Monmouth including Overmonnow
(A description written in 1891)
The County Town of Monmouthshire; it is a municipal and parliamentary borough, a market town and head of a Petty Sessional division, Poor Law Union and County Court district, 128 miles form London by road and 145 by railway, 31 from Gloucester, 16 from Abergavenny, 19 from Hereford, 10 south-west from Ross, 16 north from Chepstow, 55 from Bristol, 25 north-east from Newport, 35 north-east from Cardiff and 80 miles from Swansea; it is in the Southern division of the county, Hundred of Skenfreth; eastern division of Abergavenny rural deanery, archdeaconry of Monmouth and diocese of Llandaff.
The parliamentary and municipal boundaries are the same and include the parish of Monmouth and a part of the adjoining parish of Dixton Newton. Monmouth, in connection with the towns of Newport & Usk, its contributory boroughs, returns one member to Parliament: the mayor is the returning officer. This is a borough by prescription, but under the "Municipal Corporation Act" it is governed by a mayor, four aldermen and twelve councillors under the appellation of "the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough of Monmouth." The corporation also acts as the urban sanitary authority.
The Town is paved and is lighted by a company formed in 1840, and is well supplied with water from the reservoir on May Hill. In 1890 a further water supply was brought in by gravitation from springs rising in the Buckholt, about 3 miles distant, which enables the company to give a constant supply to the town: the water is considered remarkably good, rising as it does in the old red sandstone rock.
Monmouth is seated in a beautiful valley nearly encircled by hills and at the confluence of the rivers Wye, Monnow & Trothy, which nearly surround it: over the Wye is a stone bridge of five arches, a second stone bridge crossing the Monnow and a third the Trothy.
A single line railway runs from Pontypool Road station to Ross. There are also branches from Troy to Coleford and Chepstow, all of which are worked by the Great Western Company.
The church of St. Mary was originally a large Norman church, as indicated by portions of the nave-respond discovered during the restoration and now seen against the west wall; there are some fine specimens of 14th and 15th Century tiles, said to be of great interest, and which are now preserved in the wall of the baptistery; there are also a rare "cresset" stone and a piscina preserved in the baptistery; the altar painting, representing "The Adoration of the Magi", is by Watney Wilson: the Early English church succeeding the Norman church was pulled down ruthlessly at the beginning of the 18th Century, and the hideous square fabric lately transformed by Mr. Street was built not exactly on the same site, but more to the south, so that the western door is now at the end of the north aisle instead of the nave: the present church is a building of stone in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, south porch and a western tower with spire, 200 feet high, containing 8 bells, rehung in 1883, and a clock; the fire bell was recast at the expense of Mr. John Rees, late captain of the fire brigade: the church was reopened in 1882 after an entire restoration under the direction of the late G.E. Street Esq. R.A. at a cost of between £6,000 and £7,000: many handsome gifts have been made to the church, including a stone and marble font, a carved oak pulpit, a magnificent white embroidered altar-cloth and an eagle lectern: a stained window in the lower stage of the tower, now converted into a baptistery, was presented by Charles H. Crompton-Roberts Esq. of Drybridge, Monmouth: also a memorial window in the south aisle, erected in 1889 by friends of the late John Endell Powles Esq: the church, formerly blocked with galleries and high square pews, is now seated throughout with low open benches: there are 1,000 sittings, of which half are free. The register dates from the year 1585. The living is a vicarage, gross yearly value £150, with house, in the gift of Charles Arthur Richard Hoare Esq. of Kelsey Manor, Beckenham, Kent and held since 1879 by the Rev. Wentworth Watson M.A. of Christ Church, Oxford. Parish Clerk: Edward Shellard.
St. Mary's Mission Rooms are in Glendower Street.
The church of St. Thomas, Overmonnow, is an ancient building of stone in the Norman style, dating 1180, consisting of chancel, nave, porch and a western turret containing one bell, and was restored in 1880 at a cost of £800: new vestries were added in 1888 at a cost of £400, raised by voluntary subscriptions: there are 350 sittings, all free. The register dates only from the year 1845. The living is a perpetual curacy, net yearly value £80, with residence, in the gift of the Vicar of Monmouth, and held since 1879 by the Rev. Peter Potter B.A. of Exeter College, Oxford. Parish Clerk: William Ward, Cinderhill Street.
St. Mary's Catholic Chapel, in St. Mary's Street, was opened in 1793 and enlarged in 1871; it is a stone building in the Gothic style; the front gable has a turret containing a small bell; there is a fine oil painting of Raphael's presentation, also a processional cross of the 12th Century and a beautiful tapestry vestment of the 13th Century: there are 270 sittings. Rev. Thomas Abbot, priest.
The Baptist Chapel, Monnow Street, is a small brick building, erected in 1821, with 150 sittings. Rev. Horace A. Hunt, minister.
The Congregational Chapel, Glendower Street, a spacious building of stone, was erected in 1846: it has 600 sittings, and is galleried all round. Rev. James Ault, minister.
The Primitive Methodist Chapel, Monnow Street, a plain brick building, was erected in 1863: it has 150 sittings. Rev. Shadrach Evans, minister.
The Wesleyan Chapel, St. James's Street, a building of stone in the Italian style, was erected in 1837, with 400 sittings. Rev. John Turner, minister.
The Cemetery, opened in 1852, has an open area of six acres, all of which are laid out; the land given by the Duke of Beaufort, and there is a mortuary chapel.
Post. M.O. & T.O., S.B. & Insurance & Annuity Office: Arthur Cocks, postmaster. Telegraph Office, Redbrook - Henry Francis Meredith, receiver. Wall Letter box in Monnow Street
Member of Parliament for the Monmouth Parliamentary District of Boroughs:
Sir George Elliot Bart, D.L., J.P. of: Houghton Hall, Fencehouses, Durham; Aberaman House, Aberdare; Bellevue, Newport, Mon; & 1 Park Street, Park Lane W. & Carlton, St. Stephen's & Whitehall Clubs, London S.W.
Returning Officer: The Mayor.
The Town Hall, in Agincourt Square, is an edifice of stone in the Ionic style, with a portico and pediment surmounted by a statue of King Henry V., who was born in Monmouth Castle in 1388, and was afterwards known as Henry of Monmouth. The Petty Sessions and the Assizes for the county are all held in the Town Hall.
The Rolls Hall in Whitecross Street was erected in 1887, at the sole cost of Mr. John Allan Rolls F.S.A. of "The Hendre;" and was presented to the Town on the Queen's birthday in 1888; it is substantially built of local red sandstone with dressings of Forest of Dean stone and was designed by Mr. F,A, Powell F.R.I.B.A. of Monmouth, and comprises a spacious hall, entered from a vestibule and wide corridor, with at one end a gallery and at the other a proscenium, the stage being available for suppers on the occasion of balls: it possesses a fin organ, also the gift of the donor of the hall, and numerous valuable paintings presented by Mr. Rolls and others.
The Market House, a modern building of stone, in the Doric style, stands in Priory Street. The market days is on Saturday; the great market (cattle), the second and fourth Mondays in the month. The Fairs are 18th June (wool), second Monday in February, second Monday in May, Whit Tuesday, second Monday in September and 22nd November.
The old Town Gaol is now used as a warehouse.
The manufactures of Monmouth are few and unimportant. There is a foundry, also a chemical works, corn mills. saw mills and a tannery. The one Newspaper, "The Monmouthshire Beacon," is published every Friday afternoon by William Bailey & Son, Priory Street.
Banks: Bromage & Co., a branch of Capital and Counties Banking Co. and a branch of the National Provincial Bank of England.
The Monmouth and Country Club in Agincourt Square was opened in 1876 and contains reading, luncheon, billiard and ladies' rooms; there are 80 members. The Athenaeum and Reading Rooms are in Priory Street; there is a good Library of about 5,000 volumes; it is liberally supplied with magazines and newspapers, both local and metropolitan. The Working Men's Institute, Monk Street, was built and endowed in 1868 by the munificence of Mrs. Matilda Jones, of Ancre Hill, and is an edifice of red sandstone, with Bath and Forest stone dressings, in the Italian Gothic style, and comprises on the ground floor a spacious entrance, vestibule and hall, reading and news room, library and committee room; the principal storey includes a lecture hall with a raised semicircular platform; the gabled from, 54 feet high, surmounted by a banneret of hammered iron, bears the arms of the foundress. The architect was Mr. B. Lawrence of Newport.
There are Barracks for the Royal Monmouthshire Engineer Militia on Castle Hill,
Lieut.Colonel: Colonel F.B. Vaughan
Adjutant: Captain H. Em. Lindsay R.E.
Lieut. & Quartermaster: George Tucker R.E.
Civil Medical Officer in Charge: T.G. Prosser
The C Company of the 4th Volunteer Battalion South Wales Borderers have head quarters in Monnow Street.
Lieut.: Charles C. Powell
Acting Surgeon: Gilbert Prosser
The Monmouth Hospital and Dispensary, St. James's Square was opened in 1868, and has nine beds;
during the year ending March, 1890, 82 in-patients were received, also 1,686 out-patients were treated.
Medical Officers: George Willis M.D., Thomas G. Prosser M.R. C.S. ENG. & F.W. Brandram Jones M.D;
Dispenser: William Dawe
Dental Surgeon: W.H. Nicholls L.D.S.R.C.S.
Police Station, Agincourt Street:
Captain Willoughby J. Berthon, Deputy chief constable for Monmouthshire; 1 sergeant and 5 constables.
Volunteer Fire Engine Station, Whitecross Street:
Captain, pro tem. William Love, & 20 men; George B. Adamson, hon sec;
Escape Station, Agincourt Square.
Troy - Robert Gooding, station master.
May Hill - Horatio William Reynolds, station master.
Free Grammar School, Almhouses Street;
A building in the Tudor style, was founded in 1614, by William Jones Esq. A chapel is attached, built in 1865, at the cost of 2,350 and there are houses for the head and lower masters: the school under the present system is arranged in two divisions, classical & commercial, with 104 boys in former & 103 in latter; there are exhibitions in the school of £15 & £10; & others of £50 & 60 yearly, tenable at the universities, the leading hospitals, inns of court or any other of the principal institutions connected with the learned professions; a scheme for the administration of the school was issued in June 1868: the income of the foundation is about £10,000 yearly: a new scheme for the administration of this charity has been published: under this scheme there will be a Grammar School, a Girls' School, a High Elementary school & a Second Grade Grammar School. this last is to be situated on the west of the river Usk: the Rev. Charles Manley Roberts B.D. late scholar of St. John's College, Cambridge, has been Head Master since 1859.
A School Board of 7 members was formed in 1875. The Board meets at the Town Hall every second Wednesday in the month, at 10.30 a.m:
Clerk to The Board: Bickerton Homer Deakin
Attendance officer: George Giddings
Board School (infants), Glendower Street, built in 1877, for 250 children; average attendance, 158; Miss Rosina Soar, mistress; Miss Florence Perry, assistant mistress.
St. Mary (National), Priory Street, built about 1840 on the site of what was formerly a monastery or priory, and enlarges in 1884; average attendance, 106 boys and 70 girls; Hudson Donaldson, master; Miss Emma A. Leach, mistress
St. Thomas (National), Goldwire Lane, built in 1864, for 100 children; enlarged in 1875, 1880 & 1889 & will now hold 300 children, the three latter enlargements being entirely at the cost of C.H. Crompton-Roberts Esq. of Drybridge; average attendance, 160 boys & girls & 140 infants; William Woolven, master; Mrs. Mary Louisa Woolven, infants' mistress.
Catholic School, St, Mary's Street, erected in 1871, for 60 children; average attendance, 20; Robert Stuart, master.
There are Almshouses, founded and endowed by William Jones Esq., for ten poor old men and ten poor old women: each having a separate house and ten shillings per week, besides coal and a cloak: other charities producing about £30 are distributed yearly.
The Institute Cottages, Rockfield Road, consist of a block of five cottages, built by the Rev. Richard Cox Hales M.A., rector of Woodmancote, heir at law, and one of the executors of the late Matilda Jones, of Ancre Hill, who left £2,000 for this purpose: the central house contains a large room where the inmates and their neighbours assemble on Sundays for a short service conducted by the scripture reader, Mr. John James. who resides here.
Races are held here in September.
Monmouth Castle, once a formidable fortress, is now represented by a few insignificant ruins on Castle Hill. Kymin Hill is a conical elevation, 700 feet high, on the Gloucestershire side of the river Wye; and the prospect from the summit embraces a view of ten counties. The scenery in the neighbourhood is very delightful; the windings of the rivers Wye and Monnow may be traced for many miles, and the mountains and hills in the distance present a highly attractive landscape.
The area is 3,566 acres of land and 68 of water; rateable value, £21,684.
The population of the Parliamentary Borough in 1881 was 44,933; Municipal Borough, 6,112; Parish, 5,587, including officers and inmates in the Workhouse.
Monmouth engraving c.1799 courtesy of & © The British Library
(extracts from Kelly's 1891 Directory of Monmouthshire, transcribed by J. Doe)
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