Chepstow & District Yacht Club History
The Chepstow and District Yacht Club initially sailed from the ‘Slime Road’, to the north of Beachley, in the late 1940s, before moving to St. Pierre Pill.
St Pierre Pill is one of several inlets that since Roman times have had considerable influence on the development of the southern part of Gwent.
The inlet was originally known as Porthiscoed (“harbour below the woods”), which, as Portskewett, later became the name of a nearby village.
The word pill is Celtic for creek or harbour and the Meurig, or Mounton brook, the stream running into pill was once quite substantial.
This area has a long history of cross-estuary communication.
St. Pierre Pill in particular has very important documentary associations. It is recorded as a post-Roman landing place and is associated with St. Teudrig who is reputed to be buried at St Tewdrics Church in Marthern village.
Originally the Pill was larger and much more important than now, and met an ancient ridgeway which passed through Shirenewton towards Monmouth.
As recently as 1860 it was navigable by 70-ton barges.
The three large houses Moynes Court, St. Pierre, and the Bishop’s Palace at Mathern were probably sited close by because of the proximity to the harbour at St. Pierre Pill.
And the position of the old Customs House is evidence of how far inland the Pill once stretched.
It is uncertain whether the name St Pierre came from a Welsh family name, ‘Pŷr’ or is of Norman origin after the French saint.
St Pierre Pill is on the Gwent Levels, which stretch form Cardiff in the west to Chepstow and the River Wye in the east.
The Gwent Levels
These Levels or areas of alluvial wetlands and inter-tidal mudflats represent the largest and most significant example in Wales of a ‘hand-crafted’ landscape, having been recurrently inundated and reclaimed from the sea from the Roman period onwards (see below).
The levels are still today criss-crossed by numerous old drainage channels, known locally as ‘reens’ and the sea wall, a simple low earthen bank is still a feature at the back of the Pill.
St Pierre Pill has been in recent times much altered by being bisected by the embanked railway line, which resulted in the stream being diverted.
The potential for archaeological evidence belonging to these earlier landscapes could be seen recently at the bottom of the Pill.
A slight alteration in the direction of the stream bed has unearthed what appear to be pre-Roman car tyres and a Bronze Age fridge door ;-)
However, this early photograph shows the original pontoon, which was made from the ‘lily pads’ originally intended to be used as a pontoon bridge across the Severn.
And just look at those lovely wooden boats, evidence of a more gracious pre-plastic age.