A Tour of Ewenny Priory Church: The Crossing and South Transept

tile - medieval webThe monastic end of Ewenny Priory Church is entered through the north pulpitum wall door, accessed by the ramp or steps in the north aisle. At the top of the ramp are some original tiles taken from the former chapel to the east of the now demolished north transept.

The Crossing

The arches of the crossing support the walls of the Tower. There is a single bell in the tower, made in Gloucester in 1800. The top of the shafts of the crossing arches are decorated with typical Norman zig-zag or chevron carving.

In the floor of the crossing are some more original 14th century tiles from the north transept. Set against the pulpitum wall are some sepulchral slabs incised with foliated crosses, perhaps from the graves of former priors of Ewenny.

A reproduction and description of JMW Turner’s watercolour can be seen next to the 19th century door leading into a vestry built on the site of the north transept.

trans combo (2)

The South Transept

The transept now contains a collection of Celtic Christian stones, tomb stones of the founders and priors of the Priory, and tombs and memorials to the Carne and Turbervill families. A few of the tombs are in their original position, while others have been reset.






Ewenny Enrty into Jerusalem (2)The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, 12th century stone, South Transept. The carving reflects the account in St Matthew’s Gospel, which mentions a donkey and “a colt, the foal of a donkey”.



The transept is lit by three round-headed windows in the south wall, arranged in triangular form, and off-centre, to allow for the spiral-staircase, accessed by a doorway in the south-west wall. This was the night-stair, leading from the dormitory to the south, which allowed the monks to enter the church for the night-offices without going outside. The monks would normally enter the church through the doorway in the south-west of the transept from the cloisters.

The south-west staircase also led to the tower, along a gallery which opens out onto the transept with a series of arches with alternate square and round pillars. This would allow a view of the presbytery for infirm monks who could not otherwise take part in the services; and also would be used as a singing gallery.

The blocked arches in the east wall once opened into the chapels, now in ruins. The left arch has billet carving; the right arch is plain. The arches rest on pillars, each capped with typical chevron carving.

Displayed within the left arch are a number of fragments of stones, most dating to before the foundation of the Priory and having designs similar to some of the Celtic Christian stones at St Illtud’s Church, Llantwit Major and Margam Abbey. They were found at various places around the Priory, having been reused as building stone.

Ewenny Maurice de Londres Cross webOn the floor of the south transept are three  tomb-slabs of the de Londres family, the founder and benefactors of Ewenny Priory Church. The earliest is of Maurice de Londres, who died before 1170, the son of William, the builder of the Priory Church. The inscription, describing Maurice as ‘the founder’ is in Lombardic script, the two lines divided by a floriated cross, and bordered by scroll-leaf. The slab, dating from about 1200, would have been placed near the high altar in the Presbytery.

In front of Maurice de Londres’ slab is that of his son, William, who died about 1205. The slab is broken into three pieces, and part is missing. The third slab is in memory of Hawise de Londres, daughter of Thomas de Londres and the last of this branch of the de Londres family. The slab is incised with the full length figure of Hawise, but the head and shoulders are missing. The inscription is indistinct, but translated probably reads: ‘Pray for the noble Lady Hawise de Londres: remember and chant for her soul two Our Fathers’.

The large altar tomb  standing to the south of the grave-slab of Maurice de Londres has on all four sides the coats of arms of the Carne family, the owners of the Priory after 1546. Lying on the tomb is the figure of a knight in full armour, thought to be of Sir Payn de Turbervill of Coity, a 13th century benefactor of the Priory.in the floor are three long flat slabs, each incised with a cross with a pillar either side, marking the graves of priors. One was reused for the grave of Adam Nicholl, 1615.

Set in the floor are three long flat slabs, each incised with a cross with a pillar either side, marking the graves of priors. One was reused for the grave of Adam Nicholl, 1615.

The back and white polished marble tomb-chest is to the memory of Edward Carne who died in 1650, and of his great-grandson, John Carne, the last male of the line, who died in 1700 at the age of 15 years. He is acknowledged in the inscription as

“Ewenny’s hope,
Ewenny’s pride,
In him both flouris’d
and in him both dy’d.
Death haveing seis’d him,
linger’d loathe to be
the ruine of this
worthy family.”

On the walls of the transept and embedded in the floor are monuments and tombstones of the Carne and Turberville families.