Monmouth has its origins in Roman times when a small Roman garrison was stationed here. The settlement was called Blestium and local archaeologists have found various pieces of pottery, coins, and jewellery from that period. Monmouth takes its name from the River Monnow, a tributary of the Wye. The area was managed during the eleventh and twelfth century by French lords and a castle was built with views over the surrounding countryside. A Benedictine priory was also founded. In the thirteenth century a fortified bridge was built at the western end of the town, one of only three such fortified river crossing in Europe. By 1600 Monmouth was a wealthy, bustling town, with potters, tanners, nail makers and cappers boosting the local economy. The famous Monmouth cap was worn with pride at the Battle of Agincourt, which is appropriate as Henry V, the illustrious soldier King, was born at Monmouth Castle in 1387.
As a border town, Monmouth was involved in intermittent border warfare and skirmishes. The population also suffered from periodic flooding of the two rivers, and the ravages of the Black Death; but by about 1450 the street plan of the centre had evolved and is recognisable today.
In 1605 James I gave the town a Charter in the form of letters patent. It was granted in order that the town and borough should "at all perpetual future times.... be and remain a town and borough of Peace and Quiet, to the example and terror of the wicked and reward of the good".
The castle changed hands three times during the Civil War and, following its final capture by the Parliamentarians, most of the fortifications were demolished. Great Castle House, built in 1673 by the third Marquis of Worcester, is now the home of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia), the oldest regiment in the British Army.
The Shire Hall, built in 1724, dominates Agincourt Square in the centre of town, and presides over the present day market, a much smaller version of its medieval precursor. From 1660-1860 Monmouth enjoyed a time of prosperity, with all sorts of entertainment, including plays and horse racing, linked to the times of the local Assizes.
In 1802 Nelson visited the town and gave his approval to the Naval Temple built in his honour on the Kymin. The Rolls family lived just outside the town and Charles Rolls' mother, Lady Llangattock was a great admirer of Nelson. She collected many memorabilia of the famous Admiral, and bequeathed it to the town in 1924, which may be seen at the museum.
John Frost and other leaders of the Chartist rebellion (1839) were tried for treason in the Shire Hall.
In the nineteenth century, thanks to Wordsworth and many other poets and artists, the number of visitors to the Wye Valley greatly increased. Today the rivers, the beautiful countryside and some fine Georgian and Victorian architecture are still here for everyone to enjoy.