Summary Description and Reason for Designation
The following provides a general description of the Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The monument consists of the remains of a priory, a monastery governed by a prior or prioress, dating to the medieval period. Ewenny Priory's Romanesque church of St Michael and precinct walls, towers and gatehouses are all that remain of this outpost of Norman culture, but they are of great interest. All the claustral buildings, the cloisters, chapter house and living quarters of the monks have long since disappeared. The priory is linked to the early Norman settlement in the area, and in particular to the de Londres family of Ogmore Castle nearby. The present church was built on the site of an earlier one by William de Londres between 1116 and 1126. In about 1141 William's son Maurice founded a Benedictine monastic community here for a prior and 12 monks.
The church is a remarkable survival from the early 12th century. In style it is pure Romanesque, with round arches, barrel vaults and simple geometric decoration. The masonry is rubble, with ashlar used only for the east wall of the presbytery, piers, arches, window surrounds and other decorative parts. The cruciform plan of the church is also typically Romanesque, with a nave, an arcaded north aisle, a simple rectangular presbytery at the east end, transepts with two side chapels off each on the east side, and a central crossing added later. The presbytery and transepts, the north one of which is ruined, are entered by a separate door on the north side. Disused since 1540, this is a large empty place. But it is pure Norman: the great round arches of the ceiling, the chevron moulding, the round-arched windows in the east wall and south transept, the round-arched triforium high in the west wall of the south transept, and the fine decoration in 'billets' on one of the arches in the opposite wall are all elements of Norman Romanesque architectural style. To the east of the transepts were side chapels, now gone.
The contents of the church are few. The stone altar slab is massive and original. The wooden screen dates partly from the 14th century, and may have been taken from the west end of the priory church. There are clues in the south wall of the church as to the existence of claustral buildings: blocked doorways in the nave and south transept which would have led to the cloisters, and blocked door high up in the south-west corner of the transept which would have led to the monks' dormitory.
The walls enclose a large area to the south and west of the church and are very massive for such a small priory. From near the east end of the church a low wall runs southward to a rectangular tower. This is thought to be the oldest part, dating soon after 1141. The square tower north-west of the church has a nice trefoil-headed window on its east side which would date it to around 1300. It stands to first-floor level, and presumably was originally battlemented.
The north and south gatehouses were built at the end of the 12th century, and were remodelled and extended outwards in about 1300. The north gatehouse, on the outside, has heavily spurred bases and in the entrance passage portcullis slots and two murder holes. The south gatehouse, remodelled after the medieval period, is smaller, with a long vaulted passage, portcullis slot and murder holes. The battlemented walls at the west end, built in the 13th century soon after the gatehouses, stand to their original height. A wall walk runs behind the battlements, and in the west corner is a round tower. The original form of the wall along the south side of the precinct is unknown as it was demolished in the early 19th century.
The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval ecclesiastical organisation. 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.