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Newport, Monmouthshire

Historical Description

Newport, a market-town, a municipal and county borough, a contributory parliamentary borough, the head of a petty sessional division, poor-law union, and county court district, a seaport, and a parish in Monmouthshire. The town stands on the river Usk, at a terminus of canals from the N and the W, and at a convergence of railways from the E, the NE, the N, the NW, and the SW, 2½ miles SW of Caerleon, 4 N of the mouth of the Usk, 12 NE of Cardiff, 23 SW of Monmouth, and 158½ distant by railway from London. It is brought into communication with other parts of the kingdom by means of the South Wales section of the G.W.R. via the Severn Tunnel, the Monmouthshire branch of the G.W.R., the G.W. line via Caerleon to Hereford and the North of England, the Sirhowy branch of the L. & N.W.R., the Brecon and Merthyr railway, and the Pontypridd, Caerphilly, and Newport railway. It originated in the decay of Caerleon; it was described by Geraldus Cambrensis as Novus Burgus or New Town; and it became known to the Welsh as Castell Newydd or Newcastle. A fortress at it,, for the defence of the river, gave rise to the latter name; is commonly said to have been erected by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, natural son of Henry II.; became the property of Richard de Clare, Earl of Hereford; passed to the Despencers, and remained with them till the attainder of Edward the third Duke of Buckingham; went then to the Crown; was given back to Hugh de Audley; passed afterwards into other hands; was besieged and captured by Cromwell; and has been partly destroyed and partly converted into premises of a brewery. The river front of it is still nearly perfect, includes two towers, and shows features of Late Perpendicular architecture, with round-headed arches. The town seems to have early risen to commercial importance, for it was described by a very early writer as a place whence many vessels sailed to Bristol; but it appears also to have soon gone into decadence, for it was described by Leland as " a town in ruin." Walls were built around it at some unrecorded period, and three of the gates were standing in Leland's time, and one of the three continued to stand till 1808, but all the walls have completely disappeared. A friary also was in the town, and some remains of its chapel and of its refectory were recently standing. A large increase of population took place at the beginning of the 18th century, and the progress has been maintained since. An attack was made on it on the night of 4 Nov., 1839, by a body of about 10,000 Chartists, collected from the neighbouring mines and collieries, and led by an ex-magistrate, John Frost. They marched through the principal street; took post in front of the Westgate Hotel, where The magistrates, with about 30 soldiers and some special constables, were assembled; broke the windows and fired on the inmates, wounding several; and dispersed under a return-fire from the soldiers, leaving ten of their number dead and fifty wounded.

At the end of the 18th century Newport consisted of ill-paved winding streets and of long straggling ranges of gloomy houses; but it afterwards underwent great improvement, renovation, and extension; it extended in all directions on the W side of the river, particularly toward the S, till it became almost united with Pillgwenlly or Pill, where the docks are situated; it latterly spread also on the E side of the river, forming there the well-built suburb of Maindee; and it is now a well-constructed, well-paved town. The upper or N part, though the oldest, contains the best shops and dwellings. A fine view of the town, with St Woollos' Church prominent, and with the Blorenge and the Twm Barlwm mountains in the background, is obtained from the docks, and a still grander view, comprising the surrounding country, the valley of the Usk, and the waters and coasts of the Bristol Channel, is obtained from St Woollos' Church. A good five-arched stone bridge, erected in 1800 and improved in 1866, spans the river, and High Street goes thence, up an acclivity called Stow Hill, toward St Woollos' Church. The Town-hall, in Commercial Street, is a handsome edifice in the Italian style, and was opened in 1885; it contains municipal offices, police court and station, assembly-rooms, and commercial news-rooms. The County Council Offices, in Pentonville, were erected in 1886, and include a court-house for petty sessions. The Market Hall, in Market Street, was erected in 1865, and almost entirely rebuilt in 1889. The Temperance Hall, in Dock Street, contains a large hall for concerts, &c., the county court offices, and the offices of the school board. The Free Library, in Dock Street, is a fine building containing a large library and reading-room and a museum. The Corn Exchange, in High Street, was erected in 1878 as a memorial to Lord Tredegar. The Victoria Assembly Rooms, in. Bridge Street, is a handsome building in the Classic style, erected in 1865, and now used as a theatre. Another theatre is in Charles Street. The Albert Hall, on Stow Hill, is used for concerts, &c. The Newport and County Infirmary, on Stow Hill, was established as a dispensary in 1839, and converted into an infirmary in 1867; it was enlarged in 1883 and again in 1887. The Custom House and Mercantile Marine Offices are situated in Dock Street. The Elliot Home for Seamen, in Temple Street, was founded by Sir George Elliot, Bart., in 1886, and has a church for seamen attached. A battery of mountain artillery occupy the barracks, and artillery and rifle volunteers have their headquarters in the town. There are almshouses for six women on Stow Hill, built in 1700 and rebuilt in 1845. The Workhouse is also on Stow Hill, and was built in 1837 and enlarged in 1869. The Newport Corporation Baths were built in 1890. St Woollos' Church stands on the top of Stow Hill; is partly Norman, of very interesting character; has an ancient W chapel, communicating with the nave by a rich Norman door; has also a massive tower, erected in the loth century, and decorated on the third stage with the headless statue of a warrior. It was restored in 1855; and contains some mutilated monuments. St Paul's Church stands in Commercial Street, and has an octagonal tower resting on a portico of open arches and crowned with a spire. It was built in 1837 and repaired and decorated in 1859. St. Mark's Church, situated in Gold Tops, was built in 1874, and has a lofly tower. Holy Trinity, Pillgwenljy, was built in 1848. St Stephen's, at the Docks, is a chapel of ease to Holy Trinity. There are Roman Catholic, Baptist, Congregational, Primitive, Free, and Calvinistic Methodist, Presbyterian, and Bible Christian chapels, a Friends' meeting-house, and a cemetery with three mortuary chapels.

The town has a head post office in High Street, designated Newport, Monmouthshire, several other post offices in the town, a station on the G.W.R., the L. & N.W.R., the Brecon and Merthyr railway, and the Pontypridd, Caerphilly, and Newport railway, and six banks. It is a head-port, a seat of county courts, and publishes two daily newspapers and one weekly. Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays; cattle fairs are held on the second Wednesday in April and August, Whit-Wednesday, and the first Wednesday in Nov.; a wool fair is held on 23 June, and a cattle and poultry show on 28 and 29 Nov. Shipbuilding is carried on, and there are breweries, iron foundries, large anchor and chain-cable manufactories, a shot manufactory, sheet and rolled iron factories, and several very large timber yards. A vast export traffic exists in pig-iron, bar-iron, bolt-iron, rolled iron, tin-plates, wire, and coals. A considerable import traffic exists in provisions, in miscellaneous articles of general consumption, and in very large quantities of timber. The export trade is fed from the great region of iron mines and collieries, brought hither by converging railways and canals from all the NW section of the county, and rose to speedy development and to enormous increase at the formation of the railways. The import trade is mainly an introversion of the export trade in throwing back supplies to the populous mineral region. An obstruction to commerce existed in the character of the tide, which comes in with " a bore," rises to the height of 36 feet, and does not give floating accommodation at low water to large vessels; but this obstruction was overcome by the formation of docks. The Old Docks at Pillgwenlly were opened in 1842 and enlarged in 1858, and have an area of about 12 acres. The Alexandra Docks were opened in 1875, and cover an area of nearly 29 acres. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1895 was 100 (30,000 tons). The entries and clearances each average 8500 (1,900,000 tons) per annum. The customs revenue amounts to £35,000.

Newport got its first charter from Richard II. It was made a county borough in 1891, Maindee having been incorporated with it in 1889. It is divided into five wards, and is governed by a mayor, 10 aldermen, and 32 councillors. It has a separate commission of the peace. Acreage, 4463; population, 54,707. The parliamentary borough is united with Monmouth and Usk to return one member to the House of Commons. Population, 51,803. The parish is called St Woollos, and it took that name from the eldest son of an ancient regulus of South Wales. Acreage, 3244; population, 41,903. It is divided into the ecclesiastical parishes of St Woollos (population 8219), St Paul (constituted 1839, population 9127), St Mark (constituted 1875, population 9589), and Holy Trinity, Pillgwenlly (constituted 1864, population 14,968). The borough also includes the greater part of the parish of Christchurch (including the ecclesiastical parishes of Christchurch and Maindee) and a small portion of The parish of Nash. The livings of St Woollos, St Paul, and St Mark are vicarages, that of Holy Trinity a rectory, in the diocese of Llandaff; net value of St Woollos, £234 with residence; of Holy Trinity, £283; gross value of St Paul, £305 with residence; of St Mark, £300 with residence. All are in the gift of 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 
Poor Law unionNewport 
Registration districtNewport1837 - 1974

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

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Newport from the following:

Newspapers and Periodicals

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