Ancient Monuments

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Talley Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in Talley (Talyllychau), Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

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Latitude: 51.9765 / 51°58'35"N

Longitude: -3.9922 / 3°59'31"W

OS Eastings: 263263

OS Northings: 232764

OS Grid: SN632327

Mapcode National: GBR DW.KNDG

Mapcode Global: VH4HJ.RLC6

Entry Name: Talley Abbey

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2094

Cadw Legacy ID: CM013

Schedule Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Category: Abbey

Period: Medieval

County: Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

Community: Talley (Talyllychau)

Traditional County: Carmarthenshire


The monument consists of an abbey, a Christian monastery under the government of an Abbot, dating to the medieval period. It comprises the remains of an abbey church commenced in the early 13th century, the partial remains of its cloister and areas to the south thought to cover the remaining parts of the claustral buildings.

Talley Abbey was founded, uniquely in Wales for the monastic order of the Premonstratensians, or White Canons by Rhys ap Gruffudd, the Lord Rhys in the late 1180’s. His decendants continued to support the abbey and his great grandson Rhys Fychan was buried there in 1271. The surviving abbey buildings consists of the church with a short knave of four bays, a south aisle, north and south transepts each with a series of three east chapels and the presbytery. There was a tower over the crossing, the east and north sides of which with their supporting arches remain almost to roof height. Originally the church was planned to be 240ft long with a knave of eight bays and, in addition to the tower over the crossing probably also two western towers. However although initially well endowed from a variety of sources, soon after its foundation the abbey was embroiled in a lengthy and damaging dispute with the Abbey of Whitland from which it never fully recovered. This is probably to account for changes made during its construction; foundations for most of the north and part of the west wall of the planned nave it seems were not laid, the church being completed with the nave of just four bays. The south aisle was also completed to this length, but only one bay of the north aisle was used, to make a small chamber with access from the transept. The original piers of the arcade between the nave and planned north aisle were joined with blank masonry walls to form the north wall. In the tower the quoins was changed from ashlar to plain rubble towards the top. Today it can be seen that the north transept has a spiral stair in the north wall which once led to a passage within the walls of the tower, transepts and knave, whilst in the south transept’s south west corner there remains the base of the night stair to the canon’s dormitory. The dormitory would probably have formed the eastern range of the cloister set to the south of the church. The refectory will have been on south side whilst the west would probably have held buildings used for guest accommodation. Only the footings of the northern half of the cloister survive above ground level. The six chapels are all likely to have been divided from each other by openwork screens placed within the dividing walls, the southernmost chapel is longer than the others and has another stair built into its north wall, the south wall contains a piscina. The presbytery has in its south wall a recess which probably housed a sedile and a door adjacent enters a small room will have led to the sacristy. After the English conquest of the area, the Abbey seems to have come ultimately into the hands of the King as a result of a history of both poverty and mismanagement, and it remained in Royal hands even after the Dissolution. The church was in use for the parish until 1772, undergoing some adaptation during this period, although the traces of this have now been removed in order to display the original abbey. Excavations in the knave uncovered several burials, some in lead coffins, the remains were been re-buried at a spot which is marked by a stone plinth.

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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