Grosmont 1589-1812

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GROSMONT is an ancient borough, once governed by a mayor and corporation. It takes its name from the situation of the castle on a mount high above the river Monnow, commanding an outlook over an extensive range of country. It has no distinctive Welsh name, but in Welsh pedigrees and poetry appears as Grismond and Grismwnt. By this it would seem that as a place of defence it was not used by the early Welsh, and owes its origin to the Norman conquest. This is to some degree borne out by the dedication of the church to St. Nicholas, and not to a Welsh saint.

Gwaethfoed is said to have been the native lord of Grosmont when Hamelyn, who died in 1090, the conqueror of Gwent Uwchcoed, subdued this district and possessed himself of the four castles of Monmouth, Grosmont, Skenfrith and Whitecastle. It is considered that the castle of Grosmont was built or re-built on the lines indicated by the existing ruins by Hubert de Burgh, earl of Kent, in the early part of the reign of king Henry III. (1216). The family of de Braose, lords of Abergavenny, followed Hamelyn as lords of Grosmont, Skenfrith and Whitecastle, till in 1219 Hubert de Burgh above mentioned recovered Grosmont in a from Regìnald de Braose. Hubert de Burgh in 1233 joined Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, prince of North Wa1es, and Richard Marshall, earl of Pembroke, in which year they engaged the king’s army near Grosmont, when the king was defeated with the loss of 500 horse and all his baggage, and compelled to retreat to Gloucester. The spot where this battle took place is still called Kingsfield. In 1240 Hubert de Burgh made peace and surrendered the three castles to king Henry, who in 1267 gave them to his younger son Edmund Crouchback, earl of Lancaster, who often resided in Grosmont castle. The earl died in 1296, whose son Henry was father of Henry who was born in Grosmont castle and so had the surname of de Grosmont, in Latin de Grosso Monte. This earl was created in 1350 duke of Lancaster. Blanch, daughter and heir of the duke of Lancaster, marrying John of Gaunt, younger son of king Henry III., took the estates to her husband. John of Gaunt was often at Grosmont. On king Henry IV., son of John of Gaunt, coming to the throne, the lordship of the three castles of Grosmont, Skenfríth and Whitecastle, with much other property formerly belonging to the duke of Lancaster, were formed into a duchy under the name of the duchy of Lancaster, the revenues being the private property of the sovereign. On 11 March 1405 Gwen Glyndwr`s men, to the nurnber of 8000, attacked Grosmont, which was defended by prince Henry, afterwards king Henry V. The English were victorious. The castle soon after was allowed to get into disrepair. Leland, about the year 1538, describes it [Itinerary of John Leland, Hearne’s edition, iv, 90]:-

The Castle of Grossemount standeth a 3 miles above Skenfrith, on the right hand of Mone, secundum decursum ffluvii, half a mile from the ripe. It standeth strongly on a rocke of hill drye ditched and a village of the same name by it. Most part of the castle walls yet stand.

In the year 1825 Grosmont castle, together with Skenfrith and Whitecast1e, were sold by the duchy of Lancaster to Henry, sixth duke of Beaufort. It now belongs to Mrs. Lucas­Scudamore.

The parish comprìses 6790 acres, of which a considerable portion is the Graig mountain, known in Welsh as Graig Saerffrddyn, of which much is woodland. The town is considered to have been at one time larger than it is now, and remains of cottages are to be seen in many places.

Since the year 1801 the population has varied but little, there being in that year 519 persons; in 1871, 742; in 1901, 518; in 1911, 561.

The large amount of woodland accounts for the number of tradesmen mentioned in the registers whose description signifies work in, or connected with, woods, as collier (charcoal burner), hooper (hoop shaver), carver, cooper, sawyer (carpenter), turner, staff-maker, tanner.

The district was also famous for the making of Monmouth caps, and therefore capper is found, and also glover. The house known as the Cap in the adjoining parish of Llangua was formerly an inn with the sign of the Monmouth Cap.