Penmon Priory

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This is a delightful spot at the south eastern tip of Anglesey. In the C6th, the Celtic St Seiriol established a small monastery here by a holy well. It was very prosperous by the C10th but was looted and destroyed by the Danes. The Abbey Church was replaced by a stone building in the C12th and is regarded as the finest and most complete example of a church of this period in Gwynedd. I have written a separate review covering this.

In the early 13th century the Celtic community was reorganised under the Augustinian Rule who added the refectory and dormitory buildings. The priory was dissolved in 1538 and became the property of the Bulkeleys of Beaumaris, who lived in the prior’s lodging. They enclosed much of the land as a deer park with a tall stone wall round it and built the dovecote. The priory church remained in use as the parish church.

The Prior’s lodging is a private house, but there is access to the church, the ruins of the monastic buildings, St Seiriol’s well and the dovecote.

The DOVECOTE is a massive stone building with a domed roof with a cupola at the top which the doves could fly in and out of. It was built by the Bulkeleys in 1600 and could house nearly 1000 birds. Entry is through a tiny door with a step down. The inside is lined with nest boxes. The central pillar is thought to have provided support for the ladder needed to access the nest boxes.

ST SEIRIOL’S WELL is reached by a path from the car park, past the monastic fish pond. It is surrounded by a stone wall and reached along a rough path with stones forming small steps. The lower part of the well chamber surrounded by flat stones may date back to early Christian times. The brick and stone shelter above with a stone shelf around the sides is early C18th. The well also provided fresh water for the monastery.

The C13th SOUTH RANGE below the church is now a roofless shell but contains a tall inscribed stone cross. On the ground floor were cellars and storage areas. On the first floor was the refectory, reached by an outside stair. It would have had a door into the cloisters which were a higher level than the present road. Above would have been the dormitory. To the right is a later C16th building with a fireplace which may have been the private apartment for a senior member of the monastic community.

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