Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for MONMOUTHSHIRE, or MONMOUTH

MONMOUTHSHIRE, or MONMOUTH, a maritime county of England; bounded, on the NW, by Breconshire; on the N and the NE, by Herefordshire; on the E, by Gloucestershire; on the S, by the Severn's mouth and the Bristol channel; on the W, by GlamorganshireIts outline is not far from being pentagonal, with the sides facing the NW, the NE, the E, the ESE, and the W; but it projects a narrow tongue of about 7 miles from the N W side, and has an indentation of 9 miles by 5 at the SW corner. Its boundary, along part of the N, and along most of the NE, is the river Monnow; along most of the E, is the river Wye; and along all the W, is the river Rumney. Its greatest length, south-south-westward, to the Rumney's mouth, is 32 miles; its greatest breadth is 29 miles; its circuit is about 124 miles,-of which 24 are along the Severn's mouth and the Bristol channel; and its area is 368,399 acres. A tract along the coast, called the Caldicott and the Wentlooge Levels, is reclaimed marsh, embanked against the sea; nearly onethird of the entire area, inclusive of that tract, is rich champaign, either plain or slightly elevated ground; about one-third, northward thence, from the E boundary westward, is a charming diversity of hill and dale, abounding in landscape beauties both natural and artificial; and the rest is mainly a congeries of uplands, cloven with picturesque valleys, and studded with romantic mountains. The chief heights in the E are Beacon-hill, overlooking the Wye, and rising to an altitude of about 1,000 feet, and Kymin hill and Wynd cliff, commanding splendid views; and the chief mountains in the N and the NW are part of the Black mountains nearly 2,000 feet high, the Sugar Loaf mountain 1,852 feet, the Blorenge 1,720 feet, Mynydd-Maen 1,563 feet, and Skyrrid-Vawr 1,498 feet. The only rivers of any consequence, besides those on the boundaries, are the Trothy, ruining to the Wye near Monmouth,-the Usk, traversing the county nearly through the centre windingly to the Bristol channel, 3¾ miles below Newport,- and the Ebbw, traversing the W section from end to end, joined by the Sirhowy at about two-thirds of its length of run, and falling into the Bristol channel at a common embouchure with the Usk. Devonian or old red sandstone rocks form much the greater portion of the county; rocks of carboniferous limestone and shale form a small tract in the SE, around Chepstow and Caerwent, and appear in some other parts; rocks of the coal measures form a large tract in the W, from Pontypool westward to the boundary, and from the neighbourhood of Tredegar southward to the neighbourhood of Bedwas; and alluvial deposits form the tract of the Caldicott and the Wentlooge Levels. Mica and lead ore are found, limestone is plentiful, and coal and ironstone are largely worked.

About 307,000 acres are either arable land or meadow; about 2,000 acres are covered by the forest of Wentwood; very many acres are occupied by other woods, by oakcoppices, and by orchards; and about 5,000 acres are in a state of commonage. The soils in the low and level tracts are chiefly loams, varionsly light and heavy, with patches or intermixtures of sterile peat; those of the eastern, the central, and the northeastern tracts are of various character, generally fertile either under tillage or in meadow; and those of the upland tracts are mostly poor and shallow, rarely fitted for higher cropping than oats or barley, and mostly suited only for sheep pasture. Estates, in general, are large. Farms average from 100 to 200 acres; and are, for the most part, held at will. Wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, beaus, pease, and turnips are generally grown. The cattle are of the large Hereford and other breeds. Sheep number about 175,000, and yield about 2,060 wool-packs. Mules are bred in the hills. A considerable trade is carried on in bark and timber. The manufacture of flannel was at one time extensive, but has declined. The making of knitted caps and stockings is carried on. The mining of coal and ironstone, the working of iron, and the export of mineral produce form by far the chief departments of trade. The principal works are at Pontypool, Aberyschan, Pentwyan, Blaenavon, Nantyglo, Beaufort, Tredegar, and the vales of the Ebbw, the Sirhowy, and the Rumney. The number of collieries in 1859 was 74. The number of coalminers, at the census of 1861, was 10,701; of iron miners, 2,427; of persons employed in iron manufacture, 8,833; in tin manufacture, 266; in tin plate-working, 457; in stone-quarrying, 370. The mineral workings throughout the W, together with canals and railways for facilitating their operations, have completely changed the face of the country, and converted pastoral solitudes into seats of teaming population. The Brecon and Monmouthshire canals traverse the county southward nearly through the centre, past Pontypool to Newport; send off branches to the Usk and to Cromlin; and have connection with railways. One railway comes in from Herefordshire, and goes southward through the centre of the county, past Abergavenny, and past the neighbourhood of Pontypool, into junction with the South Wales line at Newport; another goes from Monmouth, southwestward, past Raglan and Usk, into junction with the previous line 2½ miles ENE of Pontypool; another goes from Blaenavon, southward, past Pontypool into junction with the first, 1¾ mile SSE of Pontypool; two others go from the vicinity of Nantyglo and the vicinity of Beaufolt, south-south eastward, to a mutual junction at Aberdeen; another, in continuation of these two, goes down the valley of the Ebbw, to a point 2½ miles from the Ebbw's mouth, and then deflects east-north-eastward into junctions at Newport; another goes from Tredegar., down the valley of the Sirhowy, into junction with the preceding at Risca; another, running only a short distance within the county, but running elsewhere in close vicinity to its boundary, goes southward down the valley of the Rumney. makes several junctions, and gives direct communication with the port of Cardiff; another, coming from Merthyr-Tydvil in Glamorganshire, goes west-north-westward, past Newbridge, past Pont-Lanfraith and Crumlin, into junction with previonsly mentioned lines in the vicinity of Pontypool; and another, the Great Western and South Wales, comes in from Gloucestershire at Chepstow, and goes along all the coast, past Portskewett, Newport, and Rumney. Tram-roads also traverse portions of the mineral tracts, to a large aggregate of length; and turnpike roads traverse all parts of the county, to an aggregate of about 1,322 miles.

The county contains 116 parishes, parts of three others, and three extra-parochial places; and is divided into the boroughs of Monmouth and Newport, and the hundreds of Abergavenny, Caldicott, Raglan, Skenfrith, Usk, and Wentlooge. The act of 1844, for consolidating detached parts of counties, severed from Monmouthshire the parish of Welsh Bicknor, and annexed to it the hamlet of Bwlch-Trewyn. The registration county gives off two parishes to Herefordshire, and two to Glamorganshire; takes in eight parishes, part of another, and West Dean township from Gloucestershire, five parishes and part of another from Herefordshire, and parts of two parishes from Glamorgans hire; comprises 432,906 acres; and is divided into the districts of Chepstow, Monmouth, Abergavenny, Bedwelty, Pontypool, and Newport. The county town is Monmouth; the market-towns are Monmouth, Newport, Usk, Abergavenny, Chepstow, Pontypool, Tredegar, and Caerleon; the only towns with each above 2,000 inhabitants are the first seven of these eight market-towns; and there are upwards of 165 smallertowns, villages, and hamlets. The chief seats are Troy House, Llanvihangel Court, Abercarne, Llanover, Llanwern, Pontypool Hall, Tredegar House, Trostrey, Wynastow, Bedwelty, Bertholey, Clytha, Coldbrook, Dingestow, Itton, Llanarth Court, Llanthony Abbey, Llantarnam, Newton House, Piercefield, and St. Pierre. The county is governed by a lord lieutenant and custos, a high sheriff, 47 deputy lieutenants, and about 170 magistrates; and it is in the home military district, the Oxford judicial circuit, and the diocese of Llandaff. The county prison is a t Monmouth, and the pauper lunatic asylum is at Abergavenny. The police force, in 1864, comprised 6 men for Monmouth borough, at an annual cost of £372; 26 for Newport borough, at a cost of £1,799; and 102 for the rest of the county, at a cost of £8,702. The crimes committed in 1864, were 10 in Monmouth borough, 117 in Newport, and 257 in the rest of the connty; the persons apprehended were 7 in Monmouth, 102 in Newport, and 197 in the rest of the county; the known de predators or suspected persons at large were 13 in Monmouth, 601 in Newport, and 698 in the rest of the county; and the houses of bad character were none in Monmouth, 130 in Newport, and 79 in the rest of the county. One member is sent to parliament by the boroughs of Monmouth, Newport, and Usk; and two are sent by the rest of the county. Electors of the county in 1833, 3,738; in 1865,4,909, -of whom 2,749 were freeholders, 322 were copyholders, and 1,111 were occupying tenants. Poor rates for the registration county in 1863, £87,253. Real property of the electoral county in 1815, £298,981; in 1843, £591,162; in 1860, £893,921,-of which £469 were in quarries, £55,461 in mines, £109,874 in ironworks, £354 in fisheries, £165 in canals, £69,580 in railways, and £3,110 in gas-works. Pop. of the registration county in 1851,177,130; in 1861,196,977. inhabited houses, 37,652; uninhabited, 2,182; building, 265. Pop. of the electoral county in 1801,45,568; in 1821,75,801; in 1841,134,368; in 1861,174,633. Inhabited houses, 33,077; uninhabited, 2,021; building, 226.

The territory now forming Monmouthshire was part of the country of the Silures, and came to be part of the Welsh Deheubarth, Gwent, and Morganwg. The Romans included it in their Britannia Prima, and erected in it five important stations,-Blestium supposed to be at Monmouth, Burrium at Usk, Gobannium at Abergavenny, Isca Silurum a t Caerleon, and Venta Silurum at Caerwent. The Saxons overran the territory when it was part of Gwent, but do not seem to have ever completely conquered it. The Normans adopted a new method of getting possession; for, instead of endeavouring to seize it in mass for the Crown, they attached it piece by piece, in feudal tenure, to great barons. The barons made incursions at their own expense; entrenched themselves in fortified castles; built up their power mainly from their own resources; and, in course of time, resisted the Crown, and assumed independent sovereignty. Animosities and feuds, in consequence, arose, distracted the country, and produced effects nearly or quite as disastrous as would have resulted from anarchy. Henry VIII. abolished the petty governments both here and in the other parts of the old Gwent and Morganwy territories, divided what is now Wales into twelve counties, and decreed what is now Monmouthshire to be a county of England. Yet Monmouthshire, though then delivered from the thrall of local despots, and made strictly a county directly under the Crown, was considered a Welsh county till the time of Charles II. The county, particularly at Chepstow and Raglan castles, made considerable figure in the civil war of Charles I.; Chepstow castle surrendered to the parliamentarians in 1645, and was surprised by the royalists and retaken by the parliamentarians in 1648; and Raglan castle made a prolonged and heroic stand for the King, was the last fortress of any distinction which held out for him, and eventually surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax. A Chartist insurrection, of about 10,000 men, occurred at Newport in Nov. 1839; went into collision with a small body of military and special constables; and resulted in the death of 20 of the insurgents, the wounding of many others, and the apprehension and transportation of the leaders.

Several Druidical circles exist on the hills. Ancient camps, some British and some Roman, are at Talinrum, Gaer, Campston-hill, Craig-y-Saesson, Craig-y-Gaereyd, Cwrt-y-Gaer, and Sudbrooke. The Roman Julian maritime way went from Caerwent by the coast, toward Cardiff; the Roman Julian mountain way went from Caerleon, by Usk and Abergavenny, toward Brecon; and branches of that way went from Abergavenny to Monmouth, and from Usk. Old castles of note are or were at Caerleon, Usk, Skenfrith, Monmouth, Raglan, Llandilio, Llanfair, Llangibby, Llanvaches, Cresseny, Abergavenny, Dinham, Castell-Glas, Newport, Pencoed, Pencow, Castell-Tregreg, Caldicott, and Chepstow. Abbeys were at Tintern, Llanthony, Caerleon, Grace-Dien, and Llantarnam; monastic houses, varionsly priories, friaries, and nunneries, were at Abergavenny, Monmouth, Chepstow Newport, Usk, Goldcliff, and other places; and ancient churches, or portions of them, of Norman or early English dates, still exist in numerous parishes.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a maritime county of England"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Monmouthshire AncC
Place: Monmouthshire

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