Part 1: General Description

MONMOUTH, the county town of Monmouthshire, is a municipal and parliamentary borough, a market town and head of a petty sessional division, poor law union, and county court district, 128 Miles from London by road and 145 by railway, 31 from Gloucester, 16 from Abergavenny, 19 from Hereford, 10 south-west from Ross, 16 north from Chepstow, 55 from Bristol, 25 north-east from Newport, 35 north-east from Cardiff and 80 from Swansea; it is in the Southern division of the county, hundred of Skenfrith, rural deanery and archdeaconry of Monmouth and diocese of Llandaff.

The parliamentary and municipal boundaries are the same and include the parish of Monmouth and a part of the adjoining parish of Dixton Newton.

Monmouth, in connection with the towns of Newport and Usk, forms the Monmouth Parliamentary District constituted by the "Reform Act, 1832" (2 & 3 Wm. IV. c.45), returning one member to Parliament. This is a borough by prescription, but received a charter from Henry VI and others from Edward VI, James I, Charles 1 and Charles II, the earliest existing charter being that of Edward VI dated 1549; but under the "Municipal Corporations Act, 1835 " (5 & 6 Wm. IV., c.76) the Corporation was remodelled, and now consists of a mayor, four aldermen and twelve councillors, under the style of "the mayor, aldermen and burgesses of the borough of Monmouth."

The town is seated in a beautiful valley nearly encircled by hills and at the confluence of the rivers Wye, Monnow and Trothy, which nearly surround it; over the Wye is a stone bridge of five arches, bearing the date 1617; an ancient stone bridge, of three arches, on which stands an ancient gateway of two storeys with a projecting garderobe, and sloping roof, crosses the Monnow, and a third the Trothy; it consists chiefly of one long street, of good width, rising rapidly towards the east, and expanding at the top into an open space called "Agincourt square," from which several other thoroughfares branch out. A single line railway runs from Pontypool Road station to Ross. There are also branches from Troy to Coleford and Chepstow, all of which are worked by the Great Western Co.

The town is paved and is lighted by electricity under a Provisional Order granted by the Board of Trade, and which received the Royal assent 3rd July, 1894. The works, situated at the Old Forge on the Monnow, are the property of the Corporation: the motive power is furnished by turbines, worked by the stream, steam being only used as an auxiliary. The town is well supplied with water from the reservoir on May hill. In 1890 a further water supply was brought in by gravitation from springs rising in the Buckholt, about 3 miles distant, which enables the company to give a constant supply to the town ; the water is considered remarkably good, rising as it does in the old red sandstone rock.

Monmouth is a place of great antiquity, and has been identified by some antiquaries with the Roman station "Blestium," mentioned in the 13th Iter of Antoninus; it has been immortalized by Shakespeare in "Henry IV." The town was formerly walled round and moated, and had four gates, and of one of these (Dixton or the East gate) there are still remains; the others were named "Monk's Gate," "Wye Gate" & "West Gate"; the walls enclosed an area of about 20 acres; and a portion existed in the reign of Henry VIII. The place was formerly celebrated for the manufacture of head-gear, and this trade is thought to have principally thrived in Over Monnow, (anciently called "Cappers' Town"). Cromwell was entertained here in 1646. Roman coins have been found in various parts of the town, notably on the site of the Grammar School.

The church of St. Mary, originally Norman, was rebuilt in the Early English period, but in 1736 the church was almost entirely pulled down, and rebuilt in a debased Classic style, rather to the south of its former site; in 1882-3, the church was again rebuilt, under the direction of the late G. E. Street esq., R.A, at a cost of £7,000, and is now a building of stone in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, south chapel, organ chamber, south-western porches and a western tower with spire, 200 feet high, containing a clock and 8 bells, rehung in 1883, and a fire bell, recast at the expense of Mr. Job Rees, late captain of the fire brigade ; portions of the nave respond discovered during the restoration and now seen against the west wall belonged to the Norman fabric; some fine specimens of 14th and 15th century tiles, a rare "cresset" stone and a piscina are preserved in the baptistery; the altar painting, representing the Adoration of the Magi, is by Watney Wilson; the chancel has a piscina and three canopied sedilia; the font of stone and marble, the carved oak pulpit, a magnificent white embroidered altar-cloth, and the eagle lectern were all gifts ; the east wndow, of five tall lancets, is stained ; a stained window in the lower stage of the tower, now converted into a baptistery, was presented by Charles H. Crompton Roberts esq. of Drybridge, Monmouth, and new ironwork has been presented by Miss Powell, of Monmouth; there is also a memorial window in the south aisle, erected in 1889 by friends of the late John Endell Powles esq. besides others; the church is now seated throughout with open benches, affording 1,000 sittings, of which half are free.

In the churchyard is a curious gravestone, carved before his death by John Renie, who died 31 May, 1832, aged 33 years ; it is a flat stone divided into squares, and is 15 squares long, and 19 broad: the centre square contains the letter "H," from which in any direction letters form the sentence, "Here lies John Renie."

The register dates from the year 1585. The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £144, with house, in the gift of Charles Arthur Richard Hoare esq., and held since 1897 by the Rev. Charles Frederick Reeks M.A. of Trinity College, Cambridge, domestic chaplain to the Earl of Home, chaplain to Monmouth Union, and surrogate.

OVERMONNOW is an ecclesiastical parish, formed in 1832. St. Thomas, the church, is an ancient building of red stone in the Norman style, dating from 1180, and consisting of chancel, nave, west porch and a western turret containing one bell, and has a clock in the western gable; the chancel arch is a fine example of enriched Late Norman work, the deeply recessed outer doorway of the porch in the same style, and also much ornamented, is a modern addition; the Norman archway on the north side is much worn and now blocked up ; the windows in the chancel are exceedingly small and deeply splayed; a very ancient font lies in the baptistery ; the west end is encumbered with a heavy gallery and others receding from it along the sides ; the church was restored in 1880 at a cost of £800, and in 1887-8 new vestries were added at a cost of £525 : there are 350 sittings. The register dates only from theyear 1845. The living is a perpetual curacy, net yearly value £118,with residence, in the gift of the vicar of Monmouth, and held since 1891 by the Rev. Francis Dudley, B.A., S.C.L., of St. Alban Hall, Oxford.

St. Mary's Catholic church, in St. Mary's street, opened in 1793 and enlarged in 187I, is a plain building of stone in the Gothie style, with a turret containing one small bell; in the chapel is a fine oil panting of the "Presentation in the Temple," after Raphael, painted by T. G. Gainsford, at the expense of the Rev. Thomas Burgess, priest here for 15 years, and afterwards Bishop of Clifton, and here are also preserved a processional cross of the 12th century, and an oaken altar and small chalice formerly used by Father John Kemble, a priest from 1625 to 1678, who suffered martyrdom for his faith at Widemarsh, near Hereford, on Aug. 22nd, 1678, at the age of eighty; the altar bears an inscription recording the fact ; there are 200 sittings.

St. John's chapel of ease, Buckholt, built in 1890, is a plain building, consisting of nave and north porch, and has 60 sittings. The Baptist chapel, Monnow street, erected in 1821, is a small brick building, with 150 sittings. The Congregational chapel, Glendower street, erected in 1846, is a building of stone, and affords 600 sittings. The Primitive Methodist chapel, Monnow street, erected in 1863, is a plain edifice of brick, seating 150. The Wesleyan chapel, St. James street, erected in 1837, is a building of stone in the Italian style, with 400 sittings.

The Cemetery, opened in 1852, has an area of six acres, all of which are laid out; the land was given by the Duke of Beaufort, ind there is a mortuary chapel.

Near the Monnow bridge and in Over Monnow stands a restored cross ; there are three steps and a square base, from which rises a panelled octagonal shaft, supporting a canopied and crocketed head with figures of the Virgin and ther saints in niches.

The Shire Hall, in Agincourt square, is an edifice of stone in the Ionic style, with an open arcaded basement and an upper storey lighted by numerous tall, round-headed windows, alternating with Ionic pilasters ; the principal front has a pediment, in which is a clock, and above it rises a bell turret; in an arched recess below is a fullsized statue in armour of King Henry V who was born in Monmouth Castle, 9 Aug. 1387, and was afterwards known as "Henry of Monmouth "; in one of the arches of the basement stands a Russian gun. The petty sessions and the assize for the county are all held at the Shire Hall.

The Rolls Hall in Whitecross street was erected in 1887, at the sole cost of Mr. John Allan Rolls, now Lord Llangattock, F.S.A., of "The Hendre," and presented to the town on the Queen's birthday in 1888; it is substantially built of local red sandstone with dressings (of Forest of Dean stone, and was designed by Mr. F. A. Powell, F.R.I.B.A., of Monmouth, and comprises a spacious hall, entered from a vestibule and wide corridor, with at one end a gallery and at the other a proscenium, the stage being available for suppers on the occasion of balls; it possesses a fine organ, also the gift of the donor of the hall, and numerous valuable paintings presented by him and others.

The Market House, Post Office and Athenĉum, in Priory street, erected in 1840, at a cost (including slaughter houses) of £9,000, form a building of stone, in the Doric and Ionic styles, and consists of a pedimented central block with clock turret and low wings on either side ; the west wing is used as a post office, and the east wing comprises the Athenĉum and sanitary inspectors office. The market day is on Friday, the great market for cattle being held on the second and fourth Mondays in the month. The early closing day is on Thursday, from 1 p.m. The Cattle Market, situated at the bottom of Monnow street, was opened in 1876. The fairs are 18th June (wool), second Monday in February, second Monday in May, Whit Tuesday, second Monday in September and 22nd November.

The old town gaol is now used as a warehouse.

The river Wye affords good salmon fishing, while trout can be obtained in the rivers Monnow and Trothy.

The manufactures of Monmouth are now few and unimportant, but there are corn mills, saw mills, a tannery and a brewery. One newspaper, "The Monmouthshire Beacon," is published every Thursday. The principal hotels in the town are the Beaufort Arms, King,s Head, Angel, and White Swan. Charles I is traditionally supposed to have frequently halted at the King's Head in his many journeys to and from Raglan Castle, and the then landlord fixed in the bar a medallion portrait of the king, which still remains.

Lloyd's Bank Limited, the Old Bank, the Capital and Counties Bank Limited, and the National Provincial Bank of England Limited have branches here.

The Monmouth and County Club in Agincourt square was opened in 1876, and contains reading, luncheon, billiard and ladies' rooms ; there are 75 members. The Athenĉum and Reading rooms are in Priory street; there is a good library of about 6,000 volumes and the rooms are liberally supplied with magazines and newspapers, both local and metropolitan.

Roger Kemble, the father of Mrs. Siddons, and John and Charles Kemble played in this town in 1774.

The Working Men's Institute, Monk street, built and endowed in 1868 by Mrs. Matilda Jones, of Ancre hill, is an edifice of red sandstone, with Bath and Forest stone in the Italian Gothic style, from designs bv Mr. B. Lawrence, architect, of Newport, and comprises on the ground floor a spacious entrance, vestibule and hall, reading and news room, library and committee room; the principal storey includes a lecture hall with a raised semicircular platform; the gabled front, 54 feet high, surmounted by a banneret of hammered iron, bears the arms of the foundress.

There are Barracks for the Royal Monmouthshire Engineer Militia on Castle hill, and the K Company of the 4th Volunteer Battalion South Wales Borderers have head quarters in Monnow street.

The Monmouth Hospital and Dispensary in St. James's square, was opened in 1868, and has nine beds; during the Year 1899, 69 inpatients were received, also 1,072 Outpatients were treated. In 1900 a large plot of ground, situated on the Hereford road, was acquired through the kindness of the Duke of Beaufort, and a new hospital and dispensary are now in course of erection.

There are Almshouses, founded and endowed by William Jones esq. for ten poor old men and ten poor old women, each having a separate house and ten shillings per week, besides coal and a cloak; other charities producing about £30 are distributed yearly.

The Institute Cottages, Rockfield road, consist of a block of five cottages, built by the Rev. Richard Cox Hales M.A. rector of Woodmancote, heir at law, and one of the executors of the will of the late Matilda Jones, of Ancre Hill, who left £2,000 for this purpose; the central house contains a large room where the inmates and their neighbours assemble on Sundays for a short service conducted by the scripture reader.

Races were formerly held here in September, but from 1895 they will take place in the last week in March or the first in April.

Monmouth Castle, the birthplace of Henry V and once a formidable fortress, is now represented only by a few insignificant ruins on Castle hill; it was built during the reign of William the Conqueror, but was apparently destroyed about two centures later; during the Civil War it was many times taken and retaken, and is now the property of the Duke of Beaufort.

The Kymin Hill is a conical elevation, 700 feet high, on the Gloucestershire side of the river Wye; and the prospect from the summit embraces a view of ten counties. The scenery in the neighbourhood is very delightful; the windings of the rivers Wye and Monnow may be traced for many miles, and the mountains and hills in the distance presents a highly attractive landscape.

The area of the parish is 3,566 acres of land and 68 of water; rateable value, £28,245; the area of the municipal borough is 5,008 acres; the population of the parliamentary district in 1891 was 58,720; municipal borough, 5,470 (which,includes 501 in Dixton) ; parish, 4,969, including 113 officers and inmates in the workhouse. The population of the St. Mary ecclesiastical parish in 1891 was 3,712, and of St. Thomas, Over Monnow, 1,257. The number of electors on the parliamentary register in 1900 was 852.

Parish Clerks: (St. Mary), Edward Shellard; (St. Thomas), William Ward, Cinderhill street


Main Post, M.O. & T.O., T.M.O., Express Delivery, Parcel Post, S. B. & Insurance & Annuitv Office.
Francis John Smith, postmaster

Mails Inward
General Night Mail from all parts, delivery commences at 7 a.m
North mail -- Bristol, West of England & Ross, delivery at 10 a.m.
London, South of England, South Wales, Gloucester & the North, delivery at 4.I5 p.m.
Local Posts, & from 1st May to 31st October London & West of England also, delivery at 7.35 p.m.
Parcel Post deliveries, 8 & 10 a.m. & 4 p.m

Mails Outward
All parts except Ross, 9.I5 a.m.
London, Ross, S. of England, Scotland & Ireland, 12 noon
Ross, Gloucester (for South Wales), Ireland & the North, 3.15 p.m.
North of England & Ireland, 5.30 p.m. (5.45 p.m. from 1st May to 31st October)
London, Gloucester, Bristol, Coleford, South Wales & all other parts, 7.30 p.m.
Ditto, with extra ½d. stamp, 7.45 p.m.
On sundays letters can be posted till 7.10 p.m. & with an additional ½d. stamp till 7.20 p.m.
Parcel Post dispatches, 9 a.m. & 3.30 & 7.30 p.m.
Post office orders & savings bank business is transacted from 8 a.m. till 8 p.rn
Potal orders sold & cashed 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Telegrams. The head office is open for telegraph business from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. on weekdays; & on sundays from 8 a.m. till 10 a.m. only. The telegraph offices at Redbrook & The Hendre are also open at the same hours. Telegrams can, by paying additional fees, be forwarded on sundays after 10 a.m. & after 8 p.m. on week days from the head office only

Town Sub-Office, Over Monnow (Mrs. Amy Sarah Williarns, sub-postmistress), is open for money order & ,savings bank business from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m.
The letter box is cleared at 8 & 11.30 a. m. & 2.20, 5.10, 7 & 8 p.m. ; sundavs, 6 p.m.
On sundays letters can be posted till 6 p.m. for the Night Mail & at the Monnow street Pillar Box till 6.5 p.m.
Troy Railway Station, 11.15 a.m. & 6.15 p.m.; no Collection on Sundays
Wye Bridge street, 8.25 & 11.35 a.m. & 2.45, 5.5, 6.40 & 8.5 p.m. ; sundays, 6.15 p.m.