The Founding of Ewenny Priory

With the coming of the Normans following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, we can move from conjecture to fact. In 1093, King William II granted lands in Glamorgan to his courtier, Robert Fitzhamon, based at Gloucester. Robert moved westward to Cardiff, and parcelled the land among his followers as sub-tenants to secure it through a series of castles, and to settle and farm the fertile Vale of Glamorgan. One of Robert’s followers was William de Londres, who by 1107 had built a castle at Ogmore, to defend the western approaches to the Vale and guard the fords across the rivers Ogmore and Ewenny.

Three documents provide the evidence for the foundation of a Priory at Ewenny. A letter written about 1145 by Gilbert Foliot, the abbot of St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester, says that a church was built at Ewenny by William de Londres and dedicated in the presence of Urban, Bishop of Llandaff. William was dead by 1126; Urban died in 1134. A charter of confirmation granted by King Stephen in 1138 lists the church at Ewenny among the possessions of Gloucester Abbey. The List of Donations in the Gloucester Chronicles states that in 1141, “Maurice de Londres, son of William de Londres, gave to the church of St Peter at Gloucester the church of St Michael at Ewenny, the church of St Bridget (St Brides Major) with the chapel of Ogmore and the church of St Michael of Colwinston…with all the lands, meadows and all other things belonging to them…in order that a convent of monks might be formed.” Maurice’s tombstone in the Priory describes him as ‘the founder’.

The historical and architectural evidence points to William de Londres building Ewenny Priory Church, perhaps on the site of a Celtic Christian monastery, between 1116 and 1126 for a group of Benedictine monks; the foundation of the Priory as a daughter house of St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester (now Gloucester Cathedral) was confirmed in 1141 by Maurice de Londres.

Maurice de Londres

 

The tomb-slab of Maurice de Londres