Search This Blog

Friday, September 10, 2010

MONMOUTHSHIRE: Pigots. circa 1830

MONMOUTHSHIRE This is a maritime county, bounded on the south-east and south by the river Severn and the Bristol channel; on the west by the counties of Glamorgan and Brecknock (in South Wales); on the north part of the latter county and Herefordshire; and on the east by Gloucestershire, from which it is separated by the river Wye. Its greatest length, from north to south, is thirty miles; its breadth, from east to west, twenty-six miles; and its circumferance about one hundred and ten miles, comprising an area of four hundred and ninety-eight square miles, or 318,720 statute acres. In size and population it ranks as the thirty-sixth county in England.
NAME and ANCIENT HISTORY - By the Saxons this county was denominated Wentsel and Wentsland; but by the Britons it was called Gwent, from an ancient city of the name: the modern appellation is taken from Monmouth (or Munnow) and Wye - Camden also says it was originally called Mongwy (Mwny). The ancient inhabitants of this and the neighbouring county of Hereford were the Silures; and the early history of Monmouthshire partakes of the events which took place in the former county, and of those which occurred in Huntingdonshire. The Romans occupied the country of the Silures, as a conquered province, from their complete establishment in the reign of Vesparian to the period of their final departure from Britain, when the colossal empire of Rome was tottering to its centre. There were five principal Roman stations in that part of the territory of the Silures which is included in the present county of Monmouth, namely - Venta Silurum, ascertained by antiquarians to have been at Caerwent; Isca Silurum, at Caerleon; Gobannium, at Abergavenny; Burrium, at Usk, and Blestium, at Monmouth. The miscellaneous Roman antiquities discovered in the county, at different times, are numerous and various, comprising aqueducts, baths, sudatories, tesselated pavements, columns, statues, bas-reliefs, hypocausts, altars, sepulchral stones, sarcophagi, urns, medals, coins, febulae, &c. In our account of Caerleon mention is made of a multiplicity of interesting relics discovered in that station and its vicinity. Remains of a number of ancient encampments, in different parts of the county, are still visible, the construction of which has been attributed to the Britons and the Romans. From the contiguity of this county to the borders of Wales, the fortified castles were also very numerous, the sites of more than twenty being still distinguishable, most of which were of Norman erection: of several of them considerable portions have withstood the assualts of time, though for the most part ruinous; those of Caerleon, Usk and Skenfreth possess the greatest claim to antiquity; that of Ragland, though presenting the most magnificent extent of ruins, is the most modern of all the ancient fortresses - it was of well-proved strength so late as the time of Charles I, in whose favour it vigorously held out, under the Marquess of Worcester, until its surrender to Sir Thomas Fairfax. The caslte of Chepstow, supposed to have been erected by William Fitz-Osborn, Earl of Hereford, is likewise an imposing ruin: in 1645 this castle, which had been garrisoned for King Charles, surrendered to the troops of the parliament; in 1648, however, the royalists, under Sir William Kemeys, retook it, but retained possesion of the fortress only for a brief period, as on the 25th May in the same year it fell before Cromwell's forces under Colonel Ewer. The number of religious houses, including two hospitals, was seventeen: of these the most intertesting remains are the Cistercian Abbey of Tintern and Llanthony Priory Church, both exhibiting large masses of beautiful architecture in ruins, in highly picturesque situations; and beneath the Hatterell Hills, near Ragland castle, is the well-adapted site of a monastery. The principal towns of this county are situated upon the banks of the Wye and the Monnow. Monmouthshire was formerly classed as one of the Welch counties and, from the names of its towns and villages, its mountainous rugged surface, as well as its situation beyond a large river (the Wye), which seems, in this part, to form a natural boundary between England and Wales, it certainly partakes most of the character of the latter portion of the kingdom, though it is comprehended within the civil division of the former.
SOIL and CLIMATE, PRODUCE, MINERALS and MANFACTURES - The surface of this county is picturesque, and peculiarly delightful. The eastern parts are woody, and the western mountainous - a diversified and luxuriant scenery of hill and dale. In one district the eye is charmed with sylvan shades, impervious woods, fields enriched with the finest corn, and meadows enamelled with flowers from other points a scene in complete contrast may be comtemplated - lofty mountains, whose summits reach the clouds, form a sublime and majestic picture, awfully commanding and deeply impressive. The river Usk divides Monmouthshire into two unequal portions, of which the east and largest is, upon the whole, a tract fertile in corn and pasture, and well wooded: the smaller or western division is mountainous, and in great part unfavourable to cultivation; but the hills feed great numbers of cattle and sheep, and some goats. The CLIMATE of the county is salubrous, and favourable to convalescence and longevity: the air is pure - and though, in the mountainous regions, it is found of a keen and piercing nature, yet it tends greatly to brace and strengthen the animal system, precludes those disorders whcih generate in a moist and milder atmosphere, and diffuses its sanitary inlfluence on the more level districts. The most important MINERAL productions are iron, coal, limestone, and various other kinds of stone valuable for building and general purposes. The iron ore is found in such vast quantities, as to form, in consequence of the country abounding with coal also, a principal branch of manufacture: the works on the Welch border are of great extent and importance, producing both pig and bar iron; a Caerleon, and in the Tredegar district, the iron works are likewise upon an extensive scale - at the former there are also tin works. Lead ore, too, is obtained; and the coal mines furnish not only sufficient for the supply of the inhabitants, but to establish a tolerably good coasting trade. Quarries of excellent limestone are worked in almost every part of the county. Japanned goods, bearing the name of 'Pontypool ware,' are manufactured at Pontypool; and there are iron-foundries and paper-mills at Monmouth and Chepstow. Some few coarse cloths and caps, and woollen stockings, are made by the inhabitants in the mountainous parts, and sold at the different fairs. The flannel manufacture, at one time a branch of importance, is now of very limited extent.
RIVERS and CANALS. - The county of Monmouth is abundantly watered with fine rivers, the principal of which are the SEVERN, the WYE, the MONNOW (or MUNNOW), the RUMNEY, the USK, and the EBWY. The noble Severn, the powerful auxiliary of commerce, forms the southern boundary of Monmouthshire, and, after receiving the Wye near Chepstow, and the Avon from Somersershire, unites with the sea to form the Bristol channel. The river Wye, which separates this county from Gloucestershire, is navigable for barges to Monmouth, and ships of considerable burthen come up to Chepstow, where the water rises with great violence: this river, having received from several tributaries a great augmentation of body, becomes a truly splendid one, and, with a deep channel and full current, rushes impetously towards the sea, bearing on its surface vessels of a respectable class of tonnage. The Monnow, rising in the Hetterel or Black Mountains of Brecknockshire, pursues its course south-east, and, dividing this county from that of Hereford, falls into the Wye at the town of Monmouth. The Rumney has its source in Brecknockshire, and, directing its progress south-east, falls into the Severn. The Usk originates amidst the Black Mountains, and, also with a south-east direction, separates this county into two unequal parts, and the falls into the Severn near Newport. The Edwy likewise takes it rise in Brecknockshire, and, passing under the Brecon Mountain, flows through the wild valley of Ebwy, and falls into the Usk below Newport. Several fine streams course through the narrow valleys of the county, fertilizing the land, and beautifying the face of the country; these principally flow into the Bristol channel. Mounmouthshire has some lines of valuable CANAL NAVIGATION: - The 'Monmouthshire Canal,' begun in the year 1792, and completed in 1798, commences on the west side of the town of Newport, having a basin connected with the river Usk: it passes between the town and river, and crosses the Chepstow road; from thence, by Malpas, it pursues its route parallel to and near the river Avon, by Pontypool and Pontnewydd, being nearly eleven miles, or thereabouts. In the 33rd of Geroge III and act was obtained for constructing the 'Brecknockshire Canal,' to form a communication betwen Brecknock and Newport by way of Abergavenny and Pontypool - forming a junction with the Monmouthshire canal between eight and nine miles from Newport and one from Pontypool: from the Monmouthshire canal it is carried across the river Avon; and after being conveyed through a tunnel, one hundred and eighty yards in length, it passes by Mamhilad, Llanover, &c. From these canals several lines of railroad, leading to different iron-works, collieries and lime-kilns, have from time to time been constructed.
ECCLESIASTICAL and CIVIL DIVISIONS, and REPRESENTATIONS. - Monmouthshire (formerly the seat of metropolitan power), is in the province of Canterbury, and, with the exception of six parishes (three of which are comprised in the diocess of Hereford, and the other three in that of St. David), in the diocess of Llandaff. It is divided into six hundreds, namely Abergavenny, Caldicott, Ragland, Skenfreth, Usk and Wentlloog; these are subdivided into one hundred and twenty-four parishes and two parts of parishes, containing one county town (Monmouth), and eight other market towns. The reform bill did not interfere with the representation of this county, which still returns three members to parliament, viz. two for the shire, and one for the borough of Monmouth in conjunction with Newport and Usk. The return of representatives for the county is made from Monmouth: and besides that town, the polling stations are, Abergavenny, Usk, Newport, and the Rock Inn, in the parish of Bedwelty.
POPULATION, &c. - By the census for 1831 the county of Monmouth contained 51,095 males, and 47,035 females - toal, 98,130: being an increase, since the returns made in the year 1821, of 26,297 inhabitants; and from the census of 1801 to that of 1831 the augmentation amounted to 52,518 persons. The annual value of Real Property in this county, as assessed April, 1815, amounted to £295,097.