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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Registers of Grosmont 1589 - 1812: Part 1

GROSMONT is an ancient borough, once governed by a mayor and corporation. It takes its name from the situation of the castle on a mount high above the river Monnow, commanding an outlook over an extensive range of country. It has no distinctive We1sh name, but in Welsh pedigrees and poetry appears as Grismond and Grismwnt. By this it would seem that as a place of defence it was not used by the early Welsh, and owes its origin to the Norman conquest. This is to some degree borne out by the dedication of the church to St. Nicholas, and not to a Welsh saint.

Gwaethfoed is said to have been the native lord of Grosmont when Hamelyn, who died in 1090, the conqueror of Gwent Uwchcoed, subdued this district and possessed himself of the four castles of Monmouth, Grosmont, Skenfrith and Whitecastle. It is considered that the castle of Grosmont was built or re-built on the lines indicated by the existing ruins by Hubert de Burgh, earl of Kent, in the early part of the reign of king Henry III. (1216). The family of de Braose, lords of Abergavenny, followed Hamelyn as lords of Grosmont, Skenfrith and Whitecastle, till in 1219 Hubert de Burgh above mentioned recovered Grosmont in a from Regìnald de Braose. Hubert de Burgh in 1233 joined Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, prince of North Wa1es, and Richard Marshall, earl of Pembroke, in which year they engaged the king’s army near Grosmont, when the king was defeated with the loss of 500 horse and all his baggage, and compelled to retreat to Gloucester. The spot where this battle took place is still called Kingsfield. In 1240 Hubert de Burgh made peace and surrendered the three castles to king Henry, who in 1267 gave them to his younger son Edmund Crouchback, earl of Lancaster, who often resided in Grosmont castle. The earl died in 1296, whose son Henry was father of Henry who was born in Grosmont castle and so had the surname of de Grosmont, in Latin de Grosso Monte. This earl was created in 1350 duke of Lancaster. Blanch, daughter and heir of the duke of Lancaster, marrying John of Gaunt, younger son of king Henry III., took the estates to her husband. John of Gaunt was often at Grosmont. On king Henry IV., son of John of Gaunt, coming to the throne, the lordship of the three castles of Grosmont, Skenfríth and Whitecastle, with much other property formerly belonging to the duke of Lancaster, were formed into a duchy under the name of the duchy of Lancaster, the revenues being the private property of the sovereign. On 11 March 1405 Gwen Glyndwr`s men, to the nurnber of 8000, attacked Grosmont, which was defended by prince Henry, afterwards king Henry V. The English were victorious. The castle soon after was allowed to get into disrepair. Leland, about the year 1538, describes it [Itinerary of John Leland, Hearne’s edition, iv, 90]:-

The Castle of Grossemount standeth a 3 miles above Skenfrith, on the right hand of Mone, secundum decursum ffluvii, half a mile from the ripe. It standeth strongly on a rocke of hill drye ditched and a village of the same name by it. Most part of the castle walls yet stand.

In the year 1825 Grosmont castle, together with Skenfrith and Whitecast1e, were sold by the duchy of Lancaster to Henry, sixth duke of Beaufort. It now belongs to Mrs. Lucas­Scudamore.

The parish comprìses 6790 acres, of which a considerable portion is the Graig mountain, known in Welsh as Graig Saerffrddyn, of which much is woodland. The town is considered to have been at one time larger than it is now, and remains of cottages are to be seen in many places.

Since the year 1801 the population has varied but little, there being in that year 519 persons; in 1871, 742; in 1901, 518; in 1911, 561.

The large amount of woodland accounts for the number of tradesmen mentioned in the registers whose description signifies work in, or connected with, woods, as collier (charcoal burner), hooper (hoop shaver), carver, cooper, sawyer (carpenter), turner, staff-maker, tanner.
The district was also famous for the making of Monmouth caps, and therefore capper is found, and also glover. The house known as the Cap in the adjoining parish of Llangua was formerly an inn with the sign of the Monmouth Cap.


The Lawns.-The demesne of the castle was let to farm. At the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries the farmer of the demesnes was William Walter, esq., who resided at Part-y-seal. Later the demesnes belonged to the duke of Beaufort, who let on lease for lives to Charles Walwyn, who was buried in 1695 (p. 124), having built the residence called The Lawns. The family of Trumper, descendants of Charles Walwyn, continued to hold the property by lease till, in 1818, William Walwyn Trumper purchased the freehold from the duke of Beaufort.

Part-y-seal. At the beginning of the seventeenth century William Walter, mentioned above, resided here. His name only appears in the register once, when his daughter Abigail married, in 1628 (p. 47), William Cox. His descendants resided at Norton in Skenfríth. Part-y­-seal was later the residence of Godfrey Harcourt (p. 83), steward to the duke of Beaufort. A family named Austin (p. 154) next had it. It now belongs to the rev. Andrew Pope, and is the only one of the old Squires’ houses that has not become a farmhouse.

The Upper Dyffryn (Dyffryn Ucha) is an ancient house built probably by John Gainsford in the latter part of the sixteenth century, who came here to manage the estates of the duchy of Lancaster (p. 3).

The Lower Dyffryn (Dyffryn Isha)This was the finest house in the parish, built probably in the early part of the sixteenth century. It was long the residence and estate of a family of Cecil (Sitsyllt) kinsmen of the noble families of the marquises mf Salisbury and Exeter (p. 68).

Compton. – This, so called from an ancient mound or camp near by, was long the seat of  a family who, after the usual Welsh aps, became Prichard. Mr. Prichard on 1 July 1645 entertained king Charles I. here on his journey from Hereford to Abergavenny.

The Goitre (Coed-tref—Wood-­town, corresponding to Wootton in English), on the banks of the river Monnow, was the residence of Charles Williams who died in 1636 (p. 55), and to whose memory is a stone in the church. His relative John Gabb succeeded to the estate.

The Marlborough  (perhaps Moel fro, bare country) was in the middle of the seventeenth century the residence of Thomas Springett, who may have had it with his first wife Mary, daughter of James Prichard of Campston (p. 48), or his second Wife Anne, widow of Moore Jones (p. 45).

Upper Cefn-llytha.-This house stands on the boundary of this parish and Llantilio-Crossenny. Elizabeth, daughter of John ap William, married two Englishmen, first Thomas Goddard (p, 14.), and secondly Robert Poulet (p. 25), both of whom lived here. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a family named Higley was here (p.91).

Heol Dalbert.-This place appears on p.150 in its English form Talbert street. It is evidently for Heol Dollborth, the street of the toll-house.

Hugh Phìlip David, who died in 1638 (p. 58), owned it, and continued as the residence of descendants, the last in the male line being Thomas Hughes who died in 1857, aged 80 (p.151).

The family of Saunders, of whom there are many entries, derived their surname from Alexander ap Rees Philip, paternally Winston (p. 2). Pen-y-pia was one of their residences.

Of the above families there are no representatives now residing in Grosmont. But some are to be found elsewhere. The family of Trumper is represented in the male line by Mr. Thomas Wìlliam Walwyn Trumper of Crickhowel; Gainsford by Mr. Dunn Gainsford of Skendleby Hall, co. Lincoln; Cecil by Mr. Burleigh Cecil of Weybridge; Gabb by Mr. Frederick Baker-Gabb of Abergavenny.

Pedigrees of these families and of others occurring in the register will be found in Llyfr Baglan and in the History of Monmouthshire.