Last weekend I went on a , long ago booked, painting course. it was absolutely great (learnt masses) with the same tutor who started me off with “botanical illustration” last year. There were six of us on the course, all ladies of a similar age but from different backgrounds and varying painting experience. However we all seemed to “gel” really well and have agreed to get together again on a “painting” day. The setting for the studio was glorious too. The venue was an artist’s home; a little farm tucked away on the hillside above Llanthony Priory on the Herefordshire/Monmouthsire borders. One of the barns had been converted into a two storey studio – work room upstairs and a gallery come dining room downstairs. I had fabulous autumnal- coloured drive up from Abergavenny to get to the farm; through the tree-lined Vale of Ewas, in the heart of the Black Mountains. Inspiration in itself.
Llanthony is a partly ruined former Augustinian priory, which dates back to around the year 1100, when Norman nobleman Walter de Lacy reputedly came upon a ruined chapel of St. David in this location, and was inspired to devote himself to solitary prayer and study. He was joined by Ersinius, a former Chaplain to Queen Matilda, the wife of King Henry I, and then a band of followers. A church was built on the site, dedicated to St John the Baptist, and consecrated in 1108. By 1118, a group of around 40 monks from England founded there a priory of Canons Regular, the first in Wales.
In 1135, after persistent attacks from the local Welsh population, the monks retreated to Gloucester where they founded a daughter cell, Llanthony Secunda. However, around 1186 another member of the de Lacy family, Hugh, the fifth baron, endowed the estate with funds from his Irish estates to rebuild the priory church, and this work was completed by 1217. There are also letters from Pope Clement III (CSM,i,p. 157–159), between 1185 and 1188, confirming further grants and gifts to the priory from Adam de Feypo and Geoffrey de Cusack in Ireland.
The Priory became one of the great medieval buildings in Wales, in a mixture of Norman and Gothic architectural styles. Renewed building took place around 1325, with a new gatehouse. On Palm Sunday, April 4, 1327, the deposed Edward II stayed at the Priory on his way from Kenilworth Castle to Berkeley Castle, where he is alleged to have been murdered . Following Owain Glyndŵr‘s rebellion in the early 15th century, the Priory seems to have been barely functioning. In 1481 it was formally merged with its daughter cell in Gloucester, and after 1538 both houses were suppressed by Henry VIII‘s Dissolution of the Monasteries (taken from Wikipedia)
Since when Llanthony has gradually decayed into ruins. Following a chequered history of various ownerships it is now administered by Cadw.
Today Llanthony is a thriving little hamlet; catering for the tourists that pass through. Pub, café, pony trekking, bunk house etc and a renowned annual village show that people come from miles around to participate in. It is worth a visit for the drive alone. You just need endless patience for the leg up (or down – depending which way you travel) to Hay on Wye. Single track with limited passing places !
GOS and I made a similar pilgrimage to Strata Florida ( Near Aberystwyth) back in July. A spectacular drive over open moorland above Rhayader, skirting the Elan Valley.. This site is of a Cistercian Abbey dating from 1164. The Abbey suffered the same fate as Llanthony at the hands of Henry VIII and now is just a ruin, with even less of it left to show its former glories.
Strata Florida (ink and watercolour)
To get back to painting ……. Our tutor for the weekend, a very experienced illustrator of some 25 years, had brought lots of specimens with her for us to practice drawing painting. I chose “artichoke” and I must say I was extremely pleased with my finished results. (as below). I love the sculptural feel of the plant. Reinvigorated to tackle more painting . . . . . . . . .. (but must catch up with a little housework having been away – hey ho ! )
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