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Penmon Priory

Penmon, Anglesey

Location Guide

According to legend, a monastic community was established on a site near the tip of Penmon in the 6th century AD. There was a growth in the Christian Church in Celtic Britain around that time and simple monasteries were often founded by hermits and holy men in remote locations.

St Seiriol was a friend and associate of St Cybi, and if you explore behind the remains of the monasteries fish pond you will find St Seiriols Well and next to it a small building that is said to be the Celtic hermit priests cell. We explore this further in the location guide on St Seiriols Well which also tells you more about this monk.

The scattered medieval township grew up around its monastery, founded by St Seiriol. The monastery prospered, and two crosses were set up at its gate.

In 971 Vikings destroyed much of Penmon. The two crosses and the decorated font (probably another base from a third cross) remain from this time and can be seen in the church.

The monastery (called St. Seiriol's Monastery) grew in size and had a wooden church building by the 10th century. This wooden building was destroyed in 971. I presume something was rebuilt at that time although I can't see any reference to it.

During the 12th century, the abbey church was rebuilt under Gruffydd ap Cynan and Owain Gwynedd. he oldest parts of the church today dates to the year 1140.

The priory church was enlarged in the early 13th century. In the 13th century, under Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, monasteries started a newer more regular kind of rule, and Penmon became an Augustinian Priory (Black Cannons) with conventional buildings. Prior to this point it had been a Celtic Christian monastery and some remedying and changes of use would have been necessary to get it into the standardised layout of the church of Rome's monasteries layout.

There are records for the election of Priors in the Calendar of Patent Rolls back to 1306, when one Iowerth the Prior is mentioned.  At this time it mentions the dining hall was on the first floor, with a cellar below and dormitory above. In the 16th century, private apartments, a kitchen and a warming house were added at the east of the building.

Llywelyn Fawr and his successors made the church wealthy, giving it land.

By 1536, the priory was in decline and had only the Prior and two other members at that time. This was taken away at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536/8 eventually being dissolved in 1538.

The buildings were then transferred to the ownership of the Bulkeleys of Beaumaris, a prominent local family. They used most of the land for a deer park, and built the dovecot near the church.

The eastern range of buildings has gone, but the southern one, containing the refectory with a dormitory above, still stands.

Inside the roofless buildings

Artist impression of how it may have looked

St. Seiriol's Church, which was the centrepiece of the monastery, is now part of the Rectorial Benefice of Beaumaris, within the Diocese of Bangor. We have photos of it and two, of the crosses that originally stood outside but are now in the church, in the location guide Penmon Cross.

The church was given a grant by the Welsh Assembly Government of 20,570 in May 2004. This was to repair the leadwork, the rainwater goods, repointing and limewashing of the tower roof and the superstructure of the building. Next door, the Priory House which is connected to the church and is set around the cloister court of the church, received 21,600. This was to repair the chimneys, the walls, the windows and the roof of the house.

The church consists of a large chancel now used as the church, a nave and two transepts. The chancel is wider than the nave and accounts for well over half the total length. Entry to the church is into the chancel from the area that was the cloisters. The oldest part of the church is the nave which dates from 1140, then there are the transepts with parts dating from 1160/70 but some rebuilt in 1855. The chancel dates from 1220-40.

Beside the church, and priory house is now a private residence, then there is a roofless range of buildings that form the third side of the Cloisters, this includes the dining hall at first floor level, and dormitories above, built in the 13th century. In the 16th century another two storeys, roughly square block was an extension of this, and was the private apartment of other senior members of the order, the priors house being the area that is now the private house. This included an extra kitchen and a warming room.

An engraving of Penmon Priory was published by the Buck brothers in 1742 and showed this section to be roofless at that time. The location guide on Penmon Cross   also shows some parts of the church.

The fish pond for the monastery,  also exists near to the church and opposite it is the later dovecot, see Penmon Dovecot.

Another set of monastic buildings that was connected with this was on nearby Puffin Island.

Exploring the ground from St Seiriols Well, and behind and around the Priory there is an elaborately carved surround to the rear door of the church and remains of walls and you can see where buildings once stood, some cut into the rock face behind so that the rock face formed a rear wall, but none of this is labelled. There is also the near complete remains of a priory wall with an unusual staircase that goes up, allowing access through a gate higher up and then down a stair flight on the other side.  Some of this may have been a part of the priory or other buildings at the same time or later.

Rear view

Church and priors house

Penmon Dovecot   left, priory ahead

Fish pond

The Anglesey Coastal Path    also runs past here, so its worth stopping off to take a look.

Location: Penmon Priory, Penmon, Anglesey

Grid Reference: SH630807 Ceremonial County: Anglesey

Map  Link: StreetMap   

Aerial photo: Google Aerial 

Getting there: From Beaumaris Take the B5109 to Llangoed at Tre-Castell turn right down the road to Penmon until you reach the Toll Booth park up in the car park here outside the priory.

Access: Entry to the buildings is free, there is a toll charge to go beyond this to the lighthouse
Website: CADW
Other Useful Websites: Wiki     Geograph    Visit Anglesey
Postcode: Telephone:
Opening Times: The unroofed site and most of the site is open all the time, the church is open in the daytime but I would presume is locked up overnight.

Charges: No cost to enter buildings - toll charge to go beyond to lighthouse

Nearby Locations: Penmon Dovecot   Penmon Cross  St Seiriols Well

Penmon Lighthouse       Puffin Island

Other Location Pages: Anglesey Coastal Path 
Other Relevant Pages: Anglesey Attractions     Anglesey Attractions Map






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By: Keith Park Section: Abbey and Religious Building Section Key:
Page Ref: Penmon_Priory Topic: Abbeys Last Updated: 07/2010


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