17 April 2017

Caerleon: an alternative view

Caerleon may well have the best Roman ruins in Wales but that’s not all it has to offer. Here’s a small selection of the other local attractions that caught my eye.

First up, the lovely historic Church of St Cadoc that sits in the heart of the town, typically plonked by the early Christians right on top of important Roman ruins. Small parts of the church’s interior date from the 12th century – we weren’t able to see inside as the church was in use when we visited – and the 16th century tower is extant but most of the building was reconstructed in the 19th century. I particularly liked this ornate old lamp stand near the front door and the hinges on the old wooden side door.

The post and pillar boxes – always a favourite of mine – were a real mixed bag. Standing just outside the church yard was the finest Victorian pillar box I’ve ever seen, of such elegant design and very well maintained. Further down the main street, outside the small post office was a nice pillar box from the reign of George VI. But then, tucked away in a small side alley, was the saddest Victorian wall box I’ve ever seen, with paint peeling off it and partially obscured by scaffolding. The sign says it dates from c.1880 and had been ‘recovered from an old smithy in Llandeilo’. Such a shame it hasn’t been looked after.

Easily missed, on a side wall of a building in the main street, we discovered this intriguing sign. I’ll just copy here what’s written on it:
The Mynde Wall
Chartist Uprising
In the last quarter of the 21st century we have taken the Right to Vote for granted. This was not always so, and in 1839 after the failure of petitioning the Government of the day, the men of Britain and South Wales sought to change the system through marches and demonstration – this was known as The Chartist Uprising. John Jenkins the owner of Mynde House and Master of the Ponthir Tin Plate Works, concerned for his property, constructed the Mynde Wall in order to keep marauding demonstrators out. The wall in front of you is what remains of his efforts.

Down by the river side ... Caerleon sits on the western shores of the River Usk, a tidal river hence the colour of the water and those high muddy banks. The narrow old stone bridge you can see in the photo was built in the early 19th century. Though we couldn’t see any signs of it, a Roman harbour was discovered here during excavations in August 2011, and Caerleon continued to be a major river port until docks were built in Newport during the Victorian era.

Also down by the river side we found an interesting old stone tower, but there was nothing to explain its history. Turns out this may be all that remains of Caerleon Castle, which was built around 1219, though the British Listed Buildings website also mentions the possibility of it being a chain tower for controlling access to the upper river. I liked the silver knight standing guard on top.

Next, a couple of random bits of sculpture. Caerleon has some lovely old buildings, with beautiful pieces of architectural adornment like this carving of a head. And, down another side alley, where we found a cafe for tea and cake, there was also a sculpture garden full of bizarre artworks, large and small. It was very cluttered so I didn’t take many photos but I did rather like this bull’s head attached to one wall.

And lastly, to finish off this alternative look at Caerleon, I just had to include this shop sign because, well, I’m Annie and this blog is definitely one of the Vintage Annie variety!