RESTORATION of the Tithe Barn, St Mary's Priory, Abergavenny
If buildings could talk, this one could certainly tell a few tales from its eventful history!
After St Mary’s Priory was dissolved in 1542, the Priory site was sold and many of the buildings converted to private use. The Tithe Barn became a coach house for the manor house which was built on the Priory site, before becoming a theatre for travelling actors in around 1645. The illustrious performers to have graced its stage include Sarah Siddons, the feted 18th century actress.
When the theatre closed in 1820 it was used for less glamorous purposes, including a timber warehouse, a grain store, a Womens’ Institute shop, a carpet warehouse and an auction house.
In the 1960s it was bought by a local businessman who converted it into Abergavenny’s first discotheque.
Over the years the wear and tear from long usage began to take its toll on the building. By the time the St Mary’s Priory Development Trust bought it in 1999, it was in urgent need of repair. With the help of Morgan & Horowskjy architects, Border Archaeology and CADW, the Trustees embarked on a programme of conservation work to carry out emergency repairs and restore the tithe barn to its former glory.
2002 - todate
In 2002, work was carried out to stabilize the building and to shore up the walls, which had buckled as a result of the weight of the grain once stored in the barn. The roof, windows, doorways and internal structures were also repaired or renewed, and the walls painted with a conservation grade limewash, imitating how the building would originally have looked.
The refurbishment of the Tithe Barn could not have taken place without considerable assistance – both financial and practical – from many people, and St Mary’s Priory Development Trust gratefully acknowledges the contributions made. The major funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund for Wales (£829K), the Welsh European Funding Office (£217K), the Welsh Assembly Government (£475K) as well as CADW and Monmouthshire County Council.
The restoration process has ensured that the Tithe Barn can continue to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike for many years to come, and today the building houses our exhibition, food hall, shop and education resource.