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Caerleon Information - Caerleon Town History
Caerleon Town History
Caerleon ( /kərˈliːən/; Welsh: Caerllion) is a suburban village and community, situated on the River Usk, in the northern outskirts of the city of Newport, South Wales.
The name Caerleon is derived from the Welsh for "fortress of the legion"; the Romans themselves called it Isca which itself comes from the Welsh name for the river
Caerleon is a site of considerable archaeological importance, being the location of a Roman legionary fortress or Castra (it was the headquarters for Legio II Augusta from about 75 to 300 AD) and an Iron Age hill fort.
The Wales National Roman Legion Museum and Roman Baths Museum are in Caerleon close to the remains of Isca Augusta.
Caerleon also has strong literary associations, as Geoffrey of Monmouth makes Caerleon one of the most important cities in Britain in his Historia Regum Britannia, and Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote Idylls of the King while staying in Caerleon.
The Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, after the Romans had left Britain, Caerleon or nearby Venta Silurum (now Caerwent) was the administrative centre of the Kingdom of Gwent. The parish church of St Cadoc was founded on the site of the legionary headquarters building probably sometime in the 6th century.
A Norman-style motte and bailey castle was built outside the eastern corner of the old Roman fort, probably by the Welsh Lord of Caerleon, Caradog ap Gruffydd. It was held in 1086 by Turstin FitzRolf, standard bearer to William the Conqueror at Hastings. From the apparent banishment of Turstin by William II, it was held from 1088 by Wynebald de Ballon, brother of Hamelin de Ballon who held Abergavenny further up the Usk. Battles raged between the Welsh and Normans and in 1171 Iorwerth ab Owain and his two sons destroyed the town of Caerleon and burned the Castle.
Caerleon was an important market and port and presumably became a borough by 1171, although no independent charters exist. Both castle and borough were seized by William Marshal in 1217 and Caerleon castle was rebuilt in stone. The remains of many of the old Roman buildings stood to some height until this time and were probably demolished for their building materials.
The Welsh Revolt
During the Welsh Revolt in 1402 Rhys Gethin, General for Owain Glyndŵr, took Caerleon Castle together with those of Newport, Cardiff, Llandaff, Abergavenny, Caerphilly and Usk by force. This was probably the last time Caerleon castle was ruined, though the walls were still standing in 1537 and the castle ruins only finally collapsed in 1739 - their most obvious remnant is the Round Tower at the Hanbury Arms public house.
English Civil War
Across the Afon Llwyd from Caerleon, in the region of Penrhos Farm, are two English Civil War forts. In 1648 Oliver Cromwell's troops camped overnight on Christchurch Hill, overlooking Newport, before their attack on Newport Castle the next day.
The Modern Period
The old wooden Caerleon Bridge was destroyed in a storm in 1779 and the present stone version was erected in the early 19th century. Until the Victorian development of the downstream docks at Newport Docks, Caerleon acted as the major port on the River Usk. The wharf was located on the right bank, to the west of today's river bridge which marked the limit of navigability for masted ships. A tinplate works was established on the outskirts of the town around this time and Caerleon expanded to become almost joined to Newport.
The name of the Drovers' Arms on Goldcroft Common bears witness to the ancient drovers' road on the old road from Malpas. It is thought that the common itself was once the site of a cattle market
Caerlon As it is today...
Caerleon is centred around a small common. Goldcroft Common is the only remaining of the seven commons of Caerleon. Most of the small businesses of Caerleon are near the common as is the Tourist Information Office and Town Hall which has a World War I and World War II memorial garden. The intersection of High Street and Cross Street is known as The Square.
Buildings of note are Saint Cadoc's Church, the National Roman Legion Museum, the Roman Baths Museum, The Mynde, The Priory Hotel, Caerleon Catholic Church and Rectory, Caerleon Endowed School, the Round Tower, the Toll House at Caerleon Bridge, The Malt House hotel, University of Wales, Newport Caerleon Campus and St Cadoc's Hospital. The historic remains of the Roman Legionary Fortress Isca Augusta is popular with tourists and school parties and there is a marked heritage trail in the village. The Millennium Wildlife Garden is a small nature garden on the banks of the River Usk. The hilltop vantage point at Christchurch provides panoramic views of the Vale of Usk and Bristol Channel.
The municipal playing fields are at Caerleon Broadway and a good quality children's playground is in Cold Bath Road. Private sport and leisure facilities are available at the Celtic Manor and the University of Wales, Newport Caerleon Campus. Caerleon library is located in the grounds of Caerleon Comprehensive School. Caerleon has a few restaurants, cafés and take-away food outlets and many public houses that have restaurant facilities. The Ffwrrwm is a small specialist shopping courtyard with an eclectic display of sculpture. Caerleon also has its own station of Gwent Police and an active community policing presence