Monastic Wales.

Remnants of Talley Abbey

Following the suppression of the house in the sixteenth century much of the nave of the abbey church at Talley was preserved and used as the parish church until the late eighteenth century. However little now remains upstanding of the former abbey: there are fragments of the church, part of the tower and a few remnants of the cloister.

The church
The church was cruciform with a south-facing cloister. Building began in the late twelfth century with an ambitious plan; the church was to be impressively large with an eight-bay aisled nave extending over seventy metres long. However the community had to curb its ideals and be satisfied with a much more modest structure. The finished church that was completed in the early thirteenth century comprised a four-bay nave that was aisled only on the south side; the north aisle was blocked and walls were inserted between the piers. Today the four western bays that were never completed are covered in grass to distinguish them from the finished church that is marked in gravel.
The nave was entered by a rather narrow west doorway. Unfortunately none of the decoration on the door survives to indicate how it may have looked in the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages the nave may have served as the parish church but it would have been screened off from the canons' choir in the east.
The nave had a wooden ceiling and the height of this is indicated by a row of beams below the pointed window in the east wall of the crossing tower [Click to view.] Two of the tower's walls survive and extend to some 26 metres but would have originally been almost 30 metres high. The monks' choir was below the tower and their timber choirstalls would have been arranged around three sides of the crossing. The presbytery and High Altar were to the east of the choir; following the suppression of the house this area functioned as the chancel of the parish church.
The presbytery has undergone significant alterations and little of the original layout survives. But it would seem that the presbytery was stone vaulted and excavations in the late nineteenth century suggest that the east window had three lancet windows.
The north and south transepts - the side arms at the crossing - each had three chapels which were barrel-vaulted in stone. The bases of the altars survive for all six chapels and some floor tiles can be seen in the north transept chapels. A doorway in the north wall of this transept perhaps led to the cemetery; the stairs within the wall provided access to the roof space above. The southernmost chapel of the north transept was extended eastwards and the surviving base of the east window and remains of a piscina can be seen. A stone plinth in the south west corner of the south transept may mark the position of the nightstairs which provided covered access for the monks from their dormitory on the upper level to their choir.
Excavations in the 1890s suggest that the interior walls were plastered and decorated with paintwork; some of the windows had coloured glass and parts of the church - most likely the east end - were paved with glazed tiles.

The cloister
A door in the south aisle of the church led to the cloister which was an open garth surrounded by three ranges. Little now remains upstanding but it is likely that the chapterhouse was on the east range with the monks' dormitory above. The south range was probably under the converted farm buildings and likely included a first-floor refectory with an undercroft. Analysis in the 1930s failed to find any evidence of a west range at Talley and this was perhaps never completed given the community's financial difficulties. [1]

[1] Coflein database; D. Robinson and C. Platt, Strata Florida Abbey, Talley Abbey, Cadw: Welsh Historical Monuments (Cardiff, rev. 1998), pp. 36-41.

Monastic sites related to this article

Talley, Carmarthenshire(Abbey)