Introduction to Monk Street
GENERAL BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION TO MONK STREET
This information is based on the original Abergavenny Local History Society Survey 1980.
The numbering of the street is difficult. Even numbers on the north side begin at No 4 (no 2 having been demolished and No 6 represents the space below it). The lean-to shop against no 10 is included with no 8 (Laburnum House). The even numbers continue to no 32, (Gabbs) and in the C19th records (before the new Hereford Road was built), they followed the street turning right with nos 34 to 40, which are now on the corner of Ross Road (once Ireland Street). These houses are now known as nos 2,4,6,and 6A Lower Monk Street.
On the South Side the numbers peter out at no 9, resume again at 23a (Fonseca Solicitors) and end around the corner of Cross Street at 37.
The street leads from Cross Street, through the East Medieval gateway, past St Mary’s Priory Church, built around 1087, and originally turned a right angle then left onto Ross Road (Ireland Street). It was once much narrower in two places – a) at its junction with Cross Street where the north pavement was raised and covered similar to Market Street today, and b) the Garden of Rest was once a graveyard which extended closer to the other side of the street.
The Medieval Monks’ Gate (the East Gate) stood close to St Mary’s Chambers on the south side and to Laburnum Cottage on the North side. It is probable that the town gaol was in the Gatehouse on the South side as it is reported that the Cibi Brook ran underneath it.
An old trackway, now Beili Lane, on the Southwest side of the Tithe barn, once led along the outside of the town wall to the Cross Street gate and to the junction with Mill Street.
The line of Monk Street, extending along the present Hereford Road was probably the line of the Roman (and Norman) road from Gobannium to Kenchurch and Hereford. Many archaeological finds suggest this was the Roman cemetery, as they were typically placed alongside the road out of the town (see Discovering Abergavenny Archaeology and History by Frank Olding and published by the Abergavenny Local History Society.)
It seems likely that the wider street from the North corner of the old St Mary’s graveyard to the right angle corner, was once called “London Square” after the “London Inn” on the corner. There is a suggestion that it might also have been called “Bull Baiting Square” – reputedly a common occupation at taverns in Abergavenny.
When the Priory House next to the church was demolished in 1963, the good stone from it was used to build “Bryn Wyn” off the Raglan Road. The rubble was used in Gilwern roundabout. (source Mr Lemon)
It is said that whole of the North side of the street was built on the site of an orchard, from Lion Street to the Town Wall. and that the old trees remained in the gardens until the 1920’s. However, it was common for houses with gardens to grow apples and pears to produce cider, and this is marked on older maps with tree symbols.