Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for ABERGAVENNY

ABERGAVENNY, a town, a parish, a subdistrict, a district, and a hundred, in Monmouth. The town stands at the confluence of the Gavenny with the Usk, on the road from Monmouth to Brecon, and on the railway from Newport to Hereford, a mile E of the Monmouth and Brecon canal, 13½ miles W of Monmouth, and 17¼ N of Newport. Its environs comprise a picturesque reach of the Usk's valley, amid a near amphitheatre of mountains, with the Skyrrid-Vawr, the Blorenge, the Sugar-Loaf, and other summits; and are flecked with wood and studded with mansions. Its site was occupied by the Roman Gobanninm; and has yielded coins and bricks with the inscription "Leg. II. Aug.," and other Roman relics. The place, owing to its position on the verge of the hill-country, was long an important post in the Border warfare, and witnessed many a strife between the Nor mans and the Welsh. The town was described by Leland, in the time of Henry VIII., as, "a fair walled town, well inhabited;" and one of its gates, called Tudor's gate, stood till only a few years ago, and was then need lessly destroyed. The present streets are chiefly three, leading out to Monmouth, Hereford, and Brecon; and they are, for the most part, narrow and irregular, and show a mixture of old and new buildings. A castle, on an eminence near the S end, was built by the Norman, Hamaline de Bohun, soon after the Conquest; and passed to successively the Braoses, the Cantilupes, the Hast ingses, the Valences, the Herberts, the Greys, the Bean champs, and the Nevilles. It is now a fragmentary, shattered, uninteresting ruin, blended with a private house, which was built about 1805, on the site of the keep; but a public terrace-walk goes round it, and commands a delightful view. The poet Churchyard, in 1587, sang of its "most goodly towers;" and a more modern poet speaks of it as

The rent Norman tower that overhangs
The lucid Usk.

Some remains of a Benedictine priory, of early date, stand on the SE side of the town, but now form part of a private residence. The priory church, called St. Mary's, was formerly a very fine cruciform structure, but has been excessively injured by modern alterations, yet at tracts the antiquary and the artist by many curious monuments, especially Norman effigies. St. John's, the original parish church, was converted by Henry VIII. into a free grammar school; and this has an endowed income of £265, and a fellowship and exhibitions at Jesus, College, Oxford. Trinity-church was erected and en dowed in 1839 by Miss Rachel Herbert. The Roman Catholic chapel of Our Lady and St. Michael is an edifice in decorated style, with Bath stone dressings, erected in 1860. There are five dissenting chapels, Independent, Baptist, and Wesleyan. An old bridge of 15 arches takes the public road across the Usk; and an adjacent bridge on a higher level, takes across a railroad toward Tredegar. The market house is a well-arranged building, erected about 1830 on the site of a previous structure. The Cymreigyddion hall is a plain edifice, remodelled out of an old malt-house, by the Cymreigyddion Society who made efforts for the revival of old national art, and the encouragement of native manufacture, but became defunct in 1855; and it is now used by the Volunteers as a drill-room, and called the Volunteers' hall, and is used also for large public meetings. The town was formerly famous for fine Welsh flannel, for fashionable Welsh wigs, made of goats' hair, and sometimes sold at 40 guineas each, and for the resort of invalids to drink goats' whey; but it now figures chiefly for coarser flannel, for boots and shoes, for the traffic of neighbouring coal and iron works, and especially for crowded markets. The markets are held on Tuesday; and fairs are held on the third Tuesday in March, on 14 May, on 24 June, on the Tuesday before 20 July, on 25 Sept., and on 19 Nov. The town has a head post office,‡ a telegraph station, two banking offices, and two hotels. It is a seat of petty-sessions and a polling-place; and it was anciently a corporate town, governed by a bailiff, a recorder, and 27 councillors, but it forfeited its charter in the time of William III. Races are held in April on a one-mile course. Bishop Cantilupe, who died in 1267, and Baker, the Benedictine historian, were natives. The town gives the title of Earl to the family of Neville. Pop. in 1851, 4,797; in 1861, 4,521. Houses, 989.

The parish includes the town, and contains the hamlets of Hardwicke and Lloyndu. Acres, 4,229. Real property, £22,077. Pop., 6,086. Houses, 1,157. The property is much subdivided. A large proportion of the surface is hill-sheepwalk. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Landaff. Value, £510. Patron, Sir John Guest, Bart. Trinity church is a separate benefice, a p. curacy, in the patronage of Miss Rachel Herbert.-The subdistrict comprises four entire parishes, and parts of three other parishes. Acres, 20,674. Pop., 8,669. Houses, 1,692.—The district consists of two poor-law unions, Abergavenny and Bedwelty; and is divided into the subdistrict of Llanarth, containing the parishes of Bettws-Newydd, Bryngwyn, Llanarth, Llanvair-Kilgidin, Llanfihangel-nigh-Usk, Llansaintfraed, and Llanthewy Rhytherch; the subdistrict of Llanfihangel, containing the parishes of Llanvapley, Llanthewy-Skirrid, Llan-vetherine, Llangattock-Llingoed, Llanfihangel, Cwmyoy, and Oldcastle; the subdistrict of Abergavenny, containing the parishes of Abergavenny, Llantillio-Pertholey, Llangattock-nigh-Usk, and Llanellen, and parts of the parishes of Llanover, Llanwenarth, and Llanfoist; the subdistrict of Blaenavon, containing parts of the parishes of Llanover, Llanwenarth, and Llanfoist; the subdistrict of Aberystruth, co-extensive with the parish of Aberystruth; and the subdistricts of Tredegar and Rock-Bed-welty, containing the parish of Bedwelty. Acres, 88,176. Poor-rates in 1866, £22,733. Pop. in 1841, 50,845; in 1861, 67,087. Houses, 12,461. Marriages in 1866, 597; births, 2,765,-of which 140 were illegitimate: deaths, 1,691,-of which 653 were at ages under 5 years, and 40 at ages upwards of 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 5,699; births, 24,769; deaths, 15,909. The places of worship in 1851 were 34 of the Church of England, with 9,172 sittings; 13 of Independents, with 5,690 s.; 30 of Baptists, with 12,750 s.; 13 of Calvinistic-Methodists, with 5,111 s.; 16 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 5,754 s.; 11 of Primitive Methodists, with 2,149 s.; 2 of Roman Catholics, with 510 s.; 4 of Latter day Saints, with 100 s.; and 1 undefined, with 200 s. The schools in 1851 were 28 public day-schools, with 3,102 scholars; 54 private day-schools, with 1,303 s.; 94 Sunday schools, with 11,901 s.; and evening schools for adults, with 170 s.-The hundred is mainly identical with the district, but extends beyond it in some parts, and does not extend so far in others; and is cut into two divisions, Higher and Lower. Acres, 47,583 and 28,357. Pop. in 1851, 50,086; in 1861, 54,742. Houses, 10,483.

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

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a subdistrict, a district, and a hundred"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Abergavenny CP/AP       Abergavenny Hundred       Abergavenny SubD       Abergavenny PLU/RegD       Monmouthshire AncC
Place: Abergavenny

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