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Llanthony Secunda Priory

Visited September 2023

Location Gloucester
Entrance Fee No
Railway Station Nearby Yes- Gloucester
Parking Blue Badge only on site otherwise city centre car parks
Facilities Toilets
Map

 

 


 

 


Review

 

You may have heard of Llanthony Priory in Monmouthshire, with its evocative arches and stunning setting in the Welsh mountains. This was the first Priory, founded in 1103 by a Norman nobleman, William de Lacy.  However, the lifestyle for a monk living in a priory founded by a Norman Lord, would not have been exactly idyllic at a time when the Welsh locals would have been hostile to what they saw as Norman interference. Eventually the lawlessness of the area forced the priors to move away from Wales, with only the most fearless of them staying put. The Priors went first to Hereford, then made their way to Gloucester, where they bought some land and starting constructing a new priory, known as Llanthony Secunda- or the second Llanthony Priory.

 

Within about ten years the new Secunda priory was more successful than its Motherhouse in Wales. The priors in Gloucester preferred it there and refused the call to return to the Welsh site once the area was deemed safe again. 

 

So began the separation of the two houses of Llanthony. The properties owned by the two priories were split, with Llanthony Secunda receiving most of the properties in Gloucestershire and other English counties. The properties in the town of Gloucester itself were divided between the two houses, but eventually Llanthony Secunda bought out the interests of the Llanthony Prima. In addition they both retained an amount of properties in Ireland. This meant that for a while, the Priory in Gloucester was a rich one, as it also had patronage from the wealthy de Bohun family. But as incomes started to dwindle and the later de Bohun heirs lost interest in the Priory, the monks started to build closer relationships with the townsfolk of Gloucester, as they could not afford to lose their local income.

 


 

 


 

The canons became known in Gloucester for charity work such as running hospitals and supporting the poor. The canons would organise annual feast for the poor, usually financed by rich local supporters. However, they were also criticised  for their conduct, such as going in to the town without permission, and not keeping their accounts in order to the extent that the holy vessels used in services were sold off to pay debts.

 

Playing such an active role in health and care of the poor meant that the Priory suffered from a large loss of canons due to the plague in the 14th Century. It was mainly the older canons who died, leading to a loss of experienced staff who could run the Priory. Despite this the priory received royal visitors such as Henry III, Edward II and Henry VII all visited.

 

The priory was also known for its collection of medieval manuscripts, some of which survive today. The manuscripts contained several hymns and carols, including one called 'Blessed By You Oh Heavenly Queen' which is known as the Llanthony Carol. This is unusual as it was written in English, rather than Latin.

 


 

 


 

Llanthony, like most other religious houses, was closed in the reign of Henry VIII. The Prior at the time, Richard Hart, saw this coming and opened negotiations with the crown, which saw him and the remaining canons receiving annual pensions in return for not resisting the closure.

 

The priory building then took on many uses; as a residence, farm and offices for the railway which was built in the Victorian times on the priory land. A lot of the outer building of the priory were demolished over the years, and much of the archeology was disposed of when the nearby canal was cut. 

 

The buildings left today are a small part of the original medieval range with impressive arched roof braces. This part of the building was made from wattle and daub. One one end of the range a farmhouse was constructed which remains today. The original Gatehouse remains to the west of the site, unfortunately difficult to see properly as it is at the side of a very busy road. There is also a brick built stable and a beautiful stone built tithe barn, the remains of which are  somewhat spoiled by the close proximity of the modern campus of Gloucestershire College.

 

The site has free open days throughout the summer (guided tours are offered for a fee) but the grounds, which may appeal more to children as a place to run around, are open to the public at any time. The Priory has a monastic garden which features plants from the medieval times. The grounds are well used by the students from the neighbouring college. 

 

There are toilets on site, but no cafes, however it is only a short walk into Gloucester Quays to find many food outlets. The National Waterways Museum is close by, and this is where you can catch a boat trip along the canal if you would like. We did the trip and found it appealed very much to all ages.

 

 


 

 


 

More info:  Llanthony Secunda Priory

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