Archive for May, 2016

Professor The Rt Hon Baroness (Shirley) Williams of Crosby will lead an information evening on ‘What the EU has done for us?”.

Fr Mark Soady said

Shirley has had a life of experience as Professor of Politics at  Harvard University and as a UK Cabinet Minster and she is well placed to share with us the pros and cons of remaining in Europe – we are privileged to hear her insights in to this key question.

The Event will take place at the Priory Centre at 7pm on June 7th. europe-flag-1-1.jpg

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The 13th Annual General Meeting of Monuments Restoration Fund (incorporating the Friends of St. Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny) will take place at 7.30pm on Thursday, June 9, 2016, at St Mary’s Vicarage, Abergavenny. Any persons wishing to nominate members of the Committee should send details of nominees to Mr C S Cotterill (Secretary), Church Cottage, Llanwenarth Citra, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 7EP on or before Tuesday, May 31st.

Restorers working on the Herbert Tombs

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We will mark the 100th Anniversary of the start of the 1st World War  Battle of the Somme at Evensong at 7pm on July 1st.


Somme Battlefield crater caused by an explosion on day 1 of the battle

The Veterans Organisation Standards will be processed to the High Altar and the Choir will sing an Anthem Grant Lord, the strength composed by its Musical Director, Tim Pratt.

The Battle of the Somme, fought in northern France, was one of the bloodiest of World War One. For five months the British and French armies engaged the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition on a 15-mile front.

The aims of the battle were to relieve the French Army fighting at Verdun and to weaken the German Army. However, the Allies were unable to break through German lines. In total, there were over one million dead and wounded on all sides.

The Allies used their 18-pounder Field Guns to bombard German trenches for seven days and sent 100,000 men over the top to attack the German lines.

July 1st  was a disaster for the British. The Germans weathered the artillery fire in deep trenches and came up fighting. As the British soldiers advanced, they were mown down by machine gun and rifle fire. In total, 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives. It was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. However, the French had more success and inflicted big losses on German troops. In spite of heavy British losses, Douglas Haig, the British general, agreed to continue the attack.

A special commemorative CD of remembrance music sung by the Priory Choir is on sale at the Tithe Barn  to mark the Centenary of World War 1. The story lives on is priced at £3.99.



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We are pleased to announce that the new Jesse Window in Memory of the late Dean Jeremy Winston will be dedicated by the Bishop of Monmouth on July 7th. A week later a Plaque to Dr David Lewis, son of a Tudor Vicar will be unveiled.


Cartoon of part of the window

At 12noon on July 7th, in the context of a short service, which will include scriptural references to Jesse (the father of King David) the window in memory of Fr Jeremy who served here as Vicar for 18 years, will be dedicated by the Bishop of Monmouth, in front of an invited congregation of parishioners, donors and contractors.

The window located in the east end of the Lewis Chapel will complete the world famous Jesse figure.

This extraordinary larger-than-life figure once formed the base of an intricate and elaborate construction, which depicted the lineage of Jesus Christ from Jesse, the father of King  David


Fr Mark with ‘Jesse’

So called ‘Jesse figures’ and ‘Jesse trees’ are not uncommon in stone and stained glass, but this is the only one in wood to be found in the United Kingdom – and probably the world.

In the BBC series A History of British Art, Andrew Graham Dixon describes it as ‘the only great wooden figure to survive the wreckage of the British Cultural Revolution’.

We do not know who carved it, but we do know that it retains its extraordinary command of our attention and fascination. Carved from one solid piece of oak, probably in the 15th century, it was originally highly coloured and depicted all the Davidic kings and descendants, surmounted by the figures of Mary and the Child, and Christ in glory.

Latest thought estimates the height of the ‘tree’ growing from Jesse’s side to have been between 25ft and 30ft.

HW painting (1)

Window designer Helen Whittaker working on the window.

The window is being designed by Helen Whittaker. Helen is a renowned artist and designer, highly regarded for her new stained glass windows, restoration painting and architectural sculpture in glass and copper. She is the Creative Director at Barley Studio, York. Helen has an MA, which looked at Jesse trees, from the University of Wales, from her studies at the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture. Her BA, with a specialism in three-dimensional design using glass and ceramics, is from the University of Sunderland, a Centre of Excellence and the largest glass and ceramics department in Europe.  Helen is an Associate of the British Society of Master Glass Painters and a Court Member (the executive body) of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers.

Fr Jeremy Winston was Vicar of Abergavenny for 18 years before being appointed Dean of the Cathedral in Newport. He sadly died in November 2011, only months after being installed as Dean.

Just over a week later on July 15th the Principal of Jesus College Oxford will unveil a Plaque to his predecessor the first Principal, Dr David Lewis in the chapel which bears his name.

Sir Nigel Shadbolt will unveil a plaque to mark the burial spot of Dr Lewis at a Ceremony in front of the College Alumni, following which the Vicar, Canon Mark Soady will bless it.

We are grateful to the Alumni who paid by subscription for the plaque. Thank you!

Dr David Lewis (died 1584) was a local man who achieved fame by becoming an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I.He was the eldest son of Sir Lewis ap John (alias Wallis), Vicar of Abergavenny, and chose to take his father’s Christian name after the Welsh practice.

He was a man of his age and one of great academic distinction. He was elected a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, in 1541, and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Civil Law. He was one of the founders and first principal of Jesus College, as well as being appointed Judge of the High Court of Admiralty, Master of St Catherine’s Hospital, London, and one of the Masters in Chancery. He was MP for Monmouthshire in 1554. He died in 1584 in London and his body brought to Abergavenny to be buried beneath a tomb that he had commissioned from the Herefordshire sculptor, John Gideon, during his lifetime.

An excited Fr Mark welcoming the news said:

July is going to be  a big month for us at St Mary’s Priory – and all centred on the Lewis Chapel. We are grateful to the many benefactors who have made these two projects possible, as we continue to develop this chapel as  place of prayer and learning.

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