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  THE STORY OF SHOREHAM       A BEAUTIFUL CHURCH  
                     
Richard I., and John, and into his keeping the first-named gave the Castle of Abergavenny. Possessing the spirit of his Norman ancestors he resolved to subdue the whole of Gwent, and in 1176, with this aim in view, invited the Welsh chieftains and others. of distinction to a grand banquet in Abergavenny Castle. When mirth was at its zenith and the feasters had quaffed the foaming tankard and rich wine freely, and to their heart's content, de Braose proposed that all the Welsh present should bind themselves by an oath, in accordance with the king's orders, henceforth to travel unarmed through the country.They were not to carry bows and arrows, javelins, spears or swords.   This proposal met with indignant refusal, two of the most powerful chieftains--Sesyllt ap Dynswald and Jenan ap Rhiryd, declaring that they would not go unarmed on the orders of the King of England or any of his barons. Then, at a special signal from de Braose, the banqueting hall was instantly crowded with English soldiers. The unfortunate Welshmen had laid aside their bows and arrows, and being thus totally undefended, the soldiers fell upon them, and massacred them to a man. Not content with having turned his festive hall into a shambles, de Braose hastened away with all possible speed to the house of Sesyllt, and entering by force, murdered Cadwaladyr, the chief's son, and seizing the lad's mother carried her off a prisoner to his fortress.   owned him as lord and master-to France, where he spent his last years in. begging from door to door. Nevertheless, history records that he was buried in St. Victor's Abbey.
  The wife of de Braose was Maud de Valerie, daughter of Fitz- Walter, Earl of Hereford. She was a reputed witch, who for many years had been regarded as a student of occult mysteries and one who "did at unholy hours practise magic arts to the annoyance of her neighbours."   However as this may be, she seems to have been a most affectionate mother, for upon the King's demand that her children should be given up, she refused, declaring that she would not trust her family " to one who had so cruelly murdered his own nephew."   Thereupon the King ordered Maud and her children to be taken by force, and, under a strong escort, conveyed to Windsor, where   so the story goesthey were imprisoned in the castle dungeons and slowly starved to death.
           
  But to return. You will be loth to think that so fair a piece of architecture as this rich choir-end at New Shoreham owes its inception to one whose hands-as we have seen-were so foully stained with blood, but such is the legend, and whether erected as an " atonement " or otherwise, the choir is certainly a very beautiful piece of work. It belongs to the Transitional period, that is, as far as the string-course of quaterfoils on a level with the triforium floor.
De Braose was with Richard I. in Normandy in 1196, and we have already seen that he was the powerful adherent of King John, while history further records the sinister fact that he was in close attendance on that monarch at the time of Prince Arthur's death.  
           
  When the building had reached this stage, it was probably roofed over ; for the style of the triforium and clerestory is of the Early English period, erected when the roof was removed and the building carried up and vaulted; the massive flying buttresses being added to support the outward thrust, and the choir presenting in its finished state much the same appearance as at the present day. About the same time another storey was added to the tower, giving it a height of 83ft. to the top of the parapet..
Revenge for the Welsh murders, though slow in coming, came suddenly and certainly. The sons of the slain chieftains, rose and marched to Abergavenny Castle, scaled the walls, took possession of the fortress and razed it to the ground. De Braose, the object of their hatred was absent, but the Welsh followed him to Monmouthshire, where he was wounded, but not slain. Thenceforward, misfortune dogged his footsteps. Failing to make payment due to the Crown for Munster and Limerick, which had been bequeathed him by his brother, he fell into disfavour with King John, who demanded hostages in the persons of his children, these being refused he was outlawed, and the former friend and favourite of kings disguised himself as a beggar and fled from Shoreham-which town had once  
  A remarkable similarity of style, and especially of foliage, has been observed to exist between the work in Tynemouth Church and the choir of New Shoreham ; and this resemblance is at once so special and individualistic that, as far apart as the places are, it has been conjectured that the same hand and brain must have dee.igned both. New Shoreham is said to be the only instance in which the choir aisles of a parish church are continued at an early date as far as the east end.
                     
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Copyright © Martin Snow 2002 All rights reserved
Revised 27 February 2002