NEW RADNOR - Gazetteers


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

National Gazetteer, 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]"NEW RADNOR, (or Maes-hyved), a parish, post and market town in the hundred of Radnor, county Radnor, 9 miles S.W. of Presteign, and 26 from Hereford. It is situated on the river Somergill, under Radnor Forest mountains, and was once a place of great importance. It has for a long period been reduced to a village consisting only of a few thatched cottages. It contains a townhall, prison, &c., also the ruins of a border castle of the Mortimers, which was pulled down by John, but afterwards rebuilt by the English, and finally destroyed by Owain Glyndwr in 1401.

Many of the cottages are in a ruined condition, and most of the business has been transferred to Presteign. About a mile from the turnpike road is the cascade designated "Water-breakits-Neck", which descends from a height of 70 feet, being one of the largest in Wales. Radnor gives title of earl to the Bouveries.

The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Hereford, value £304, in the patronage of the lord chancellor. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, has a tower containing a clock and four bells. It is situated on the declivity of a hill, and was rebuilt by Dean Merewether. The parochial charities produce about £27 per annum, of which £15 goes to Green's school. The Dissenters have a place of worship. In 1188 Giraldus Cambrensis, the historian, began his Itinerary at this point with Archbishop Baldwin, who came hither to preach the Crusades. Fairs are held on 14th August and 28th October."

"WALTON, a township in the parish of New Radnor, and county of Radnor, 3 miles S.E. of New Radnor, within which borough it is included, and 8 from Presteign. It is joined with Womaston."

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

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A Topographical Dictionary of Wales Samuel Lewis, 1833

RADNOR (NEW), or MAES - YVED, a borough and parish, having exclusive jurisdiction, and formerly of sufficient importance to have given its name to the county of RADNOR, SOUTH WALES, 8 miles (W. S. W.) from Presteign, and 157 (W. N. W.) from London, containing 472 inhabitants. Its Welsh name, signifying "the imbibing meadow,", is derived from the circumstance of the little river Somergil sinking into the earth in its vicinity, and pursuing a subterraneous course for a considerable distance. Though at present little more than an inconsiderable village, it was anciently a place of some importance, and most probably owed its origin to the erection of a castle here by the Mortimers, for the protection of the territories they had acquired in this part of the principality. This castle, which was of considerable strength, occupied an eminence above the town, commanding the passage from the mountains into the open country; and, from its situation on the border, the town was fortified with walls having four strong gates, and surrounded by a deep moat. In 1188, Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, accompanied by Giraldus Cambrensis, on his mission to preach the crusades through-out Wales, commenced his labours at this place, to which he was attended by Ranulph de Glanville, justiciary of England, and where he was received by Rhys ab Grufydd, Prince of South Wales, and several other Welsh chieftains ; and at this town commences Giraldus' Itinerary. In the following year, Rhys ab Grufydd, having made a formidable incursion into the English marches, assaulted and took possession of the castle, which he resolutely defended against Sir Roger Mortimer, who came to its relief with a considerable body of well-armed veteran forces. All the efforts of Sir Roger to retake the fortress proved unavailing ; and the troops of Rhys, sallying from the castle, entered into close action with the English forces, whom they ultimately drove from the field, after an obstinate and sanguinary conflict. In 1217, King John, in resentment of Llewelyn ab Iorwerth's abandonment of his interests, laid siege to the castle, which he demolished; but it was soon afterwards rebuilt by the English, from whom it was taken by Llewelyn in 1231. It was besieged, in 1263, by the confederate forces of Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales, and the two sons of the celebrated Simon de Montfort, and, being taken, was burnt to the ground; but, though no further account of it occurs in the mean time, it was probably rebuilt, for its final destruction, together with the ruins of the town, is stated in the charter granted by Queen Elizabeth to have been effected by Owain Glyndwr, who, in 1401, having posted himself on Plinlimmon hill, thence despatched his forces on plundering excursions, during which they destroyed the abbey of Cwm Hir, in Radnorshire, and took the castle of Radnor, causing the whole garrison, to the number of sixty men, to be beheaded on the brink of the castle yard. By an act of the 27th of Henry VIII., New Radnor was constituted the shire town of the newly erected county of Radnor ; and the assizes and quarter sessions were appointed to be held alternately here and at Rhaiadr; but, by subsequent acts of the 35th and 36th of the same reign, these courts were ordered to be held alternately here and at Presteign, to which latter place the assizes were subsequently wholly removed,, and are still invariably held there. Leland, describing New Radnor in the reign of Henry VIII., states that the ruins of the four gates were then remaining in the walls ; that the castle was in ruins, with the exception of part of the gate, which had been repaired; that there was an old church near the castle, then used as a chapel; and that not far from it was a new parish church, built by William Bachefield and Flory his wife. According to Speed's map, in 1610, the town appears to have had at that time three principal streets, extending parallel with each other, in a direction from east to west, and four smaller streets intersecting them at right angles, exclusively of four short streets leading from the upper street to the church and castle. Since that period, however, it has dwindled into an insignificant village. " In times past," says Camden, " it was firmly fenced with a Wall and Castle, but after that Owen Glendwrdwy (that notable Rebel) had burnt it, it began by little and little to decrease and grow to decay, tasting of the same fortune as the mother thereof did before (I mean Old Radnor), which in the Reign of King John Rhys ap Gryffyn did set on fire." Indeed, its sole importance depended upon its existence as a border fortress ; when it ceased to be such, Kington and Presteign soon surpassed it as market towns.

The present town is situated on the banks of the small river Somergil, near its descent from the mountains into the Vale of Radnor, and consists only of a few houses built of a perishable slaty stone, and of very mean appearance : the names of some of its ancient street are still preserved, though others no longer exist vestiges of them, however, may still be traced among the gardens, but most of them have become merely foot-paths. With the exception of a few maltsters and handicraftsmen the entire population is engaged in agriculture. The market, formerly held on Tuesday, after several ineffectual attempts to revive it, has altogether fallen into disuse. Fairs are held annually on August 14th and October 28th and 29th, which latter is very numerously attended. This place was a borough by prescription till the reign of Elizabeth, who, in the 4th year of her reign, granted the inhabitants a charter of incorporation, with many privileges, an extensive manor, and an exclusive jurisdiction, extending over a district nearly thirty miles in circumference. Under this charter, confirmed and extended by one of George II., which not only recites it, but likewise mentions others " by divers lords of the marches," the government is vested in a bailiff, two aldermen, and twenty-five capital burgesses, assisted by a recorder, coroner, town-clerk, two chamberlains, two serjeants at mace, and other officers. The bailiff and aldermen are annually elected from the capital burgesses, by a majority of that body, on the Monday after the feast of the Holy Cross : the recorder, who holds his office for life, and all the other officers of the corporation, are also elected by the capital burgesses. The capital burgesses must be chosen from among the resident burgesses, and lose their privileges on becoming non-resident : no person who is non-resident can be elected a burgess. New Radnor, in conjunction with Kevenlleece, Knighton, Cnwclas, and Rhaiadr (to the number of which contributory boroughs Presteign was added, by the recent act to amend the representation), returns one member to parliament. The right of election has heretofore been vested in the burgesses generally : it is now, by the late act, extended to every male person of full age occupying, either as owner or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than ten pounds, provided he be capable of registering as the act demands : the present number of houses of this value within the limits of the borough (which have not been altered by  the late Boundary Act), is one hundred and seventy-two : the bailiff is the returning officer. The recorder, bailiff, and aldermen, and also the bailiff and aldermen for the preceding year, are justices of the peace within the borough, the jurisdiction of which extends exclusively over the whole of the parishes of New Radnor, Old Radnor, and Llanvihangel - Nant-Melan, and parts of those of Cascob and Llandeglay. The corporation hold quarterly courts of session for the borough, on the Monday after the quarter sessions for the county; a court of petty sessions ; and a court, every Monday, in which the bailiff presides, assisted by the town-clerk, for the recovery of debts and the determination of pleas under the amount of forty shillings. The sheriff's court, for the recovery of debts not exceeding forty shillings, is held every month, alternately here and at Presteign. The court for the election of the knight of the shire may be held here, though it has not been so for nearly half a century : this has also, under the late Boundary Act, been made one of the polling-places. The town-hall, in which the various courts are held, and the public business of the corporation is transacted, is a mean building, in a state of very imperfect repair : it is situated in the principal street, and opposite to it is a small prison for the borough, consisting only of two rooms and an airing-yard. The parish comprises from two thousand five hundred to three thousand acres of rich loamy pasture land, and a fertile tract capable of producing good crops of corn : the upper part of it comprehends a portion of the mountain range of the forest of Radnor.

The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Hereford, rated in the king's books at £ 13. 10. 10., and in the patronage of the Crown. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, and situated on the declivity of a lofty hill to the north of the town, is an ancient structure, roofed with tiles, with a handsome square tower, strengthened by buttresses, and containing five bells : the body consists of a nave, chancel, and aisle, but is in a very dilapidated condition : part of it appears to rest on the foundation of a more ancient building : the old church mentioned by Leland is no longer in existence. John Green, of Hereford, bequeathed to this parish the sum of £300, of the interest of which he appropriated £ 10 for the support of a charity school, £ 3 to be distributed in bread to the poor, and the remainder to be expended in purchasing articles for the church. An estate called Longney, in the county of Gloucester, was devised to this parish by Mr. Henry Smith, of London, in 1627, the proceeds of which are distributed among the poor: being subject to the inundations of the river Severn, it varies greatly in its annual value, which fluctuates from £7 to £ 15 per annum : there are also some smaller charitable donations and bequests to the poor. Of the ancient castle, which occupied the summit of a lofty eminence to the north-east of the town, there are only some inconsiderable vestiges : the walls of this structure, which was of great strength, comprised a quadrilateral area, divided into an outer and an inner ward : at the north-eastern and north-western angles were, square massive towers. The entrance, which was on the south side, was defended by a similar tower at the south-western angle ; and to the east were two circular towers of smaller dimensions. Some workmen digging on the site, in 1773, discovered six or seven arches of good masonry, which appeared to have supported a range of the principal buildings: the outer intrenchments are still in good preservation. The course of the Walls by which the town was surrounded may be easily traced by the remains of their foundations, and of the deep moat on the outside. About a mile from the town, and near the western extremity of the parish, the narrow vale of the small river Somergil is intersected by an intrenched dyke; and in a narrow defile, about two miles to the west of the town, and in the parish of Llanvihangel-Nant-Melan, there is a curious and interesting cascade, called " Water break its neck." Immediately to the north of the town is the high mountainous tract forming the forest of Radnor, on which numerous flocks of sheep are bred, and from one of the summits of which, called Wimble, is a view of great extent over several of the adjoining counties, embracing some pleasing scenery in the neighbourhood of the town, with several gentlemen's seats, surrounded by plantations and pleasure grounds, and forming ornamental features in the landscape. Downton House, the property of Percival Lewis, Esq., and now the residence of W. S. R. Cockburn, Esq., only son of General Sir William Cockburn, Bart., is an elegant mansion, situated in beautiful grounds, and surrounded with interesting and pleasingly varied scenery. Radnor gives the title of earl to the family of Bouverie. The poor are maintained by an average annual expenditure amounting to £ 192.    .

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