Historical Processes, Themes and Background
One of the few lowland Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Lower Wye Valley historic landscape exists for much of its length as a long, narrow gorge, deeply incised into the limestone plateau. In places, defined by sheer cliffs and steep heavily-wooded slopes, with shallower, broader reaches of more rolling character, the Lower Wye Valley has long been appreciated for the beauty of its landscape. The picturesque character of the Lower Wye Valley is a result of a combination of factors from both the natural and historic landscape. The geology of the area is of Old Red Sandstone as far as Tintern and below this point to Chepstow is of Carboniferous limestone; this can be seen reflected in the dominant building materials in the landscape.
Its importance as a landscape, which has heavily influenced modern perceptions of scenic beauty and the picturesque, is reflected not only in its status as an AONB, following designation in 1971, but also through other designations, including National Nature Reserves (NNR), Potential Special Areas of Conservation (pSAC), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), and Conservation Areas. This perception of the Lower Wye Valley as an area particularly to be appreciated for its scenic beauty started in the late eighteenth century and has had a profound impact on subsequent development.
Gilpin's 1782 work, Observations on the River Wye served to promote the aesthetic qualities of the area, at a time when foreign travel was hindered by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and continued to attract a growing number of visitors throughout the nineteenth century. The popularity of the Wye as a 'tourist destination' continues today, and in addition to the most obvious historic site of the Wye Valley, Tintern Abbey, and the area's woodland walks, interest in the 'Picturesque movement' itself now plays a part as a stimulus for tourism.
The abbey at Tintern was one of the first draws to the area for tourists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Gilpin (1782) discusses the abbey in terms of its picturesque quality; he describes the abbey as much too regular in appearance from a distance, but better at closer quarters. The combination of ruined ivy clad ecclesiastical architecture in the dramatic open river valley setting at Tintern and the contrasting landscape of industrial features, such as mills and ironworks within the narrow Angidy valley with its wild romantic setting of hill, wood and wild water, proved a draw to early travellers and tourists with an interest in the picturesque and romantic, and contributed to the area's popularity from the latter part of the eighteenth century. In this way the area provided a source of inspiration for artists including J M W Turner and perhaps most famously the poet William Wordsworth, who first visited the Wye Valley in 1793 as a young man of 23, and returned in the summer of 1798, when he wrote his 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey'. William Coxe describes the abbey in 1800 in the terms of a busy tourist attraction, with tourists making moonlit visits by burning torchlight. Robinson cites the publication in 1828 of the eleventh edition of Charles's Heath's 'Descriptive Account of Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire' (Monmouth 1793), as an indication of how popular a visit to Tintern had become by the early nineteenth century (Robinson 1986).
Also important to the picturesque notion of landscape were planned leisure walks; these became popular from the late eighteenth century onwards at Piercefield and throughout the Lower Wye Valley. Valentine Morris the Younger designed and laid out an extensive series of walks through the area and viewing points along the cliff top for the benefit of friends and visitors to the woods between 1752 and 1772, with the assistance of Richard Owen Cambridge. One famous tourist to the area was Samuel Coleridge who described the views at Piercefield as 'a godly scene' (unknown date); these walks lie along the western banks of the River Wye linking Piercefield to Chepstow and a point approximately three miles south of Tintern and were designed by Morris to be tackled on a north to south route. The gardens and walks at Piercefield are some of the earliest examples of this type of picturesque landscaping, or as Gilpin (1782) considered Romantic.
The development of the summit of the Kymin hill, with its magnificent views, also reflects the influence of the picturesque movement, and the local popularity of the area. The Monmouth Picnic Club, led by Philip Meakins Hardwick, built the Round House in 1794 as a picnic house for its members, with a kitchen on the ground floor and dining room above, with five windows to take advantage of the spectacular views west into Wales towards the mountains around Abergavenny. Subsequently, in commemoration of the naval victories of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Naval Temple was built, in 1800. It was dedicated on the second anniversary of Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile, by the Duchess of Beaufort, daughter of Admiral Boscawen, who was one of the Admirals commemorated by the temple. During a visit to Monmouth in 1802, Lord Nelson and the Hamiltons visited the Naval Temple and the Roundhouse, and breakfasted there. The area continued to be used as a leisure facility through the nineteenth century, the bowling green, which was laid out around the time of the construction of the Round House, being used for other sports, including hockey. It was used as a showground, and in any major celebrations in Monmouth, particularly in 1905, the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar (Register of Parks and Gardens Gwent, p63). This use of the area continues up to the present, with the Kymin Dash, an annual race, which follows a course up the Kymin hill and through the park.
The continued popularity and appreciation of the picturesque landscape of the Wye Valley is evident in the number of walkers' trails and specifically the Wye Valley Walk, which takes in a number of important picturesque locations and viewpoints along its route.
The agricultural landscape in the Lower Wye Valley is largely marginal and limited to small areas of forest clearance, normally consisting of a single farm, on the lower slopes where the river gorge broadens out, and to larger areas occupying the elevated plateaus above. The area exists mainly as heavily wooded, steeply sloping valley sides, with isolated areas of agricultural land, largely set down to pasture, bounded on all sides by the woodland from which it was originally won. Agriculture has not historically been central to the economy of the area; there is little direct evidence for use of the present agricultural landscape in the prehistoric period. However the existence of the round barrow cemetery and of possible hill forts and defended enclosures, such as Kymin Hill, Pierce Wood Camps, Piercefield Camp and Blackfield Wood Camp, indicates settlement and some level of agricultural activity at least by the late prehistoric and Romano-British periods.
Whilst industrial activity has been identified with Romano-British settlement in the Lower Wye Valley, the earliest evidence for extensive cultivation of the land is medieval. The ecclesiastical influence was central to this; Tintern, and other abbeys farmed several granges, which most likely represent the earliest organised large-scale clearance of woodland and waste for agricultural purposes.
Cistercian landholdings in the area were extensive, and large tracts of land in the Wye Valley and the surrounding area, including the entire parish of Chapel Hill, belonged to Tintern Abbey. By 1291 the abbey of Tintern and its granges were farming more than 3000 acres (1215 hectares) and Tintern could claim to be the fifth richest house in Wales. A number of granges were established, notably the Secular Firmary Grange, and Ruding/Rudding Grange (later Reddings Farm). The former, a secular hospital, (PRN 08343g) may have originated from an earlier monastic hospital, built to serve laypeople (Williams 1976). The name 'Ruding Grange' indicates that the area was won from the surrounding woodland, through the process of assart. The granges were in the main farmed by the lay brothers (fratres conversi) and hired labourers (mercenarii) and were autonomous centres with accommodation for the lay brothers, and a chapel, as well as the agricultural buildings. On the hillsides, the land won through assart was used for sheep farming and remains largely as pasture to the present day.
The importance of religious institutions to settlement formation and agricultural development of the area is further demonstrated by Beaulieu Grange in the north, a grange of the abbey of Grace Dieu referred to in 1291 as 'Wyesham Grange' (Williams 1976), to which the settlement at Beaulieu Farm probably owes its origins.
The marginal nature of agriculture in the Lower Wye Valley area is indicated by the late enclosure of many of the parishes; the Enclosure Act of 1810 states that prior to this date, much of the land in the parishes of Trellech, Penallt, Mitchell Troy, Llandogo and Tintern (among others) was still unenclosed. Historically, much of the land in these parishes was woodland. Indeed the economy of the Lower Wye Valley area appears to have been essentially industrial rather than agricultural in nature, with available cultivated land and pasture of quality remaining relatively limited. Apart from the former grange farms and a few other exceptions, such as the larger farms of Pilstone, Whitebrook, and Church Farm, Penallt, most of which are located within the main Wye Valley, most of the holdings appear to have been relatively small scale small-holdings providing for the needs of those primarily employed in industry (milling, iron production, wire works, paper production etc), or forestry. This is particularly the case in the narrow side valleys of the Angidy and White Brook valleys.
An examination of tithe maps indicated areas of land that remained unenclosed by the mid-nineteenth century, particularly in The Narth (HLCA 028) and Penallt (HLCA 034). These areas contain remnants of unenclosed common and woodland, within a fieldscape matrix of small irregular, often curvilinear, enclosures, which have the appearance of encroachments that developed in an organic fashion from a focal point. By the survey of the First Edition OS maps the process of enclosure has generally been completed and individual encroachments enlarged to form the current interlinked evolved field pattern. Many of the agricultural areas, for example Troy Farm Fieldscape, (HLCA 037) the land immediately to either side of the surviving Church Hill Common (HLCA 032), the north of Redbrook Fieldscape (HLCA 015), and Fairoak Fieldscape (HLCA 012) exist as regular fieldscapes with straight boundaries, which suggests they are areas of relatively late enclosure.
The process of enclosure was largely complete in the Lower Wye Valley by the survey of the tithe map and little further change is noted on the First Edition OS maps, apart from minor consolidation. During the late twentieth century changing farming practices reflecting large-scale agricultural production and increased mechanisation have resulted in a rapid increase in field amalgamation in several of the areas; most noticeably in the area of Pen-y-garn Farm (HLCA 032) as well as in the north of Pilstone Farm (HLCA 025), where boundaries have been removed to create large prairie-like fields. Likewise, later twentieth century development has altered other agricultural areas, most strikingly The Narth (HLCA 028), where residential use now predominates and similarly, though to a lesser extent, Pen-y-van (HLCA 026).
Historically Monmouthshire has been the most volatile area of South Wales with innovative changes in social, administrative and settlement being made, often the result of invasion and sometimes violently imposed. A turbulent border region of historic strategic importance, the Lower Wye Valley, the modern border of England and Wales, previously formed the eastern boundary of a marcher lordship; this history is reflected by the area's historic fortified towns, castles and defended settlements. The Lower Wye Valley has had a strong defensive character from the prehistoric period. This is demonstrated in particular by three hillforts or camps within Piercefield Park Ancient Woodland (SAM MM020, and SAM MM027; PRNs 00773g, 00748g, and 00772g), all of which have been tentatively dated to the Iron Age. Offa's Dyke runs along the eastern side of the river, but no remains survive within the area that has been characterised.
The initial castle at Chepstow was constructed c. 1070, after William fitz Osbern was granted the earldom of Hereford. The town of Chepstow is known to have been established by 1075, when it was valued at £16, however finds of Roman date suggest it is possible there was an earlier settlement in the area if not on the same site. Chepstow is strongly defensive in nature, due not only to the dominant castle, but also to the encircling town wall, known locally as the Port Wall, constructed by the Bigods in the thirteenth century. The main defensive element to survive at Chepstow is the medieval Anglo-Norman castle (PRN 01173g, NPRN 95237, LB 2475, MM003); a substantial stone built structure, which acted as the caput of the Marcher lordship of Chepstow.
The Great Tower of Chepstow Castle is considered to have been built following the forfeit of the castle to the Crown after 1075. A major programme of building took place under William Marshal (between 1189 and 1219) and the upper and middle bailey defences date to the period, the lower bailey was also constructed, though this was subsequently rebuilt. In the last quarter of the thirteenth century, Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk succeeded to the ownership of the castle, and built the major suite of apartments in the lower bailey, as well as the massive South East tower (Martens Tower). The Great Tower's upper storey was extended, and the upper barbican tower built. In the sixteenth century timber domestic ranges (now lost) were added to both sides of the middle bailey curtain wall. During the seventeenth century the castle was refortified to resist artillery fire and Chepstow played an important role during the Civil Wars; initially held by the Royalists, it was captured in 1645 and became the seat of the Parliamentary Committee for Monmouthshire. During the Second Civil War the Royalists under Sir Nicholas Kemeys recaptured Chepstow, though it later fell again to Parliamentary forces. The castle, used as a state prison until the end of the seventeenth century (Turner 2006), was more recently used as a Home Guard store and training area during the Second World War (Defence of Britain Project CBA 2002, reference number 13580).
The settlement at Monmouth with its Norman marcher castle, constructed prior to 1071 by William fitz Osbern, also has a strong military and defensive aspect. The castle, which originally comprised a round keep, curtain wall, and gatehouse set at a strategic location on a promontory overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Wye and Monnow, formed an important military stronghold; it not only controlled important river crossings, and natural resources, such as woodland, but also served as the centre of an independent lordship, and also protected the commercial and administrative focus of the area. In 1267 Monmouth was granted to Edmund Crouchback, son of Henry III, when he became Earl of Lancaster, and during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries various members of the Lancaster family refurbished the castle. During the Civil War Monmouth Castle served an important military role; held by both forces it finally fell to the Parliamentarians in 1645. Later, in 1673 the castle was substantially altered when the Marquis of Worcester (later the Duke of Beaufort) commissioned the construction of Great Castle House. In 1875, Great Castle House became the headquarters of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (RMRE), and currently houses a museum dedicated to the military history of Monmouth, particularly that of the RMRE, which, with origins dating back to 1539, is the only modern day regiment to survive from the period of the Civil War. The remains of the original castle, greatly reduced during the seventeenth century, are less imposing than those at Chepstow, and comprise the great tower, dating to the first half of the twelfth century, and the adjoining great hall, constructed in the thirteenth century.
The military theme in the landscape of the Lower Wye Valley continues into the modern period, represented by several Second World War pillboxes, which defended the Wye Valley (PRN 04304g, NPRN 270428 and NPRN 270429) and Monmouth (PRN 04303g).
The two medieval towns of Chepstow and Monmouth top and tail the Lower Wye Valley; both towns have a long sequence of surviving buildings charting subsequent periods of prosperity. Both settlements retain significant elements of their early plan and topography, as well as significant numbers of early buildings, but the town-centre building stock in each contains many later (eighteenth - nineteenth century) buildings, and both also have significant suburban expansion - in the case of Monmouth, some of it quite early. Both warrant more detailed study.
Settlement in the Wye valley itself is clearly constrained by the steepness of slope and is heavily influenced by topography: thus Tintern is strongly linear, whilst Llandogo occupies the steep slopes as well as the wider terrace in this bend of the river. Elsewhere, valley settlement is sparse (there is another cluster near Love Land and Black Brook, Penallt). Another notable feature is the tributary valleys, which were early sites of industry. Angidy, Catsbrook and Whitebrook both contain informal settlement patterns associated largely with industry. On the flatter lands towards the top of the slope, there is another series of settlements, which have all the appearance of forest clearances. Small cottages and smallholdings typically dominate these historically, but their character owes much to relatively unplanned twentieth century expansion, albeit apparently accommodated to the earlier field patterns. The Narth and Pentwyn are good examples of this.
Barbadoes Hill provides an example of a relict layout essentially unchanged from tithe, through to 1st edition OS and present day mapping is probably early nineteenth century encroachment largely of small rectangular enclosures, cottages arranged parallel to the contours of the slope. A further example of encroachment settlement includes 'the Birches' south of Penallt.
Building materials: Stone dominates the buildings of the historic landscape, and materials include exposed stone, much render, clay tiles and slate; whilst stone flags survive in some areas. Considerable variety is evident in stonework and this presumably reflects variations in the local geology (eg. limestone, sandstone), whilst variations in finish are clues to status (there are examples of coursed and squared or ashlar fronts, though most traditional buildings appear to be uncoursed rubble). There has been a tradition of lime-wash or render, and some examples of this remain. Other materials were introduced in the later nineteenth century - including brickwork, though presumably the ready availability of local stone limited its use to dressings.
Building types: Because of the varied economy of the area (industry, agriculture, forestry, tourism) there is a good status-range of houses including particularly good representation of the smaller vernacular house and cottage. The long monastic and industrial histories have also produced a good chronological range of building, though as so often, it is the nineteenth century which dominates and from which most of the smaller buildings date. There is considerable conformity of type, with a simple two-unit plan, two-storeyed form dominating across the status range.
Settlement in the area dates from the prehistoric period, with evidence of upper Palaeolithic activity recovered at St Peter's Cave, to the south of Chepstow (PRN 02216g, SAM MM160). Until the Iron Age evidence for prehistoric settlement of the area is largely circumstantial and includes findspots of Mesolithic date; an arrow and an axe were recovered from Troy Farm Fieldscape (HLCA 037). Neolithic settlement is represented by finds of a flint knife from Chippenham (HLCA 018) and from find scatters from the area of Troy Farm (HLCA 037) and Tregagle and Pen-twyn (HLCA 030). In addition, finds of general prehistoric date (though not further defined) have been recorded, including an oblique arrowhead from Reddings Farm (HLCA 008) and a scatter of six flints at Dixton Newton (HLCA 021). The Bronze Age is largely represented by funerary monuments, ie barrow cemeteries, though finds also indicate continued occupation; these include two hoards of Bronze Axes from Livox Farm (HCLA 007) and a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead from Redbrook Fieldscape (HLCA 015). It is also possible that some of the defended enclosures attributed to the Iron Age, may in fact have originated during the late Bronze Age.
Iron Age settlement is represented by a number of defended enclosures, or hillforts, such as the hillforts in Piercefield Park Ancient Woodland (HCLA 004), the two Piercefield Camps (PRNs 00772g and 00773g; SAM MM020 A and B) on the cliffs overlooking the River Wye, one of which is particularly strongly defended D-shaped area abutting the cliff, with stone ramparts and inturned entrance on the south with guard posts defended by a bastion. Other examples of defended enclosures include Black Cliff Wood Camp (PRN 00748g; SAM MM027 on the summit of the ridge above Reddings Farm, and the possible defended enclosure on the Kymin Hill (HLCA 031). Activity of this date in the Lower Wye Valley is further attested by a number of findspots at Chepstow and at the mouth of the Angidy Valley. Settlement continued into the Roman period, and it is largely accepted that both Monmouth and Chepstow were sites of Roman forts. At Monmouth, evidence for Roman exploitation of the area has also been found during archaeological works. Excavations and other investigations here have revealed early activity (pre-Flavian), in the form of both a ditch and buildings, probably relating to military activity. Later in the Roman period, Blestium, recorded in the Antonine Itinerary, can be identified with Monmouth. Settlement activity at Monmouth appears to be continuous, in the second-fourth centuries the occupation was primarily civilian, and excavations on either side of Monnow Street have revealed agricultural activity, followed by industrial iron working in the area (Marvell 2001, 118-119).
Similarly, Chepstow has probable Roman origins. The main Roman road from Caerwent to Gloucester attests to Roman activity here; the route is thought to have crossed the River Wye by a timber bridge some 1km north of the later castle. Coin hoards, as well as three cremations with associated pottery and a wooden shrine, further support this (Shoesmith 1991 28). The reuse of Roman tile in the fabric of the Great Tower of Chepstow Castle has been noted (Perks 1967), whilst archaeological work in the town has identified Roman levels containing tile (tegula) and pottery, including a Flavian mortarium from north Gaul, stamped LITUGEN IUGIFIL. On the basis of the latter a military presence has been suggested. Settlement of Roman date is found elsewhere in the Lower Wye valley most notably at the Little Hadnock villa (within HLCA 020), where a complex of buildings has been identified in association with second/third century pottery and bloomery material (Mein 1977).
Settlement of some form is likely to have continued in the area during the post-Roman/Early-medieval period, with high status sites identified at Chepstow, Monmouth, and also at Llandogo. It has been suggested that the core of Chepstow (HLCA 003) around the High Street, may contain elements of a pre-Norman layout (Courtney 1995) although no direct evidence to support this hypothesis has been found. Monmouth, named as aper mynuy or Aper Menei in eighth century Llandaff charters, is known to have possessed an early chapel dedicated to St Cadoc (Knight 2004, 276). At Chepstow, it is thought that St Kynemark's Priory, variously vill lann Cinmarch (twelfth century), Ecclesia Cynmarchi (Llandaff charters) was at first displaced by the foundation of Chepstow Priory in 1067-71 and in the twelfth century assimilated into the Anglo-Norman church through reorganisation into a house of Augustinian canons. The church at Llandogo (Lanneniaun), dedicated to St Oudoceous (Eudoce, Euddogwy) is also mentioned in the Llandaff charters, later a manor of the bishops of Llandaff (Knight 2004, 274). The Llandaff Charters mention Llandogo as early as c625, while a story tells of how, following the gift of the area to the See of Llandaff by the King, St Oudoceus built a house and oratory there. Another possible early monastic clas site has been tentatively identified at Dixton (HLCA 010).
The ecclesiastical influence on the area, which particularly developed during the medieval period, had a profound effect on the settlement in the Lower Wye Valley. The abbey of Tintern, founded in 1131 by Walter de Clare quickly developed through gifts of estates in the locality, by 1291 was farming more than 3000 acres (1215 hectares), and was the fifth richest house in Wales. The large estates owned by Tintern Abbey contained several granges that fall within the Lower Wye Valley Historic Landscape. Some of these granges became relatively large centres in their own right, with a chapel, agricultural buildings and accommodation for the lay brothers. A small secular settlement is considered to have developed to the north of the abbey at a fairly early date. In the north of the historic landscape the abbey of Grace Dieu had a grange at Beaulieu Farm (within Redbrook Fieldscape HLCA 015).
While it is considered likely that settlement existed at Chepstow in the Roman period the form of occupation during this and the following Early-medieval period is unknown. Medieval development occurred during the eleventh century in the area adjacent to the castle constructed by William fitz Osbern, and the nearby Benedictine priory (St Mary's Church), a cell of the abbey of Cormeilles in Normandy, also founded by fitz Osbern. The grandeur of the early Norman great church can still be seen in the vast three-storey original nave of St Mary's. Although the exact location of the earlier settlement is uncertain, it is likely that it would have been focussed on the area around Upper Church Street, which would have connected the priory with the original entrance to the castle, possibly with a small grid system of streets (Hocker Hill Street, St Mary Street, Nelson Street and Church Street), all of which are at a right angle to Upper Church Street (Shoesmith 1991 161). This settlement expanded rapidly, and by the survey of the Doomsday Book, in 1075, it was worth £16. Whilst there is no evidence for defences at this date, the town may have been defended by banks and ditches. Following an unsuccessful coup by Roger fitz Osbern in 1074, the family lost the castle and town, which were taken into royal control until the lordship of Chepstow was granted to Gilbert de Clare in 1115. Later in 1175 it was passed to William Marshall, who was responsible for expanding the castle, with the addition of new defenses and the great gatehouse (Turner 2006). The town was particularly prosperous during this time due largely to its port. In 1248, following the death of the last of the Marshall family, the lordship passed to the Bigods, who also undertook further work on the castle, adding the lower bailey; it is considered that the Bigods were responsible for the construction of the Port Wall, which enclosed the town on the west side. In the following period Chepstow flourished and boasted 308 burgages by 1306; this was largely due to its status as a port, with ships plying the continental trading routes (Soulsby 1983 107). This prosperity was largely unaffected by the major disruptive events of the period, such as the Glyndwr rebellion or the Black Death.
The town of Monmouth developed as a commercial centre in the medieval period under the protection of the castle. Early burgage development was focussed on Monnow Street, and the town appeared to be flourishing in 1086 when it was recorded in the Doomsday Survey. It expanded, and by the twelfth century, the settlement at Overmonnow had developed, which, although beyond the current area on the Register, is an important medieval suburb of the town. During the thirteenth century, the river crossings into Monmouth were fortified; including the Monnow Bridge and Gateway, while the town walls were also constructed at this time, enabling the town to charge tolls. The town of Monmouth experienced major setbacks during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as a result of several outbreaks of plague, and the Glyndwr rebellion.
Although post-medieval development has altered both market towns of Monmouth and Chepstow, they are strongly rooted in their medieval origins. The post-medieval town of Chepstow appears to have largely retained the scale and pattern of its medieval form: Millerd's plan of 1685, shows a similar street plan to modern Chepstow, with the southern part of the area enclosed by the Port Wall being used as fields and orchards.
Following the decline it experienced during the medieval period and the Acts of Union in 1536, Monmouth saw a turnaround in its fortunes, when it became the shire town for the newly formed county. The revival of the economy, along with increased industrial investment and political interest in the area, is reflected in the building stock; stone buildings were replacing earlier wooden ones, and fireplaces and chimneys were replacing open hearths (Kissack 1989). By Speed's map of 1610, the town was well established and in good repair, from this time, the dating of buildings becomes easier due to the inclusions of date-stones on buildings. The foundation of several almshouses, and the Haberdashers School in 1616 by William Jones, ushered in a new era of influence in the development in the town, as the wealth and influence of the trustees grew. The wealth and influence of the Beaufort family, who had built Great Castle House in 1673, drew many of the county's families to Monmouth who began to build town houses, while the growth of industry in the Wye Valley brought industrialists, prompting the construction of housing. The construction of Shire Hall in 1724, which replaced a small market house, further indicates the growing prosperity of the town, while the popularity of the Wye Tour from the latter half of the eighteenth century brought further developments, with inns and hotels constructed to cater for the tourists. During the nineteenth century, this growth slowed, possibly due to the development of the market town of Abergavenny, and the expansion of industry elsewhere.
In addition to the main urban settlements, evidence of medieval settlement is also noted elsewhere within the Lower Wye Valley, for example the settlement at Llandogo (HLCA 024) developed around its early medieval church, a probable 'clas' site; similarly, the small hamlet of Penallt (HLCA 034) appears originally to have been focused on a medieval church, mentioned in the Book of Llandaff between 1199 and 1216 (Locock 2002 29). There are a number of deserted medieval settlements in the Lower Wye Valley Historic Landscape, such as that identified within Tregagle and Pen-twyn fieldscape. Although this area is likely to have been mainly characterised by woodland until the nineteenth century, some limited settlement existed during the later medieval period.
Large country houses such as those at Piercefield, Pilstone and Troy were important aspects of post-medieval settlement in the Lower Wye Valley, and a number of interesting examples of late medieval/early post-medieval gentry estates survive, such as Piercefield (HLCA 005), Pilstone (HLCA 025), and Troy (HLCA 038). The earliest of these is Troy House: with origins in the fourteenth century, it was a manor held by the Earls of Gloucester and Hertford. Having been held by several distinguished local families - the Catchmays, the Scudamores, and the Herberts (the son of the first Earl of Pembroke) - it was purchased around 1600 by the Somerset family, who were then the Earls of Worcester, later the Dukes of Beaufort. It remained in this family, the home of younger sons until 1665, when it became a residence of the main branch of the family. The current incarnation of the house dates mainly to the 1680s when the Duke of Beaufort significantly extended the house that had been constructed by Sir Charles Somerset in the early seventeenth century, adding the impressive north-facing range.
Similarly, though the origins of Piercefield House are most likely Tudor, belonging to the Walter family until the mid-eighteenth century, the core of the ruin is the Neo-classical building of George Smith, constructed in 1785. Colonel Mark Wood was responsible for alterations to Piercefield carried out by his architect, Joseph Bonomi, in the 1790s; the Neoclassical pavilions which flank the main range were constructed during the period. Pilstone is first recorded in the sixteenth century, and belonged to the Perkins family until c1830, although it had fallen into ruin by this point, when it was purchased by Captain Rooke, who built the present Pilstone House from the materials salvaged from the ruins of the original house.
The dispersed scatter of farmsteads characteristic of the rural areas also developed during the post-medieval period, although some had their origins in the granges of medieval ecclesiastic foundations such as Tintern and Grace Dieu. The predominantly agricultural areas contain farmsteads which are likely to have medieval origins: for example Beaulieu Farm in Upper Redbrook Fieldscape (HLCA 015), known to have been the site of a medieval grange of the abbey of Grace Dieu, the farmstead at Redding Farm (HLCA 008) which originated as a grange of Tintern, and some of the farms at Penallt (HLCA 034) which are focused on the medieval church, and may themselves have early origins. In addition the barn and the row of cottages at Troy Farm (HLCA 037) are considered to have had medieval origins, whilst the farmhouse at Pilstone (HLCA 025), which dates at least to the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century, is thought to possibly include earlier structural elements and is reputedly the oldest inhabited dwelling in its locality.
Post-medieval settlement of the Lower Wye Valley is not only represented by urban centres, settlement developed around medieval foci, or agricultural settlement, but also by the emerging industrial settlement, particularly within the Angidy and Whitebrook Valleys. The development of industry in the Angidy and Whitebrook Valleys led to settlement expanding along these tributary valleys. Settlement within both these areas is characterized by an informal pattern of dispersed and clustered settlement with associated enclosure, and also by ribbon development that is often associated with early industrial development. Buildings of varying scale and status can be seen side-by-side; this is likely to be a result of limiting geographical factors combined with the location of industries rather than any kind of planned development. It also reflects the earlier less developed social hierarchy typical of an emerging industrial society, with workers, mangers and owners living together in close proximity: later the industrial upper classes would typically distance themselves, through a process of gentrification.
Both the Angidy and Whitebrook Valleys are dominated by industrial buildings and associated housing for workers and owners. The main building type is cottages for the workers; the typical Angidy Cottage can be generally described as an originally 'tiny' workers' cottage with a strong vernacular influence, which has often been later extended. The Whitebrook Valley in particular also displays a number of fairly large and substantial houses for the mill owners and/or managers, all of which are in the Georgian style: an indication of the former prosperity of the paper industry in the area.
The earliest known ritual feature in the area is the round barrow cemetery, PRN 08409g, within HLCA 009, which consists of three cairns (PRNs 03940g, 00724g, 00725g); two roughly circular denuded cairns, which appear to have suffered robbing activity, and a third (PRN 00725g) which is both better preserved and oval in shape.
Other ritual features are the Roman cremations and associated burial wares discovered close to Chepstow; two of these were associated with pottery, while a third was contained within a wooden casket, and the remains of what appears to have been a wooden shrine surrounded one of the cremations.
Ecclesiastic sources, such as the Llandaff Charters, dating to the seventh to the tenth centuries, as well as the dedication of the church at Llandogo, indicate the Early-medieval origins of the Christian church in the area, specifically the association of Llandogo with St Oudoceus, the third Bishop of Llandaff, who lived in the sixth century. The church of Llandogo is first mentioned in the Llandaff Charters in c625, then again in c698, recording the boundaries of the manor of Llandogo granted to the See of Llandaff. The charters again mention Llandogo in c942 as the meeting place of a synod, and it has been suggested that a bishopric moved there from Welsh Bicknor in c900. Physical indicators of early origins are found in the form of the churchyard at Llandogo; although now polygonal, this was originally curvilinear in shape (tithe map 1844). The church at Dixton is also recorded in the Book of Llandaff, in a charter of c735; the early origins of this church are here supported by the survival of early herringbone masonry in the fabric of the church.
The ecclesiastical standing of the Lower Wye Valley was visibly increased during the medieval period with the construction of the Cistercian abbey at Tintern, founded on 9th May 1131 by Walter fitz Richard of Clare, Lord of Chepstow. It grew in wealth to be the fifth richest house in Wales, and specifically influenced the development of the landscape of the Lower Wye Valley through its holdings here. These included a number of granges, created through assart, and in the main used as sheep farms, although the Secular Firmary Grange may have functioned as a monastic hospital for laypeople. Although the abbey became a 'romantic' ruin following the Dissolution of 1536, it remains a dominant feature in the landscape today. The Crown purchased the remains in 1901 for the sum of £15,000. An extensive programme of restoration and recording at the abbey, including the removal of all the ivy and the rebuilding of the south nave arcade was undertaken.
There area a number of other churches with medieval origins in the area: the church at Penallt (HLCA 034) is first mentioned in an appendix of the Book of Llandaff which dates to 1199-1216, while additional structural evidence in the form of earlier elements incorporated into the surviving building, as well as the partially curving churchyard wall, also suggests an early date for its founding. The building known as 'The Cell' in Wyesham, now a private house, was originally the church of St Thomas the Martyr, first mentioned in a papal bull in 1186. The church of St Michael at Tintern Parva is first mentioned in 1348, and, on the tithe map of the parish is shown with a slightly curving churchyard, possibly indicating early origins.
The ecclesiastical history of Chepstow is an important one in the town's development, it contains a number of churches and chapels, and of particular note is the priory, now the church of St Mary's. Like the castle, it is of post-conquest foundation, and is first recorded in 1071 as a daughter house of the Benedictine abbey of Cormeilles. After the Dissolution in 1536, the original cruciform plan of the priory building was extensively altered during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, resulting in the combination of Romanesque details with Gothic additions to give the church building an unusual character. A number of medieval ecclesiastical features characterise Chepstow, such as St Thomas' Chapel (PRN 01189g), St Ewin's or Owens Chapel (PRN 01176g), and the site of the now-destroyed chapel of St Anne (PRN 01174g), as well as holy wells (eg PRN 01175g). There are also several examples of post-medieval ecclesiastical architecture in Chepstow, predominantly nineteenth century: Lower Church Street Baptist Church of 1816 (NPRN 10513); Chepstow Wesleyan Methodist Church of 1855 (NPRN 105516, LB20751); and the High Street Bible Christian Chapel (NPRN 307556).
Similarly, the ecclesiastical history of Monmouth is significant in the overall development of the town; there was a pre-Norman church of St Cadoc, first mentioned in the Book of Llandaff in 733 (Brook 1988, 82) on the slopes below the castle, (PRN 01224g). It is also mentioned in the foundation charter of the later Benedictine priory, which was founded by Gwethenoc, a Breton who became lord of Monmouth following the disgrace of Roger fitz Osbern. The Priory was granted to the abbey of St Florent at Saumur, to which Gwethenoc retired, becoming a monk in 1182, although the church was not dedicated until 1101-02. It was extended and became the parish church in the late twelfth century, and continued to function as such when the priory was dissolved in 1534 (Kissack 1974; Evans 2004). The building has been extensively rebuilt: first in 1732, when it was rebuilt in the classical style and a spire was added, then in 1824 when galleries were added. In 1881 the building was substantially demolished and rebuilt, although a small section of the Norman wall remains.
The Victorian period saw the renovation of many of the older churches in the Lower Wye Valley; much of the refurbishment being carried out by the architect J P Seddon, who worked widely in the archdeaconry of Monmouth. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, he was responsible for restoration of St Mary's Church at Tintern (along with his colleague Prichard), the refurbishment of the church at Penallt, the rebuilding of Llandogo church, and the construction of the new church at Wyesham.
Industry has been a driving force in the economy of the Lower Wye Valley Historic Landscape and industrial archaeology is an important element of the landscape. Predominant in the industrial archaeology in the Lower Wye Valley are the remains of the various metal-processing centres. Metalworking has remained an important feature at least since the Roman period, when there were several bloomeries operating in the area.
A complex of second/third century buildings have been excavated at Little Hadnock (HLCA 020) which provided evidence of iron working (PRN 01294g, SAM MM195), and further evidence of Roman iron production comes from excavations carried out on the site of Monmouth School (PRN 03265g). Other industrial findspots of scoriae and pottery and iron slag ((PRN 00734g and 03847g, ) further attest to metal processing activity of this date in the area. Reports of two further Roman bloomeries have been made (PRNs 02963g, and 02966g) though as yet await confirmation. There is evidence for significant iron working in the late third and early fourth centuries within Monmouth along Monnow Street and like other places in South Wales during the later Roman period, Monmouth was associated with intensive production of iron, both smelting and secondary working. The prime location of Monmouth in relation to iron ore mining sites, and considerable resources of timber for smelting must have made it a dominant industry in the settlement (Marvell 2001).
Industrial activity continued to be a dominant theme during the medieval period, often associated with ecclesiastical or monastic interests. The Angidy Valley, later a major centre for industry during the post-medieval period, had already emerged as an industrial centre during the medieval period; a fulling mill and two grain mills (00721g), powered by a series of weirs along the Angidy Brook, are known to have belonged to the abbey at Tintern (Williams 2001). The metal processing activity with which the Angidy Valley later becomes associated emerges during the fifteenth century in the form of lead and copper working within the complex of Tintern Abbey itself. Small-scale water-powered industry is also noted for the Whitebrook Valley during the medieval period; a gristmill (PRN 00670g) is mentioned in an Inquisition Post Mortem of 1314, and its successor survives, though in a converted state. Unsurprisingly, industrial activity of the period is also found in Monmouth, where a number of mills and several bloomeries have been identified, including possibly material (iron slag and cinder) from a forge, which belonged to William de Marias (PRN 01237g). Medieval iron working also appears to have taken place at Newton (HCLA 021) where medieval slag and kiln waste have been found.
The post-medieval period saw the development of heavy industry in the Lower Wye Valley, and its physical remains now provide some of the major characteristic features of the area. The Angidy Valley was chosen as the optimum location in the country for water-powered wire production following a nationwide survey carried out by the government in 1565-66 as part of a policy to make Britain self-sufficient, and less dependent on imports. The Society of Mineral and Battery Works, a government monopoly, operated in the area until 1631, when they relinquished their lease and the operators became the lessees. As a consequence the Lower or Abbey Wire/Ironworks (PRN 00709g, SAM MM266), the first water-powered wireworks in the country, was opened at Tintern in 1566, and to further increase supply at the start of the sixteenth century the Society of Mineral and Battery Works established a branch at Whitebrook (06255g). In all eight separate industrial sites were established along the Angidy Brook, all water-powered, and all involved in iron processing, principally with wire-production. The industry flourished over a period of three hundred years, and the latest site, New Tongs Mill, was established in 1803. In addition to the iron-based industry, there were several water-powered corn mills in the Lower Wye Valley. These water-powered industries have left significant remains along the length of the Angidy Brook, where there is a high concentration of water management related features, including dams, reservoirs and leats that fed the works. With the decline of the demand for wire, in the second half of the nineteenth century, tin-plate manufacture was started, although this was short-lived and by the turn of the century, wire making and tinplate manufacture had ceased in the area.
The importance of the metal-processing industry in the Lower Wye Valley is also demonstrated at Upper Redbrook (HLCA 015). Although this village does not lie within the Historic Landscape, being just over the national border in England, the industry here, which included two blast furnaces, two copper smelting works, and two tinplate works, as well as a paper mill and several corn mills reflects the strength of industry in the Lower Wye Valley in general. The Monmouth Tramroad, opened in 1812 for the transport of goods and resources between Monmouth, the Forest of Dean and the Wye was connected to the Lower Tinplate Works at Redbrook via a self acting incline and the Redbrook Incline Overbridge (PRN 02195g, NPRN 85227, SAM MM203). This metal-processing industry is not limited to the larger centres, for example an iron furnace is known to have operated at Coed Ithel Farm (within HLCA 017) outside the heavily industrialised tributary valleys, while iron forge slag has been found in Hael Woods (HLCA 027) in association with a limekiln.
Although metal processing was initially the dominant industrial aspect of the Lower Wye Valley, the area's valley topography and water resources was also key to the development of other economically important manufacturing industries. The Whitebrook Valley in particular became known for paper manufacture, which began c. 1760, with the construction of the water-powered Clearwater Paper Mill (PRN 00665g, 07971g, LB 24923, 24943, SAM MM194), possibly on the site of an earlier seventeenth century wireworks (Newman 2000, 277).
By 1775, the price and quality of British paper became such that it was viable for export, resulting in significant expansion of the paper industry in the Whitebrook Valley until there were six mills in operation along the length of the river. Some of these, including the original establishment at Clearwater, and Sunnyside Mill (PRN 00667g), adopted the use of steam power in the later nineteenth century, and in some continuous machinery was installed, while others appear to have remained hand-operated. The conversion to steam power and the construction of the railway network during the latter half of the nineteenth century removed restrictions on the location of industry and enabled manufacturers to move to where labour and raw materials were more readily available, and by about 1880, the paper industry in Whitebrook had ended (Coates 1992, 26).
In addition to the processing industries, extractive and agri-industrial features have also made significant contributions to the development of the landscape. These aspects of industrial activity are all closely related; limestone quarries associated with limekilns and lime production for agriculture, building and industry, as well as millstone quarries (relating to the local cider industry of the Wye Valley and beyond) are found throughout the area. Quarries are particularly prevalent in areas of woodland, such as Livox Quarry, in the Piercefield Park Ancient Woodland (HLCA 004), an active quarry that has expanded since the survey of the First Edition OS map. Also noted on the First Edition OS map in Piercefield Park Ancient Woodland are five further quarries (one actually being an ironstone mine) and two limekilns. Further north, Tintern Ancient Woodland (HLCA 009) contains both limekilns and small-scale quarries; Cuckoo Wood (HLCA 022) and Hayes Coppice (HLCA 023) also contain the remains of small quarries depicted on historical maps, whilst both Highmeadow Woods (HLCA 019) and Lord's Grove Woodland (HCLA 040) also contain quarries. The latter was most likely associated with the construction of various transport routes, including the adjacent Wye Valley Railway and the Monmouth Tramroad. At least one of the quarries in Hael Woods (HLCA 027) is believed to be medieval in origin, and is said to have provided a source of building stone for Raglan Castle. Some of the quarries are associated with limekilns, one of which was found in association with iron forge slag.
Both the Hael Woods quarries and those in Troypark Wood (HLCA 036) are found with unfinished millstones, which appear to have been damaged or found to be faulty before completion and have been left in situ. The importance of the millstone industry, and the milling industry to the local economy is demonstrated not only by the number of millstones which are found flawed and left in the extractive area, but also by the numbers which are found by the roadside, or in association with mills or cider presses. One example can be found at the end of the public road which runs into Dixton Hadnock (HLCA 020) at the gate to Hadnock Court, placed upright on its side, while another, in the area of Church Hill Common (HCLA 032) is known as 'Cross Vermond' and is locally believed to be the base of a cross, though its form is more like the faulty stones left in the quarries in the adjoining areas of woodland. Cider presses and mills, usually associated with local farms, are known at Coed Ithel Farm (HLCA 017), Chapel Farm (HCLA 010), Tintern (HLCA 013), Tintern Parva (HLCA 016), and at Troypark Wood (HLCA 036).
Woodland management and exploitation in the form of charcoal burning hearths found throughout the areas of ancient woodland is also characteristic of agri-industrial activity.
It is known that a Roman route crossed the River Wye north of Chepstow whilst the Monmouth to Weston-under-Penyard (Ariconium) Road, a branch of the Antonine Itinerary XIII, a continuation of the Roman road which ran from Caerleon running north from Monmouth towards Hereford also passes through area (PRN 02954g, RR612a-03; Margary 1957; RCAHMW 1994; Sherman and Evans 2004). Neither of these routes, however, follows the main north-south valley of the Wye, itself, where a network of narrow lanes, trackways and paths, including ridgeway routes of possible prehistoric origin predominates. Many of lanes and tracks are considered likely to be of medieval date, and would have been associated with monastic land use, trade and pilgrimage, while others probably relate to post-medieval industrial and settlement expansion. Many of these routes are likely to have been used during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by travellers interested in the picturesque landscapes of the area. The early communication networks of the area would repay further investigation and study.
The River Wye itself can be characterised as a natural transport route in its own right, and the presence of a navigable river has to a great extent influenced the development of the area. The river is tidal for 16km upstream of Chepstow and historically was navigable as far as Hereford, and therefore the length of the Historic Landscape. It was in fact the main communication corridor for the Lower Wye Valley until the construction of the turnpike road in the 1820s. The river provided a communication route for the transportation of materials to and from the various industrial sites along the faster flowing tributary streams, and was one of the major factors in the location of several industrial centres along its length. Wharves at all of the major industrial sites demonstrate the importance of the river barges supplying the industry, and in the transport of the products, which could be taken down the Wye to Chepstow, from which they could be further distributed. The River Wye made further contributions to the economy of the area, and river barges carried goods along the length of the Lower Wye Valley, enriching local families. The river both fuelled and facilitated the growing tourist trade in the valley in the eighteenth century; as well as becoming an important tourist attraction in itself, the central feature being the scenic gorge. It also provided an important means of transport for visitors and it became popular to proceed down the river by boat, stopping at various points to take in the views and atmosphere; in 1808, eight pleasure boats are recorded as being in operation on the river.
The construction of the Chepstow to Monmouth turnpike road reduced the dependency on the River Wye for transportation, and opened up the valley and villages, which had previously only been accessible by water, or the network of small narrow and often perilously steep country lanes, some of which are considered to have been established to link the monastic granges with their main houses, such as the Stony Way, which linked Tintern to its grange of Porthcasseg. Later, the construction of several railways in the course of the latter half of the nineteenth century had a significant influence on the development of the Lower Wye Valley Landscape. Industrial tramroads, such as the early nineteenth century Monmouth Tramroad, are mentioned above. The earliest of the public railways was the South Wales Railway, a branch of the Great Western Railway, which was opened in 1850, and ran for 143 miles from Chepstow through Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Carmarthen to the west coast of Wales at Fishguard, Pembrokeshire (Barrie 1980).
The Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool line was authorised under an Act of 1853, with a branch serving the gas works at Wyesham. This line ran from Little Mill Junction to Wyesham station, and the section to Monmouth was opened in 1857. The line from Monmouth to Ross-on-Wye, authorised by an Act of 1865, was constructed in the 1860s by the Ross and Monmouth Railway, and subsequently opened in 1873. This line originally terminated at May Hill until an extension to Troy station, south of Monmouth was built in 1874.
The Wye Valley Railway was authorised by an Act of 1866, and the line from Chepstow to Monmouth was opened on 1st November 1876. The now disused line runs on the west bank from Tintern Parva north along the river before crossing the Wye and entering England at Lower Redbrook. Continuing along the east bank, it runs through Upper Redbrook and re-enters Wales before entering Wyesham, from which it emerges following the east and south banks of the river before running north into England. The Wye Valley Railway remained an independent company until 1905 until it was taken over by Great Western Railways. Passenger services on the line finished in 1959, while goods trains continued until the line was completely closed in 1964.
Industrial rail is represented by the tramroads, which were constructed to serve the metal-processing industry at Angidy, and the Monmouth Railway or Tramroad, completed in 1812, which ran from Howler's Slade to Monmouth, with a branch serving the Upper Redbrook Tinplate Works.