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Grosmont Castle

Grosmont Castle
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Built

1070 - 1350

Distance from Shire Hall

12.9 miles

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Description

Substantial remains of thirteenth-century castle of Hubert de Burgh, raised on an earlier motte. It was later remodelled by the house of Lancaster.

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Grosmont Castle would seem to have been founded after the time of William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford.

Earl William was killed the next year and his son Roger de Breteuil, 2nd Earl of Hereford was stripped of his lands in 1075.

The land on which Grosmont castle was built now passed either under the control of the de Ballun family of Abergavenny or the Lacys of Weobley, Ludlow and Longtown.

The powerful Marcher Baron Pain Fitz John acquired Grosmont in the reign of King Henry I of England (1100-35) and converted it into the head of a lordship which stretched from White Castle in the west to Orcop castle in the east.

Twelfth Century History

During the early twelfth century the castle was the centre or caput of what was known as the honour of Grosmont. Of the present remains, the great hall was one of the first features constructed of the castle and this was used as the civil capital of the lordship. It has often been claimed that this was constructed around 1201-1204/5 by Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent. However contemporary evidence strongly suggests that the hall is at least fifty years older than this.

The early hall at Grosmont was most probably built within forty years either side of 1110. It still stands two stories high and has many features of comfort within its walls. There are many reasons to believe that this hall was built early in the castle's history for the evidence points clearly to Grosmont castle having been fortified in stone from the first. Who actually first built the castle though, is more of a problem.

Both the first Earls of Hereford and Pain Fitz John had a great deal of wealth and ruled the Kingdom of Gwent at a time when the stable rule of the Normans in Wales seemed inevitable. Grosmont hall is certainly not a fortress. It was built as the administrative centre of a barony with both comfort and administration in mind. White Castle to the west, however, was built as a fortress from the first, probably in concert with the foundation of Grosmont. Orcop castle to the east, a true motte and bailey fortress, may be older.

In 1134 rebellion broke out in Wales and in July 1137 Pain Fitz John was killed in action fighting against the Welsh. Immediately before his death Pain granted all his honour of Grosmont to King Stephen in exchange for the province of Archenfield. With the Angevin rebellion of 1139 Brien FitzCount of Abergavenny took Grosmont castle from the King and in 1142 granted it by charter to Walter of Hereford. This is our first certain historical mention of the fortress. Walter was killed around 1160 fighting in the Holy Land. At this point King Henry II (1154-89) reclaimed the castle and placed royal soldiers within its walls. The castle, requiring little maintenance, remained a royal fortress for the next forty years. In 1201 it was granted to Hubert de Burgh 'for his maintenance' in the wars of the period.

Thirteenth Century History

After the death of King John in 1216 Hubert regained his castles in the Welsh Marches in 1219. It was Hubert who was responsible for turning the administrative castle of Grosmont into a fortress. Royal records from when Hubert was running the government of England, show that he was undertaking building work at Grosmont between 1224 and 1226. His work gave the castle much of its appearance today. His buildings included the gatehouse, which has mostly disappeared in the last 100 years, and the three D-shaped towers in the castle's enceinte. In 1233 the castle witnessed the rout of King Henry III's army by rebel English and Welsh forces, who included in their midst Earl Hubert de Burgh himself. In the aftermath of this victory Hubert was granted back Grosmont castle and he held it until his final fall from grace in 1239.

In 1267 King Henry III granted the castle to his second son Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster and this man undertook the conversion of the fortress of Earl Hubert de Burgh into one of his main residences. He demolished one of Hubert Burgh's D-shaped towers and built accommodation over it and raised the height and extended the south-west tower to make it into a five-storeyed great tower or keep. The living quarters of this massive tower could only be approached via a wooden stairway to the north. To the east was a giant false doorway which only allowed access to the ground and first floors. The steps currently seen rising up to the castle wall walk from this doorway is the work of twentieth century restorers who are also responsible for the creation of much of the double doorway into the early hall.

Most of Prince Edmund's rebuilding at Grosmont was carried out probably in the period 1274 to 1294. Part of this reconstruction included the building of the great chimney of which Grosmont is justifiably famous. Before leaving the village of Grosmont be sure to visit the church, the nave of which is built in the same style as the early great hall of the castle. The tower and other parts of the church fabric were built by Prince Edmund for his mother, Queen Eleanor, the wife of Henry III. Within its walls are the much eroded remains of an effigy of a knight, probably of the thirteenth century. There is now no evidence as to this knight's identity, but perhaps he was the engineer Ralph de Grosmont, so strongly entwined with the history of all three royal castles of Skenfrith, Grosmont and White Castle.

 

Monmouth Castle

Monmouth Castle
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Built

1067 - 1071

Distance from Shire Hall

0.07 miles

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Description

Monmouth castle is located close to the centre of Monmouth town on a hill towering over the River Monnow, behind shops and the main square and streets. Once an important border castle, it stood until the English Civil War when it was damaged and changed hands three times before suffering the indignity of slighting to prevent it being fortified again. After partial collapse in 1647, the site was reused and built over by Castle House.

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Early Norman border castle

It was built by William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, the castle builder, in around 1067 to 1071 and shares some similarities with Chepstow Castle, another of FitzOsbern's designs further south on the River Wye in Monmouthshire.

Initially Monmouth was simply a fairly typical border castle in the Welsh Marches presided over by a Marcher Lord and similar in style and status to its neighbours Grosmont Castle, Skenfrith Castle, White Castle or Abergavenny Castle.

Expansion

In 1267 Monmouth Castle passed into the hands of Edmund Crouchback (1245 - 1296), Earl of Lancaster and son of King Henry III of England who redeveloped the castle and expanded it as his main residence in the area. It was also improved by Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster (1310 - 1361).

The castle was a favorite residence of Henry Bolingbroke, later King as Henry IV. It was here that in 1387 the future King Henry V of England was born, to Bolingbroke's first wife Mary de Bohun.

Civil War

In the tumult of the English Civil War Monmouth Castle changed hands three times and was slighted to prevent its military re-use. This sanctioned the demise of the castle which collapsed a few years later. The site was readily redeveloped.

Only fragments of the castle remain above ground, and on the site Castle House and Great House have been built, in 1875 the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers Militia, the senior TA regiment today, made their HQ building here and it remains so today. It is one of the few British castles in continuous military occupancy.

 

Raglan Castle

Raglan Castle
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Distance from Shire Hall

9.7 miles

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Description

Raglan Castle is a significant late medieval castle located just north of the village of at Raglan in the county of Monmouthshire in south east Wales. Its origins lie in the 12th century but the ruins visible today date from the 15th century and later. It is likely that the early castle followed the motte-and-bailey design of most castles of this period and location and some traces of this early history can still be seen. The peak of the power and splendour of the castle was attained in the 15th century and 16th century, as the Marches fortress of the great family of Herbert. Its ruination came at the end of one of the longest sieges of the English Civil War.

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The present castle was begun in 1435 for Sir William ap Thomas, who married the Raglan heiress Elizabeth Bloet in 1406. Upon his death his son, William Herbert, continued the work. Debate continues as to which was responsible for building the Great Tower, the most prominent feature of the present site. In the latter 16th century, the castle was re-fashioned into a grandiose and luxurious mansion by the Somersets, Earls, and later Marquesses, of Worcester, who inherited the manor of Raglan through marriage.

The English Civil War brought about the castle's ruin. The first Marquess of Worcester was a staunch supporter of Charles the First, whom he entertained at the castle on two occasions. In 1646, the King's fortunes were on the wane and the major towns and castles of England and Wales were in Parliamentarian hands. "Raglan and Pendennis, like winter fruit, hung long on." The fall of the City of Oxford released Parliamentarian forces to supplement the siege of the castle and, after many months, the Marquess was compelled to surrender to General Fairfax on 19 August 1646. A systematic slighting of the castle commenced and the Great Tower was largely destroyed by mining.

Throughout the 18th century and 19th century, the castle was a picturesque ruin, and a convenient source of building materials for the local population. In the 20th century, the Dukes of Beaufort, the Marquesses of Worcester having been elevated yet again, placed the castle in the care of the state. It is presently administered by Cadw.

The main part of the castle is very roughly rectangular, with the hall range in the centre, and courtyards to either side, each of them surrounded by towers and sets of apartments. The Great Tower, or the 'Yellow Tower of Gwent', built as the enclave for the castellan's family, stands in a moat, separate from the rest of the building, to which it was connected by a drawbridge.

Entry to the castle is through the White Gate (16th century), of which little remains. Originally, this was preceded by the Red Gate, now totally destroyed. Crossing a bridge, through the monumental Gatehouse, one enters the Pitched Stone Court, the earliest range now extant, built, circa 1460, in the time of Sir William Herbert. The Service Range, to the right and ending in the Kitchen Tower, is now almost completely ruined and only the foundations indicate the extent of the original court. To the left is the surviving wall of the Great Hall, with a superb oriel window. Above ran the Chapel and the Long Gallery, fireplaces of which can still be seen. Through the Hall, one enters the Fountain Court, so named for the fountain statue of a white horse, of which only the plinth remains. All around, relicts of sumptuous apartments built in the Elizabethan reconstruction. The castle commands extensive views over the surrounding countryside.

 

Skenfrith Castle

Skenfrith Castle
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Distance from Shire Hall

8 miles

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Description

Skenfrith Castle is a medieval castle located in Monmouthshire, Wales. The castle is the centre of the village of Skenfrith, located on the banks of the river Monnow, just five miles to the north of the town of Monmouth. The first defences were built shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066, although the remains of the castle that stand today date from the early thirteenth century.

Grouped with White Castle and Grosmont Castle, Skenfrith is one of the "Three Castles" or Trilateral Castles built in the Monnow Valley as part of the Norman conquest of South Wales.

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The remains of the castle as it stands today date entirely from Hubert de Burgh's work, when he totally rebuilt the castle between 1219-23. Excavation has shown that the castle sits on an artificial gravel platform, up to twelve-feet thick. Evidence suggests that a defensive ditch would have surrounded the site, with timber walls. This early castle probably dates back to just after the Norman Conquest.

Ralph of Grosmont is recorded as having spent 43 pounds on Skenfrith Castle in the Pipe Roll of 1186-87. In the same excavation that discovered the early Norman defensive ditch, a twelfth-century stone wall was found, which suggests that Ralph was building in stone. A well carved decorative capital of red sandstone from the same period suggests a building of high quality, possibly a keep or hall. The location of the stonework, close to the early earthen defences of the castle, suggests that a such a keep or hall would have stood alongside the perimeter of the castle, just as is the case of the hall at Grosmont castle, which was built in the same period.

Hubert de Burgh leveled these early defences, and no visible trace of them can be found. His new castle was built in the style of a concentric castle (which was quite cutting-edge for the time), albeit on a very modest scale. The castle consisted of a round keep with three floors, surrounded by a curtain wall with a round tower at each corner. Around the wall would have been a moat with a stone revetment, as seen at White Castle. The moat was filled with water from a connection to the River Monnow, which passes just to the eastern side of the castle. The entrance to the castle was in the northern wall - today it is simply a gap, but an engraving by the Buck brothers in 1732 shows the remains of a simple arch of stone in the center of the wall. Along the eastern wall a flight of steps leads down to a lower archway which probably served as a water gate, giving access to the moat. Next to the south-east corner tower is a blocked archway which may have been a postern gate to the rear of the castle.

The curtain walls have a sloping batter (the wall slopes down to be thicker at the base than along the top) for extra defence, and would have included a wall walk all the way around the inner edge. Support holes in the curtain wall, just below the level of the wall walk, were to support a timber hourding, or fighting gallery, which projected out from the wall and protected the defenders atop the wall. Each corner tower was built with a solid circular basement, presumably accessed by a wooden ladder from the upper levels. The towers would have been entered on the first floor via a wooden staircase from the outside. There were no windows, just arrow slits, suggesting that the towers were purely for defence, not residence.

Within the bailey there was a two-story hall block running along the inside of the western wall. The ground level was filled in with gravel in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, when the level of the castle's interior was raised in an effort to combat winter flooding. A later room was added along the northern wall, forming these buildings into an 'L' shaped block. Given this room's size and east-west orientation, this may have been the castle chapel. The upper floor was divided into three rooms, and the fine quality fireplaces and stonework suggests domestic apartments, and possibly a Great Hall. On the southern end of this block of buildings was a square tank which was the castle reservoir.

Across the bailey, along the eastern wall between the south-east tower and the water gate would have been the kitchens. The lightly built foundations suggest that the buildings were timber, built up against the curtain wall, with stone fireplaces, hearths, and ovens.

The main residence for the lord of the castle would have been in the round tower-keep which sits at the middle of the inner bailey. Entrance to the keep would have been, like the corner towers, through a doorway above the ground level, reached by a wooden stairway from the bailey. The bottom level is again a basement, while the upper two floors would have contained apartments. A turret projects from the western side of the keep, this would have held the spiral staircase that gave access to the upper levels. The well-appointed apartments included large windows, hooded fireplaces, and a private latrine. The keep was topped by a circular wooden hourding, similar to the one that surmounted the curtain wall.

Very little alteration has been made to the castle over the centuries. The level of the castle was raised, as was mentioned earlier, and at some point earth was piled around the bottom of the keep, giving it the impression of being set atop a mound. A door was also cut into the keep at ground level, bypassing the first floor entrance. Along the western wall, an external tower was added. This tower is solid to the level of the wall walk, and was probably added in the thirteenth century.

 

White Castle

White Castle
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Distance from Shire Hall

10.2 miles

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Description

White Castle is a mediæval castle located in Monmouthshire. The name "White Castle" was first recorded in the thirteenth century, and was derived from the whitewash put on the stone walls. The castle was originally called Llantilio Castle (recorded in the Pipe Rolls in 1186), after Llantilio Crossenny, the mediæval manor of which it was a part.

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Known as one of the "Three Castles", there has been a defensive structure at the site since the late eleventh century.

Building of White Castle

The earliest castle at this site consisted of two earthworks - the pear shaped inner ward with a surrounding water-filled moat, and a crescent shaped outer bailey to the south known as the hornwork. To the north of the inner ward was a large area enclosed by a defensive bank, which may have been used for armies in the field to camp in safety, without fear of a surprise attack.

The earliest buildings and walls were almost certainly built of wood, although a square stone keep was added sometime before the stewardship of Ralph of Grosmont, who recorded an expenditure on "the dwelling in the tower of Llantilio" in the Pipe Rolls of 1186-87, implying that structure was already present. Further monies spent at the site were most likely for the construction of a stone curtain wall around the inner ward.

Like its fellow Monnow Valley strongholds, White Castle was significantly altered by Hubert de Burgh as has been described above. The orientation of the castle shifted, with entry no longer through the southern hornwork. Instead, a new twin-towered gatehouse was built at the northern end of the inner ward. Wooden drawbridges would have controlled access from both the north and the south of the castle. Within the inner ward there would have been residences, great hall, a chapel, kitchen and brewhouse. Hubert's work here can be compared to Montgomery Castle which he also held and helped design between 1223 and 1232.

The hornwork, now at the rear of the castle, was maintained as a defense for a small rear postern gate. The northern enclosure, previously defended by an earthwork, was built into a large outer bailey, with four projecting towers and a gatehouse on its eastern corner. Geophysical evidence suggests that there were small timber buildings within the walls of the outer ward, as well one large building, thought to be used as a barn.

Visiting the castle

White Castle was frequently visited and, apparently, painted by German Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess during the period when he was held in Maindiff Court Military Hospital at Abergavenny, between 1942 and his trial in 1945.

The castle today stands in partial ruin, although there have been few significant losses to time. The stone walls and towers of the inner and outer ward still stand, although their inner floors are missing, as are portions of the upper level of the walls. A modern wooden bridge spans the moat between the inner and outer ward, and within one tower of the inner gatehouse the stairwell has been restored, allowing access to the top of the tower, and a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

The castle is maintained by Cadw, and access is controlled during the summer months. The rest of the year the castle is an open site, and may be visited at any reasonable time of day. White Castle is located 1 mile north of the village of Llantilio Crossenny, along the B4233 between Monmouth and Abergavenny.

 

Church of St Thomas the Martyr

Church of St Thomas the Martyr
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Distance from Shire Hall

0.6 miles

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Description

The Church of St Thomas the Martyr at Overmonnow, Monmouth, south east Wales, is located beside the medieval Monnow Bridge across the River Monnow. At least part of the building dates from around 1180, and it has a fine 12th-century Norman chancel arch, though the exterior was largely rebuilt in the early 19th century. It is one of 24 buildings on the Monmouth Heritage Trail and is a Grade II* listed building.

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The building is constructed of Old Red Sandstone. Dedicated to St Thomas à Becket, it became a chapel-of-ease to St Mary's Priory Church as it did not have its own parish. It is listed in a papal edict by Pope Urban III in 1186. It is thought to have existed in 1170 althoughCharles Heath in 1800 reported evidence of earlier Saxon design in the shape of the architecture.

Both St Thomas' and the nearby Monnow Bridge were damaged by fire in the Battle of Monmouth in 1233, part of the series of uprisings againstHenry III by his barons. This required the church to be repaired using over a dozen oaks supplied by the Constable of St Briavels in Gloucestershire. The wood was delivered by royal command from the Forest of Dean the following year. In the year 1256 anchorites were living in St Thomas's.

John Gilbert, Bishop of Hereford found a leaking vestry roof that was being ignored by the parish in 1397. In 1610 the church was still small with a tower. It appears to have been badly neglected by the early 19th century; in 1829, Bishop Huntingford's inspection referred to it as "this dilapidated and forsaken church". His inspection also records the disproportionately small turret placed above the west gable when, in 1830, St Thomas's ceased to be a chapel of rest and it was given its own parish distinct from St Mary's. A major restoration and extension of the church was completed by the London architect Thomas Henry Wyatt, who added box pews with raised galleries. The oak galleries, on both sides above the nave, are still present today. The vestries were constructed in 1887–8.

The dog's tooth Norman chancel arch is still untouched and the piscina in the south wall, and two doorways on the opposite wall also appear to be original. The font on the south wall is decorated with crude images of faces, birds and a serpent in a Garden of Eden theme. At first sight it appears to be an unusually well preserved example of a 12th century font, and carries a label that uses the word "early", but is now thought by historians to be a 19th-century pastiche. A second plain font may date from the 15th century. Further work by the Welsh architect John Prichard was completed in 1875. The west turret was replaced by a bell arch. The east window dates from 1957, and the church was last restored in 1989-91. On the east side beside the road there is a garden of rest with a calvary cross. The church sits on land between the road and the river Monnow and a contemporary ceramic mosaic has been installed by Monmouth Town Council. The circular plinth is made of 40 tiles that illustrate and commemorate the Millennium showing over 2,000 years of local history.

 

Monmouth Baptist Church

Monmouth Baptist Church
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Distance from Shire Hall

0.2 miles

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Description

Monmouth Baptist Church is located in Monk Street, Monmouth, south east Wales. The church building was opened in 1907, although the Baptist congregation had been formed in 1818. The church is a Grade II listed building.

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The congregation formed in 1818, after several ministers from associated churches visited the town. The church originally met in a small building just off Monnow Street. The first pastor was appointed in 1831, and the original meeting place was enlarged in 1836 to form a chapel. After becoming derelict, it was demolished in recent years to make way for a supermarket car park.

The foundations of a new church in Monk Street were laid out in 1906, and the building was opened the following year. The architect was Benjamin Lawrence of Newport, who designed it in a similar Victorian Gothic style to the Working Men's Institute (now a commercial art gallery) which he had designed next door in 1867. The building is constructed of Old Red Sandstone, with Bath Stone dressings. The stained glass in the porch was added in 1964.

 

Monmouth Methodist Church

Monmouth Methodist Church
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Distance from Shire Hall

0.2 miles

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Description

Monmouth Methodist Church is located in Monmouth, south east Wales. It is set well back from St James Street between buildings. Designed by George Vaughan Maddox and built in 1837, it retains its original galleries, organ loft and sophisticated pulpit. In common with many non-conformist places of worship in the town built when town authority lay very much with the established church, it was deliberately set back behind the houses to avoid making too prominent a challenge to the established order. This is one of 24 buildings on the Monmouth Heritage Trail and is Grade II* listed.

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In the eighteenth century the new Methodists were challenging the presumption of the established churches in Monmouth. Visiting Methodist ministers were stoned and abused by unruly crowds who were encouraged by the churchwardens and gentlefolk. They were sometimes seriously injured – a preacher was killed by a blow in an open-air service near Hay-on-Wye in 1840. They persevered however and established their first chapel in Inch Lane, now called Bell Lane, a narrow alley off Church Street. John Wesley came to preach in the town, firstly in 1779, and four more times in later years, and a larger chapel was built in Weirhead Street as Wesleyan Methodism grew.

Finally, as this chapel proved too small, the present church was designed by George Vaughan Maddox, a local architect who had worked on The Hendre. The 340 seated church with its impressive façade was built in 1837. Maddox included Ionic pilasters with round-headed Georgian windows on the first floor but with triangular window heads on the ground floor, and a fine pediment over all. The church is enhanced by the later Ionic porch. The box pews allow 340 worshippers in sit in three sections below and in a gallery that follows three sides of the interior. The pulpit was much higher than it appears today as not only was the pulpit lowered in 1885 but the floor was also raised by two feet. Because of this the columns inside the church lack bases as they are covered by the raised floor.

The Reverend Peter Mackenzie was employed as preacher and he drew a large following; he had a personal relationship with many Methodists, whilst his sermons were filled with "grotesque descriptions and extremely funny stories". Mackenzie arrived from Burnley, Lancashire, and lived at Coleford with his wife and two children using a donkey to travel around the circuit. A lady visitor, Mrs Bullock, commented whilst waiting for the minister to arrive for the service that she would buy an organ if ever the church was full. The minister arrived and immediately the church had reached its capacity. True to her word an organ was purchased and installed in celebration of this achievement. This church is considered to be one of the most architecturally distinguished Methodist chapels in South Wales with an interior that reflects its purpose and design. According to the local Pevsner architectural guide: "The interior, quite exceptionally for an early C19 chapel, is a coherent piece of considered architecture." The church as a whole is described as "a most satisfying work."

The "Queen's Head" public house on the opposite side of St James' Street is owned by the community. The timber frame dates from 1920 but the public house was built in 1630. This building has undergone many changes to its frontage since it was built around 1630 and a 17th-century plaster ceiling is extant in the building's bar.

 

St Mary's Roman Catholic Church

St Mary's Roman Catholic Church
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Distance from Shire Hall

0.2 miles

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Description

St Mary's Roman Catholic Church, in St Mary's Street near the centre of Monmouth, is the earliest post-Reformation Catholic public place of worship to be permitted in Wales. The church is a late Georgian Roman Catholic church with later Victorian additions by the Catholic convert architect Benjamin Bucknall. It is a Grade II listed building as of 15 August 1974, and is one of 24 buildings on the Monmouth Heritage Trail.

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History and architecture

After the sixteenth century, Monmouth was a centre for recusancy. The town had, in 1773, one of the highest proportions of Catholics in England and Wales. Penal laws against Catholics were relaxed in 1778, through the Papists Act, and Monmouth magistrates were petitioned to erect a "Public Catholick Chapel in the Town". One of the petitioners, Michael Watkins, was then the landlord of the Robin Hood Inn in Monnow Street, where Mass had been celebrated hitherto in an upper room. Lobbying resulted in permission being given for this church three years before a similar church in Chepstow. However, because of a local by-law aimed at making Nonconformist and Catholic buildings as inconspicuous as possible, it had to concede that the building should not look like a church. The entrance was not allowed to open on to the highway and Catholic worshippers were required to arrive at the chapel one at a time. The church was originally set back discreetly from the road, concealed by a row of cottages. The cottages were demolished in Bucknall's rebuilding, after discrimination against Catholics had been eased.

The original building forms the area of the present sanctuary and sacristy, and the stained glass window to the left of the sanctuary is Georgian Gothic in style. The earliest part of the church is the east end, of 1793. In 1829 came Catholic Emancipation, and the chapel was extended in 1837 with the completion of the chancel, half the length of the present nave. This was followed in 1871 by an extensive rebuilding by Benjamin Bucknall. This included the demolition of the cottages fronting the church and the erection of the tower and an elaborate frontage in Old Red Sandstone. Newman describes the "double bellcote crowned by a precipitously steep slate roof." Internally, the font depicts the serpent of Eden entwined around the stem.

From 1835 to 1851 the Roman Catholic minister in Monmouth was Thomas Burgess who went on to be the Bishop of Clifton.

Internal features

The church includes many features, but of especial note is its association with Saint John Kemble, who was a missionary in Monmouthshire and Herefordshire. He was martyred for his faith at Hereford on 22 August 1679 and lies buried at nearby Welsh Newton. The Marches were an area where the old faith continued long after the Reformation, and many of the local big houses gave sanctuary to Catholic services conducted clandestinely by priests who could suffer extreme penalties if they were discovered. The parish of St Mary's organises a pilgrimage to St John Kemble's tomb on the Sunday nearest to the date of his martyrdom. The church also includes an altar dedicated to the saint's memory, which was used for the celebration of Mass during penal times at Pembridge Castle: this consists of two benches that could be separated to disguise its purpose. These historic buildings were refurbished in 2009/2010.

The church possesses a fourteenth-century processional cross; an embroidered red chasuble dating from about 1502; and a hinged cross, possibly of Spanish origin, dating from the seventeenth century.

 

St Marys Parish Church

St Marys Parish Church
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Distance from Shire Hall

0.1 miles

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Description

St Mary's was built on the site of the original Benedictine priory church. Extensively rebuilt in 1737, with only the original tower and redesigned spire retained, it was considered to be too small by nineteenth century standards and underwent major renovations in 1881.

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It has some fine William Kemp stained glass windows and a collection of recently restored medieval tiles are on display.

An interesting tombstone in the churchyard bears an acrostic commemoration 'Here lies John Rennie', which, starting at the central 'H' can be read in any direction.

Located on part of the adjacent Priory buildings, is the GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH window. This beautiful oriel window, although built three centuries after his death, commemorates the life of the medieval historian.

He was possibly educated by the Benedictine Order in the town, and continued his studies at Oxford which resulted in his compilation of a History of the British Kings, which refers to the coming of Christianity, the departure of the Romans and the chivalry of the Court of King Arthur.

Its contribution to European literature was immense, assisting Shakespeare with at least two of his plays (Cymbaline and King Lear) and greatly influencing and enriching the work of subsequent historians.

 

St Peter's Church, Dixton

St Peter's Church, Dixton
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Distance from Shire Hall

1 mile

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Description

St. Peter's Church is a Church of England parish church at Dixton on the banks of the River Wye, about 1 mile (1.6 km) north-east of Monmouth, Wales. The church is a Grade II* listed building and the cross in the churchyard is also a listed building

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The Book of Llandaff refers to the existence of a church, or monastery, on this site in about 735, when it was already described as an "old church" (henllan). Later charters refer to its fishing rights on the River Wye. At that time, it was dedicated to the Welsh saint Tydiwg, or Tadeocus. The Welsh name of the parish, Llandydiwg, and ultimately the name Dixton, derives from that of the saint.

The existing church, now substantially rendered and whitewashed, consists of a nave with a separate chancel, a vestry, a tower to the west, and north and south porches. The oldest parts of the building, including the herring-bone masonry in the north wall of the nave, may have an Anglo Saxon origin or alternatively date from the 12th century. The nave seems to have been lengthened during the 13th century, perhaps when the tower and chancel were built. A small window in the southwest corner dates from the early 14th century, but in 1397 the church was described as "intolerably dark". The exposed Old Red Sandstone walling in the chancel dates from the 14th century, with a sanctuary window on each side, and a priest's door, with an ancient stone bench outside. There is a royal coat of arms painted on board and dated 1711 inside the church.

The north porch and vestry were added in 1824, and the whole church was restored in 1861–62. Inside the church are five stained glass windows. The 1862 window on the south of the nave is titled Christ Raising the Daughter of Jairus and Healing the Son of the Widow of Nain. It was designed by John Pollard Seddon, who with John Prichard restored the church. On the same wall is an 1871 window titled The Sermon on the Mount by Ward and Hughes. The last large window is on the east wall of the chancel and is entitled Agnus Dei Adored by St Mary Magdalene and St Tadioc; it dates from 1954.

The church is a Grade II* listed building as of 27 June 1952. In 2005 the cross in the churchyard was also made a listed building.

The church is too low-lying to prevent winter floods entering the building, and brass plates near the chancel arch record the heights of notable floods. A new balcony has been constructed at the back of the church so that perishable items can be kept above the floodline. This balcony is decorated with a beautiful oak screen. The church had a rectory, which was later known as Dixton Cottage.

Diocese

The church remains part of the Diocese of Hereford and the Church of England, despite being in Monmouthshire, Wales. With Monmouth, it was transferred to the Diocese of Llandaff in 1844. However, a vote by the congregation in 1920 decided that it should not join the Church in Wales when it became disestablished, but stay as part of the Church of England; it returned at that point to the Diocese of Hereford. In the following year John Witherston Rickards died who had been the vicar since 1886.

 

The Castle and Regimental Museum Monmouth

The Castle and Regimental Museum Monmouth
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0.07 miles

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Monmouth Museum

Monmouth Museum
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0.07 miles

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The Monmouth Museum, alternatively known as The Nelson Museum and Local History Centre, is a museum in Monmouth, Monmouthshire, south east Wales. It features a collection of artifacts associated with Admiral Horatio Nelson. The Museum is located in the old Market Hall in the town centre in Monmouth, a short distance from the River Monnow, Monmouth Castle and Agincourt Square.

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The Nelson collection was a bequest to the town of Monmouth upon the 1923 death of Lady Georgiana Llangattock, wife of local landowner and town benefactor, John Rolls, 1st Baron Llangattock and mother of Charles Rolls, who had amassed the collection of Nelson memorabilia during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the late nineteenth century, Lady Llangattock donated a gymnasium in Glendower Street to the town of Monmouth. After her death, the gymnasium reopened as the Nelson Museum in 1924.

The museum moved to new quarters in 1969; the building which initially housed it is known as the Nelson Rooms. The collection includes Nelson's naval officers fighting sword (and those of the surrendered French and Spanish naval commanders at Trafalgar), letters from Nelson both to his wife and to Lady Hamilton and various items commemorating Nelson's victories, his Royal Navy career and his visit, with the Hamiltons, to Monmouth town, The Kymin and South Wales. Also on display are commemorative silverware, prints, paintings,glassware, pottery and models of the Battle of Trafalgar. Among the items from Nelson's visit is the table used when he dined at the Kymin Round House.

The collection also comprises some Nelson fakes, including a glass eye purported to be his, even though he had lost his sight, not the eyeball itself; it is a surgeon's teaching model. The museum also holds items relating to Monmouth town's history and archaeology, and an archive relating to Charles Rolls and his family. One notable example of this is the only known example of an original Monmouth Cap, dating from the 16th century.

The museum opened in 1924, in the gymnasium in Glendower Street which the Llangattock family donated to mark the coming of age of John Maclean Rollsin 1891, now the Nelson Rooms.

It moved to its current location in 1969 after the Market Hall had been completely refurbished and redesigned. The entire central part of the Market Hall building had been destroyed by a fire in 1963.

 

Ancre Hill

Ancre Hill
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1.2 miles

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Come and visit us at our Cellar Door, browse around our shop and taste some of our wines. Or why not enjoy our cheese platter lunch using only Welsh cheeses, washed down by a glass of Estate wine. Or take advantage of one of our guided vineyard tours and enjoy the ambience of the vineyard. Looking for a birthday or Christmas present? – then our Adopt-a-Vine offering is an ideal choice.

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Monmouth Library

Monmouth-Library
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0.2 miles

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Shire Hall Monmouth

Shire Hall Monmouth
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The Shire Hall in Agincourt Square, Monmouth, Wales, is a prominent Grade I listed building in the town centre. It was built in 1724, and was formerly the centre for the Assize Courts andQuarter Sessions for Monmouthshire. In 1839/40, the court was the location of the trial of the Chartist leader John Frost and others for high treason for their part in the Newport Rising. The building was also used as a market place. The Shire Hall is owned by Monmouthshire County Council and has audio visual guides for visitors to Courtroom 1. It is currently used as a Tourist Information Centre and as the offices for Monmouth Town Council, and is open to the public in part.

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The current building was erected in 1724, and is at least the fourth building on the site. It had earlier been the site of an Elizabethan court built in 1536, which in turn was replaced in 1571 by a timber-framed construction. The timbers from the original building were used in the construction of the Shire Hall, which provided an open trading area on the ground floor with rooms above. The building, described in Buildings of Wales as "a mighty affair", is constructed of Bath stone ashlar and was designed by a little known architect, Philip Fisher (d. 1776) of Bristol at a cost of £1700. The Courts of Assize were transferred to the building in 1725, with the court room itself located on the first floor above the open arches which were used as a market area. The clock in the pediment was made by Richard Watkins in 1765.

The interior of the building was remodelled in 1828, and a new exterior stair tower with a glazed lantern was added, enclosing a grandiose new staircase. Thomas Hopperwas involved with improvements to the Shire Hall under "Royal assent". He was involved for many years with improvements to Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor. He andEdward Haydock made the Shire Hall building extend down Agincourt Street creating room for the new staircase and larger courts. Hopper took up residence in Monnow Strret in Monmouth whist this was happening.

Sculpture of King Henry V

The sculpture of King Henry V, in a niche above the front entrance and below the clock, is generally considered to be of poor quality; variously described as "incongruous", "rather deplorable", and "pathetic..like a hypochondriac inspecting his thermometer". It was added in 1792 by Charles Peart, a professional sculptor who had been born at nearby English Newton. The inscription reads: HENRY V, BORN AT MONMOUTH, AUG 9TH 1387. The carved birth date is now thought to be incorrect.

Trial of the Chartist leaders

The County Gaol was located a short distance from the court rooms. It was here that the Chartist leader Henry Vincent, who had sought the right of all men to vote in parliamentary elections, was imprisoned before being tried at the assizes. Vincent was convicted, but the unpopularity of the verdict led to protests that eventually led to miners being killed in a clash with the military at Newport on 4 November 1839. John Frost was arrested in Newport shortly after the riot, followed by other leaders of the group. A Special Commission opened at Shire Hall on 10 December 1839, and an appointed Grand Jury considered what charges to bring against them. The Grand Jury included Lord Granville Somerset, brother of the Duke of Beaufort; John Etherington Welch Rolls; Octavius Morgan; and four Members of Parliament, Joseph Bailey, William Addams Williams, Reginald James Blewitt, and Sir Benjamin Hall. Frost, William Jones, Zephaniah Williams and five others were duly charged with high treason, and their trial began on 31 December. It has been described as "one of the most important treason trials in the annals of British law". The judges were the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Nicholas Tindal; Sir James Parke; and Sir John Williams, who was notorious for sentencing the Tolpuddle Martyrs to transportation in 1834. Counsel for the Crown was the Attorney General, Sir John Campbell; Frost's counsel was Sir Frederick Pollock.

While the trial was taking place, measures were taken to protect Monmouth against Chartist insurgents. Troops were billeted at the White Swan, and some were stationed at the gatehouse on the Monnow Bridge. Granville Somerset and Benjamin Hall spoke in Frost's defence, and, in his summing up, Lord Chief Justice Tindal drew attention to the complete certainty needed for a conviction, suggesting his desire for an acquittal. All eight men were found guilty, but the jury added a recommendation for mercy. On 16 January 1840, the judge sentenced Frost, Jones and Williams to be hanged, drawn and quartered; they were the last men in Britain to be sentenced to that punishment. The other five men were sentenced to transportation. On the day before they were due to be executed, 29 January, the Cabinet under Lord Melbourne took the advice of Lord Chief Justice Tindal, and asked Queen Victoria to reduce all the sentences to transportation. On 2 February 1840, the prisoners were escorted to Chepstow, and put on the steamer Usk for Portsmouth, where they were transferred to the ship Spithead with over 200 other prisoners and taken to Van Diemen's Land.

Recent uses

When Monmouthshire County Council was formed in 1889, most of its functions were based at Shire Hall, Newport, which by then was the county's main centre of population, rather than at Monmouth.

The Magistrates Court at Shire Hall, Monmouth, closed in 1997, and the County Court closed in 2002. Monmouthshire County Council then applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for resources, and secured a grant of £3.2 million towards the building's complete refurbishment, with further funding of over £1 million provided by the County Council. Renovation started in late 2008, and the restored building was opened in September 2010. Among the areas open to visitors is the courtroom in which the trial of Frost and others took place in 1840. A key element of the refurbishment was the installation of a lift, which makes the whole building accessible for all. The building now contains a Tourist Information Centre and offices.

 

Monnow Bridge

Monnow Bridge
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0.3 miles

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Monnow Bridge in Monmouth, Wales, is the only remaining mediaeval fortified river bridge in Great Britain with its gate tower still standing in place. It crosses the River Monnow (Welsh: Afon Mynwy) some 500m above its confluence with the River Wye. Now pedestrianised, it is a Scheduled Monument and a Grade I listed building.

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13th- and 14th-century bridge and gatehouse

The existing bridge was completed in the late 13th century, traditionally in 1272 though this date has no supporting documentary evidence. It replaced an earlier wooden structure. Work on flood defences in 1988 revealed remains of a wooden bridge directly under the existing one, and dendrochronological analysis indicated that its timber came from trees felled between 1123 and 1169. Some sources suggest that the bridge and the nearby Church of St Thomas the Martyr were damaged by fire in the Battle of Monmouth, between supporters of Henry III and the forces of Richard Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, in 1233.

The stone bridge is constructed of Old Red Sandstone, with three arches on hexagonal piers forming pointed cutwaters. The gatehouse, called Monnow Gate, which gives Monnow Bridge its remarkable and noteworthy appearance, was added at the end of the 13th or start of the 14th century, a few years after the bridge itself was built. In 1297 Edward I provided a murage grant in favour of Monmouth, in response to a request from his nephew Henry of Lancaster. This permitted and enabled the townspeople to build the town walls and gates for defence and protection. By 1315, this work was still incomplete or was in need of repair, since the original authority was renewed on 1 June 1315. At that time, the bridge would have been much narrower than now, with all traffic passing beneath a portcullis – the grooves for the lowering of which are still visible – and through a single arch. The prominent arched machicolations were added at an unknown date in the mediaeval period, possibly in the late 14th century.

According to local historian Keith Kissack, the gate house was ineffective in defensive terms, as the Monnow could easily be crossed on foot just upstream. However, as well as providing some defence for the Anglo-Norman population of the town against attacks by the Welsh of the surrounding areas, it served as a barrier to collect tolls from those attending markets. Tolls were authorised in the Patent Rolls of 1297 and 1315, and in subsequent town charters.

Later activities and works

Neither Monmouth town nor its castle were attacked in the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr, although nearby Abergavenny and Grosmont were burned down in the uprising, and the town suffered from the devastation in surrounding areas. Over two centuries later, in the Civil War, the town changed hands several times, and in 1645 the bridge was the scene of a skirmish between Royalist soldiers from Raglan and Parliamentarians under Colonel Kirle. By 1705 the gate needed maintenance. The original battlements were replaced with solid walls, and the building was refitted to form a two-storey dwelling house, with timber and lath extensions projecting over the river. The house was then leased to a resident gatekeeper, responsible for repairing and maintaining the building. Part of it remained in use as a lock-up, and both the bridge and the gatehouse were comprehensively repaired between 1771 and 1775. The gatehouse was abandoned as a dwelling before 1804.

The lean-to extensions were in turn demolished in 1815, and in 1819 a pedestrian passageway was driven through the building on the upstream side, to help relieve the flows of traffic across the bridge. Before 1830, the gatehouse was owned by Monmouth Corporation, but was then formally transferred to the Duke of Beaufort as part of a property exchange. The gatehouse roof was reconstructed in 1832, with deeper eaves and four decorative corbels on each side. A second passageway was added on the downstream side of the arch in 1845. Since then, the structure has remained essentially unchanged, through regular maintenance and repair. Its ownership was transferred to the County Council in 1900, as noted on a brass plaque attached to the gatehouse.

Until the mid-19th century, the gatehouse was the scene of annual battles, or "muntlings", between rival gangs from "Up-Town" – the main town of Monmouth – and Overmonnow or "Cappers' Town", so called because it was the traditional home of those who made Monmouth caps. These took place on 1 and 29 May, the youths arming themselves with besoms or "muntles" reinforced with stones. The altercations were banned in 1858.

Into the 20th century

From 1889 to 1902 an extensive programme of conservation was carried out on the bridge, this began with the prevention of the potential collapse of the tower by inserting metal rods to tie the two faces of the tower together, the four round plates of the at the ends of these two rods can still be seen. In 1892, work began on the arches and piers of the bridge as it was discovered that riverbed erosion had seriously undermined the piers. This period of conservation was ended with maintenance being carried out on the gate tower exterior from the mid-1890s to 1897. Roof guttering and downpipes were added, badly eroded stone was replaced with squared blocks of old red sandstone and the cruciform arrow slit on the front, left, of the tower was restored to make it symmetrical. In April 1893, the bridge's first street lamp was erected by the town council. In the late 1920s the top portion was replaced with twin electric lamps. In the 1960s the lamp was removed completely and since 1991 the bridge has been floodlit

In the 20th century the growth of traffic using the road, with resulting accidents and congestion on what was a humpback bridge with poor visibility and narrow approach roads, led to many proposals to by-pass the bridge. The structure was first formally recognised as an Ancient Monument in 1923, and proposals for a new road bridge began to be made about the same time. The new A40, built in 1965/66 relieved the town of much through traffic, and a town centre plan prepared by the District Council in 1981 proposed a new bridge. A serious accident on 18 May 1982, when a double decker bus attempted to cross into Monmouth, closed the bridge for a month while major repairs were performed.

A feasibility study was made in 1999 by engineers Ove Arup and Partners for a bridge further along from the Monnow bridge, but the scheme came to nothing. However, a new road bridge over the Monnow, for local traffic within the town, was eventually built and opened on 15 March 2004, allowing the old bridge to become pedestrianised. The project also meant the demolition of the old cattle market. To commemorate the Millennium, a ceramic mosaic was installed by Monmouth Town Council. The circular plinth is made of 40 tiles that illustrate over 2,000 years of local history. The image of the bridge is recognised as an icon representing the town.

 

The Kymin

The Kymin
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The Kymin, or Kymin Hill, is a hill overlooking Monmouth, in Monmouthshire, Wales. It is located approximately one mile east of Monmouth, on the eastern side of the River Wye and adjacent to the border with Gloucestershire's Forest of Dean and England. The summit of the hill, about 800 feet above sea level, is known for its neo-classical monuments, built between 1794 and 1800. The site is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

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The Roundhouse is a white round tower, in two storeys with a crenellated roof, similar to a folly. It was constructed in 1794 on the wishes and from the pockets of a group of Monmouth's gentlemen, the Monmouth Picnic Club or Kymin Club, led by Philip Meakins Hardwick. The subscription list was headed by the local landowner, the Duke of Beaufort, and eight Members of Parliament. The members of the Kymin Club were drawn from "the principal Gentlemen of Monmouth and its vicinity", and met each week "for the purpose of dining together, and spending the day in a social and friendly manner". They wished for a venue suitable for their regular meetings, dining and events, especially in the summer months. To this end it was designed and built with kitchens on the ground floor and a banqueting room above, with powerful telescopes fitted on the roof in season to fully take in the views. The house was made available, for a fee, for use by other appropriate parties.

It was claimed that nine counties could be viewed from the roof (Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, Glamorganshire, Breconshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Radnorshire, Shropshire and Somerset). A bowling green was laid outside, and there were also stables. On the steep wooded escarpment beneath the house was laid out the Beaulieu Grove, a series of walks provided with seats from which to contemplate the views. Access to the site was improved by the construction, after 1799, of a new carriage road up the hill. The bowling green was later used for other sports, including hockey, and as a showground during major celebrations such as that for the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1905.

The Roundhouse is a Grade II* listed building as of 27 June 1952.

The Naval Temple

The hill has a Naval Temple on its summit, constructed by the Kymin Club in 1800 to commemorate the second anniversary of the British naval victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and in recognition of sixteen of the British Royal Navy's Admirals who had delivered significant victories in other major sea battles of the age around the globe to that date. The memorial is classical in design, topped by a bronze seated figure of Britannia (now a replica). The Temple was dedicated by the Duchess of Beaufort, the daughter of Admiral Boscawen, one of those commemorated in the building.

The square Naval Temple has round plaques or medallions, four on each face, for each Admiral and the victory with which he was most closely associated and its date. The named Admirals are:

  • Vice Admiral Charles Thompson (admiral)

  • Rear Admiral Adam Duncan, 1st Viscount Duncan of Camperdown

  • Vice Admiral Edward Boscawen

  • Vice Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, 1st Baronet

  • Admiral Howe

  • Admiral John Borlase Warren

  • Admiral John Gell (was retired locally near Crickhowell when this was built.)

  • Admiral Lord Nelson

  • Admiral John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent and also Admiral of the Fleet

  • Vice Admiral George Rodney

  • Admiral Hawke who was also First Lord of the Admiralty

  • Vice Admiral Alexander Hood, 1st Viscount Bridport

  • Vice-Admiral William Cornwallis

  • Admiral Sir Peter Parker, 1st Baronet another Admiral of the Fleet

  • Admiral George Elphinstone, 1st Viscount Keith

  • Admiral Andrew Mitchell (Royal Navy officer)

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson himself visited Monmouth in 1802, along with Lady Hamilton and her husband, Sir William Hamilton, who was to die by April 1803. They travelled down river on theRiver Wye from Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth to cannonades firing, the town band playing and being greeted by the mayor accompanied by all the local dignitaries of the county and local crowds. Staying in Monmouth for just a couple of days, Nelson visited the Naval Temple and the Roundhouse on Kymin Hill, where he breakfasted and admired the views. He was struck with the Naval Temple, saying that "it was the only monument of its kind erected to the Royal Navy in the Kingdom".

That this should be done not in one of Britain's major naval ports but in a small provincial county town in Wales far from the sea and with no great naval or seafaring traditions stayed with Nelson. This was of course three years before his own glorious victory, and death, at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and Nelson's Column would not be built until 1843. The Britannia Monument, to Nelson, in Great Yarmouth would not be built until 1817. Monmouth has its own Nelson Museum in the town centre, started by the collections of Lady Llangattock, mother of Charles Rolls.

According to researcher Peter Borsay, the monument's design, and its location overlooking the border between England and Wales, were symbolic of the formation of Great Britain. It was built at the time of the Act of Union with Ireland, about a century after that with Scotland, and at a time when the United Kingdom was engaged in a war with France which was helping to define, and being used to define, what it was to be British.

Up until 1797 Britannia was conventionally depicted holding a spear, but as a consequence of the increasingly prominent role of the navy in the war against the French, and of several spectacular victories, the spear was replaced by a trident. It is this that the Kymin Britannia wields. The navy had come to be seen... as the very bulwark of British liberty and the essence of what it was to be British... It was therefore entirely appropriate that the temple should be a naval one, that the heroes celebrated should all be naval officers, and that battles commemorated ones fought at sea." In building the temple, Monmouth staked its own claim to be the centre of British identity as the birthplace of King Henry V, of whom a statue was placed on the Shire Hall in 1792. Within two years of the battle of Waterloo in 1815 the name of the town's market place had been changed to Agincourt Square "in order to celebrate a victory of Henry V's that seemed as famous as Wellington's.

Today

The Kymin is accessed by a winding road climbing up off the A4136 Monmouth to Forest of Dean road. The area is managed and conserved by the National Trust and there is a car park near the summit with an easy walk to both the Temple and the Roundhouse. The views on a clear day are magnificent.

The landscape features incorporated within the woodland at Beaulieu Grove were apparently destroyed early in the 19th century. The Woodland Trust is undertaking research into the history of the area, and provides access to the woods.

The Kymin Dash is a cross country running hill race which used to take place annually as part of Monmouth's carnival and festival fortnight in July. The course covers about 7 miles, circling the town and both ascending and descending the Kymin by forest tracks, field paths and minor roads. The course record is 38 mins 54 secs, set by P. Wheeler in 1985. After a short break, the Kymin Dash is set to return with a new course and new date in April 2013.

 

Monmouth Priory

Monmouth Priory
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Monmouth Priory, Priory Street, Monmouth, Monmouthshire is a building that incorporates the remains of the monastic buildings attached to St Mary’s Priory Church. The priory was a Benedictine foundation of 1075, and parts of the mediaeval buildings remain. The buildings were substantially redeveloped in the nineteenth century for use as St Mary's National School, and now form a community centre. The complex is a Grade II* listed building as of 27 June 1952. It is one of 24 sites on the Monmouth Heritage Trail.

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The priory was founded by Withenoc (or Gwethenoc), a Breton who became lord of Monmouth in 1075. There is evidence in the Book of Llandaff of an earlier 8th century Celtic church, and it has been tentatively suggested that this may have been on the site of the later priory. The priory was granted to the Abbey of St Florent at Saumur, and was consecrated in 1101. The priory church was extended and became the parish church later in the twelfth century. The priory was dissolved in 1536.

The monastic buildings were located on the north side of the priory church. Traces of an infirmary were discovered in 1906, when the site of the Baptist Church was being prepared for building. The surviving buildings were the prior's lodgings. The only recognisable surviving medieval feature is the "sumptuous mid-C15 oriel window" which is often erroneously described as having a connection with Geoffrey of Monmouth who lived over three centuries earlier, and which in fact is likely to have formed part of the priory gatehouse. The window contains three corbels in the form of carved heads of high quality, although there is some uncertainly as to exactly what they depict: Newman describing them as representing "an angel between a civilian and what may be a bedesman", whilst Kissack is more empathic in suggesting they portray "a knight, an angel and a miller." The prior's lodgings were extended on several occasions in the nineteenth century, when they were used as St Mary's National School.

The building was restored with the help of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Architect Keith Murray was commissioned to draw up plans for the renovation of the building, which was completed in 2002. It is now available for community use for events such as weddings, conferences and exhibitions.

The Geoffrey Tapestry

In December 2000 it was suggested that a wall hanging might be produced to illustrate the life of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Research, design and preparation took six months and the first stitches were worked in July 2001, at the festivities to celebrate the Priory's 900th anniversary. The work, measuring 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) by 1.6 metres (5.2 ft), was completed in May 2003, after a combined effort by the 14 volunteers of 2,750 hours.

The background design is based on Kempe's ‘The Four Rivers Window’ in St Mary's Priory Church, Monmouth. A Celtic knot pattern gradually rises from green (earth) through blue (sky) to purple (heaven). These intertwining lines were also used by the Hereford School of Romanesque sculptors who were involved with the Priory at the end of the 11th century. A beaded motif from one of the capitals is used in the lower panels of each of the background.

Of the three embroidered "windows", the central panel depicts Geoffrey of Monmouth, modelled on Father James Coutts who instigated the refurbishment of Monmouth Priory. He wears the black habit of the Benedictines. King Arthur with his Queen Guinevere, is being crowned at Caerleon by Dubricius (modelled on the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and former Bishop of Monmouth). Here the River Usk echoes the river theme of Kempe’s 19th century stained glass window. The Monnow and the Usk link up with the River Wye in the third panel. In this scene King Vortigern listens to the young Merlin telling him the legend of the red and white dragons. Vortigern, initially a lord of Gwent, was, according to legend, eventually killed at Ganarew above the Wye Valley.

Linking the embroidered panels with the background are three circular designs in the lower panels. Beneath Geoffrey is the head of the angel that can be seen outside, sculpted underneath "Geoffrey’s Window". Below Arthur is his shield, "Pridwen", with its image of the Virgin Mary, whilst "Caliburn", his sword, can be seen in the initial ‘A’. Finally, the red and white dragons can be found in the Vortigern panel.

 

Great Castle House

Great Castle House
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Distance from Shire Hall

0.07 miles

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Great Castle House is a former town house built on the site of part of Monmouth Castle in Wales. Amongst the town's most significant buildings, it has a Grade 1 listing and is one of 24 sites on the Monmouth Heritage Trail. The house is located on Castle Hill, off Agincourt Square in Monmouth town centre.

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Described as "a house of splendid swagger outside and in", it was completed in 1673 for Henry Somerset, the 3rd Marquis of Worcester, who was Lord President of the Council of Wales and the Marches. It later became an Assize Court, until the Court moved to the new Shire Hall in 1725. It has been the Headquarters of Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) since the mid-19th century, and contains the Regimental Museum.

History and architecture

When Worcester was appointed to the post of President of the Council of Wales and the Marches, he decided that he needed a seat in the Marches appropriate to his status. The house was primarily intended to be used for ceremonial and official, rather than domestic, purposes. The architect is unknown. The house was built of mottled pink and grey blocks of Old Red Sandstone, probably mostly reused from the gatehouse and Great Tower of the castle, which were wholly or partly demolished after the Civil War; much has been renewed more recently. The remains of the castle stand in the far left-hand side of the courtyard in front of the house.

The facade of the house is severely symmetrical with an elegant and decorative doorway. The two side wings are 19th-century additions to a building that originally stood alone. The interior is described as "astonishing", particularly for its plasterwork. On the first floor there is a large room with extravagantly decorated ceilings; this was originally five rooms, later combined as the main courtroom. The plasterwork was mostly made by travelling craftsmen using established patterns, but has been lavishly and ostentatiously fashioned with pendant floral festoons laced with ribbons in what were originally the Marquis's private rooms.

Shortly after building Great Castle House, Worcester was created Duke of Beaufort, and needed still larger houses, first at Troy House and then at Badminton House, leaving Great Castle House to be repaneled for the Assizes. When the Assizes moved to Shire Hall in 1725, the house became lodgings for the judges (though part of it was let to a maker of drainage pipes), but later they moved to less spacious lodgings in the town, and from about 1760 the house provided a high-class school for young ladies.

Castle and Regimental Museum

In 1853, it became the headquarters of the Militia Regiment, later the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers, the Senior Regiment of the Reserve Army. Most of the building remains as the regiment's headquarters, but part now houses the Castle and Regimental Museum, established in 1989, which is open in the afternoon in summer. The Museum opens onto the King's Garden, containing plants known to have been growing at the time of Henry V (1386–1422), who was born in the castle. The museum displays include regimental artefacts and regalia, the importance of the Dukes of Beaufort, the earlier defences of Monmouth and its castle, HMS Monmouth, and the military activities of the regiment from its founding to the present.

 

 

 

Activities

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Monmouth Canoe

Monmouth Canoe
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River Wye Canoe and Kayak Hire Specialists. We have a large fleet of quality modern canoes and kayaks for hire providing canoeing Trips to enjoy the River Wye and explore the stunning Wye Valley.

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With Monmouth Canoe Centre you can paddle your canoe up to 100 miles, from Glasbury, Hay-on-Wye, Bredwardine, Hereford, Hoarwithy, Ross-on-Wye, Kerne Bridge at Goodrich, Symonds Yat or Monmouth as far as Tintern or guided, to Chepstow where the Wye meets back up with the River Severn after their birth together in the Welsh mountains.

We hire a range of canoes and kayaks suitable for multi persons for short hire periods to multi day hire, perfect to enjoy a great experience on the River Wye providing a fun day out for all.

 

Tipi Adventure

Tipi Adventure
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07966 061 480 - Please mention us!

Description

Tipi Adventure offers a unique break combining canoeing expeditions on the River Wye with overnight camping accomodation in luxury tipis.

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Located in a remote and exclusive riverside setting on the River Wye in Herefordshire, our fully equipped tipis provide the ultimate glamping experience. Cosy up by the open fire, dine alfresco and get stuck in to a range of outdoor pursuits.

Each Tipi Adventure can be tailored to your needs, whether you're looking for a family break, social gathering, romantic getaway, corporate outing or school trip.

 

Monmouth Leisure Centre

Monmouth Leisure Centre
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01600 775135 - Please mention us!

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No additional information.

 

Monmouth School Sports Club

Monmouth School Sports Club
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01600 714381 - Please mention us!

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Set within its own grounds with ample parking, the Club has all the facilities you could ever need, in a relaxed family atmosphere.

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Spirit of Monmouth Running Club

Spirit of Monmouth Running Club
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We are a friendly sports club and new members are always welcome. We are affiliated to Welsh Athletics and are an inclusive club, catering for a wide range of running abilities. So, whether you're an experienced marathon runner or you prefer to just run for fun, you're very welcome to join us.

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Golf

Monmouth Golf Club

Monmouth Golf Club
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Monmouth Golf Club was formed on the 25th June 1896 at a meeting held in the Kings Head Hotel. There was another golf club in Monmouth called the Vauxhall Golf Club which had been formed in 1892 by members of the army garrison stationed in the town and the majority of its members were army personnel.

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The Rolls of Monmouth Golf Club

The Rolls of Monmouth Golf Club
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01600 715353 - Please mention us!

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The championship course is 6,733 yards and is designed in two halves which are separated by a large wooded hill area.

The course demands a wide range of shots and each hole has been designed to challenge each aspect of the golfer’s game.

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The Hendre House, originally a hunting lodge (or ‘box’ as it was called) dates back over three hundred years. It was in the ownership of the Rolls family from 1767 until 1987.

The Rolls family enlarged the old house in several stages over the following decades using three famous architects, starting with George Vaughan Maddox who rebuilt parts of the south wing in 1830.

He was followed by Thomas Henry Wyatt who continued the enlargement of the south wing both to the east and to the west during the period 1837 and 1858. In 1872 he pulled down the old stables and built the present Coach House and loose boxes which for that period were very modern and forward looking. Also at this time the centre of the present house, being the Billiard Room, Smoking Room and Dining Room, were added.

The third architect was Aston Webb, well known for his work on Buckingham Palace, who added the great cedar Library wing in 1896.Many famous people were entertained here during this latter period including the Duke and Duchess of York who later became King George V and Queen Mary.

In 1910, the most famous son of the Rolls family, Charles Stewart Rolls was killed in a flying accident.

 

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