In 1113 Robert fitz Martin, the new Norman Lord of Cemais (since ca.1109), founded a Priory “…near the ancient cell of St. Dogmael…” He brought thirteen monks from Tiron (now Thiron-Gardais) in Normandy, France, for that purpose. The reformed Benedictine Order of Tiron was founded between 1106 and that year by St. Bernard of Abbevilles. Tiron Abbey was officially opened in 1114. In 1117 Caldey Priory, which had been established two years earlier by Geva de Burci, mother of Robert fitz Martin, was granted to St. Dogmaels. In 1118 Robert fitz Martin brought another thirteen monks from Tiron, with permission to raise the Priory to Abbey status. Formal establishment took place on 10th September 1121, when Fulchard was enthroned as the first Abbot. Extensive estates in Cemais and further afield, were granted by Robert fitz Martin. These included the ancient church of St. Dogmaels and the extensive lands associated with it. Also lands in the Preseli range, including Mynachlogddu; Caldey Island and Moylegrove – the latter the former property of Matilda or Maud Peverel, fitz-Martin’s wife, for whom it was named. Also Cockington and Rattery near Totnes, Devon. A later charter from ca1290 reproduces part of the text of the original, as follows:
“...I Robert son of Martin thinking of reward in heaven with the consent or rather at the suggestion of my wife Matilda for the glory of Holy Church in my land of Guales commiserating the poverty of the Monks of Tiron established a Monastery in honour of the Holy Mother of God the ever Virgin Mary for the religious brethren there abiding I have obtained an Abbot from the Lord Abbot William and all the convent of Tiron with God's help at length after many entreaties desiring to meet their needs as far as the extent of my resources allowed Henry the illustrious King of England urging and likewise confirming what grants I have made and shall make to the Abbot and his Monks and their successors to be an undisturbed possession forever I have effected that in the same Abbey nothing can be set up by any secular power contrary to canonical authority viz. neither by the King himself nor by any prince of his soever nor by any of their successors I have given to them the ancient church of St. Dogmael with possession of the land adjacent to the same church whose name is Landodog in the Province of Cemaes by the bank of the river Teify. I have also given them all the land situated on the confines of the same aforesaid church and place which at that time I used to hold under my sway whose boundaries are as follows.
From a certain river whose name is Braian which in those parts divides between Emlyn and Cemaes as it descends to the next river the Teify and thence as the same river flows into the nearest sea. Likewise the land from the same aforesaid river towards the south as far as the land of Robert of Languedoch and thence along the land of Roger of Mathone towards the west until one reaches the land of William son of Roger and thence as far as the boundaries of Hugo with the surname Gualensis viz. as far as the river which divides his land and Lanbloden manor which belongs to them. All that land accordingly which lies within these boundaries as well cleared as covert with the trees belongs to the Monks. I have also given them one of my knights by name Alan with his land which also lies within the aforesaid boundaries and also in the mountain districts the district named Breselech from the land of Hubert de Vaux as far as the source of a certain brook which is called Comb Karo and thence until it flows into a river whose name is Cledi and thence towards the source of the same Cledi until it reaches a fair-sized brook which descends from the summit of the mountain on the right and thence along the summit of the same mountain as it extends lengthwise until one again reaches the land of Hubert de Vaux I to the aforesaid Monastery have granted. Whosoever indeed of my men for the remission of his sins shall have made grants of their land to the same Monastery those grants I altogether allow. Likewise to the same Monks my mother has granted the island of Pyr which is now called by another name Caldey which granted to me by my lord the King I had granted to my mother and this grant I willingly confirm. I have granted them also in addition that wherever in my own woods my swine are fed their swine may also pasture and that they may take without let or hindrance from thence for themselves whatever timber they may wish for building purposes. I have likewise given them the fishery of St. Dogmaels and have granted them all the waters as far as their land extends to use for milling or seine-fishing or any other fisheries or for whatever other purpose they can practise or devise. I have also given them of all the stags or hinds taken in my chase all the skins except those which belong to the hunters. And in England I have given them a certain manor named Ratreu with all its appurtenances.
Accordingly although I may have made these grants at different times nevertheless at the ordination of the Abbot this donation was solemnly made on the day when the first Abbot of the same place Fulchardus by name was enthroned in his seat by the lord Bernard Bishop of the Church of St. Davids with the consent of the same Bishop whatever of my tithes I had given to the same Abbot as well of produce as of animals whether of sheep or of foals or of calves or of any cattle soever of which a tithe ought to be rendered of wool of cheese and butter in Guales. These were accordingly given on the l0 th of September in the presence as witnesses of the same of Bishop Bernard and William lord Abbot of Tiron and also Richard son of G(osner?) and Humphrey son of Gosmer and Stephen Dapifer the King's Steward of Richard Alfred de Bennevilla the same attesting this Charter...”
A fleet of fifteen ships carrying Danish mercenaries attacked the abbey in 1138, having failed to capture Cardigan Castle. One Hubert was then the Abbot. According to the ‘Annales Cambriae‘:
“…The heathen despoiled the vill and church of Landedoch, that is, of St. Dogmaels, and carried away great booty to the ships…”
Some time between 1135 and 1148, Bernard, Bishop of St. David’s, granted to the Abbey Hugh de Fossar’s donation of Lisprant. Reference was made to Stephen, the Abbot’s steward. A major building programme was under way at the Abbey from 1150-53, probably due to the raid of 1138. In 1161 one Richard may have been the Abbot. Abbot Walter presided here in 1165. Abbot Andrew entertained Gerald de Barri (a.k.a. Geraldus Cambrensis; Gerallt Cymro; Gerald of Wales) and Archbishop Baldwin here in 1188. Gerald wrote:
“…We slept that night in the Monastery of St. Dogmaels, where, as well as on the next day at Aberteify, we were handsomely entertained by Prince Rhys…”
At some point between 1176 and 1198 Pill Priory was founded as a daughter house to St. Dogmaels. In September 1198 Walter, the illiterate Abbot, was nominated as a candidate for the bishopric of St. David’s, and was elected in December 1199. This was merely a ploy to prevent Gerald de Barri from being elected. On 23rd June 1201 Abbot Walter was ordered to hand over “…the houses and lands belonging to the bishopric…” On 27th July 1201 Reginald Foliot, proctor of St. Dogmaels, was almost excommunicated for misleading the Church regarding the abilities of the Abbot. Later in the year, Walter had to account for himself. On 10th April 1202 King John gave his written support to Abbot Walter’s candidacy, and Gerald de Barri’s support was dwindling. In 1203 the Pope rejected both candidates.
Attempted encroachments upon the Abbey lands by Cardigan burgesses were repulsed by the monks in 1242. The King gave a gift of twenty marks to the Abbot and convent “…for the fabric of their church…” in 1246. In 1253 the monks were assigned the Church of St. Thomas at St. Dogmaels, following the death of the Rector. On 18th January 1253 Richard, Bishop of St. David’s, visited the Abbey. In 1268 Fishguard was granted to St. Dogmaels Abbey. In 1280 Abbot Hubert presided here. The Abbey grants and charter were confirmed in 1290. It was valued the following year at £58.11s.4d.
The Abbey donated £28 towards the Crusades in 1292. The Abbot petitioned the King in 1296 for permission, in view of damages sustained during Edward I ‘s local Welsh campaign, to receive a gift of 11s. worth of rent annually from a Cardigan property belonging to Elena, wife of Henry Brazon – a Cardigan burgess.:
“...To our Lord the King and his Council the Abbot and Convent of St. Dogmaels in Wales shew that as they have been often pillaged of late and are living in great poverty through the war which has been in their country they pray the King for love of God and for the soul of the Queen that they may have help from a lady who wishes to advance them by a rent of eleven shillings in the town of Cardigan if the goodwill of the King will allow it which they pray the King that he will allow and confirm the deed of the lady if it pleases him...”
Permission was granted in 1297. In 1302 Abbot John presided. The Abbot complained about the levying of excessive taxes in 1317, which he was unable to pay the following year. In 1320 the Abbot accepted a grant of Llandeilo, Llangolman and Manclochog churches without first seeking Royal consent. Fortunately for him, the King granted the gift. In 1325 the Abbey held a Knight’s Fee called “Cassia” (location uncertain but compare the name with the former ‘Cawsai or Gawse, Llantood) and half of the Knight’s Fee of “Keven Chymwyrth “. Brother John le Rede, the Abbot, had died before 1st May 1328. In 1345 Cwm Cerwyn in the Preseli Hills was referred to as part of the Abbey estate. In February 1354 Abbot David was in charge. In June 1364 and August 1376 Abbot John presided at St. Dogmaels. On 4th May 1388 the Archbishop of Canterbury was scheduled to visit. In 1391 the Abbey of Tiron was suppressed together with four of St. Dogmaels’ daughter houses in England. In October 1399-1415 Philip Fader was the Abbot. He had previously been the Prior of Caldey in 1381. On 14th January 1402 Guy, Bishop of St. David’s wrote to the Abbot with regard to his visitations to the Abbey on 7th and 10th January. The letter contained the following:
“…Guy etc. to our beloved sons in Christ and religious men, brother Philip Vader, abbot of the monastery of St. Dogmells in Kemmeys of the order of St. Benedict of Tiron, of our diocese, and the convent of the same, subject to our ordinary jurisdiction…Whereas we by our ordinary authority making a visitation in every deed of your said monastery on the seventh and tenth days of the month January lawfully continued, in the year of the Lord 1401-02, and the fifth year of our consecration, found among other things, in our same visitation that first by pestilence then by your neglect the usual number of the canons serving God in the same monastery is so diminished in such excessive number that where there used to be a full convent of honest monks scarcely three monks, professed, are now conversant in the same, consuming the sustenance of a very large number, to the manifest withdrawal of divine worship. For which cause we enjoin on you that you make provision of honest persons to be clothed with you in the habit of regulars, whose conversation in times past may afford a good presumption for the future, so that by the feast of Pentecost next there may be conversant nine in number at the least, in order that by the multiplication of intercessors the gifts of spiritual grace may be increased. And because we found that from the excessive wandering of the lay brothers among secular persons and dishonourable frequenting of unlawful places, to wittaverns, very great evils and scandals have resulted to the same monastery in persons and things, by necessity of which things we are bound to find a fit remedy for the future, we for this cause enjoin on you under the penalty written below that none of you go to the said town of St. Dogmells into any tavern, nor make drinking bouts with any one, outside the bounds (nor also at Cardigan), except it be for some honest matter and for a cause which can be approved of. Also we enjoin that from the opening of the kitchen of the convent until there shall be six in number, the abbot shall have the usual abbot’s portion, and after that they shall be more than six in number he shall have and take in all the portion of two monks twice a week at least. Also we enjoin that brother Howel Lange, your fellow-monk and confrere, on account of his excess and the evil deeds committed by him, which for a reason we do not now set out, for one whole year from the day of the date of these presents, shall not drink wine, nor metheglin, on which it has been his habit to get drunk, but he shall give away and distribute his portion of wine to the poor in the abbot’s presence; and in this year he shall not go out of the bounds of the said monastery unless in the abbot’s company. Also we enjoin on the said monks and lay brothers that none of them shall go out of the bounds of the monastery without the special license of the abbot or in his absence of his deputy, and that such licence shall not be too liberal or too continuous. Also that no women suspected in regard to the monks shall by any means lodge in the town itself but they shall be removed altogether, under the penalty written below: also that no lay-brother there shall have the witness of his iniquity in the monastery aforesaid that the goods of the monastery be not prodigally consumed by the sustenance of such. Also since we have been informed, as found by experience, that brother David Lloyd, your fellow-monk, has culpably lapsed into the crime of apostasy (we say it with grief), going forth from the monastery itself and holding himself aloof among secular persons, neglecting the discipline of his order and deserting the cloister, we therefore, since by the judgement of a strict balance his blood may be required at your hands, enjoin on you under the penalty written below that you diligently enquire for this your brother and when found bring him back to the fold and the cloister itself, so treating him with the charity that leads the way and chastising him according to the discipline of the order, that for his reversion and conversion from error according to the rule of his order you intercede for the same with continual and devout prayers. And because we found in the same visitation that on account of excessive and continual wandering of secular people in your church and cloister and the too ready means of entrance to the same and exit from the same, at all hours as it were, the silence and contemplation of the religious according to the requirement of their religion, cannot be observed, we enjoin on you therefore that on the north side of your church and monastery, no door and no gate and no means of access to the town be left open by day or night, except from the beginning of the mass of the Blessed Mary until the end of high mass in the choir, and except for a sudden passing of the abbot or the cellarer to view the husbandry in the field on that side, after whose passing they shall be closed at once. Also we have found in the same visitation that on account of the excessive and day and night vigils of the monks in the house of mercy, not for the sake of contemplation, but of idle gossip together and drinking, the bowels of mercy are burst asunder, evil speaking arises and drunkenness reigns, for which cause we wishing to apply a remedy for this disease and take away from among you the occasion of evil, enjoin on you that in the same house of pretended mercy, except in the vigil of All Saints, the week of Christmas and the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mary, no fire shall be made or kept up, or except at the coming of frost or intolerable cold and while these reign they shall have a fire at the middle hour, by dispensation of the abbot, not for the sake of converse together but of warmth, for a suitable time; and the portion of the monks in drink and candles shall be diminished according to the discretion of the abbot, since all which is excessive is counted for a vice; and no layman or secular person shall be permitted to be present at the monks’ collations except only a servant appointed for these by the abbot. On you all and singular in virtue of the holy obedience etc…In witness whereof, etc. Dated at Carmarthen, 14 January, 1402, etc…”
In 1404 Rice ap Gwilym became Proctor of St. Dogmaels. On the 14th April 1405 brother John Llanglofan became a sub-deacon and brother John Lampeter was ordained a priest – both were monks here. On 22nd June 1406 the King demanded 6s.8d. from Abbot Philip. On 18th January 1408 at a ceremony held at the Abbey in the presence of Abbot Philip, the Bishop made Roger de Botall Archdeacon of Cardigan, and Robert Hoper, Vicar Choral of the Abbey, was made his Proctor. In 1409 brother Philip Nichole, monk, became a deacon, and was granted letters dismissary by the Bishop. Royal letters in 1417 pardoned the Abbot and monks of any former transgressions and confirmed their privileges. In 1418 John Tor was said to be the Abbot. In 1429 Abbot Walter presided over the Abbey. In 1438 Patrick Occurryn, monk, was dispatched here, possibly from Glascarreg in Ireland, which belonged to the Abbey. In January 1457 and June 1463, Abbot John was in charge.
Abbot Philip presided here in 1469 and remained here in 1472, when he presented St. Thomas’ Church, St. Dogmaels, to John Davy, Vicar. In 1486 Hugh ap Thomas ap Henry became a Deacon and David ap Thomas Lloyd became a Sub-deacon – both were monks here. In 1487 David Luce was the Prior, and brother David Lloyd was ordained a priest. On 5th April of 1487, following the death of Abbot Hugh ap Owen, Lewis David, one of the monks, was elected to take his place. Master Thomas ap Howell read a certificate on the occasion. On 31st May 1488 Roderic ap David, monk, became a deacon.
On 13th October 1489 David Luce (the Prior here in 1487 and Prior of Pill by 1496) was granted a dispensation for having been born the son of a religious man and a single woman, as was Nicholas Williams. Thomas David became a Deacon, John Phillips became a Sub-deacon and Roderic ap David, a priest. All of these were monks of the Abbey. In 1490 Willian Gutter became a Priest, and Maurice ap Adam and Philip Mendoss became Sub-deacons. In 1491 John ap Reynold, an illegitimate child recently granted dispensation, became a Priest, as did Maurice ap Adam, Griffin ap Ris and Phillips Mendos. Maurice ap Griffith became a Deacon. All of these were monks of the Abbey.
In 1492 David ap Howell, monk, became a Sub-deacon. In 1493 Geoffrey ap John, Philip ap Gwilym, Richard ap John, David ap Howell and John Vechan, all monks of the Abbey, were ordained priests. In 1496 Philip ap Gruffydd ap Ieuan ap Meryck, William May, David Philip, Thomas Harres and William Griffith, all monks of the Abbey, became Sub-deacons. In 1497 Thomas Johannys, monk, became a Sub-deacon, as did John Griffith, the following year.
In 1502 John ap Res and Lewis Robert became Deacons, David John and John David became Sub-deacons and Geoffrey ap David, Owin ap William Watkyn and Philip ap Res became Priests – all of these men were monks of St. Dogmaels Abbey. In 1503 Hugh Lewis and David John became Deacons, William ap Thomas Lloyd and William Philip became Sub-deacons and John Davy and Lewis Robert were ordained Priests. All of these were monks of the Abbey.
On 16th July 1504 the Bishop of St. David’s visited, and found an Abbot and six monks resident. The Chancel and North Transept had recently been elaborately restored. “…All of the brethren were of good and honest conversation and obedient at their free will…” Lewis Baron was the Abbot, the other monks being Philip, Thomas Jevan, William Griffith, Thomas Baron, David and “…John Howell, precentor of the Cathedral Church of St. Dogmells…” In 1513 and 1517 the Abbot acted as a collector of the King’s Tenths, from which the Abbey was exempt. The exemption in 1517 was due to “…the excessive poverty and ruinous state of the said monastery…” Legend has it that the Abbot often had custody of a silver harp used in eisteddfodau at Newport, Pembrokeshire.
In 1520 William Hire, formerly a monk at Pill, became the Abbot until 1537, replacing the late John Wogan. On 30th July 1534 the monks signed the Act of Supremacy, accepting King Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church in England. William Hire was the Abbot, the other monks were Hugh Eynon, Robert Thomas, Philip Griffith, John David, William Bonne, David William, Lewis Lawrence and David. The document carried the seal of the Abbey. Valuations of the estates were conducted. At the beginning of 1536, eight monks and an Abbot, with six servants were resident, the Abbey valued at £200 per annum. For the period 29th September 1536 to 24th February 1537 there were four monks resident, earning total wages of £3.13s.4d. Six yeomen and one hind were the servants there, wages for the yeomen totalling £3, and 6s.8d. for the hind. Total expenditure was £18.5s. Yearly value was £87. The last Abbot, William Hire, was pensioned off for twenty marks (£13.6s.8d.) at the Dissolution. In 1537 the Abbey was valued at £87.8s.6d. Rentals and tithes for 1537 were valued at £140.8s.8 ½ d. The Abbey closed and was sold with its’ estates to John Bradshaw of Presteign for £512.
John Bradshaw pulled down much of the Abbey, and built himself a mansion there, completed circa 1543, where he and his descendants lived for over a century. In 1543-67 John Bradshaw lived here. King Henry VIII granted him a charter in 1544, confirming possession for himself and his heirs. On 23rd July 1567 Queen Elizabeth confirmed possession of the Abbey and parts of the estates to John Bradshaw. Upon his death in September 1567 the estate passed to his sons, William and James Bradshaw. In 1567-88 James Bradshaw lived here. In 1567-1621 William Bradshaw lived here. In 1570 James a.k.a. John Bradshaw, was the Sheriff of Pembrokeshire. On 16th December 1579 Queen Elizabeth confirmed possession to William and James Bradshaw. On 31st May 1588 James Bradshaw died aged 59, and was said to have been buried in the Abbey burial ground, although his memorial stone was discovered set into the floor of St. Thomas’ Church. His widow later married Edmund Winstanley, Sheriff of Pembrokeshire in 1591. In 1591 Alban Owen, son of George of Henllys, married Joan Bradshaw, daughter of James Bradshaw.
In July 1592 the estate was re-granted to William & Elizabeth Bradshaw and their son, Edmund Bradshaw. In 1603 George Owen referred to William Bradshaw and his wife, Elizabeth Tothill. William Bradshaw’s mother was named as Elizabeth Gerard, daughter of Gilbert Gerard of Cheshire. George Owen also remarked that a russet stone was used for the roof of the Great Refectory of the abbey. In March 1604 William Bradshaw became M. P. for the Borough of Cardigan. The Will of Joan Doogan of St. Dogmaels, dated 19th July 1610, refers to Elizabeth Bradshaw, wife of William Bradshaw; Marie Bradshaw, wife of Edmonde Bradshaw; Elizabeth Bradshaw, daughter of William Bradshaw; Haster Bradshaw; and Rachell Bradshaw – Joan Bradshaw’s executor. On 13th April 1613 William Bradshaw became a Justice of the Peace for Pembrokeshire. In 1614 Alban Owen of Henllys married Joan Bradshaw. They had a house in the parish. On 28th July 1619 William Bradshaw leased various properties to John Welshe of Cardigan. In 1620 William, Edmund and John Bradshaw leased properties from Sir John Lewis of Abernantbychan and Coedmore, Llechryd. Reference was made to William Bradshaw again in 1621, and to his second son, John Bradshaw. In 1643 John and Edward Bradshaw, both Captains in the army, were captured at Pill, thus ending their family’s connections to the Abbey.
In 1646 David Parry of Noyadd Trefawr, Llandygwydd, bought the estate. The family already had a residence at Plas Newydd, and it is possible that the Abbey mansion was not reoccupied. In 1648, following David Parry’s death, the Abbey passed to his son. In 1652 the estates were subject to leasehold sale. In 1670 Thomas Parry was assessed at 6 hearths for the hearth tax – this may have been for the Bradshaw mansion.
In 1695 William Gambold wrote to Edward Lhuyd describing the Sagranus Stone, which then stood amongst the ruins of the Abbey. On 8th May 1716 a house or messuage “…attached to the Cloyster…” was leased for 99 years by Stephen Parry of Noyadd Trefawr to William Davies of Parcypratt for an annual rent of 6s. 8d. On 23rd November 1719 Stephen Parry of Noyadd Trefawr granted to William Davies of Parkypratt, a piece of land called Isingrug, a slang called Ardd Vaine and a plot – the whole called Cloyster. Reference was also made to the building of a new house there. On 5th April 1720 reference was made in a lease to “…the late dissolved abbey in St. Dogmells, its site with house thereon…” The lease referred to the property called ‘Cloyster’. In 1740 the brothers Samuel & Nathaniel Buck produced an engraving of the ruins, which appears fairly accurate. Lewis Morris used the ruins as a landmark on his plan of Cardigan Bay, Bar & Harbour in 1748. In 1768 reference was made to:
“…all that Messuage or Tenement, with the Appurtenances, situate, lying and being near the Isungrig, and Garden on the other Side of the Common Pound, and a Vault under the Abby, with the Appurtenances; then or then late in the Tenure or Occupation of Thomas Davis, who married Eleanor James…Also all that other Messuage or Tenement on the Isungrig, with the Appurtenances, commonly called or known by the Name of the Cloyster, (but then converted into many Dwelling Houses, with a Stable, divers Gardens, and Slang, Piece or Parcel of Land or Ground, known by the Name of Yr Ardd Vaiene, all of which said premises were held in Fee Farm, granted by Stephen Parry to William Davies, and were formerly in the Tenure or Occupation of Margaret Davies, Widow, but then or then late of Thomas Morris…”
On 12th October 1779 “…The Abby, Vaults, Cottage, and Garden thereunto belonging, in the Possession of Anne Lewis…” were sold by auction at Cardigan’s ‘Black Lion’ as part of the former Plas Newydd estate, being sold off by the Noyadd Trefawr estate. In 1787 David Evan Lewis lived at the Abbey with his wife. An illustration of the North Transept was made in 1791. In 1793 Sir Richard Colt-Hoare visited the ruins and made a painting of them. He described:
“…the ruins of the ancient abbey of St. Dogmael, surrounded by some fine old ash trees. Its architecture was Gothic. These ruins are not very picturesque and form the best subject for the pencil when they are seen from a hill behind them with the river and Cardigan at a distance…”
The same year H. P. Wyndham described:
“…the dirty village of St. Dogmael wherin most of the abbey buildings had been converted to private use…”
In 1796 an illustration of the North Transept was made by J. C. Varrall. In 1804 Anne John and the widow of David Evan Lewis lived at the Abbey. In 1812-33 David Lewis lived at “Rabby” – presumably here. On June 23rd 1814 Margaret Davies of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 1 year. The infirmary was in use as a barn in 1815. On November 20th 1818 Margaret Lewis of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 20. On February 2nd 1819 William Hughes of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 24. On March 20th 1819 Frances Davies of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 2. In 1819 Thomas Williams of the Abbey, mason, died aged 33.
On November 9th 1820 John Lewis, illegitimate son of John Lewis, mariner of the Abbey and Ruth George of Singrug, widow, was baptised by the Vicar of St. Dogmaels. On October 24th 1821 Elizabeth Herbert of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 36. On December 7th 1823 William Hugh of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 72. On 14th December 1830 George Lewis, son of William & Mary Lewis of the Abbey, was baptised by the Vicar of St. Dogmaels. In 1831 Samuel Leigh, in his ‘Guide to South Wales & Monmouthshire’, states:
“…There are but few remains of the building and these have been converted into barns and sheds and into a chapel for the accommodation of the neighbourhood…”
On 20th January 1832 John Griffith of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 63. On 2nd May 1832 Margaret Jenkin of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 7. On February 17th 1833 David Lewis, son of William & Mary Lewis of the Abbey, was baptised by the Vicar of St Dogmaels.
Rev. Henry James Vincent purchased the ruins from the Noyadd Trefawr estate in 1833. On June 6th 1835 David Lewis of the Abbey was buried at St Dogmaels having died aged 84. On 4th October 1835 David Lewis, son of William & Mary Lewis of the Abbey, was baptised by the Vicar of St. Dogmaels. In 1838 the Tithe Map shows a row of cottages linking the infirmary with the North Transept – the property known as ‘Cloyster’. The infirmary, formerly called ‘the refectory’, was still in use as a barn. On May 30th 1845 Ann Evan of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels having died aged 84. On April 2nd 1846 Frances Griffiths of the Abbey was buried at St. Dogmaels, having died aged 80. In 1853 reference was made to:
“…some of the old tomb-stones recently dug out of the ruins of St. Dogmaels Abbey formed of this stone [green porphyritic], which, although very hard, is capable of being sawn, and takes a good polish. It is almost as fine as the foreign verd-antique, but the ground is not quite so green…”
Rev. Henry James Vincent was then the owner of the ruins. The Cambrian Archaeological Association visited on 19th August 1859 and described the ruins, which were then well maintained, and the various stones and monuments there. On 9th September 1859 the following account appeared in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘:
“…FRIDAY. THIS morning the excursionists proceeded on foot, about nine o’clock, to explore the interesting remains of Saint Dogmell’s Abbey, the property of the Rev. Henry Vincent, who is also vicar of the parish, documents refer to Martin de Tours as the founder of this institution, who was also the conqueror, and first lord of Cemaes of the Norman line. Although the ruins have suffered much, yet the remains are of sufficient character and importance as to enable a satisfactory plan of the original structure to be made out. The abbey, in its original condition, must have been only second to that of Strata Florida in magnificence, but the principal portions remaining are the west end and transept of the church, and a building which is thought to have been the refectory, although not in its usual place. No portion of the present ruins appears older than the fourteenth century none of the moulding discovered being of early English, in which style, it is generally, but erroneously, stated to have been built. In the transept., which appears to have been used as a chapel, are the remains of what has been a very fine perpendicular or fan tracery. In the northern and eastern walls of the transept are two arched recesses, apparently intended for the reception of sepulchral monuments, although the position of that on the eastern side is very unusual. There are similar recesses in the north wall of the nave—an arch as a doorway, the lower part of what is supposed to be the entrance to the chapter-house from the cloisters, has a series of filetted moulding, which may be early English, though it was used in the transitional and decorate periods. Other fragments of the same moulding are also seen on the ground. Mr Bury kindly pointed out the principal features to the company, and thought that the whole of the present structure was of decorated character, and that no portion of the earlier church remained. Some discussion arose as to the building now called the Refectory; some of the members present conjectured it might have been the Hospitium for Strangers. The roof, of barrel construction, gave way some years ago, so that only a portion of it remains. To avoid increasing the outward thrust, the west window had been built in form approaching the lancet. Additional support having been provided by throwing out a deep recess on the south side, there was probably a corresponding sup- port on the north side. The remains of the dormitory are probably to the west of the refectory, whose vestiges of strain still remain, formed in the thickness of the wall. The slab of the high altar is still preserved in the ground, having four or five crosses. Nothing can exceed the care with which these interesting remains are protected from further destruction by the respected and venerable proprietor, who has however not forgotten the necessities of the present day; for he has rebuilt, in the early English style, the parish church, at considerable expense. The church is exceedingly well fitted up, and presents a most satisfactory and creditable appearance. In the grounds are preserved the part of a stone cross of the 7th or 8th century. A larger slab, which had formerly served as a gate-post, on which is incised a most singular termination of the shaft of a cross, thought by competent judges to be unique, but the great object of interest is the celebrated stone of Sagranus, which was discovered by Mr Vincent some years ago, and carefully removed. The value of this stone is inappreciable, as it contains two inscriptions; one in the ogham, or occult character—the other in good Roman characters of the fifth century. The oghams were read by Dr. Graves, independently of the Latin inscription, and found to be, as it were, a translation of them. The Latin inscription, SAGKANI FILI CUNOTAMI, and that of the Oghams being SAGRAMNI MAQUI CUNATAMI, the MAQUI, i.e. mac, being a well- known Irish equivalent to Filius, a parallel instance of which occurs in the Cilgeran stone. CUNOTAMUS is the Latinized form of Cunedda, a name of historic reality and date, and of the sane age as the Roman letters indicate. At the request of the members of the association, Mr Vincent has most kindly consented to place this invaluable relic in the church, so as to protect it as much as possible from accident; and Mr Longueville Jones gave on the spot a short, but most interesting lecture on the stone and its characters, illustrated by drawings of a large number of monuments, some of which, however, still remain unread, even by Dr. Graves. The company, with great reluctance, were compelled to leave these interesting ruins…”
An illustration by J. Hassell, undated, appeared in an article of c. 1863. Rev. Henry James Vincent died in 1865. In 1866 stone was quarried from the Abbey ruins for building a new Vicarage and Coach-house. On 13th May 1872 John Vincent sold the new buildings and the Abbey ruins to the Church for £2400. About the year 1886 the Vicar dismantled part of an old building at the Abbey, in the centre of the vicarage orchard, which measured c.45ft by 30ft. The walls were about 25 ft high, except for the north wall, which was missing. Also standing nearby before this date, were two pillars of wall, c.10-12ft long and 25 ft high – part of another building, plus a low wall linking this with the aforementioned building. The Vicar sold the stone for building Abbey Forge and Cardigan’s “Ship & Bonded Stores”. In 1887, supposedly to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, the Vicar built himself a new retaining wall at the Vicarage, decorated with carved stones, all of which he had quarried from the Abbey ruins.
On 23rd November 1888 the Vicar was accused of destroying an archway and other features near the crypt, in order to obtain stone to sell for cash, for his own profit. He denied the accusations, and referred to a subterranean passage there which was blocked in 1866 or 1867. On 5th August 1892 John Edwards of Church Street, offered £25 to anybody who could show him a flight of steps and portion of a building here, which had been plainly visible before the Vicar quarried them.
The ruins are described in the 1899 “Guide to Cardigan & District”. By 18th January 1901 Rev. J Myfenydd Morgan, Vicar of the parish, had located some 12th Century documents relating to the Abbey. An early Christian incised stone found at Manian in 1904, was moved here for safety in 1906. Emily Pritchard’s “The History of St. Dogmaels Abbey” was published in 1908. On 12th November 1915 more pre-Norman inscribed stones were found in the Vicarage grounds. In 1917 Herbert Millingchamp Vaughan wrote an article about the Abbey. On 10th July 1925 an antiquarians’ visit to the site saw reference made to a building which formerly stood in the Vicarage orchard, until the last remains were quarried in recent times. In September 1925 Captain Rogers of Commercial House recalled the Abbey in the ‘Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser‘:
“…I…distinctly remember a building standing to the North West of the present two ruins (which stand in or about the centre of the Vicarage orchard). The direction of this building was about North West or North North West. The gable end to the North side was missing, but the side walls and the gable end to the South East side were in a tolerably good state of preservation. There was also a small section of roof left to the South East end. This building would be about forty to forty five feet long and about twenty five to thirty feet in breadth. The height of the walls at the sides would be about twenty to twenty five feet. To the south of the ruins above mentioned there stood two pillars of wall about ten to twelve feet in length and about twenty five or thirty feet high. These walls would be about three feet in thickness (I take it that these two pillars represented another ancient building). From the first mentioned building ran a low wall about four feet high extending about one hundred feet in a Southerly direction and towards the two pillars…”
“…If of interest I would say that the Ship Inn, Cardigan, adjoining the Market Buildings, was mainly if not completely built with stones taken from the Anney during this period; also a dwelling house situated in Cwm Degwel, St. Dogmaels, and known as “Abbey Forge” was built of the same material…”
“…A section of wall enclosing the Vicarage garden in which are set two doors (one a carriage entrance, the other for ordinary foot traffic to and from the Vicarage) over the smallest of which is a small canopy attached to which is a raised crown and embossed on this crown are the letters T J 1887. V. This was erected with Abbey stone to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. You may follow this wall in the direction of the stables until you come to a slight angle where a distinct division may be seen. That portion of wall next to the stables is not of Abbey stone…”
“…I may also state that during excavation of the wall mentioned, a well was discovered covered over with stone flags. This covering was raised and the well proved to be about five feet square and about twenty feet deep. About three feet from the top there was an outlet for the overflow. The walls of this well were of granite and covered with moss. It was decided at the time that this must be the well which fed the cellar well at the Vicarage. When this well was closed a Mr. Evans who was then Curate of St. Dogmaels, planted a young ash sapling to indicate the spot, but on later investigation I could not find the tree. Further along this wall in a northerly direction a square walled in cavity was discovered full to the surface of cockle shells in a perfect state of preservation and bleached to a pure white. I remember the Rev. Vicar stating that there must be at least ten tons of shells in this hole. One peculiarity of the digging was found in the adhering qualities of the mortar used by the ancients who built those walls. At times a quantity of masonry would crumble away weighing maybe two or three tons and great difficulty would be experienced in breaking up these solid blocks. I do not know when the demolition would have ended had it not been for a gentleman named Capt. Edwards, then living at Finch Square, St. Dogmaels, threatening to report the matter to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the demolition was shortly brought to an end…”
On 23rd March 1934 H. M. Office of Works was considering restoring the Abbey ruins. The Representative Body of the Church in Wales had placed the ruins into the hands of the Commission of Works earlier in the year. In October 1947 consolidation and excavation commenced. By 14th April 1950 archaeologists had discovered a whalebone here – a 19th Century relic. Reference was made to cottages here which were occupied within living memory. By 2nd October 1959 an old oven had been unearthed during excavations.
On 23rd September 1977 a 12ft whalebone was removed from the Abbey in the mistaken belief that it might be prehistoric. The first ‘Shakespeare in the Abbey’ production was staged in 1986. Some repairs were conducted in 1989. In 1992 a geophysical survey was conducted within the present perimeter. It concluded that:
“…a complex of walls and/or stone capped drains has been identified to the south of the abbey, together with possible evidence of a former boundary to the ecclesiastic remains. The results from the east of the abbey are more difficult to interpret, but a few features of possible archaeological interest have been located…”
On 3rd July 2006 H. R. H. Prince Charles the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the site. The conversion of the former Vicarage Coach House into a visitors’ centre, which opened in June 2008 (Official Opening by M. P. Rhodri Morgan on 11th September 2008) had a major impact on the monument’s visitors, particularly the display of early Christian stones and other items. In May 2011 a medieval carved stone head, believed to have been removed from the Abbey in the C19, was returned from Clynfiew, Boncath. In August 2011 the 25th Anniversary of the Shakespeare productions in the Abbey was celebrated.
The ruins were described by CADW in 1993:
“…Founded 1115 by the FitzMartin family, Lords of Cemais. Ruins of medieval abbey of the Order of Tiron. Originally built in the earlier C12 as aisled church with apsidal E end and transept chapels, uncompleted; remodelled in C13, aisleless with rebuilt transepts, lengthened E end over a small crypt. Further altered in early C14, when W end was built and NW door added, and in the early C16 when the N transept was given fan vaulting. Extensive monastic buildings were to the S of the abbey, and a detached building of the late C13, possibly an infirmary chapel or infirmary to the SE.
The abbey walls survive to substantial height on the W end, N wall and N transept, and the E end crypt walls survive. Elsewhere low walls or foundations, except for the infirmary which has three walls intact, and part of the rough stone vault. Collected carved stonework in the infirmary, and several of the incised stones formerly in the parish church are collected against the S wall…”
Itinerarium Cambriae, Geraldus Cambrensis 1188-9
Patent Roll 153, 14 Edw. II, part I, m 13.
P R O: Minister’s Accounts 27/28 Henry VIII, No. 5287.
Patent Roll 35 Hen. VIII, pt. 4, m. 28, 1544.
Patent Roll 23 Eliz Pt, m 29 (21) 16/12/1579
Carmarthenshire Record Office: Coedmore MS 145
NLW Noyadd Trefawr MSs 471-472; 874-875; 1601-1602
Hearth Tax List for Pembrokeshire 1670
South View of St. Dogmaels Priory, Samuel & Nathaniel Buck 1740
Unpublished Bill relating to William Webley, 1773.
Gloucester Journal 09/08/1779
St. Dogmaels (illus.), G T Parkyns Esq., 21/11/1791
NLW PB 6326: St. Dogmaels Abbey – Watercolour, John Warwick Smith 1792;
A Tour Through Wales, H P Wyndham 1794
St. Dogmaels Priory (illus.), H Gastineau & JC Varrall
Pembrokeshire Record Office: HPR/145/16
The Beauties of England & Wales, Thomas Rees 1815
St. Dogmaels Parish Register – Baptisms 1813-58
Leigh’s Guide to South Wales & Monmouthshire 1831
Tithe Map for St. Dogmaels 1838
St. Dogmaels Parish Register – Burials 1813-52
Archaeologia Cambrensis 1853; 1860; 1864
Pembrokeshire Herald 1859
Chapel of St. Dogmaels Abbey (illus.), J Hassall c1864
History of St. Dogmaels, Rev. Henry James Vincent c 1865
Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1872; 1888; 1892; 1901; 1915; 1918; 1925; 1934-35; 1947; 1950; 1952; 1959; 1977; 1991; 1994-95; 1999-2011
A Guide to Cardigan & District, W E Yerward James 1899
Calendar of Charter Rolls Vol. II 1258-1300 p. 355
Calendar of Charter Rolls Vol. IV 1327-41 p. 214
Exchequer Proceedings Concerning Wales, T I Jeffreys Jones
Cardigan Priory In The Olden Days, Emily M Pritchard 1904
The History of St. Dogmaels Abbey, Emily M Pritchard 1907
Historical Society of West Wales Transactions Vol. I, 1911
The Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary at St. Dogmaels, Herbert M Vaughan 1917
Inventory of the County of Pembroke, R C A H M, 1925.
Kelly’s Directory of South Wales 1926
Episcopal Acts Relating to Welsh Diocese (1066-1272) Vol. I, ed. J Conway Davies 1946
Episcopal Register of St. David’s
The Welsh Church from Conquest to Reformation, Glanmor Williams 1962
St. Dogmaels Abbey – guide, C A Ralegh Radford, 1962.
The Principality of Wales in the Later Middle Ages, R A Griffiths 1972
The Heads of Religious Houses in England & Wales Vol. 1 940-1216 ed. David Knowles,
Christopher Brooke & Vera London (2006 ed.) p 107; 264
Elizabethan Pembrokeshire, George Owen, ed. Brian Howells 1973
George Owen of Henllys – A Welsh Elizabethan, B G Charles 1973
Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales, J G Edwards 1975
Calendar of Ancient Petitions Relating To Wales, William Rees 1975
The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt-Hoare Through Wales & England 1793-1810, M W Thompson
St. Dogmaels Medieval Day Poster 1986; 1988; 2003; 2005; 2007; 2008
The Gateway to Wales, W J Lewis 1990
Cilgerran Castle/St. Dogmaels Abbey, John Hilling, CADW 1992
Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest – St. Dogmaels, Julian Orbach, CADW 1993
Information From a Lecture by Canon Seamus Cunnane 1994
Pembrokeshire Houses & Their Families, Francis Jones 1996
The Lords of Cemaes, Dilwyn Miles 1997
Western Mail February 1998
Pilgrims & Preachers Trail leaflet 2000
The Heads of Religious Houses in England & Wales Vol. II ed. David M Smith & Vera London
2001 p. 188-9
Monumental Inscriptions, Blaenwaun Baptist Chapel cemetery.
St. Dogmaels Uncovered, Glen K Johnson 2007
Early Christian Inscribed Stones, Nancy Edwards 2008.
The Heads of Religious Houses in England & Wales Vol. III ed. David M Smith 2008 p. 201-2
St. Dogmaels Abbey & Coach-House leaflet 2008; 2010
The History of St. Dogmaels, Rev. Henry J Vincent, ed. Glen K Johnson 2009.
St. Dogmaels Abbey – Study & Interpretation of Building Stone, Glen K Johnson & Dyfed Ellis Griffiths (unpublished) 2010
Carmarthen Journal 16/06/2010
Shakespeare in St. Dogmaels Abbey – 25 Years 2011
© Glen K. Johnson 19/06/2013.