Ancient Monuments

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Strata Marcella Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in Welshpool (Y Trallwng), Powys

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Latitude: 52.6862 / 52°41'10"N

Longitude: -3.1087 / 3°6'31"W

OS Eastings: 325154

OS Northings: 310413

OS Grid: SJ251104

Mapcode National: GBR B1.3Z6V

Mapcode Global: WH79J.6RY1

Entry Name: Strata Marcella Abbey

Scheduled Date: 27 November 1952

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 3528

Cadw Legacy ID: MG120

Schedule Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Category: Abbey

Period: Medieval

County: Powys

Community: Welshpool (Y Trallwng)

Traditional County: Montgomeryshire


The monument consists of an abbey, which is a Christian monastery or convent under the government of an Abbot or an Abbess, dating to the medieval period. The Abbey of Strata Marcella was a medieval Cistercian monastery situated at Ystrad Marchell on the west bank of the River Severn near Welshpool. The abbey lay within the diocese of St Asaph, and the abbey church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was founded in 1170 by Owain Cyfeiliog Prince of Powys, as a daughter house of the Abbey at Whitland. Within two years the Abbey had moved a short distance to the present site but excavations have found no evidence of any early structures before construction in stone started in 1190 so it is likely the earliest building were simple wooden structures. Building work continued until the early 13th century, by which time Strata Marcella had become the largest Cistercian Abbey in Wales. The site was excavated in 1890 by Stephen W. Williams for the Powysland Club. The church had an overall length of 273 feet, with an aisled nave 201 feet long, transepts were 96 feet long with a short rectangular chancel, and a 30 ft square tower at the crossing. The long period of building was from c. 1190 till the early C14. There were buttresses, including clasping buttresses at the w end. The red sandstone columns of the ten-bay nave had the Early English pattern of shafts clustered on piers. Transitional and stiff-leaf capitals of great beauty reflect the sculptural developments between c. 1190 and c. 1210. Much of this space was occupied by two monks' choirs. It seems that the elaborate doorway to one of these may have been the original W doorway. Pier stones with 14th century wavy mouldings were found on the site of the tower. The cloister on the S was not excavated. Finds, including 13th century tiles and stone fragments, are in the Powysland Museum, Welshpool. The scheduled area extends over part of three fields between the river and the Welshpool-Oswestry road. No earthworks are visible in the eastern fields which are regularly ploughed and reseeded, but in the western part of the scheduled area there are several mounds and banks, and the site of the excavated church is marked by a mound of stones and the remains of the fence posts.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of the organisation and practice of medieval Christianity. The site forms an important element within the wider medieval landscape. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of associated archaeological features and deposits. The structure itself may be expected to contain archaeological information concerning chronology and building techniques.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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