Caerleon net



When one looks around the Square in Caerleon, at the junction of Cross Street and High Street, it is hard to believe that a market hall once stood there. However, the drawing above shows this building in October 1814 with the Bull Inn to the left of picture and the Priory on the Right. The 200 year old drawing is believed by Roger Cucksey, Newport City Council's Keeper of Art, to have been executed by Thomas Tudor an artist noted for his attention to architectural detail. Below we zoom in on the Market Hall...

The open sided downstairs would have been been let for market stalls selling produce such as corn, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, animal skins, leather and wool. In addition cattle and sheep may have been bought and sold in the square - maybe this is why many of the buildings have railings in front.

The upper floor, accessed by the exterior steps, was most likely a court room and also used for important meetings.

It is not known when the first market hall was built here. The first mention so far found in the records dates back to 1622 when Philip Hughes held land 'near the Cross of Caerleon' for building a 'handsume and convenient market house'. However it is recorded that markets were held in Caerleon as far back as 1296. We even know when the markets were held in 1370 - every Thursday, and two fairs yearly on All Saints Day and the Tuesday after Holy Trinity. (See article by E. Kennerley which includes references)

The Universal British Directory for 1791 stated Caerleon at present is but an indifferent market-town, having a long wooden bridge over the Usk, with a weekly market on Thursday, which is in general well supplied. There is also a small market on Saturday for butchers meat. It has three fairs in the year, viz. May 1, July 21, and September 20; and also a cattle and pig-market the second Monday in every month. Pigot's 1844 directory also refers to Caerleon being a market town and lists the market days.

Around the middle of the 19th Century interest was growing in the many Roman finds made in and around Caerleon. In 1848 Sir Digby Mackworth, owner of the market hall, suggested that the ground floor be closed in and turned into a museum to house these artefacts. The owners of the premises around the square were totally against this proposition and together they raised £80 for the ground where the building stood in order that the area remained 'an open space forever'.

The market hall was demolished and some of the building material was reused for the construction of a museum (on the site of the present Roman Legion Museum) at the end of Bakehouse Lane later renamed Museum Street. Most notable of the recycled stone were the four stout columns, thought to be Roman in origin - or part Roman. They were utilised in the basement to support the ground floor (see pictures below).

The four columns from Caerleon's Market Hall
reused in the construction of the museum in 1850.
Photos courtesy of Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru. National Museum of Wales

When the museum was rebuilt in 1987 these columns were taken apart and stored under tarpaulin in the garden at the rear of the museum. They have since been tansported to the National Museum Collection Centre in Nantgarw for conservation and storage. It is hoped it will not be too long before they return to Caerleon to be used in an imaginitive way to match their age and interesting history.


Article written by Eija Kennerley for the Gwent Local History Journal.

Other Pages of Caerleon Net:

Back to Archive Index

Maps and plans showing the Market Hall.

Article by Bob Trett on the May Fairs.

Articles from Gwent Local History.

Full text relating to Caerleon From Coxe's Monmouthshire.

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Directories of Caerleon.

Original Print of the Museum, 1850.

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