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CHEPSTOW, Monmouthshire - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868

The National Gazetteer (1868)]
"CHEPSTOW, a parish, seaport, and market town, in the upper division of the hundred of Caldicott, in the county of Monmouth. It is situated in a beautiful spot on the right bank of the river Wye, 135 miles by road and 141½ by the Great Western and South Wales railways from Lendon. Anciently the town was strongly fortified, and the fine ruins of its Norman castle, Castellum de Estrighoiel, or Striguil, of Domesday, are still in existence, and partially occupied. This castle is said to have been built about the time of the Conquest by W. Fitz-Osborne, Earl of Hereford; the Duke of Beaufort, who takes the title of Baron Herbert from it, inherits it through the Clares and Plantagenets.

The ruins consist of four courts, besides a central building, and extend a considerable distance along a precipitous cliff. The entrance is by a gateway between two large round towers. The area of the castle is above three acres. In 1646 Sir Nicholas Kemys, at the head of a small band of royalists, defended it against Cromwell, and not until Kemys and 40 of his followers were slain, and their provisions were exhausted, did the garrison surrender. Henry Marten, one of the judges who assisted at the trial of Charles I., was confined for upwards of 20 years in Chepstow Castle, where he died, and was buried in Chepstow church.

The population in 1851 was 4,295, with 723 inhabited houses, which, in 1861, had decreased to 3,364, with 638 inhabited houses. Chepstow Poor-law Union contains 38 parishes and townships, with an area of 64,930 acres. There are no manufactures in the town, but many of the inhabitants are employed in shipbuilding, and there is a geed export trade. For large vessels the Wye is navigable to Chepstow bridge; barges go up the river as far as Hereford. From the narrowness and depth of the channel, the tide rises suddenly and to a great height.

Chepstow is built on a hill, which, rising with a gentle slope from the river, has a picturesque appearance. The bridge, built of iron in 1816 upon five arches, is a handsome structure. The railway bridge over the Wye is tubular in form, but open at the top on the Gloucestershire side, while the rail runs upon arches on the Monmouthshire side, to prevent the navigation of the river being impeded. The streets are well paved, and the town is lighted with gas.

The living is a vicarage* in the archdeaconry of Monmouth, and diocese of Llandaff, value £178, in the patronage of E. Bevan, Esq., and Mrs. Burr alternately. The church is of Norman erection, and originally belonged to the priory of Chepstow; it has lately been restored and enlarged to accommodate 1,600 persons. It contains tombs of Henry Earl of Worcester, Marten the regicide, and several handsome monuments. There are also chapels for Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, Independents, Irvingites, and Baptists. The town possesses a market-house, a theatre, assembly rooms, choral society, literary institution, horticultural society, two banks, and a savings-bank, besides Clayton's school, a free school for 12 boys, a National school, Powis' almshouses, Mentague's hospital, and a custom-house.

In the neighbourhood of Chepstow are Hardwicke House, the seat of the Bishop of Llandaff, St. Kynemark's Priory, St., Lawrence's Chapel, and the grounds of Piercefield, the beautiful seat of N. Wells; Esq. Numerous picnic parties resort to Wyndcliff, a rock 970 feet high, rising precipitously from the banks of the Wye, and commanding very fine views of great extent. Five miles from Chepstow are the noted and picturesque ruins of Tintern Abbey. All the country round about is beautiful and interesting. Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days. Fairs are held on Whitsun Friday and Saturday, the Saturday before the 20th June, the 1st August, and the Friday before the 29th October; also the last Monday in the month for horses, cattle, &c."

"HARDWICK, a hamlet in the parish of Chepstow, county Monmouth, 1½ mile S. of Chepstow. It is situated on the bank of the Wye."

"POOLMERICK, a hamlet in the parish of Chepstow, upper division of the hundred of Caldicott, county Monmouth, 1½ mile S.W. of Chepstow, and 11 miles S. of Monmouth. It is situated about 3 miles from the mouth of the river Wye. The principal seat is Poolmerick."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]