Britannia, by William Camden


Big T THE County of Monmouth, call’d formerly Wentset and Wentsland, and by the Britains Gwent (from an ancient City of that name,) lies south of Brecknockshire and Herefordshire. On the north, it is divided from Herefordshire by the river Mynwy; on the east from Glocestershire by the river Wye; on the west from Glamorganshire by Rhymni; and on the south it is bounded by the Severn-sea, into which those rivers, as also Usk (that runs through the midst of this County) are discharged. It affords not only a competent plenty for the use of the inhabitants, but also abundantly supplies the defects of the neighbouring Counties. The east part abounds with pastures and woods; the west part is somewhat mountainous and rocky, but yet rewards to a good degree the pains of the husbandman. The inhabitants (saith Giraldus, writing of the time when he liv’d) are a valiant and courageous people, inur’d to frequent Skirmishes, and the most skilful archers of all the Welsh borderers.

Monmouth map, left Monmouth map, right

County of Monmouth

In the utmost corner of the County southward, call’d Ewias,Ewias. stands the ancient Abbey of Lantoni,Lantoni. not far from the river Mynwy, amongst Hatterel-hills; which, because they bear some resemblance to a chair, are call’d Mynydh Kader. Kadair ⌈For Kader is the name of many mountains in Wales; as Kader Arthur, Kader Verwin, Kader Idris, Kader Dhinmael, Kader yr Ychen, &c. which the learned Dr. Davies supposes to have been so call’d, not from their resemblance to a Kàdair or Chair; but because they have been either fortified places, or were look’d upon as naturally impregnable, by such as first impos’d those names on them. For the British Kader (as well as the Irish word Kathair) signify’d anciently a Fort or Bulwark; whence probably the modern word Kaer of the same signification, might be corrupted.⌉ As for Lantoni, it was founded by Walter Lacy,Lacy. to whom William Earl of Hereford gave large possessions here; and from whom those Lacies, so renown’d among the first Conquerors of Ireland, were descended. Giraldus Cambrensis (to whom it was well known) can best describe the situation of this small Abbey. In the low vale of Ewias (saith he) which is about a bow-shot over, and enclos’d on all sides with high mountains, stands the Church of St. John Baptist, cover’d with lead; and, considering the solitariness of the place, not unhandsomly built, with an arched roof of stone; in the same place, where formerly stood a small Chapel of St. David the Archbishop, recommended with no other Ornaments than green moss and ivy. A place fit for the exercise of Religion, and the most conveniently seated for canonical discipline, of any Monastery in the Island of Britain: built first (to the honour of that solitary life) by two Hermits in this Desert, remote from all the noise of the world, upon the river Hodeni, which glides through the midst of the vale. Whence it was call’d Lhan Hodeni;Hodney, al.
the word Lhan signifying a Church or Religious place. But to speak more accurately, the true name of that place in Welsh is Nant Hodeni; for the Inhabitants call it at this day Lhan-Dhewi yn Nant-Hodeni, i.e. St. David’s Church on the river Hodeni. The rains which mountainous places usually produce, are here very frequent; the winds exceeding fierce, and the Winters almost continually cloudy. Yet notwithstanding that gross air, it is so temper’d, that this place is very little subject to diseases. The Monks sitting here in their Cloisters, when they chance to look out for fresh air, have a pleasing prospect, on all hands, of exceeding high mountains, with plentiful herds of wild Deer, feeding aloft at the farthest limits of their Horizon. The * * This is contradicted by such as know the place.body of the Sun surmounts not these hills, so as to be visible to them, till it is past one a clock, even when the air is most clear. And a little, after—The fame of this place drew hither Roger Bishop of Salisbury, prime Minister of State; who having for some time admir’d the situation and retir’d solitariness of it, and also the contented condition of the Monks, serving God with due Reverence, and their most agreeable and brotherly conversation; and being return’d to the King, and having spent the best part of a day in the praises of it, he at last thus concluded his discourse: What shall I say more! all the Treasure of your Majesty and the Kingdom would not suffice to build such a Cloister. At which both the King and Courtiers being astonish’d, he at last explain’d that Paradox, by telling them he meant the mountains wherewith it was on all hands enclos’d. But of this enough, if not too much.

⌈It may be here observ’d, that LhanLhan. or Lan properly signifies a Yard, or some small Inclosure; as may be taken notice of in compound words. For we find a Vineyard call’d Gwin-lan; an Orchard, Per-lan; a Hay-yard, Yd-lan; a Churchyard, Korph-lan; a Sheepfold, Kor-lan; &c. However (as Giraldus observes) it denotes separately, a Church or Chapel; and is of common use, in that sense, throughout all Wales: probably because such Yards or Inclosures might be places of Worship in the time of Heathenism, or upon the first planting of Christianity, when Churches were scarce.⌉

On the river Mynwy are seen the castles of GrossmontGrossmont. and Skinffrith,Skinffrith. which formerly, by a Grant of King John, belong’d to the Breoses, but afterwards to Hubert de Burgh, who (as we are inform’d by † † Hist. Min.Matthew Paris) that he might calm a Court-tempest of Envy, and be restor’d to favour, resign’d up these and two other castles, to wit, Blank and Hanfeld, to King Henry the third.

In another corner north-eastward, the river Mynwy and Wy meeting, do almost encompass the chief town of this County, which is thence denominated; for the Britains call it Mynwy, and we Monmouth.Monmouth. On the north-side, where it is not guarded with the rivers, it is fortify’d with a wall and a ditch. In the midst of the town, near the market-place, stands the castle, which (as we find in the King’s Records) flourish’d in the time of William the Conqueror; but is thought to have been rebuilt by John Baron of Monmouth. From him it came to the House of Lancaster, when King Henry the third had depriv’d him of his Inheritance, for espousing so violently the Barons Interest against him: Or rather (as we read in the King’s Prerogative) for that his heirs had pass’d their Allegiance to the Earl of Britain in France. Since that time, this town has flourish’d considerably, enjoying many privileges granted them by the House of Lancaster. But for no one thing is it so eminent, as for the birth of King Henry the fifth, that triumphant Conqueror of France, and second Ornament of the Lancastrian family, who, by direct force of arms, subdu’d the Kingdom of France, and reduc’d their King, Charles the sixth, to that extremity, that he did little less than resign his Title. Upon whose prosperous Success, John Seward a Poet in those times, and none of the lowest rank, bespeaks the English Nation in this lofty stile:

Ite per extremum Tanain, pigrosque Triones,
Ite per arentem Lybiam, superate calores
Solis, & arcanos Nili deprendite fontes.
Herculeum finem, Bacchi transcurrite metas;
Angli juris erit quicquid complectitur orbis.
Anglis rubra dabunt pretiosas æquora conchas,
Indus ebur, ramos Panchaia, vellera Seres,
Dum viget Henricus, dum noster vivit Achilles:
Est etenim laudes longe transgressus avitas

Panchaea March on, brave Souls, to Tanais bend your arms,
And rowze the lazy North with just alarms.
Beneath the torrid Zone your enemies spread;
Make trembling Nile disclose its secret head.
Surprize the World’s great limits with your hast,
Where nor Alcides nor old Bacchus past.
Let daily triumphs raise you vast renown,
The world and all its treasures are your own.
Yours are the Pearls that grace the Persian Sea,
You rich Panchæa, India and Catay
With spicy, ivory barks, and silk supply.
While Henry, great Achilles of our land,
Blest with all joys extends his wide command.
Whose noble deeds and worthy fame surpass
The ancient glories of his heavenly race.

MonmouthGeoffrey of Monmouth, or Ap-Arthur. also glories in the birth of Galfridus Arthurius, Bishop of St. Asaph, who compil’d the British History; an Author well skill’d in Antiquities, * * Fide (ut videtur) non antiqua.but, as it seems, not of entire credit: so many ridiculous Fables of his own invention hath he inserted in that work. In so much that he is now rank’d amongst those writers that are prohibited by the Church of Rome. ⌈But altho’ this Jeffrey of Monmouth (as well as most other Writers of the Monkish times) abounds with Fables, which is not deny’d by such as contend for some Authority to that History; yet that those Fables were of his own Invention, may seem too severe a censure, and scarce a just accusation: since we find most or all of them, in that British History he translated; of which an ancient copy may be seen in the Library of Jesus-College at Oxford, which concludes to this effect: Walter Arch-deacon of Oxford compos’d this Book in Latin, out of British Records: which he afterwards thus render’d into modern British. Britanniae We find also many of the same Fables in Ninnius, who writ his Eulogium Britanniæ about three hundred years before this Galfridus Arturius compos’d the British History. As to the regard due to that History in general, the judicious Reader may consult Doctor Powel’s Epistle De Britannica Historia recte intelligenda; and Dr. Davies’s Preface to his British Lexicon; and ballance them with the arguments and authority of those who wholly reject it.

Near Monmouth stands a noble House, built by Henry late Duke of Beaufort, call’d Troy;Troy. and heretofore the residence of his eldest son Charles Marquiss of Worcester, who was owner of it, and of the Castle and Manour of Monmouth, which were settled upon him with other large possessions in this County, by the Duke his father.⌉

The river Wye (wherein they take Salmon plentifully from September to April) is continu’d from hence southward with many windings and turnings. It is now the limit between Glocestershire and Monmouthshire; but was formerly the boundary betwixt the Welsh and English; according to that verse of Necham:

Inde vagos Vaga Cambrenses, hinc respicit Anglos.

Hence Wye the English views, and thence the Welsh.

Near its fall into the Severn-Sea, it passes by Chepstow,Chepstow. which is a Saxon name, and signifies a market or place of trading. In British it is call’d ⌈Kaswent or⌉ Castelh Gwent. It is a town of good note, built on a hill close by the river, and guarded with walls of a considerable circumference, which take in several Fields and Orchards. The castle is very fair, standing on the brink of the river: and on the opposite side there stood a Priory, whereof the better part being demolish’d, the remainder is converted into a Parish-Church. The bridge here over the Wye is built upon piles, and is exceeding high; which was necessary, because the tide rises here to a great height. The Lords of this place were the Clares Earls of Pembroke; who from a neighbouring castle call’d Strighul, where they liv’d, were commonly call’d Earls of StrighulEarls of Strighull. and Pembroke: of whom Richard the last Earl, a man of invincible courage and strength (sirnam’d Strongbow from his excellency in Archery,) was the first that made way for the English into Ireland. By his daughter it descended to the Bigots, &c. and now it belongs to the Earls of Worcester, ⌈created since Dukes of Beaufort.⌉ This place seems to be of no great antiquity; for several do affirm, and not without reason, that it had its rise not many ages past, from the ancient city Venta,Venta. which flourish’d about four miles from hence in the time of Antoninus, who calls it Venta Silurum, as if it was their chief city. Which name neither arms nor time have been able to consume; for at this day it is call’d Kaer-went,Kaer-went. or the city Venta. But the city it self is so much destroy’d by the one or the other, that it only appears to have once been, from the ruinous walls, the checquer’d pavements, and the Roman coins.chequer ⌈In the year 1689, there were three checquer’d Pavements discover’d in a * * Fr. Ridley’s.Garden here; which being in frosty weather expos’d to the open air, upon the thaw the cement was dissolv’d, and this valuable antiquity utterly defac’d. So that at present there remains nothing for the entertainment of the Curious, but the small cubical stones whereof it was compos’d; which are of various sizes and colours, and may be found confusedly scatter’d in the earth, at the depth of half a yard. Checquer’d Pavements consist of oblong cubical stones, commonly about half an inch in length; whereof some are natural stones, wrought into that form; and others artificial, made like brick. These are of several colours; as white, black, blue, green, red, and yellow; and are close pitch’d together in a floor of fine plaister, and so dispos’d by the Artist, with respect to colour, as to exhibit any figures of men, beasts, birds, trees, &c. In one of these Pavements, as the owner relates, were delineated several flowers, which he compar’d to Roses, Tulips, and Flowers de Luce; and at each of the four corners, a Crown, and a Peacock holding a Snake in his Bill, and treading it under one foot. Another had the figure of a man in armour from the breast upward. There were also Imperial Heads, and some other variety of Figures, which, had they been preserv’d, might have been instructive, as well as diverting, to the Curious in the study of Antiquities. In their Gardens, and elsewhere in this Village, they frequently meet with brass Coins: which have been diligently collected by an ingenious and worthy † † George Kemeis of Lhan Vair, Esq;Gentleman of that neighbourhood. In that Collection, there is an adulterated Coin of Antoninus Pius, which seems to have been counterfeited not of late, but anciently, when that Emperor’s Coins were current money.Maesia Belgae It is a brass piece, of the bigness of a denarius, and cover’d with a very thin leaf of silver; which when rub’d off, the letters disappear. Also Julia Mæsia, of embas’d metal, not unlike our tin farthings. Others were of Valerianus, Gallienus, Probus, Dioclesianus, Constantius Chlorus, Constantinus Magnus, Julius Crispus, Constans, and both Valentinians. Again, in the year 1693, one Charles Keinton shew’d me part of a Roman brick-pavement in his yard: the bricks were somewhat above a foot long, nine inches broad, and an inch and a half thick; all mark’d thus:

brick marking  ⌉

The City took up about a mile in circumference: on the south-side, a considerable part of the wall is yet remaining, and more than the ruins of three Bastions. What repute it had heretofore, we may gather from hence; that before the name of Monmouth was heard of, this whole Country was call’d ⌈from it⌉ Guent, Went-set or Wents-land.Gwlad Moreover (as we read in the life of TathaiusLib. Landaff. a British Saint) it was formerly an Academy, or place dedicated to Literature, which the same Tathaius govern’d with great commendation, and also founded a Church there, in the reign of King Kradok ap-Ynyr, who invited him hither from an Hermitage.

⌈The foresaid English names of Went-setWentset, &c. and Wents-land have indeed their original from the British Gwent; by which almost all this Country, and part of Glocestershire and Herefordshire, were call’d, till Wales was divided into Counties. But it is made a question by some, whether that name Gwent be owing to the City Venta; or whether the Romans might not call this City, Venta Silurum, as well as that of the Iceni, and that other of the Belgæ, from the more ancient British names of part of their Countries. Had the Country been denominated since the Roman Conquest, from the chief City, it had been more properly call’d Gwlâd Gaer-Lheion, than Gwlâd Gwent. But of this enough, if not too much.⌉ Five miles to the west of Kaer-went, is seated Strighul-castle at the bottom of the hills; which now we call Strugle,Strugle. but the Normans Estrig-hill; built (as we find in Domesday-book) by William Fitz-Osbern Earl of Hereford; and afterwards the seat of the Clares, Earls of Pembroke; whence they have been also commonly call’d Earls of Strighull. Beneath these places, upon the Severn-Sea, not far from the mouth of the river Wy, lies Port Skeweth,Port Skeweth. call’d by Marianus Port-Skith, who informs us, that Harald built a Fort there against the Welsh in the year 1066, which they immediately overthrew, under the conduct of Karadok. Near Caldecot,Caldecot.
Inq.3 E.1.
where the river Throgoy enters the Severn-Sea, I observ’d the wall of a castle, which formerly belong’d to the Constables of England, and was held by the service of the Constableship of England. Not far from hence are WondyWondy and Pen-how. and Pen-how, the seats formerly of the illustrious family of St. Maur,St. Maur or Seimour. now corruptly call’d Seimour. For we find that about the year 1240. (in order to wrest Wondy out of the hands of the Welsh) G. Marescal Earl of Pembroke was oblig’d to assist William of St. Maur. From whom was descended Roger of St. Maur Knight, who marry’d one of the coheirs of the illustrious J. Beauchamp, Baron of Hach; who was descended from Sibyl one of the coheirs of that most puissant William Marshall Earl of Pembroke, from William Ferrars Earl of Derby, Hugh de Vivon, and William Mallet, men of great Eminence in their times. The Nobility of all which, as also of several others (as may be made very evident) center’d in the Right Honourable Edward de St. Maur or Seimour, * * The present Earl, C.Earl of Hereford, a singular encourager of virtue and learning; for which he is deservedly to be celebrated.flood

The Fenny tract, extended below this for some miles, is call’d the Moor;The Moor. which at my † † Circ. ann. 1607.present reviewing these notes, has suffer’d a most lamentable devastation.An Inundation 1607. Jan. For the Severn-Sea after a Spring-tide, having before been driven back by a south-west-wind (which continu’d for three days without intermission) and then again repuls’d by a very forcible Sea-wind, rose to such a high and violent Tide, as to overflow all this lower tract, and also that of Somersetshire over-against it, throwing down several Houses, and overwhelming a considerable number of cattel and men. In the borders of this fenny tract, where the land rises, lies Gold-cliff.Gold-cliff; so call’d (saith Giraldus) because when the Sun shines, the stones appear of a bright gold colour. Nor can I be easily perswaded (saith he) that nature hath bestow’d this colour on the stones in vain; or that it would be found merely a flower without fruit, should some skilful Artist search the veins and bowels of this rock. In this place there remain some ruins of an old Priory, founded by one of the family of Chandois.

From hence we come through a Fenny Country to the mouth of the river Isca, call’d by the Britains Wysk, in English Usk,The river Usk. and by others Osca. This river (as we have already observ’d) taking its course through the midst of the County, passes by three small cities of great antiquity. The first, on the north-west-border of the County, call’d by Antoninus Gobannium,Gobannium. is situate at the confluence of the rivers Wysk and Govenni; and thence denominated. It is at this day (retaining its ancient appellation) call’d Aber-Gavenni,Aber-Gavenni. and by contraction Aber-Gaenni; which signifies the Confluence of Gavenni or Gobannium. It is fortify’d with walls and a castle, which (as Giraldus observes) has been oftener stain’d with the infamy of treachery, than any other castle of Wales: First, by William Son of Earl Miles, and afterwards by William Breos; both having, upon publick assurance, and under pretence of friendship, invited thither some of the Welsh Nobility, and then basely murder’d them. But they escap’d not the just vengeance of God; for Breos having been depriv’d of all his effects (also, his wife and son starv’d with hunger) dy’d in exile. The other having his brains dash’d-out with a stone, while Breulas-castle was on fire, receiv’d at length the due reward of his villany. The first Lord of Lords of Aber-Gavenni.Aber-Gavenni, that I know of, was one Hamelin Balun, who made Brien Wallingford, or Brient de L’Isle (call’d also Fitz-Count) his Heir. And he having built here an Hospital for his two sons, who were Lepers, left the greatest part of his Inheritance to Walter the son of Miles, Earl of Hereford. This Walter was succeeded by his brother Henry, whom the Welsh slew, when they invaded his Territories; which the King’s Lieutenants defended, though not without great hazard and danger. By the sister of Henry it descended to the Breoses; and from them, in right of marriage, by the Cantelows and Hastings, to Reginald Lord Grey of Ruthin. But William Beauchamp19 Rich. 2. obtain’d it of the Lord Grey, * * Virtute cujusdam Transcript­ionis, & Conveyance: and he again, in default of Issue-male, entail’d it on his brother Thomas Earl of Warwick, and on his heirs-male. Richard son of William Beauchamp, Lord of Aber-Gavenni, who, for his military valour, was created Earl of Worcester, and being slain in the wars of France, left one only daughter, who was marry’d to Edward Nevil. From henceforth, the Nevils became eminent under the title of Barons of Aber-Gavenni. But the castle was a long time detain’d from them, by reason of the conveyance before mention’d. The fourth of these dying † † So said, ann. 1607.
Claus. 19 & 21 Hen. 6. &c.
in our memory, left one only daughter Mary, marry’d to Sir Thomas Fane Knight; between whom and Sir Edward Nevil the next heir-male (to whom the castle and most of the estate had been left by Will, which was also confirm’d by authority of Parliament) there was a trial for the title of Baron of Aber-Gavenni, before the House of Lords, in the second year of King James ⌈the first;⌉ the Pleadings on both sides taking up seven days. But in regard the question of right could not be fully adjusted; and that each of them seem’d to all (in respect of descent) very worthy of the title; and that moreover it was evident, that both the title of Baron of Aber-Gavenni, and that of Le Despenser, belong’d hereditarily to this family: the Peers requested of his Majesty, that both might be honour’d with the title of Baron; to which he agreed. It was then propos’d to the Peers by the Lord Chancellor, first, Whether the heir-male or female should enjoy the title of Aber-Gavenni; upon which the majority of voices gave it for the heir-male. And when he had again propos’d, Whether the title of Baron Le DespenserBaroness Le Despenser. should be confer’d on the female and her heirs they unanimously agreed to it; to which his Majesty gave his Royal Assent. And Edward Nevil was soon after summon’d to Parliament by the King’s Writ, under the title of Baron of Aber-Gavenni. And being according to the usual ceremony, introduc’d in his Parliament-Robes between two Barons; he was plac’d above the Baron de Audeley. At the same time also, the King’s Letters Patents were read before the Peers, whereby his Majesty restor’d, advanc’d, prefer’d, &c. Mary Fane, to the state, degree, title, stile, name, honour, and dignity of Baroness le Despenser; and that her heirs successively should be Barons le Despenser, &c. But the question of Precedency being propos’d, the Peers refer’d the decision thereof to the Commissioners for the office of Earl Marshal of England, who, upon mature deliberation, gave it under their hands and seals for the Barony of le Despenser. This was read before the Peers, and by their order register’d in their Journal; out of which I have taken this account, in short. ⌈Edward was succeeded in the honour of Baron of Aber-Gavenny, by his son and heir of the same name; to whom succeeded Henry his son, and likewise John, son of the said Henry; and George (brother and heir to the said John;) who was also succeeded by George his son. Who dying without issue, the title of Lord Aber-Gavenny descended to George (son of George Nevil of Sheffield in the County of Sussex, great grandson to Edward Lord Aber-Gavenny,) who now enjoys it.⌉ What ought not to be here omitted, is, that John Hastings held this Castle by homage, ward, and marriage. When it happens (as we read in the Inquisition)6 Edw. 2. and there shall chance to be war between the King of England and Prince of Wales; he ought to defend the Country of Over-went at his own charge, to the utmost of his power, for the good of himself, the King, and Kingdom.Oskae

The second town, call’d by Antoninus BurriumBurrium. (who places it twelve miles from Gobannium,) is seated where the river Byrdhin falls into Usk. It is call’d now in British, by a transposition of letters, Brynbiga for Burenbegi, and also Kaer-wysk, by Giraldus Castrum Oskæ, and in English Usk. Usk. At this day, it shews only the ruins of a large strong Castle, pleasantly seated between the river Usk, and Oilwy a small brook, which takes its course from the east, by Ragland, an elegant and castle-like house of the Earl of Worcester ⌈(now Duke of Beaufort,)⌉ and passes under it.

The third City, call’d by Antoninus IscaIsca. and Legio secunda (seated on the other side of the river Usk, and distant, as he observes, exactly twelve Italian miles from Burrium) is call’d by the Britains Kaer LheionKaer Lheion ar Wysk. and Kaer Lheion ar wysk (which signifies the City of the Legion on the river Usk) from the Legio Secunda Augusta, which was call’d also Britannica secunda. This Legion, instituted by Augustus, and translated out of Germany into Britain by Claudius under the conduct of Vespasian (to whom, upon his aspiring to the Empire, it prov’d very serviceable, and did also secure him the British Legions,) was plac’d here at length by Julius Frontinus (as seems probable) in garrison against the Silures. How great a City this Isca was at that time, our Giraldus informs us, in his Itinerary of Wales. A very ancient City this was (saith he) and enjoy’d honourable privileges; and was elegantly built by the Romans with * * The circuit of the walls about three miles.brick walls. There are yet remaining many footsteps of its ancient splendour: Stately Palaces, which formerly with their gilded Tiles emulated the Roman grandeur, for that it was first built by the Roman nobility, and adorn’d with sumptuous edifices: Also, an exceeding high tower, remarkable hot† Ann. 1654. hot baths were discover’d near St. Julian’s; the bricks equilaterally square, about an inch thick, like those at St. Alban’s.Mr. Aubrey.Baths, ruins of ancient Temples, theatrical places encompass’d with stately walls, which are, partly, yet standing. Subterraneous edifices are frequently met with, not only within the walls, but also in the suburbs; as aqueducts, vaults, and (which is well worth our observation) Hypocausts or stoves, contriv’d with admirable artifice, conveying heat insensibly through some very narrow vents on the sides. Two very eminent, and (next to St. Alban and Amphibalus) the chief Protomartyrs of Britannia major, lye entombed here, where they were crown’d with martyrdom; viz. Julius and Aaron; each of whom had a Church dedicated to him in this City. For in ancient times there were three noble Churches here. One of Julius the Martyr, grac’d with a Quire of Nuns; another dedicated to St. Aaron his companion, ennobled with a famous order of Canons; and the third honour’d with the Metropolitan See of Wales. Amphibalus also, teacher of St. Alban, who sincerely instructed him in the Faith, was born here. This City is excellently seated on the navigable river Usk; and beautified with meadows and woods. Here, the Roman Embassadors receiv’d their audience at the illustrious Court of the great King Arthur. And here also Archbishop Dubricius resign’d that honour to David of Menevia, by translating the Archiepiscopal See from this City thither.

Thus far Giraldus. But in confirmation of the antiquity of this place, I have taken care to add some ancient Inscriptions † † So said, ann. 1607.lately dug-up there; and communicated to me by the right reverend Father in God Francis Godwin, Lord Bishop of Landaff, a great Lover of Antiquity, and all other valuable parts of Learning. In the year 1602. some labourers digging in a meadow adjoyning, found on a checquer’d pavement, a statue of a person in a short-truss’d habit, with a Quiver and Arrows; the head, hands, and feet broken off: and also the fragment of an Altar with this Inscription in fair large characters about three inches long: erected by Haterianus Lieutenant-General of Augustus, and Proprætor of the Province of Cilicia.Propraetor chequer

altarThese Inscriptions are in the wall of the Garden at Moinscourt [formerly] the house of the Bishop of Landaff.

The next year, this Inscription was also discover’d hard by; which shews the Statue before-mention’d to have been of the Goddess Diana; and that Titus Flavius Posthumius Varus, a Veteran perhaps of the fifth Cohort of the second Legion, had repair’d her Temple.

T. Fl. Postvmivs varvs
v. C. leg. Templ. dianæ

Also this votive Altar, out of which the name of the Emperor * * See Phil. Trans. numb. 145.Geta seems to have been rased, when he was depos’d by his brother Antoninus Bassianus, and declar’d an enemy; yet so as there are some shadows of the Letters still remaining.

In printed Copies Claudius Pompeianus, and Lollianus Avitus Coss. An. Chr. 210.

pro salvte
Avgg. N. N.
severi et antonini
et getæ cæs.
p. Saltienvs p. f.
† maecia thalamvs hadri.† He was of this Family.
Præf. Leg. Ii. Avg.
c. vampeiano et

And this fragment of a very fair Altar; the Inscription whereof may perhaps be thus supply’d.

Altar fragment

Together with these two fragments.

* 7. VECILIANA.* Centurio.

⌈which, not long since, was in the wall of the School at Kaer Lheion; but is now rased out.⌉

7. Valer.

⌈which is in the Garden-wall at Moin’s Court;Vid. Reines. p.977. but the first line [VIII] and the character [7] are not visible.

In the year 1654. some workmen discover’d at St. Julian’sSt. Julian’s. near Kaer Lheion, a Roman Altar, the Inscription whereof was soon after copy’d by a learned and ingenious * * J. Aubrey.person, a true lover and promoter of real knowledge, and of equal industry and curiosity. The Altar, he says, was of Free-stone, four foot in length, and three in breadth: the Inscription he was pleas’d to communicate out of his excellent Collection of British Monuments, to be publish’d on this occasion.


It seems worth the enquiry of the curious, upon what occasion JupiterJupiter Dolichenus. is here stil’d Dolichenus; for that I take to be the meaning of this word Dolichv. It seems probable, that this Altar was erected, to implore his Tuition of some Iron Mines, either in the Forest of Dean, or some other place of this Country. The grounds of which conjecture are taken from this Inscription in Reinesius;Rein. Syntagma Inscriptionum CL.I. n.XV. Jovi optimo maximo Dolycheno, ubi ferrum nascitur, C. Sempronius Rectus, cent. Frumentarius D.D. For unless Caius Sempronius, who dedicates this Altar Jovi Dolicheno, makes his request to Jupiter that he would either direct them to find out Iron Mines, or be propitious to some they had already discover’d, why should he add the words ubi ferrum nascitur? which were not only superfluous, but absurd, if they imply’d no more than barely that Iron-ore was found at Doliche, a Town of Macedonia, whence Jupiter was call’d Dolichenus. Augustorum monitu is a Phrase we find parallel instances of, in Reinesius, p.42. where he tells us, that the Pagans would be thought to do all things at the command of their Gods, ex monitu Dei, imperio Deorum Dearumque, ex jussu Numinis.

At Tre-Dyno-Church,Inscription at Tredonok. about three miles distant from Kaer-leion, is preserv’d this fair and entire Monument of a Roman Soldier of the Second Legion. The Stone is a kind of blue slate: the four oblique lines are so many Grooves or Canaliculi; and the small squares without the lines are holes bored through the stone; by which it was fasten’d with Iron-pins to the Ground-wall of the Church on the outside; and was discover’d by the Sexton about forty years since, at the digging of a Grave. Considering that this was the Monument of a Heathen, and must be about fourteen or fifteen hundred years standing; it seems strange it should be reposited in this place, and thus fasten’d to the Foundation of the Church; unless we suppose it laid there by some pious Christian in after-ages, out of a mistaken respect to the name Julianus, or rather that the Church was built on some old Roman burial-place. But however that happen’d, that it was there found is most certain, and testify’d by a worthy Gentleman of the neighbourhood, who was present at the discovery of it, and took care to preserve it.

Diis Manibus JVLius JVLIANVS MILes LEGionis IIdæ AVGustæ STIPendiorum octodecim, ANNORum quadraginta, HIC SITVS EST: CVRA AGENTE AMANDA CONJVGE. Inscription on a stoneRein. Inscr. p.543.–
Cura agentibus, Semp. Pudente, Mil. frum. & Curio Eupla.
Ministro Spec.

Very lately also was discover’d, in plowing, near Kaer-Leion, on the bank of the river, a Stone with the following Inscription:

Inscription on a stone

At the same Kaer Leion, they frequently dig-up Roman Bricks with this Inscription.


The Letters on these Bricks are not inscrib’d (as on Stone) but stamp’d with some Instrument; there being a square cavity or impression in the midst of the Brick, at the bottom whereof the Letters are rais’d, and not insculpt’d. One of these Bricks may be seen (together with the first of the foregoing Inscriptions) in the Garden-wall at Moinscourt (the seat of the worshipful Thomas Lyster Esq;) and some others at Kaer Leion.

In the year 1692. a chequer’d pavement was discover’d in the grounds of Henry Tomkins of Kaer Leion, Esquire. It was found by workmen who were plowing in a field close adjoyning to his house. And here we may observe, that these ancient Pavements are not buried so deep in this County, as that in the Church-yard at Woodchester in Glocestershire. For whereas that lies at about three foot deep, this at Kaer Leion (as also some others formerly discover’d,) lay no deeper than the plow-share; and that above-mentioned at Kaer-went, not much lower. The said worthy person took all possible care, to preserve what the servants had not spoil’d of this valuable Antiquity; by removing a considerable part of the floor in the same order it was found, into his garden; and was pleas’d to communicate a draught of the whole to be * * See at the end of Wales.publish’d upon this occasion. The diameter of it is about fourteen foot. All the arches, and that part of the border they touch, were composed of white, red, and blue Stones, varied alternately. The bills, eyes, and feet of the birds were red, and they had also a red ring about the neck; and in their wings, one or two of the longest feathers red, and another blue. The inside of the cups were also red; and elsewhere, whatever we have not excepted of this whole area, is variegated of umber or dark-colour’d Stones and white.Kran

About sixty years since, some Labourers digging in a Quarry betwixt Kaer Leion Bridge and Christ-church (near a place call’d Porth Sini Krân) discover’d a large Coffin of free-stone; which being open’d, they found therein a leaden sheet, wrap’d about an iron frame, curiously wrought; and in that frame a Skeleton. Near the Coffin they found also a gilded Alabaster Statue of a person in a coat of mail; holding in the right-hand a short sword, and in the left a pair of scales. In the right scale appear’d a young maiden’s head and breasts; and in the left (which was out-weight’d by the former) a globe. This account of the Coffin and Statue I receiv’d from the worshipful Captain Matthias Bird, who saw both himself; and, for the further satisfaction of the curious, was pleas’d to present the Statue to the Ashmolean Repository at Oxford. The feet and right-arm have been broken some years since, as also the scales; but in all other respects, it is tolerably well preserv’d; and some of the gilding still remains in the interstices of the armour. We have given a figure of it, amongst some other Curiosities relating to Antiquity, at the end of these Counties of Wales: but must leave the explication to some more experienc’d and judicious Antiquary; for though at first view it might seem to be the Goddess AstræaAstraea Patellae, yet I cannot satisfie my self as to the device of the Globe and Woman in the scales; and am unwilling to trouble the Reader with too many conjectures.

Amongst other Roman Antiquities frequently dug-up here, we may take notice of the curious earthen Vessels; of which some are plain, and the same with those red Patellæ or earthen Plates often discover’d in several parts of England; but others are adorn’d with elegant figures; which, were they preserv’d, might be made use of for the illustration of Roman Authors, as well as their Coyns, Statues, Altars, &c. That, of which I have given a figure, represents to us, first, as an emblem of Piety, the celebrated History of the woman at Rome, who being deny’d the liberty of relieving her father in prison with any food, yet obtaining free access to him, fed him with the milk of her own breasts. I am sensible, that in * * Hist. nat. l.7. c.36.Pliny and in most printed copies of such Authors as mention this History, we are inform’d she exercised this piety to her mother: but this figure (though it be somewhat obscure) seems to represent a bearded man: however, whether I mistake the figure, or whether we may read with Festus, Patre (not matre) carcere incluso, or rather, do suppose the tradition to have been erroneous (in some Provinces at least) amongst the vulgar Romans; that the same History was hereby intended, is sufficiently evident. In the second place, we find an Auspex or Sooth-sayer looking upwards to observe the motion of a bird; or rather perhaps a Cupid (according to the Potter’s fancy) performing the office of a Soothsayer. And in the third, a woman sacrificing with Vervain and Frankincense: for I am satisfied, that the plant on the altar is no other than Vervein; and it seems very probable, that the Woman who reaches her hand toward the Altar, is casting Frankincense on the Vervien, since we find that Women, a little before their time of lying-in, sacrificed to Lucina with Vervein and Frankincense. Thus the Harlot Phronesium in (a) Plautus, pretending she was to lie-in; bids her maids provide her Sweet-meats, Oyl of Cinnamon, Myrrhe, and Vervein.

(a) Date mihi huc stactam atque ignem in aram, ut venerem Lucinam meam:
Hic apponite atque abite ab oculis,——
Ubi es, Astaphium? fer huc verbenam mihi, thus & bellaria
. Plautus, Trucul. Act. 2. Sc.5.

We may also collect out of Virgil †† Eclog.8. ver.64., that Women sacrific’d with Vervein and Frankincense upon other occasions.

Effer aquam & molli cinge hæc altaria vitta:
Verbenasque adole pingues & mascula thura,
Conjugis ut magicis sanos avertere sacris
Experiar sensus

Bring running Water; bind those Altars round
With Fillets; and with Vervain strow the Ground,
Make fat with Frankincense the sacred Fires;
To reinflame my Daphnis with desires.

As for the naked person on the other side of the Altar, I shall not pretend to determine whether it be her husband, or who else is intended by it. In regard we find the other figures repeated alternately; I suppose there were no other delineations on the whole vessel, than what this piece, included within the crack (which is all I have of it) represents. By the figures on this vessel, we might conjecture that it was a bowl used in those Feasts which they call’d Matronalia, and observ’d on the Kalends of March; when the married women sacrificed to Juno, for their happy delivery in child-births, and for the preservation of their husbands, and the continuance of their mutual affections. And from its form, I should guess it was that sort of Vessel they call’d Phiala: because in Welsh the only name we have for such Vessels is Phîol; which is doubtless of the same origin with the Greek and Latin Phiala, and is very probably one of those many words left amongst us by the Romans, which we may presume to be still preserv’d in the sense they us’d them.Phiol museum musaeum Fibulae

I shall only mention two other Curiosities found here, and detain the Reader no longer in this County: the first is, a Ram’s horn of brass, much of the bigness and form of a lesser Ram’s horn; broken off at the root, as if it had been formerly united to a brass head. One of these heads and horns (though somewhat different from ours) may be seen in * * Pag. 83.Lodovico Moscardo’s Musæum; who supposes such heads of Rams and Oxen to have serv’d at once both for ornaments in their Temples, and also for religious types of sacrifice.

The other is a very elegant and an entire Fibula vestiaria, of which (because it would be difficult to give an intelligible description of it) † † See at the end of Wales.I have given two figures, one being not sufficient to express it. It is of brass, and is curiously chequer’d on the back part, with enamel of red and blue. It should seem, that when they us’d it, the ring at the upper end was drawn down over the acus or pin; and that a thread or small string ty’d thro’ the ring, and about the notches at bottom, secur’d the acus in its proper place. Such a Fibula in all respects, but that it is somewhat less, was found Anno 1691, near King’s Cotte in Glocestershire. They that would be farther satisfy’d of the various forms and matter of these Roman Fibulæ, and the several uses they were apply’d to, may consult, amongst other Authors, the learned and ingenious Johannes Rhodius de Acia, and Smetius’s Antiquitates Neomagenses.⌉

Here also, at this Kaer-Lheion, about the time of the Saxon Conquest, was an Academy of two hundred Philosophers, who being skill’d in Astronomy and other Sciences, observ’d the courses of the Stars, as we are inform’d by Alexander Elsebiensis, a very scarce Author; out of whom much has been transcrib’d for my use by the learned Thomas JamesTho. James. of Oxford ** Ann. 1607., who may deservedly be stil’d Greek text, as one who is wholly intent upon Books and Learning; and is† Ann. present (God prosper his endeavours) out of a desire of promoting the publick good, employ’d in searching the Libraries of England, on a design that is like to be of singular use to the Commonwealth of Learning.

In the time of King Henry the second, when Giraldus wrote, this City seems to have been a place of considerable strength. For we find, that Yrwith ⌈(or rather perhaps, Iorwerth)⌉ of Kaer Lheion, a courageous Britain, defended it a long time against the English; till at last, being over-power’d by the King, he was dispossess’d of it. But now (a fair instance that Cities as well as Men have their changes and vicissitudes) that is become a small inconsiderable town, which once was of so great extent on each side the river, that they affirm St. Gilian’s (* * Ann. 1607.the house of the honourable Sir William Herbert, a person no less eminent for wit and judgment, than noble extraction) to have been part of the city; and in that place the Church of Julius the Martyr is said to have stood; which is now about a mile out of the town.

From the ruins also of this City, NewportNewport. had its beginning, which is seated a little lower, at the mouth of the river Usk. By Giraldus it is call’d Novus Burgus. It is a town of later date; but of considerable note for a Castle and a convenient harbour: where was formerly some Military way, mention’d by Necham in these verses:

Intrat, & auget aquas Sabrini fluminis Osca
Præceps; testis erit Julia Strata mihi

Increas’d with Usk does Severn rise,
As Julia Strata testifies.

That this Julia Strata was a way, we have no reason to question: and if we may be free to conjecture, it seems not absurd to suppose it took its name from Julius Frontinus who conquer’d the Silures. Penkarn Rhyd Not far from this Newburgh (saith Giraldus) there glides a small stream call’d Nant Pènkarn, unpassable but at some certain fords, not so much for the depth of its water, as the hollowness of the chanel, and deepness of the mud. It had formerly a ford call’d Rhŷd Penkarn, i.e. a ford under the head of the rock, which has been now of a long time discontinu’d. Henry the second King of England having by chance pass’d this ford; the Welsh (who rely too much upon old prophecies) were presently discourag’d, and reckon’d their Case desperate; because their Oracle Merlinus Sylvester had foretold, that whenever a strong Prince with a freckled face (such King Henry was) should pass that ford, the British Forces should be vanquish’d.

During the Saxon Heptarchy, this County was subject to the Mountain-Welsh, call’d by them Saxon dunsettan;Dun-settan. who, notwithstanding, were under the government of the West-Saxons, as appears by the ancient Laws. At the first coming-in of the Normans, the Lords Marchers grievously plagu’d and annoy’d them: especially the above-mention’d Hamelin Balun, Hugh Lacy, Walter and Gilbert de Clare and Brien of Wallingford. To whom the Kings having granted all they could acquire in these parts, some of them reduc’d by degrees the upper part of this County, which they call’d Over-Went, and others the low-lands, call’d Nether-Went.

⌈In the first year of King Charles the first,Earls and Duke of Monmouth. Robert Lord Carey was created Earl of Monmouth, and was succeeded by Henry of the same name: who dying without issue-male, James Fitz-Roy, among other honours, was created Duke of Monmouth, 15 Car. 2. And in the first year of King William and Queen Mary, Charles, son of John Earl of Peterborough (by Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Carey second son to Robert Earl of Monmouth) was created Earl of Monmouth; who at present enjoys that title, together with his other of Earl of Peterborough.⌉

Parish-Churches in this County, 127.

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06