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Latitude: 51.6426 / 51°38'33"N
Longitude: -2.672 / 2°40'19"W
OS Eastings: 353594
OS Northings: 193973
OS Grid: ST535939
Mapcode National: GBR JM.7NLC
Mapcode Global: VH87M.MZS4
Entry Name: Parish Church of St Mary
Listing Date: 12 June 1950
Last Amended: 12 November 2002
Source ID: 2594
Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary
Location: Situated at the lower end of the street, now close to the by-pass, within a churchyard crossed by a railed walkway leading to Lower Church Street.
Traditional County: Monmouthshire
Founded by William fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, or his son, between 1067 and 1075, as a dependency of an earlier monastic foundation in Normandy, the W front and most of the nave (5 west bays of the original 6) surviving from this period. Nave and choir were probably vaulted. The choir was pulled down after suppression of priory in 1536. Central tower fell in 1701, destroying the transepts, and replacement built over W front; a new E wall was also built at the E end of the nave. This early C18 W tower designed by Stephen Harvey, port surveyor. New Neo-Norman E end with short chancel and new transepts built 1838-41; this involved demolition of E bay of nave and aisles and installing galleries. Work initiated by William Harris of Bristol, completed by TH Wyatt and Brandon 1840-1. Remodelling proposals by Seddon and Carter in 1890 were designed to restore Norman nave and build transepts and chancel in Geometrical style, the scheme not completed. Neo-Norman NE vestry by John Prichard. Monuments to notable Chepstow inhabitants include Margaret Cleyton who owned the Gate House in C17 and John Bowsher died 1822, merchant and JP. Original stone was a yellow local sandstone, later changed to a finer limestone; C19 work in Forest of Dean stone. No trace of the conventual buildings associated with the priory remain above ground and the community of monks appears to have remained small. Surrounding churchyard has a number of good quality table tombs and headstones of C18 and C19; Church Walk, with replaced railings, has mid C19 metal bollards cast by Finch's foundry.
Large Norman parish church. Built of part rubble part ashlar, some tooled; slate roof.Plan of W tower, nave, N and S transepts, chancel, NE vestry. Fine Norman W front. At centre a plain round-arched roll-moulded doorway encased by 5 orders of moulding, 4 of which are versions of zigzag, the outer and inner bands with larger motifs and the centre band a plain roll-moulding; joined capitals with scallop moulding and half-round colonnettes. To left and right and forming a continuous stepped arcade are small blind shallow niches with one order of zigzag to the narrow round arches. Above at triforium level is a similar tri-partite feature: 3 round-headed windows, the centre with 3 orders of zigzag moulding above a narrow impost, plain to side arches under a decorative hoodmould. Close to sides are stepped buttresses rising to a string course delineating the C18 tower; this is of 2 storeys, embattled, and with notably classical details to the W front, including pediments to the windows, and to the side buttresses, capitals and plinths to the side pilasters. Tall single louvred lights to the belfry, two lights to the tower chamber at west separated by a clock, all storeys separated by string courses; tower stair turret at NE. N nave has coped embattled parapet in front of tower with stepped buttresses at NW corner. 4 nave bays separated by pilasters: plain round arch to the clerestory, smaller arch of 2 orders to the triforium and below a string course the wide former aisle arches blocked and filled with later round-headed windows. Entrance in NW arch with lean-to bay adjacent. N transept of C19 masonry in part Norman style is gabled with oculus in apex, 3 round -headed windows with hoodmoulds and face stops, long to sides and separated by full height pilasters from plinth to corbel table; central doorway in a coarse Norman style with zigzag ornament; similar long side windows. Hipped tiled roofed vestry extension at NW with Norman style windows. Chancel has two 3-light N windows with cusped tracery and heavy hoodmoulds; roll-moulded string courses, those below parapet and above windows incorporating roundels. E end has a large 5-light window with cusped Geometric tracery; corner buttresses with spirelets enriched by gabled columns. S chancel is similar to N but in place of vestry, a single storey embattled wing to S transept. S Transept has long side windows similar to N and at SE a heavily moulded Gothic Revival doorway; S face has 2 long 3-light windows with cusped tracery separated by a deep stepped buttress, shallow buttresses beneath each window and end pilasters topped by spirelets enriched with canopy-work. S nave similar to N, a 4-bay range with at E end a projecting bay with round-arched window; pitched roof behind parapet.
Interior of nave is mostly rendered with exposed dressings; larger areas of unrendered masonry in upper nave; E end is ashlar. W narthex/lobby under tower with Norman arches, taller to W doorway and very tall tower arch to nave. Late medieval font, a shallow bowl with quatrefoil mouldings, tall stem on a battered plinth with supporting slender outer mouldings; C19 tall carved wooden font cover enriched with quatrefoils and crockets; benefaction boards. Ringing chamber in gallery above with some fine wall monuments. 4 bay Norman nave with plain round arches to aisles with set back inner arches, plain imposts with no capitals. On N side plain triforium arches and larger clerestory arches; on S side paired triforium arches with dividing colonettes, single plain clerestory lights. In NW chapel, the Worcester tomb to Henry, second earl of Worcester, Lord Herbert of Chepstow, Raglan and Gower died 1549 and second wife Elizabeth; a freestanding monument with two painted effigies, two round-headed arches to the long sides with half-round columns with plinth and cartouche panels below and an entablature above with rosette frieze with moulded pyramidal end finials and central heraldic cartouche. Royal Arms of 1841 on canvas adjacent. Flat boarded wooden ceiling, part in coffered panels. Stained glass in SE nave of 1870s by Lavers, Barraud and Westlake, SW by Samuel Evans c 1896. Most glass which is not figurative is of grisaille-stype. SE nave arch is open leading to S transept chapel with small Norman bowl font. Nave has wooden floor with red-tiled aisles and is furnished with chairs.
Crossing has footings of huge Norman piers at N. The rebuilt transepts have tall quatrepartite columns, two deep to S creating a double transept arcade: pointed arches, stiff-leaf capitals, full height arches to left forming recess with wall monuments; organ to right with notable Gothic case. Vaulted wooden ceilings supported by piers and corbels, the section over nave is fan-vaulted. Recess in Norman masonry between S nave and S transept. In S transept a fine Jacobean monument to Thomas Shipman, Richard Cleyton and Margaret who was married to both, she died 1627. It comprises a group of 3 figures in a square-headed recess, the woman recumbent and the two men kneeling, small-scale children below - 2 male and 10 female; the recess framed by columns with heraldic cartouche above flanked by pyramidal finials; marbled finish, repainted. A number of other good quality late C18/early C19 wall monuments, some by Bristol monumental craftsmen. C18 clock mechanism made by William Meredith 1775-1791, Chepstow clock-maker. Stone pulpit in Geometric style by Coates Carter 1891. N transept has a chapel with panelling commemorating world war dead.
Chancel, 5 steps up, has full height arches to left forming a recess with wall monuments; to right the organ with notable Gothick case of c 1800. Edwardian choir stalls with lamps, encaustic tiled floor. 5 steps up to sanctuary, 2 sanctuary windows to each side. Very long polychrome altar and large polychrome reredos of 1922 by Coates Carter, dedicated to women of Newport and Gwent for service in the Great War; stained glass behind. In N wall a reset aumbry, medieval; with trefoil-headed niche, pedimented moulding and large face stops. E window of 1896 by Lavers and Westlake.
Listed Grade I as a major parish church of exceptional historic interest, retaining Norman W front and nave as well as fine monuments.
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