Imatges de pàgina

On the architecture of the county of Monmouth, this introduction also contains some pertinent remarks. After having described the different kinds of Gothic architecture, and the whimsical intermixture of Roman, Saxon, Norman, and Gothic, which was introduced towards the middle of the sixteenth century, the author thus proceeds:

Most of these styles are observable in the castles, churches, and other ancient buildings of Monmouthshire. Few Roman remains exist, and the Saxons being never possessors of the whole county, could leave but few specimens of their architecture, and those of a period when it is difficult to distinguish it from that of the early Normans; but the gothic is most prevalent. From these circumstances, as well as from historical evidence, it is probable that the greater part of the castles in this county owed iheir origin to the Normans, and were built or repaired after the introduction of gothic architecture : none, perhaps, except Scenfreth, are wholly Saxon or early Norman ; a few exhibit an intermixture of the Norman and gothic; and the rest are entirely gothic.

• The churches are singularly picturesque, from their situation, form and appearance; they stand in the midst of the fields, and on the banks of the rivers ; are often embowered in trees, and generally at a considerable distance from any habitation.

• A whimsical and not unpleasing effect is sometimes produced by the coat of plaister or lime with which they are covered. The body of the church is usually whitened, oceasionally also the tower ; in some instances the tower is uncoloured, and in others the battlements only are white-washed. This intermixture of colours is ingeniously accounted for by Essex in his remarks on ancient brick and stone buildings in England ; " The Normans frequently raised large buildings with pebbles only, and sometinies with pebbles intermixt with rag-stones. As this rough manner of building with rag.stones and other irregular materials, required a coat of plaistering to make them fair without and neat within, we find that those small churches and other buildings which were built in this manner, were always plaistered in the inside, and frequently on the outside, with a composition of lime and sand, the remains of which may be traced in many of the Saxon and Norman churches, and in some more modern."

These churches exhibit different styles of architecture ; many of them, particularly in the mountainons districts, are very ancient, and it is probable that a few were constructed by the Britons, some by the Saxons, and several at an early period of the Norman monarchy, as is evident from the rounded arches and mouldings peculiar to those styles; but the far grcater part were built since the introduction of gothic architecture.

· The first are generally of a simple form, of small dimensions, shaped like a barn, without any distinction in the breadth or height between the nave and the chancel, and without a belfry.

• The second species is of somewhat later date: the chancel is nare rouver and less lofty than the church ; a small belfry is also placed over


[ocr errors]

the roof at the western extremity, with one or two apertures for bells, the ropes of which descend into the church,

· The third species consist of a nave, a chancel, and a tower or belfry, which is sometimes placed at the western extremity, sometimes in the middle, and sometimes at the side.' The tower was at first rude and massive, afterwards increased in height and lightness, was ornamented with battlements, and in later times with pinnacles. A few, particularly those in the eastern parts of the county, are provided with steeples, and are scarcely earlier than the 13th century.

• Many of the churches have undergone little change since the ara of the Reformation, and exbibit traces of the Roman Catholic worship, particularly in the niches for saints, the receptacles for holy water, and sometimes in the vestiges of the confessional chair.'

The population of Monmouthshire is stated to consist of 48,000 persons.

Mr. Coxe begins his tour by crossing the Severn from Glocestershire, at the new Passage ; and the first place which he visits, on landing in Monmouthshire, is St. Pierre, the seat of the respectable family of Lewis. Here he mentions a por. trait of Harry Marten, the regicide, which had been mistaken for that of a Thomas Lewis, in the reign of Charles I.; and of which, with further particulars and anecdotes of Marten, a plate is exhibited in vol. ii. His reasons for assigning the picture to Harry Marten appear to be conclusive. The Episcopal Palace of Mathern, the antient residence of the Bishops of Landaff, is next visited, described, and its present appearance delineated. Bending to the west, the traveller then proceeds to Sudbrook encampment, which is conjectured to have been a maritime fortress belonging to the Romans ;-to the village of Portscwit, and to Caldecot-castle, Caerwent, the Venta Silurum of Antoninus ;-to the castles of Penhow, Pencoed, Lanvair, and Striguil ;-to Bertholly-house ; -and to the Pencamawr, the prospect from which is thus described :

Issuing from the deep gloom of a dreary and uninhabited district, I ascended to the summit of the eminence called the Penca. mawr, a high point of the elevated ridge which stretches from the Treleg hills through the midland district of Monmouthshire, and terminates near Caerleon. On reaching the height, a glorious prospect suddenly burst upon my view. From the midst of the forest scenery I looked down on the rich vales of Monmouthshire, watered by the limpid and winding Usk, dotted with numerous towns and villages, and bounded to the west by the long chain of hills which, stretch from Pont y Pool, and terminate in the mass of mountains above Abergavenny. In this variegated landscape I caught the first glimpse of the Sugar Loaf and Skyrrid, which from their height and contrast, form the principal features in the prospects of this delightful country:



Regaining the turnpike road, the tourist advances towards Christchurch, and, after a few excursions, reaches Newport, to an account of which town an entire chapter is devoted. Particular notice is taken of its bridge, (at which the usual height of the tide is 30 feet, but has been known to be 42 feet,) population, commerce, canal, castle, church, and antient religious establishments. In adverting to the latter, Mr. Coxe tells us that 6 a.cyder-mill now occupies what was once a chapel;' and this is not a singular transformation, since in other parts of the work we read of one splendid castle being used for a stable for cattle, of another being converted into a kitchen garden,' and of the apartment in which once a monarch (Charles I.) slept being now employed as a granary.' -The excursions from Newport furnished the author with various entertainment; which, however, though we have participated in it, we cannot detail to our readers.

Caerleon, the Isca Silurum of the Romans, vis the next place visited; and an ample history of its antient splendor is presented to us :

There is a striking peculiarity in the situation of the ancient Roman fortress, which has hitherto escaped the notice of travellers, and would have escaped mine, had not Mr. Evans pointed it out to me. · Caerleon appears' on a superficial view to occupy a flat posi.. tion, but in fact, that portion of the present town, which is inclosed by the Roman walls, is placed on a gentle rise, connected at one extremity with the lower part of the eminence, on which the encampment of the Lodge is situated. This rise shelves on the west and south sides towards the Usk, and on the cast towards the Avon Lwyd, and seems to have forned a tongue of land, which hefore the draining of the meadows, was probably a kind of peninsula.

Hence the fortress, from its position on a rise between two rivers, and almost surrounded with marsl.y ground, was a place of considerable strength, and well calculated to become the primary station of the Romans in Britannia Secunda.

- The æra in which the Roman fortress was built, cannot be ascertained with precision ; conjectures may be formed, and Horsley, whose opinion deserves great weight, supposes that the Romans first settled here in the reign of Antoninus Pius. It is mentioned in Antonine's Itinerary; and the numerous coins of the early emperors, which have been here discovered, seem to confirm this opinion. The walls however appear to have been constructed under the lower empire.

• According to Richard of Cirencester, Caerleon was a Roman colony, and the primary station in the country of the Silures; circumstances which sufficiently account for its extent and magnificence.

In a field close to the banks of the Usk, and near the southwest side of the wall, is an oval concavity, measuring seventy-four yards by sixty-four, and six in depth. The sides are gently sloping,


and covered, as well as the bottom, with turf. It is called by the natives Arthur's Round Table; but is undoubtedly the site of a Roman amphitheatre. According to the prevailing opinion, it was merely a campestrian amphitheatre, hollowed in the ground, and surrounded with banks of earth, in the sides of which turf seats were formed for the spectators. This opinion is however disproved by the express assertions of Giraldus, who describes the walls as standing in his time. The author of the Secret Memoirs of Mon. mouthshire also observes, “ in 1706 a figure of Diana, with her tresses and crescent, moulded in alabaster, was found near a prodigious foundation wall of freestone, on the south side of King Arthur's Round Table, which was very wide, and supposed to be one side of v Roman Amphitheatre." Within the memory likewise of many persons now living, stone seats were discovered on opening the sides of the con: cavity.

l'hat part of Çaerleon inclosed by the walls, was the site of the ancient camp or fortress ; but the suburbs extended to a considerable distance. As I walked along the banks of the Usk, beyond the Bear-house field, near half a mile to the west of the town, I observed great quantities of Roman bricks and hollow tiles. These suburbs are said to have occupied both sides of the river. According to tradition, they comprised a circumference of not less than nine miles, and reached as far as Christchurch and St. Julian's ; and the village on the southern side of the bridge, still bears the old Roman name of Ultra Ponten. Large foundations have likewise been discovered in the elevated grounds to the north and north-west of the walls, particularly beyond the skirts of Golderoft common.'

• Caerleon is equally pre-eminent in the annals of the church : here St. Julius and St. Aaron are said to have suffered martyrdom, and two chapels were erected to their honour ; one near the present site of St. Julian's, to which it communicated the name, and the other at Penros, in the vicinity of the town. A third chapel was dedicated to St. Alban, another martyr, which was constructed on an eminence to the East of Caerleon, overlooking the Usk. A yew tree marks the site ; an adjoining piece of land is still called the chapel yard, and in 1785 several stune coffins were discovered in digging for the foundations of a new house.

• In its splendid days, Caerleon enjoyed the honour of being the metropolitan sce of Wales. According to the annals of the church, D cius, the great opponent of the Pelagian heresy, was the first archbishop.'

To these details of former strength and magnificence, the melancholy remark is subjoined, that the town of Caerleon is now reduced from its antient extent and grandeur to an inconsiderable place. An interesting anecdote of the singular escape of a Mrs. Williams from being drowned, on the bridge giving way under her and precipitating her into the rapid flood,is related at p. 101: but we ave not room to extract the account,

St. Julian's, in the vicinity of Caerleon, the residence of the celebrated Lord Herbert of Cherbury, could not escape Mr. Coxe; whose account of it introduces memoirs of that nobleman, with a sketch of his character.--Usk is the next town at which the traveller arrives ; and in progressing towards it he pays his respects to several family mansions : but for these, with the particulars concerning Úsk, the antient Burrium, we must refer to the work.-Raglan castle, a principal object in the tour of Monmouthshire, is then explored. It is situated nearly in the center of the lowland part of the county, and stands on a gentle eminence near the village. At some distance, the ruins appeared only a heavy shapeless mass, half hid (hidden) by the intervening trees; on a nearer approach, they assumed a more distinct form, and presented an assemblage highly beautiful and grand. These majestic ruins, including the citadel, occupy a tract of ground, not less than one third of a mile in circumference.' A more ample description follows than our scanty pages will admit; to which are subjoined anecdotes of its former proprietors, of William Herbert Earl of Pembroke, of Charles Somerset first Earl, and of Henry first Marquis, of Worcester, &c.

From Raglan, Mr. Coxe passed through a rich and undulating country by Landsanfraed-house, Clytha castle, &c. to Aber gavenny. This town was once noted for the cheapness as well as the excellence of its market: but, if the following bon mot may be credited, the case is now altered :

A stranger, expatiating with rapture on the beauty of the views, said to a native who accompanied him, “ Really, Mr. Davies, this spot of your's is quite enchanting! you cannot move a step without discovering new beauties; fine prospects are actually cheap here." “ True, Sir,” replied Mr. Davies, “ and you will find prospects to be the only cheap things in the country.”

The ruins of Abergavenny-castle lead the author to history, and to anecdotes of proprietors: but we must leave these particulars, in order to attend him in his excursions to the summits of the Sugar Loaf and Great Skyrrid ; by inserting the details of which, we are confident of obtaining the thanks of our readers :

· I departed at seven in the morning from Abergavenny, rode about a mile along the Hereford road, mounted the eastern side of the Derry, in the dry bed of a torrent, came to a heathy down, and gently ascended to the bottom of the ridge, which below appears like a cone, and is called the Sugar Loaf.

• The sides of the mountain are covered with heath, whortle-berries, and moss, to the height of a foot, which renders the ascent so extremely easy, that a light carriage might be driven to the base of


« AnteriorContinua »