The Parish and Priory Church of St Mary
The Norman Priory of Chepstow was founded between1067 and 1071 by William fitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford, and was built at the same time as the Norman Keep of Chepstow Castle. Benedictine monks were brought from the monastery at Cormeilles in Normandy, now Chepstow’ twin town. After the suppression of the priory in 1536 the Church suffered much destruction but the grandeur of the early Norman great Church can still be seen today in the vast three storey original nave.
The early Church was built in local yellow Triassic sandstone and its crowning glory is the great west entrance doorway, built in five richly decorated arches with zig zag and lozenge patterns.
The rest of the Church is a strange mixture of later restoration attempts following the collapse of the central tower in 1701.
There are two imposing monuments within the Church: the tomb of the second earl of Worcester; and, the Jacobean tomb of Margaret Cleyton with her two husbands and twelve children.
Close to the West door under a protective red carpet is the tomb of Henry Marten, close friend of Oliver Cromwell, and signatory to Charles 1’s death warrant. Marten was imprisoned for many years in Chepstow Castle in the tower that still bears his name, until his death in 1680.
The Church has a fine peal of ten bells, and the original workings of the tower clock are in the south transept.
The Church is open daily for visitors and private prayer. Further information is available in the Church and from Chepstow Tourist Information Centre on 01291 623772.