NEWPORT - from Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Wales (1833)


NEWPORT, a sea-port, market town, and parish, in the hundred of KEMMES, county of PEMBROKE, SOUTH WALES, 19 1/2 miles (N.E. by N.) from Haverfordwest, and 242 (W. by N.) from London, containing 1798 inhabitants. The ancient British name of this place, Trêvdraeth, signifying literally "the town on the sands," appears to have been derived from its situation on a sandy beach of considerable extent, which intervenes between it and the bay of Newport. The town is indebted for its origin and early importance to the descendants of Martin de Tours, the first lord of Kemmes, which territory he had wrested from the Welsh by conquest, and erected into a lordship marcher, and whose son William erected a castle at this place, which he made the head of his barony, and invested with many privileges. This same nobleman granted the inhabitants a charter of incorporation, vesting the government of the town in a mayor and burgesses, to whom he gave an extensive grant of lands, the privilege of holding a weekly market, and several valuable immunities, all which were confirmed by a charter granted by his son Nicholas. The lordship was entirely independent of the palatinate of Pembroke; the lord held his courts in the castle of this place; all writs were issued in his own name exclusively, and not either in that of the Earl of Pembroke, or even of the king of England. In 1215, the castle was taken by Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, but it soon afterwards reverted to its original proprietors, whose descendants continued to hold it, together with the lordship in which they exercised Jura regalia, till the time of Henry VIII., when all such jurisdictions were abolished. Under the protection of its ancient lords the town continued to increase in extent and importance, and enjoyed many additional privileges, of which some were granted to the barony in the reign of Elizabeth. It had become extremely populous, and carried on an extensive woollen manufacture, about the commencement of the sixteenth century, when a pestilential disease occasioned such mortality among its inhabitants, that its market was discontinued, or rather transferred to the neighbouring town of Fishguard, the trade of the port ceased, and the town fell into decay. The market has been re-established, and some little addition to its trade has gradually taken place since that period; but the town has never recovered its former importance. It stands on the high road from Cardigan to Fishguard, and is pleasantly situated at the mouth of the river Nevern, which falls into St. George's channel at Newport bay, and on rising ground ascending gradually to the Carn Ingle mountain, which shelters it from the south-easterly and south-westerly winds, and rises to considerable height beyond the town: it consists of numerous small streets irregularly formed, neither lighted nor paved, but naturally well supplied with excellent water. The houses, with some few exceptions, are indifferently built, but, from intermixture of numerous trees with the buildings, the town has, at a small distance, a pleasingly rural appearance; and the surrounding scenery, in which its venerable church and the picturesque remains of its ancient castle form prominent and interesting features, renders the distant view of it strikingly beautiful. The trade principally carried on is the working of some extensive quarries of slate, with which the neighbouring coast abounds, and of which great quantities are shipped to various places, the vessels being enabled to approach close to the quarries, and to receive the slates from the overhanging cliffs; and in the burning of lime for the supply of the neighbouring districts, in which a considerable portion of the population is employed. A vein of alum shale is said to lie within a short distance of the town, but it has never been worked. There is a good salmon fishery on the river Nevern, which in favourable seasons is very productive, and is carried on with advantage; a herring fishery also exists here, but the demand is so inconsiderable that it is not productive of much benefit to the persons engaged in it. This port is subject to the custom-house of Cardigan: the principal exports are corn and butter, and the produce of the quarries; the chief imports are coal, culm, and limestone. The harbour, which is small, has its entrance partially obstructed by a sand bank; but it affords good shelter to the coasting vessels employed in the trade, and to the boats engaged in the fisheries. A compact and well protected bay, on the south and east, stretches out before the town, from which it derives its name. The market is on Friday; and fairs are held annually on June 27th and October 16th. The town retains the ancient form of government which it held under the charter of incorporation granted by William, son of Martin de Tours, and afterwards confirmed by his son Nicholas; and a mayor is still nominated by the lord of the manor, from three persons elected for that purpose by a majority of the burgesses. Courts leet and baron are held twice in the year; and the petty sessions for the hundred take place here on the first Friday in every month. Newport has recently been made a polling-place in the election of a knight for the shire.

The living is a discharged rectory, in the archdeaconry of Cardigan, and diocese of St. David's, rated in the king's books at £16, endowed with £400 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of Thomas Lloyd, Esq., of Bronwydd, lord of the manor. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient and venerable cruciform structure, partly in the early style of English architecture, with a square tower at the west end; the roofs of the nave, chancel, and transepts are of carved oak, and are supported on ranges of plain pointed arches; and in the chancel are two stone canopies plainly wrought: over the nave is a richly wrought open spire for a bell, and the windows exhibit tracery of considerable elegance. The church has recently received an addition of four hundred and eighteen sittings, towards defraying the expense of which the Incorporated Society for the enlargement of churches and chapels have contributed £200, in consideration of which grant two hundred and eighteen sittings are free. On the west side of the porch are the ruins of a detached building, said to have been the record-office of the town. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Calvinistic Methodists. A school conducted on the National system is supported here on the foundation of the late Mrs. Bevan, for the gratuitous instruction of poor children: it is a permanent establishment, and the central school, in which are prepared the teachers who superintend the several circulating branch schools connected with the foundation. This plan of circulating instruction was originally projected by the Rev. Griffith Jones, of Llandowror, in the county of Carmarthen, in the article on which parish a more detailed account of it is given. On an elevated knoll, rising abruptly at the extremity of the principal street of the town, are the remains of the ancient castle, consisting principally of one of the circular bastions which defended the grand entrance, the other having fallen down some years since, and some portions of the dungeons, between which and the town was a subterraneous communication, discovered within the last few years; the bottom of it was flagged, and the sides and the roof were secured by smooth stones. The castle was surrounded by a moat, and though the ruins bespeak it to have been originally occupied as a seat of baronial magnificence rather than a fortress, it was no doubt well adapted to both purposes, and in its general construction appears to have combined strength with elegance. The bay of Newport, bounded by the headlands of Dinas and Ceibwr, opens beautifully in front, rendering the situation peculiarly delightful. Beyond the site of the castle rises the lofty rocky eminence called Carn Ingle, where St. Brynach, to whom many churches in Wales are dedicated, is said to have passed his life in religious seclusion, and to have conversed with angels, from which fabulous tradition this place has been called also "Mons Angelorum". There are numerous Druidical remains in the vicinity; and near the mansion of Llwynygwair, but within the limits of this parish, is one of the most perfect cromlechs in the principality, though on a small scale. On a hill connected with Carn Ingle there is a large stone, called Morris' Grave. According to Speed, there was anciently a house of Augustine friars at this place, but no particulars of its foundation or history have been preserved. The poor are maintained by an. average annual expenditure amounting to £296. 15.


Gareth Hicks, 9 Jan 2000