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Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Historical Description

Abergavenny, a market-town and a parish in Monmouthshire. The town stands at the confluence of the Gavenny with the Usk, 17 miles W of Monmouth, 18 N of Newport, 20 SE of Brecon, and 167 from London. Population, 7743. Its environs comprise a picturesque reach of the Usk's valley, amid a near amphitheatre of mountains, with the Skyrrid-Vawr (1601 feet), the Blorenge (1908), the Sugar-Loaf (1954), and other summits, and are covered with woods and studded with mansions. Its site was occupied by the Roman Gobannium, and has yielded coins and bricks and other Roman relics. The place, owing to its position on the verge of the hill-country, was long an important post in Border warfare, and witnessed many a strife between the Normans and the Welsh. The town was described by Leiand, in the time of Henry VIII., as " a fair walled town, well inhabited," and one of its gates, called Tudor's gate, stood till recent times, and was then needlessly 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 caatle on an eminence near the S end was built by the Norman, Hammeline de Baladun, soon after the Conquest, and passed successively to the houses of Braose, Cantilupe, Hastings, Valence, Herbert, Grey, Beauchamp, and Neville. Although fragmentary and sliattered it is still a picturesque and interesting ruin, much frequented by visitors. 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, and, although injured by modern alterations, still attracts the antiquary and artist by many curious monuments, especially knightly effigies, in the Herbert Chapel. It dates from the beginning of the 14th century, no portions of the earlier Norman chapel now remaining. There is a fine fragment of a Jesse genealogical tree of the 15th century in the S aisle or Herbert Chapel. St John's, the original parish church, was converted by Henry VIII. into a free grammar school, and this has an endowed income of £279, and a fellowship and exhibitions at Jesus' College, Oxford. Trinity Church, a stone building in the Late Perpendicular style, was erected and endowed by Miss Rachel Herbert, by whom also the adjacent almshouses were built and endowed. 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 Congregational, Baptist, Wesleyan, and Presbyterian chapels. An old stone bridge of 7 arches takes the public road across the Usk, and adjacent is a fine iron bridge, on a higher level, over which the L. & N.W.R. crosses. The town hall is a fine Gothic building in grey stone, erected in 1873; attached to it are the spacious market-house and the Corn Exchange. The lunatic asylum for the counties of Monmouth, Brecon, and Radnor is a handsome stone building in the Early English style, situated on an eminence overlooking the town. It was erected in 1851, and has since been considerably enlarged. The town was formerly famous for fine Welsh flannel, and for fashionable Welsh wigs, made of goats' hair, but is now notable chiefly for the traffic of neighbouring coal and iron works, and especially for crowded markets. The markets are held on Tuesday, and a fruit and vegetable market on Friday; and fairs are held on the third Tuesday in March, on 14 May, on the third Tuesday in June, on the Tuesday before 20 July, on 25 Sept., and on 19 Nov. There are three railway stations, the G.W. in Station Road, the L. & N.W. (Brecon Road), and Abergavenny Junction (G.W. and L. & N.W), about a mile to the north. There are four banks, a post and telegraph office, a dispensary, breweries, corn mills, iron foundries and engine works, and brick works. The town is well paved and lighted, and has an excellent water-supply and an efficient system of drainage. It is a seat of petty sessions and a polling-place, and headquarters of the county constabulary; 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. It is now governed by the Abergavenny Improvement Commissioners. Bishop Cantilupe, who died in 1267, and Baker, the Benedictine historian, were natives. The town gives the title of Marquis to the family of Neville. The Marquis of Abergavenny is lord of the manor and one of the chief landowners.

The parish includes the town, and contains the hamlets of Hardwicke and Llwyndu. Acreage, 4251; population, 9036. A large proportion of the surface is hill-sheepwalk. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Llandaff; net value, £450. Trinity Church is a separate benefice, a perpetual curacy. Patron, the Bishop of Llandaff.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyMonmouthshire 
County Court districtAbergavenny 
Ecclesiastical parishAbergavenny St. Mary 
Petty-Sessional DivisionAbergavenny 
Poor Law unionAbergavenny 
Registration districtAbergavenny1837 - 1894
Rural DeaneryAbergavenny 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Abergavenny from the following:

Newspapers and Periodicals

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