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Church of St. Thomas a Becket

A Grade II* Listed Building in Monmouth, Monmouthshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8085 / 51°48'30"N

Longitude: -2.7202 / 2°43'12"W

OS Eastings: 350440

OS Northings: 212454

OS Grid: SO504124

Mapcode National: GBR FK.XCVN

Mapcode Global: VH86T.SSSY

Entry Name: Church of St. Thomas a Becket

Listing Date: 27 June 1952

Last Amended: 10 August 2005

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2214

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: Part of a group immediately outside Monnow Bridge forming the centre of the historic suburb of Overmonnow.

County: Monmouthshire

Town: Monmouth

Community: Monmouth (Trefynwy)

Community: Monmouth

Locality: Overmonnow

Built-Up Area: Monmouth

Traditional County: Monmouthshire

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History

Mainly Norman in origin being founded as a chapel in 1186, with later additions. The church fell out of use in the C18 (disused when Coxe wrote in 1801) and was in decay for many years. It became the parish church of Overmonnow in 1832, and this prompted the restoration and refitting of the interior by T H Wyatt who was the Llandaff Diocesan Architect and Matthew Beason, Surveyor to the Duke of Beaufort who supplied the oak. Later Diocesan Architects also worked here, Prichard and Seddon (restoration of chancel in 1873), F Mew (west door in 1880) and F A Powell (chancel east wall and vestry in 1888-90) and later changes can be attributed to them. The west wall is said to have remained brick until 1880 when it was rebuilt in stone, while the east wall of the chancel and the bell-cote were added in 1874-5. The vestry was built in 1887 (by Powell). The building remains Norman in appearance and character but many of the features are C19. The greatest puzzle remains the west front where the available illustrations are somewhat contradictory.

Exterior

Built mainly of red sandstone, but with repairs and refacing in much paler buff sandstone. Originally squared coursed semi-ashlar, but now much worn apart from the repairs. Welsh slate roofs. Aisleless nave with west door in semi-porch, west bellcote, chancel with south porch into vestry.
Two storey nave with a cill band for the upper windows. West semi-porch with three orders of ¾ columns set within a flat topped side buttressed stone structure. There is some genuine Norman work here, the orders, but the original door to the church was the north one so this must be a Wyatt invention perhaps reusing the orders from the north door where they have been replaced with definite C19 work. Above the porch is an arched window and above that a clock in a circular stone frame. A Prichard-Seddon type bell-cote perches on the gable apex. This has a single bell in an east-west opening and a pyramid slate roof with windvane above. The north wall has corner buttresses, a small arched window at the west end (introduced in 1832) and a large central doorway with Victorian colonnettes but the original arches, Victorian door. This door has 1832 pews built against it on the inside so it was probably closed up then. Two arched windows on the upper floor flank the doorhead and another to the east, continuous cillband. Steeply pitched roof above. The chancel has a Victorian Norman style door, a central buttress and two replaced windows. The east end has buttresses on either side and a Victorian 3-light window with plain arched lights and dripmould. Lower roofline than nave which allows the nave to have a small arched window in the peak of the gable. Both nave and chancel gables have apex crosses. The south wall of the chancel is similar to the north but is partly covered by the vestry which is single storeyed in a matching Norman style and has an elaborate arched priest's door facing west and a decorative corbel table, roof hidden behind parapet. The south wall of the nave repeats the north, but without the central doorway.

Interior

The appearance of the interior is a very remarkable and complete survival of an extremely early Norman Revival scheme of decoration in a pre-ecclesiological interior. It is in fact a Georgian preaching box plan with Norman enrichments and as such is probably unique from the early 1830s. This must reflect both Wyatt's interest in and respect for the C12 Norman work and his determination to match its character. The nave is plastered and painted with a wide span king post roof with additional queen struts, close boarded above.
Fine late Norman style chancel arch of two orders with outer dogtooth, but the colonnettes are renewed. Remarkable timber galleries of 1832 cantilevered from the wall on large carved brackets and with a continuous Norman arcade as a front. Pews and pulpit of the same period, of differing elaboration all complete. Two fonts, a plain C15 one in the baptistery and a disused one with C19 interlace stem and charming possibly recut Romanesque bowl. The only alteration to the nave is the partitioning off of part of the west end. The chancel has stripped stone walls with largely recut rere-arches and an arch-braced collar-beam roof. The east wall can clearly be seen to be a late Victorian rebuild. Arcaded Norman style altar frontal. East window of 1957 by Celtic Studios.

Reasons for Listing

Included and highly graded as one of Monmouth's three medieval parish churches; the church also has very interesting C19 alterations and is part of the important group of historic buildings round the outer end of Monnow Bridge.

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