Loss of St Mary’s Church would leave ‘abyss’ in Chepstow

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The loss of a ‘ruined’ medieval church would leave a ‘chasm’ in the heart of Chepstow according to a conservation group aiming to save the structure.

St Mary’s Priory has been at the heart of the city for over 950 years, having been built by William Fitzosbourne, first cousin of William the Conqueror, around the same time he built Chepstow Castle.

But now, as is the case with many churches built centuries ago, the historic building may have to close unless it can raise enough funds to keep itself afloat.

A local group, the Friends of St Mary’s Priory Church, have decided not to sit idly by and let this happen.

(Video: Ollie Barnes)

“Nothing has been spent on the building for decades,” said Friends member Karen Barthram.

“Maintenance costs are supposed to fall on the congregation, which is now aged and in decline.

“She’s an icon and we don’t want her to go away.”

The group say an initial figure of around £1m is needed to begin addressing all the structural issues currently plaguing the church.

Paul Goldfinch of Friends said some of the church’s main structural problems were dampness and the Stone Age.

“Some stones are falling,” he explained.

“Fortunately, the roof isn’t too bad.

“The interior of the towers is inaccessible due to the state of the masonry.”

He said such work required specialist craftsmen due to the building’s Grade I listed status.

‘A five-year survey of the building, carried out almost four years ago, found that half a million pounds were needed for essential works,’ he said.

“We are due for another survey next year.”

The group has already started fundraising, but says the campaign “needs to be bigger and better”.

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s just been a drop in the bucket so far,” said Helen Sjoberg.

“It’s just beautiful, what more can I say. It would be like an abyss if it wasn’t there.

“It would have been the center of the city. We want to make it a useful and useful building.”

Mr Goldfinch said the loss would be both architectural and social.

“People still want to get married, baptized and have memorial services here,” he said.

“It’s also a quiet place where people can come if they’re feeling down and in need of prayer or social contact. Help is also provided at the church for those suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. ”

Friends say they contacted Monmouth MP David Davies for his support and received a positive response.

As well as Mr Davies, the Prime Minister, the local Lord Lieutenant and even Prince Charles have been called in to help save St Mary’s.

“Not everyone understands the seriousness of the problem,” Ms Sjoberg said.

Upcoming fundraising events include a rock concert, to be held in the church in May.

There will also be an art exhibition for a week starting on Easter Monday, with all pieces being sold to raise additional funds.

Details of how to join the Friends of St Mary’s Priory are available at the church near the town centre.

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