What to see in Monmouth
Built in the thirteenth century to replace an earlier wooden crossing, the bridge is situated over the River Monnow at the west end of Monnow Street, this stone gatehouse is the only complete example of its kind in Britain. The original building had a portcullis and parapet, which became an attic floor when it was temporarily converted into a house in the eighteenth century.
The Castle and Great Castle House
Little remains of Monmouth Castle, the birthplace of HENRY V. It dates from soon after the Norman invasion of 1066 and was part of a chain of might stone castles in the area, used as based for controlling the local people and for further conquests westwards. In Shakespeare's account of HENRY V, the King has a conversation on the eve of the battle of Agincourt with a Welsh soldier, Fluellen, in which Henry talks of the Wye and his own Welshness. The town is proud of their connections with Henry, despite the fact that he left as a small baby. There is detailed information on Henry in the Regimental Museum (see below).
The House was built in 1673 by the Marquis of Worcester, using some of the stone from the ruined Castle. Today it is the home of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) and houses the Regimental Museum.
The Regiment's origins go back to 1539 - just after Monmouth was made a County Town - and it became a Militia Regiment, based in the county. In 1877, seeking a more active role, it transferred into the Royal Engineers Special Reserve and, as the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers, served in the Boer War, the two World Wars, and recently in Iraq. It is the only survivor of the Militia system - and is the Senior Regiment of the Reserve Army.
The Shire Hall
Located in Agincourt Square, in was built in 1724 on the site of the Elizabethan market hall at a cost of £1,700. It housed two courts and a room for the Grand Jury at Assizes and Sessions. Perhaps its most famous moment was the trial of John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones, the Chartist leaders in 1840. Although initially condemned to death, the sentences were commuted to transportation. Sixteen years later Frost was granted a pardon and returned to England, to die in Bristol at the ripe old age of 97.
There are statues of Henry V (in an alcove on the front of the building) and CHARLES ROLLS (co-founder of Rolls Royce) is portrayed admiring an early aeroplane design in front of the arches. The Rolls family estate is just outside Monmouth on the old Abergavenny road. With the advantages of wealth, Charles developed an early interest in cycling, engineering, ballooning and motoring. This led to the formation of the Rolls-Royce Company and the development of the most prestigious motor cars in the world. He can claim to be the first man to make a non-stop double crossing of the English Channel by aeroplane, but his love of flying resulted in his death in a flying accident at Bournemouth in 1910.
Today the Shire Hall still houses the Magistrates Court, together with the Town Council Offices and the Tourist Information Centre. A market is held under the arches on Fridays and Saturdays and there are occasional craft markets during the year, with a farmers market on the second Wednesday of each month.
Signposted off the road to the Forest of Dean (be careful of the sharp right hand bend), a drive up to the top of the Kymin is rewarded by a breathtaking view of the town, the Forest of Dean, Herefordshire, and the Black Mountains. The Round House was built in 1794 by 'the gentlemen of Monmouth', who would drive up the hill to play bowls on the green. This is now owned by The National Trust as is the Naval Temple nearby, commemorating sixteen admirals whose distinguished themselves in sea battles in the eighteenth century.
St Mary's Parish Church
St Mary's was built on the site of the original Benedictine priory church. Extensively rebuilt in 1737, with only the original tower and redesigned spire retained, it was considered to be too small by nineteenth century standards and underwent major renovations in 1881. It has some fine William Kemp stained glass windows and a collection of recently restored medieval tiles are on display.
An interesting tombstone in the churchyard bears an acrostic commemoration 'Here lies John Rennie', which, starting at the central 'H' can be read in any direction. Located on part of the adjacent Priory buildings, is the GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH window. This beautiful oriel window, although built three centuries after his death, commemorates the life of the medieval historian. He was possibly educated by the Benedictine Order in the town, and continued his studies at Oxford which resulted in his compilation of a History of the British Kings, which refers to the coming of Christianity, the departure of the Romans and the chivalry of the Court of King Arthur. Its contribution to European literature was immense, assisting Shakespeare with at least two of his plays (Cymbaline and King Lear) and greatly influencing and enriching the work of subsequent historians.
The Nelson Museum
The museum, which shares a building with the Post Office, has a permanent collection of Nelson memorabilia as well as a variety of exhibitions during the year.
Currently being renovated as a community centre, the house was built in 1671 and restored in 1867.
St Thomas's Church
Dedicated to Thomas A Beckett and located next to the Monnow bridge, it is distinguished by its Norman chancel arch, part of the original chapel. Originally located outside the town walls, the church has undergone many sympathetic changes. The stump of the cross was moved into the centre of the road in 1888 and completely rebuilt at a later date.
St Mary's Roman Catholic Church
Situated in St Mary Street, the original church was built in 1793 but it was extensively rebuilt between 1861-1871. The architect was Benjamin Bucknall.
St Peter's Dixton
Situated on the banks of the Wye, just north of the town, this attractive whitewashed building which is in the county of Monmouthshire, is part of the Diocese of Hereford. The original church was destroyed and it was rebuilt shortly after the Conquest. The herring-bone masonry in the north wall of the nave may date from that time. The Church is frequently subject to flooding and plates near the chancel arch record the height of the last three floods.
The Baptist church
Located close to the parish church, the Memorial Stone was laid in 1906 and the architect and builder were both local.
The Methodist Church
Situated in St James Street, it was designed by G.V. Maddox in 1837.