This building was once both Priory and Parish Church. Its core is the early Norman Tower. The Benedictine Priory was founded c.1160 by Richard 'Strongbow' le Clare, and the nun's church ran east and west of the tower, with the transepts north and south. The parish used the westerly part of the nave behind a screen or pulpitum. The conventual buildings lay to the south.
The next phase was the building of the north nave to form a Parish Church, when the dividing wall was made into an arcade with round columns and pointed arches.
This building was VERY dark inside, so I apologise for the quality of the internal photographs. The fine 15th century screen was refurbished and painted in 1877. On its eastern side is an old brass memorial in ancient Welsh to Adam of Usk, a priest, chronicler and benefactor of St Mary's, who died in 1420.
After the Glyndwyr rising and the burnings of Usk in 1405 there was much rebuilding. The large perpendicular windows were inserted, the two porches built, and later in the 15th century the screens were added. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 when Roger Williams became owner of the Priory, the chancel and transepts were demolished. During the 18th century a schoolroom stood on the site of the north transept.
In 1844 the south nave was extended west to house a gallery with organ and choir, but this was taken down in 1877 and the original organ moved to its present location. Here is the organ with its beautiful painted pipes and unusual forward facing Spanish trumpets. The Organ was brought from Llandaff Cathedral in 1899.
A chancel was formed in the tower crossing with a mock-Norman groined vaulted ceiling. The timber barrel vaulted ceiling with golden bosses was erected in 1900. The communion rail is Jacobean and in the east window of 1913 is a depiction of the Priory Seal showing the Virgin Mary and Child.
The font is Norman on a later base and its lid is the sounding board of the original Jacobean three-decker pulpit.
Here is the ancient chest which contained the parish records before they were moved to the County Archives Office.
The final view is of the building from the east.
I do have photographs of the (large!) stained glass windows, but the reduction necessary to show them here makes the images less than useful. Contact me if you would like to see them.
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