Monmouth Priory[br] Henry VIIIUp until the 1530s, the religion in England was Roman Catholicism. But, when Henry VIII (see illustration) could not persuade the Pope to allow him to divorce Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, he embarked upon what became known as the Reformation.

The Reformation was a violent act of state through which Henry VIII disowned all Papal authority in England and instigated a series of Acts of Parliament which, in 1534 cut off all financial, judicial and administrative links with Rome. In 1538 began the Dissolution of the Monasteries when the religious shrines were dismantled, the relics destroyed and their treasures confiscated. In 1538 the houses of the friars were dissolved and in 1539 the larger monasteries were disbanded. In 1540 an Act was given royal assent for the dissolution of the Order of St John of Jerusalem - the Knights Hospitaller.

The Prior of each Preceptory, including that of the Knights Hospitaller at Garway, was required to draw up an inventory of the property, including money, plate, and landed estates and the members of the Order were forbidden to use the titles and dress of the Order. Estates were to be broken up and sold off and all monastic buildings were to be destroyed and all lead and other materials removed. Members of the Order fled to Malta where English recruits continued to be accepted. The Visitors' Book in Garway Church records people from all over the world who continue to be drawn here by the historical legacy left by the Knights Templar and Hospitaller.

Altar at St Michaels Photo Roger PattendenAfter the seizure of the Benedictine Priory of Monmouth (see photo) , the Prior, Richard Talbush fled. In 1538 John Vaughan, one of the Commissioners, informed Thomas Cromwell that Monmouth Priory was empty of furniture and monks and that the Prior was in sanctuary in Garway. The Prior had taken refuge in the immemorial sanctuary of a house of the Hospitallers, which however was no longer safe.

Before the Dissolution, William Weston, the Grand Prior of England had leased the estate of Dinmore including the Manor of Garway, to a widow called Margaret Rotsey and her son Edward at an annual rent of £96 10 shillings, a lease which seems to have continued after the Dissolution.

Typical Demesne FarmHenry VIII's son and heir Edward was educated by scholars chosen by his protestant stepmother Catherine Parr. On the death of his father in 1547 he became King Edward VI and began his reign by carrying out many protestant reforms. One of these was the destruction of stone altars which were to be replaced with wooden tables. The stone altar in Garway church had been revered for four hundred years and was saved from destruction by unidentified villagers who hid it in the chancel floor. It lay there until 1878 when purely by chance it was recognised by a visitor to the church. Since then it has been replaced in its original position to once again play an important part in the Christian religious services of the village church (see photo).

The next documented mention of Garway is in 1585 when an enquiry into the estate describes Garway as consisting of a manor house, with outbuildings, dovecot, orchard, demesne (see illustration), meads and pastures and one water mill called Garway mill, the whole being let to Richard Mynours who had sublet the manor to Jankyn ap Howell a farmer at a rent of 6s 8d yearly. There were 27 tenants, mostly customary tenants, living on the manor paying rents ranging from 1d to 12s 6d a year. The total proceeds from Garway manor amounted to £19 13s 1d.