Monmouth ( ; Welsh: Trefynwy = "town on the
Monnow") is a town in southeast Wales and
traditional county town of the historic county of Monmouthshire. It is situated close to the border with
England, where the River Monnow meets the River Wye with
bridges over both .
is twinned with Carbonne, France and Waldbronn, Germany.
The name Monmouth is an English
contraction of 'Monnow-mouth'. The Welsh name for the river, Mynwy,
which may originally have meant "fast-flowing", was anglicised as Monnow.
town was originally known in Welsh as Abermynwy
the Monnow"), replaced by Trefynwy
("Monnow town" - the
of Mynwy mutating
in Welsh to f
) by the 17th
century. The name is pronounced by those who live in the area as
'Mon-muth'; in most of Wales it is pronounced as 'Mun-muth'.
century stone gated bridge at Monnow Bridge  is unique in Britain being the only
preserved bridge of its design remaining.
There is also a
long bridge over the River Wye 
. A second bridge over the Monnow was opened on
March 15, 2004, thus allowing the old bridge to become pedestrianised
. This project has meant the
demolition of the old cattle market
Archaeological excavations undertaken by the Monmouth
Archaeological Society on sites along Monnow Street have uncovered
a wealth of information about the early history of the town.
Indeed, the Council for
have designated Monmouth as one of the top
ten towns in Britain for archaeology.
Monmouth as an organised settlement dates back to the times of the
Roman occupation of Britain
conquest of Roman Wales
. The Romans called it
Blestium, and it was
part of a network of Roman forts covering
the region, linked via Roman roads to
Abergavenny or Gobannium, Usk known as
Augusta at Caerleon and Glevum at Gloucester.
Archaeologists and historians have found
items of Roman pottery and Roman
and coinage that date from that period.
The town appears in the Domesday Book
and for the 11th century
and 12th century
the town and surrounding areas
were ruled by Norman
French lords after the
conquest of England
by William the Conqueror
. During this time, Monmouth Castle  was built, in 1067 under William Fitz-Osbern of Breteuil, Normandy, a
significant castle builder, holding commanding views over the
surrounding area from a sound defensive site.
would have been a motte and bailey
, rebuilt in stone and later
refortified and developed over time.
A Benedictine priory 
was also created in 1101, and it was
traditionally there that Geoffrey
- author of the Historia Regum Britanniae
(History of the Kings of Britain
) - gained his education.
A fortified bridge 
was built during the 13th
The Battle of Monmouth was fought in 1233 between the rebel forces
Marshal, 3rd Earl of Pembroke
, and a royalist force under John
of Monmouth. The rebels carried the day and St Thomas'
Church and Monnow Bridge were torched in the battle, which
according to Glamorgan-Gwent Archaelogical Trust records took place
beside the River
Monnow on Castle Field, land today known as Vauxhall
The battle was immortalised by an illustration by
historian Matthew Paris
, which shows Richard Marshal
unhorsing Baldwin of Guisnes. The original is owned by Corpus Christi
came into the possession of the
House of Lancaster
marriage of John of Gaunt
a Monmouth based heiress. John of Gaunt strengthened the castle,
adding the Great Hall.
Henry V was born in Monmouth
Castle in the Queen's Chamber within the gatehouse.
The castle became a favourite residence of the House of Lancaster.
would win the Battle of
Agincourt in 1415.
Many parts of Monmouth, including
the town's main square, are named after this battle.
During the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr
between 1400 and 1412 Monmouth Castle and walled town
was not attacked by Welsh forces,
however skirmishes and battles were fought in the area, such as at
Campston Hill when Prince Henry's men followed a retreating force
of Glyndwr's, capturing the Welsh standard and killing the standard
bearer, Ellis ap Richard ap Howell ap Morgan Llwyd. Other battles took
place at nearby at Craig-y-Dorth, at Grosmont and Usk, such as the
Pwll Melyn. Grosmont town was
razed and Abergavenny and Crickhowell attacked.
Post medieval times
Spede's Map of Monmouth, 1610
In 1605, James I
a town charter
by letters patent
. The granting of the charter
included the charge that the town "at all perpetual future times
... be and remain a town and borough of Peace and Quiet, to the
example and terror of the wicked and reward of the good".
The layout of the town as depicted in Speede's map of 1610 would be
easily recognisable to present day inhabitants, with the layout of
the main axis from the castle via the main street, Monnow Street,
to the bridge clearly visible. Monnow Street is a typical market
street, in being wide in the middle (for those selling) and narrow
at each end (to help prevent the livestock escaping).
In 1840 at Monmouth's Shire Hall, Chartist
protestors John Frost
, Zephaniah Williams
and William Jones
became the last men in Britain
to be sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered
after being found guilty of treason
following riots in Newport
to 20 deaths. The sentences were later commuted to transportation
Four railways were built to serve Monmouth between 1857 and 1883;
Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway
, the Ross and Monmouth Railway
Wye Valley Railway
, and the
. All of these
closed between 1917 and 1964, since when Monmouth has been without
rail services.B. M. Handley and R. Dingwall, The Wye Valley
Railway and the Coleford Branch
, 1982, ISBN 0-85361-530-6 One
of the former lines has now been replaced by a major road, built
along the same route. Monmouth's main railway station, known as Monmouth
Troy, was offices for a timber yard for many years, but
the building has now been dismantled and re-erected at Winchcombe
railway station on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire
The other station at Monmouth was Monmouth
May Hill on the Ross and Monmouth Railway, built on the opposite
bank of the River Wye
to the town
from the comprehensive school
with over 1,600 pupils, there are two independent schools - Monmouth
School  (founded 1614) and Haberdashers' Monmouth School for
Girls  (founded 1892).
There are also
several state primary schools
most areas served by both infants'
The annual Monmouth Show
has been held
each year (traditionally on the last Thursday of August) since 1919
(when it was called the Monmouthshire County Show), though its
history can be traced back further to 30 May 1857 when the 8th
Duke of Beaufort
and Sir Charles
Morgan M.P. put up the funds for a Monmouth Cattle Show. Prior to
that there had been an agricultural society in the town dating back
to the 1790s, which held ploughing competitions.
The Savoy Theatre in Church Street, built on the site of the oldest
theatre in Wales, functions as both a cinema and theatre. There are
numerous public houses
in the centre of
Monmouth, including the Old Nags Head, the Queen's Head, the Punch
House, the Griffin, the Gloucester, the Vinetree, the King's Head,
the Three Horseshoes, the Green Dragon and the Gatehouse. Some of
these hold pub quizzes
and live music
throughout the week.
People associated with Monmouth include:
- Geoffrey of
Monmouth, the Oxford-based
cleric, born in 1090 and believed to be originally from the area,
wrote Historia Regum
Britanniae, the "History of British Kings".
- Gilbert de
Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Guardian of England, died at
Castle on December 7, 1295.
III's second son Edmund
Crouchback, the 1st Earl of Lancaster, added the Great Hall to
house the royal courts at Monmouth Castle after being granted possession by his father, who
also named him Steward of
- King Edward II was briefly
imprisoned at Monmouth Castle in 1326 after being overthrown by his
wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, the Earl of March.
- Monmouth Castle was a favourite residence of Henry Bolingbroke,
the future Henry IV of England,
who seized the throne from Richard
II in 1399. Henry V (see below) was born there.
son, Henry V – immortalised by
Shakespeare for his victory at the
Agincourt over the French in 1415 – was born in Monmouth
Castle in 1387 and brought up at Courtfield
in nearby Lydbrook.
- William Jones, a liveryman of
Worshipful Company of
Haberdashers from nearby Newland,
founded the first of the town's grammar schools in 1614.
Cromwell visited Monmouth on his way to retake Chepstow
Castle and lay siege to Pembroke Castle in 1648 during the Second Civil War.
- St. Philip Evans, Jesuit priest and
martyr, was born in the town and based at the nearby Catholic
seminary at the Cwm, Llanrothal.
- James Scott, 1st
Duke of Monmouth, leader of the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685.
- John Graves Simcoe, the first
governor of Upper Canada and the founder of Toronto, lived at the
Old Court in nearby Whitchurch.
- Poets William Wordsworth,
Samuel Coleridge, Alexander Pope, Thomas
Gray and Robert Southey all
visited and were inspired by the Wye
Valley, along with Britain's greatest landscape painter
JMW Turner and naval hero Horatio Nelson.
- Admiral Horatio Nelson
paid two visits to the town and approved a naval temple on the
Hill. The Nelson Museum, Monmouth is home to one of the largest collections
of Nelson material, bequeathed to the town by Lady Llangattock
(d. 1923), mother of Charles Rolls.
- Victoria Cross hero Corporal
William Wilson Allen is buried
at Monmouth Cemetery.
Monmouth was sunk with all hands on November 1, 1914, by German
cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and
SMS Gneisenau off the Chilean Coast at the Battle of
Coronel. St Mary's Church, Monmouth, contains a memorial
to the men who lost their lives and the church hosts an annual
service in remembrance. Seven Royal Navy
ships have been named after the Welsh town, including a Type 23 frigate launched in 1991 which is still in
- Charles Rolls,
who lived at The Hendre near Monmouth and was co-founder of the
Rolls-Royce company, was the first man to make a non-stop double
crossing of the English
Channel by plane. There is a statue of Charles Rolls
in Agincourt Square.
- Dave Edmunds, rock musician, lives
in the town. He was instrumental in the conception of
Studios, situated just outside the town, where the band
Queen recorded their hit single
Bohemian Rhapsody, as did
Oasis their multi-million selling album
Morning Glory? in
- Jake Thackray, poet and
singer-songwriter, lived in Monmouth for more than 20 years before
his death in 2002.
- Peter Thorneycroft, MP for
Monmouth 1945-66, President of the Board of Trade under Prime
Minister Winston Churchill and
then Chancellor of the Exchequer under Harold Macmillan. He became Baron
Thorneycroft of Dunston and was appointed Chairman of the
Conservative Party by Margaret
Thatcher from 1975-1981.
the ex-pupils of Monmouth
School are politicians Lord
Moynihan, Cliff Tucker and Derek Ezra, Baron Ezra, international
rugby players Eddie
Butler, John Gwilliam, Tony Jordan, Keith Jarrett and Richard Parks, international rugby referee
Wayne Barnes, equestrian David Broome, champion horse-racing trainer
Major Dick Hern, Glamorgan and
England cricketer Steve
James, pre-war Glamorgan captain Trevor Arnott (buried at Dixton Church),
Allo Allo actor Richard Marner, Beatles film star Victor Spinetti, TV presenter Glyn Worsnip, TV doctor Mark Porter, BBC Wales TV presenters Phil Parry and Roger
Pinney, rock musician Grant
Nicholas, Moscow Olympics bronze medal rower Charlie Wiggin, Beijing Olympics silver medal
rower Tom Lucy, and 11-time Cambridge Boat Race coach and world
silver medal rower Robin Williams. A former pupil who found
notoriety was John Vassall, naval
attache to the British Embassy in Moscow, who was jailed for 18
years in 1962 for spying for the Russians.
conductor and author Jane Glover
attended Haberdashers' Monmouth School for
Girls. Other former pupils include TV news
correspondent Charlotte Hume, BBC
Wales TV presenter Frances Donovan,
former Casualty actress
Sandra Huggett, TV presenter Lisa Rogers, actress Zoie Kennedy, harpist Jemima Phillips and former Liberal MP and
head of the RSPCA Jackie
- Wales and British Lion rugby player John
Bevan, who played in the legendary 23-11 Barbarians defeat of the All Blacks in 1973, is
the Monmouth School rugby master. Former school cricket coach
Graham Burgess played 14 seasons for
Somerset and was a county umpire until retiring at the end of the
Stansfield, British actress who played Ronnie Clayton in
Street from 2005 to 2006, is from the town.
- Historian and TV presenter Professor
Saul David is from Welsh Newton and was educated at Monmouth Comprehensive
- Robert Plant of
Led Zeppelin had a house, Argoed, in
Penallt in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The house
had previously been owned by the MP Richard Potter, the father of
socialist reformer Beatrice Webb. She
and her husband, socialist reformer Sidney
Webb, would often stay at the house, and were occasionally
visited by their friend, the playwright George Bernard Shaw.
- Comedian Ken Goodwin and
astrologer Russell Grant also lived in
the area for a number of years.