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Usk (St. Mary)

USK (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, in the union of Pont-y- Pool, hundred of Usk, county of Monmouth, 13 miles (S. W.) from Monmouth; and 144 (W. by-N.) from London; containing, with the hamlets of Glascoed and Gwehellog, 2182 inhabitants, of whom 1525 are in the town. This place, which derives its name from the Gaelic Ysc, signifying water, is of remote antiquity, and is generally admitted by antiquaries to be the Burrium of the Romans. The ancient castle overlooking the town, experienced repeated assaults during the wars between the Welsh chieftains and the Anglo-Norman lords, especially in the time of the celebrated Owain Glyndwr; and in the civil commotions in the reign of Charles I., it was, with the town, partly demolished by the parliamentary forces. The town is agreeably situated on the river Usk, which is crossed here by a stone bridge; and consists of several streets, composed of detached houses, with intervening gardens and orchards. Some of the inhabitants are engaged in husbandry, and others in a salmon-fishery: there is a small manufactory for japanned tin, or Pont-y-Pool ware. The market is on Friday; a cattle-market is held on the first Monday in each month; and fairs take place on April 20th (a large fair for wool), June 20th, October 29th, and the Monday before Christmas-day. The town is governed by a corporation, consisting of a portreeve, recorder, and burgesses, assisted by four constables; and the borough, conjointly with Monmouth and Newport, returns a member to parliament, the right of election at Usk being vested in the £10 householders of a district comprising 522 acres. The portreeve possesses magisterial authority concurrently with the county justices: the quarter-sessions for the shire, and the petty-sessions for the division, are held here; and a court leet occurs once a fortnight, at which the portreeve and recorder preside. The powers of the county debt-court of Usk, established in 1847, extend over part of the registration-districts of Abergavenny, Chepstow, Monmouth, Newport, and Pont y-Pool. The town-hall is a handsome edifice over the market-place, built at the expense of the Duke of Beaufort: the prison has been enlarged, and a tread-mill erected, by the county, at an expense of about £600.

The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £10. 10.; net income £250; patron, W. Addams Williams, Esq.; impropriator, the Duke of Beaufort. The church, at one time conventual, appears to be of Anglo-Norman origin, and was originally cruciform, but has undergone numerous alterations; it contains several ancient monuments, and a modern one, erected in 1822, to commemorate the worth of Roger Edwards. This benefactor, in 1621, bequeathed property now producing a yearly rental of £412, to establish and endow a free grammar school; to support an almshouse previously built by him at Llangeview, for 12 persons; and for other charitable purposes. Two separate schools are now held in premises adjoining the church. That called the grammar school is in the lower room, and the master, who is a graduate of Oxford, has a salary of £60, with the use of a house, &c.; in the other, termed the writing school, held in the upper rooms, about 40 younger children are instructed in reading, writing, and accounts, by a master in holy orders, who receives £70. The founder also endowed a scholarship with £5 per annum in the University of Oxford, for a boy educated at the school. Almshouses for 24 persons were erected in 1826, to the south-east of the church, upon the site of some old ones. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. The Roman Catholic chapel of St. Francis Xavier was opened in Oct. 1847, and is in the style of the 14th century, from designs by Mr. Charles Hansom, of Bristol: it consists of a nave, south aisle, chancel, sacristy, and porch; the internal length is 65 feet, and the breadth 30. The remains of the castle, standing on an abrupt eminence eastward of the river, comprise the exterior walls and a tower gateway, with several apartments, amongst which is the baronial hall; the area is of considerable extent, and is flanked by square and round towers. Near the almshouses are a few remains of a priory founded by one of the earls of Clare.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.