Page images
PDF
EPUB

something more than the mere scenery which he surveys. In the present instance, he has also been peculiarly fortunate in associating the abilities of Sir Rithard Ho.re as an amateur artist, with his own talents as an historian and an antiquary. hinna Though not precisely denominated a history of Monmouths shire, the work bears considerable relation to the production of Mr. David Williams*, intitled a · History of that county, of which we gave an account in our xxth vol. N.S. It embraces similar objects, and in like manner still leaves us not thoroughly informed on several of those points of scientific inquiry (such as mineralogy, agriculture, natural history, mechanics, &c.) which, in that article, we enumerated as parts necessary to form a complete county history: but the mode of detail, here adopted by Mr. Coxe, possesses some eminent advantages over that which is too commonly pursued by the provincial historian. We follow the narrator with more of that pleasure and with little of that weariness which are generally produced by those petserering writers. He selects from the mass of antiquity all that is worth remembering, instead of incumbering us with the copies of every sepulchral and grave-stone-inscription; and lie invites us in an agreeable manner to reflect on. the incessant vicissitudes of the present world. To the inhabitants of Monmouthshire, in particular, the volumes are highly flattering since so much labour and expence have rarely been employed in describing a tour through so small a district.

Mr. Coxe informs us (p. 156.) that it was at Lansanfraedhouse, the delightful residence of Mr. Greene, (representative in Parliament for Arundel,) that he first conceived the plan of writing this work, and that through this gentleman's introduce tioii he became acquainted with the principal residents and meri of letters in ihe county, and obtained access to various documents and interesting papers. The most powerful sti. mulus, however, seems to have been the singular beauty of the prevailing landscape, and the activity as well as the taste of his companion in using his penicil.--He thus expresses himself in the beginning of the preface : ... The present work owes its origin to an accidental excursion into Monmouthshire, in company with my friend Sir Richard Hoare, during the autumn of 1798. I was delighted with the beauties of the scenery ; I was struck with the picturesque ruins of ancient castles meinorable in the annals of history, and I was animated with the view of mansiots distinguished by the residence of illustrious pers sơns ; objects which the sketches of my friend's pencil rendered more impressive.

* Mr. W. also was associated with a Gentleman of considerable abilities as an artist, the Rev. Mr. Gardnot.

• On my return I examined my notes, perused the principal books relating to Monmouthshire, and convinced that so interesting a county deserved particular notice, formed the plan of a tour, which should combine history and description, and illustrate both with the efforts of the pencil. "Şir Richard Hoare strongly encouraged me in my undertaking, offered to accompany me again into Monmouth. shire, and to supply me with additional views.

• Accordingly, in the spring of 1799, I explored the county in various directions, and received assistance from many gentlemen and men of letters; but as the materials were still defective, and as want of time and unfavourable weather prevented me from visiting the sequestered and mountainous districts, I made a third excursion in the autumn of the same year.

• In the course of these three journies I employed five months, and traversed 1500 miles, and now present to the public the result of my observations and researches.

In this work the reader muet not expect to find a regular history. of Monmouthshire, but a description of the principal places, inter. mixed with historical relations and biographical anecdotes, and ema bellished with the most striking views, for which I am principally indebted to my friend Sir Richard Hoare, whose persevering zeal and activity claim my warmest gratitude.'

On the score of gratitude, the gentlemen of the county must be perfectly satisfied with Mr. Coxe; who has particularly enumerated his various obligations, as well for hospitable reception as for literary assistance *.

To the tour is presixed an introduction, giving a general aca count of Monmouthshire, its boundaries, rivers, hundreds, population, languages, situation in the Roman, British, Saxon, and Norman periods, and its reduction to an English county : of Roman stations and roads; of the course of the Julia strata from Bath to the confines of Glamorganshire; and of antient encampments, castles, and churches. We cannct particularly notice the curious discussions which these prelimi. nary sections include: but we shall observe that, though Mr. Coxe admits that the square or parallelogramical form (independently of Roman roads and antiquities) is the only indubitable mark of a real Roman encampment; yet, as there are several such vestiges in England, of other figures, which are unani. mously allowed to be Roman, he inclines to the opinion that a Roman origin may be ascribed to more of those antient encampments, of which the plans are given in the course of his tour, than merely those which are of the rectangular shape. He does not, however, speak decisively on this head; nor does he undertake to discriminate the specific characteristics of British, Saxon, and Danish encampments.

* In the Appendix, also, we have a list of the books consulted in the course of compilation,

I 2

On

On the architecture of the county of Monmouth, this in. troduction also contains some pertinent remarks. After having described the different kinds of Gothic architecture, and the

whimsical intermixture of Roman, Saxon, Norman, and Go. · thic, which was introduced towards the middle of the sixteenth century, the author thus proceeds ?

Most of these styles are observable in the castles, churches, and other ancient buildings of Monmouthshire. Few Roman remains exist, and the Saxons being neter possensors of the whole county, could leave but few specimens of their architecture, and those of a period when it is difficult to distinguish it from that of the carly Normans; but the gothic is most prevalent. From these cireumstances, as well as from historical evidence, it is probable that the greater part of the castles in this county owed their origin to the Normans, and were built or repaired after the introduction of gothic architecture : none, perhaps, except Scenfreth, are wholly Saxon or early Norman ; a few exhibit an intermixture of the Norman and gothic; and the rest are entirely gothic.

• The churches are singularly picturesque, from their situation, form and appearance, they stand in the midst of the fields, and on the banks of the rivers ; are often embowered in trees, and generally at a considerable distance from any habitation. .A whimsical and not unpleasing effect is sometimes produced by the coat of plaister or lime with which they are covered. The body of the church is usually whitened, occasionally, also the tower; in some instances the tower is uncoloured, and in others the battlements only are white-washed. This intermixture of colours is in. geniously accounted for by Essex in his remarks on ancient brick and stone buildings in England ; “ The Normans frequently raised largebuildings with pebbles only, and sometimes with pebbles intermixt with rag-stones. As this rough manner of building with rag.stones and other irregular materials, required a coat of plaistering to make them fair without and neat within, we find that those, small churches and other buildings which were built in this manner, were always plaistered in the inside, and frequently on the outside, with a composition of lime and sand, the remains of which may be traced in many of the Saxon and Norman churches, and in some more modern."

These churches exhibit different styles of architecture ; many of them, particularly in the mountainous districts, are very ancient, and it is probable that a few were constructed by the Britons, some by the Saxons, and several at an early period of the Norman monarchy, as is evident from the rounded arches and mouldings peculiar to those styles ; but the far greater part were built since the introduction of gothic architecture. °. The first are generally of a simple form, of small dimensions, shaped like a barn, without any distinction in the breadth or height between the nave and the chancel, and without a belfry.

The second species is of somewhat later date : the chancel is parrower and less lofty than the church ; a small þelfry is also placed over

the

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

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

• Many of the churches have undergone little change since the æra of the Reformation, and exhibit traces of the Roman Catholic worship, particularly in the niches for saints, the receptacles for holy water, and sometimes in the vestiges of the confessional chair.' . The population of Monmouthshire is stated to consist of 48,000 persons.

Mr. Coxe begins his tour by crossing the Severn from Gloces: tershire, at the new Passage ; and the first place which he visits, on landing in Monmouthshire, is St. Pierre, the seat of the respectable family of Lewis. Here he mentions a portrait of Harry Marten, the regicide, which had been mistaken for that of a Thomas Lewis, in the reign of Charles I. ; and of which, with further particulars and anecdotes of Marten, a plate is exhibited in vol. ii. His reasons for assigning the picture to Harry Marten appear to be conclusive. The Episcopal Palace of Mathern, the antient residence of the Bishops of Landaff, is next visited, described, and its present appearance delineated. 'Bending to the west, the traveller then proceeds 10. Sudbrook encampment, which is conjectured to have been a maritime fortress belonging to the Romans; to the village of Portscwit, and to Caldecot-castle, Caerwent, the Venta Silurum of Antoninus ;-to the castles of Penhow, Pencoed, Lanvair, and Striguil ;-to Bertholly-house ;--and to the Pen. camawr, the prospect from which is thus described: - 1

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

I 3

Regaining

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

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

« There is a striking peculiarity in the situation of the ancient Roman fortress, which has hitherto escaped the notice of travellers, and would have escaped mine, had not Mr. Evans pointed it out to . me. Caerleon appears on a superficial view to occupy a fat posie tion, but in fact, that portion of the present town, which is inclosed by the Roman walls, is placed on a gentle rise, connected at one extremity with the lower part of the eminence, on which the encampment of the Lodge is situated. This rise shelves on the west and south sides towards the Usk, and on the cast towards the Avon Lwyd, and seems to have formed a tongue of land, which before the draining of the meadows, was probably a kind of penin. sula. Hence the fortress, from its position on a rise between two rivers, and almost surrounded with marshly ground, was a place of considerable strength, and well calculated to become the primary station of the Romans in Britannia Secunda.

The æra in which the Roman fortress was built, cannot be ascertained with precision ; conjectures may be formed, and Horsley, whose opinion deserves great weight, supposes that the Romans first settled here in the reign of Antoninus Pius. It is mentioned in Antonine's Itinerary; and the numerous coins of the early emperors, which have been here discovered, seem to confirm this opi. nion. The walls however appear to have been constructed under the lower empire. : • According to Richard of Cirencester, Caerleon was a Roman colony, and the primary station in the country of the Silures ; cir. cumstances which sufficiently account for its extent and magnificence.

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

and

« PreviousContinue »