lay low in the Abbey for a while, he should of stayed there me thinks because not long after he left llanthony he was murdered in Berkeley Castle. Now we come to the final blow for the Abbey as the uprising of the last true Welsh Prince of Wales grew strength and momentum so the retreat of the Norman lords also grew and they fled their seats of power and sometime in the 1400`s the Abbey was once again sacked and that`s pretty much how it lay that`s until the dissolution of the monastery’s in 1538. Not much really happened until one of my favourite characters of llanthony history rode in to the valley with a bundle of cash and the idea of creating a Nirvana in the Welsh hills and that period deserves a blog post all of its own. On with the video