Towards the end of 1850, the Monmouthshire Canal and Railway Company completed the Western Valley Line. On Monday, December 10th, 1850 they ran their first train from Newport to Newbridge. The train was prevented by Act of Parliament from travelling at a speed exceeding 10 mph. A reporter of the ‘Merlin’ in a news article entitled “They Put Out the Flags” writes:- “The Newbridge station wore an exceedingly gay aspect. Flags and banners and other flowery devices were pleasantly arranged around the place. The liberal hostess of the Newbridge Inn, Mrs. Thomas, to celebrate the occasion here handed into the carriage of the officials of the company, two or three bottles of wine. The officials did not forget to drink the good health of the lady.”
The Newbridge Inn
“The scenery around Newbridge is comparable to the lakes of Westmorland. The Newbridge Inn has no architectural peculiarities, but the visitor is assured of comfortable hospitality.” So wrote the Rev.W.Arthur in his book “The Successful Merchant”, published at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The inn (now demolished) was also apparently used as a synagogue during the latter 19th century, and it stood opposite the now called ‘Trecleyn Inn’ near where the old coal yard is today.
It was also to this inn that the mail coach and later, omnibuses stopped.
The mail coach left the King’s Head, Newport at 5.30 each morning, while every Thursday at four o’clock John Thomas Parrot’s coach left Commercial Street, Newport bound for Newbridge.
In spite of the developments in communication, in 1839 when the tithe commissioners carried out a survey of the district, Newbridge was still an unDevelopd rural community.
The document produced by the assistant tithe commissioner, John Jones, gives us a fascinating snapshot of our town at this time. His task was to :-“Ascertain and award the Total Sum to be paid by way of Rent-charge instead of the Tithes of the Parish of Mynyddislwyn, in the County of Monmouthshire”.
How was it conducted? Meetings were held with landowners, and tithe holders of the parish, and all proofs of ownership were considered. Land claim disputes were a major causeof social unrest throughout Wales during these times, the commissioners seemingly making some biased judgements in favour of wealthy gentry. This social unrest in south Wales came to a head in the form of the Rebecca Riots; disturbances that occurred briefly in 1839 and with greater violence from 1842 to 1844 in south-western Wales. The rioting was in protest against charges at the tollgates on the public roads, but the attacks were symptomatic of a much wider disaffection caused by agrarian distress, increased tithe charges, and the Poor Law Amendment Act.
An estimate of all the land in the parish of Mynyddislwyn, and it’s use was made.
I find that the estimated quantity in statute measure of all the Lands of the said Parish which are subject to payment of Tithes amounts to 13,773 acres and 16 perches, that is to say:-
3,208 acres, 2 roods and sixteen perches as Arable Land.
5,830 acres and fourteen perches as Meadow or Pasture.
2,510 acres, 1 rood and 23 perches as Wood Land.222 acres, 1 rood and 20 perches as Brake.
2,001 acres, 2 roods and 23 perches are used as Common Land”.
Tithe Map 1846
Click on image for enlargement
From a copy of the Tithe map of the area, it can be seen that what we know of as Newbridge was indeed focused around the river bridge area. A few cottages near the Newbridge Inn, two cottages near the Blacksmith’s Arms (now the Mason’s Arms), a level, a group of cottages and the blacksmith’s shop at Cwmdows, and a group of cottages around Beulah Chapel.
Plus of course the numerous surrounding farmsteads.
Some land was found to be exempt from tithes:
“All the lands within the Grange of Cydlonydd, (Cillonydd Farm, Mynydd Maen), containing by estimation 150 acres of land cultivated as Meadow or Pasture, and 60 acres as Wood Land, are by prescription or other lawful means absolutely exempt from payment of all Tithes, both great and small. (This is the old grange farm for Llantarnam Abbey in Cwmbran, and recent research suggests it could date back as far as the 10th Century; the site was recently known as the Double D pony treking centre).
“I find that the Bishop of Llandaff, in right of his See, is Appropriator of all the Tithes both great and small arising from all the Lands within the Manor of Machen…together with all the tithes of wood and all the small Tithes arising from all the lands of the said Parish,(except the Lands within the Grange of Cydlonydd)…..which..contain by estimation 2061 acres, one rood and seven perches……and that Sir Charles Morgan, of Tredegar..Baronet..holds a lease of the said tithes under the said Bishop.”
It was also noted:-
“I find that the Reverend Charles Gore is the Impropriator of the Tithes of Corn, Grain and Hay, arising from all the lands within the Manor of Abercarne, (except the Grange of Cydlonydd)…and subject to the…customary payment”. “I find that all the Titheable Lands of the Parish are covered from render of Tithes of Hay in kind by a prescriptive or customary payment of the annual sum of one penny from each and every farm in lieu thereof.”
How did it work?
Each plot of land was assessed and categorised, and an appropriate rent charged. For example, here is the entry for Newbridge Corn Mill. Occupied by Edward Edwards, the landowner was Sir Benjamin Hall.