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Coordinates: 51°38′31″N 2°40′30″W / 51.6420°N 2.6751°W / 51.6420; -2.6751

Welsh: Cas-gwent
Chepstow Castle and Bridge from Tutshill.jpg
Chepstow Castle and 1816 road bridge across the River Wye, seen from Tutshill
Chepstow is located in Wales2

 Chepstow shown within Wales
Population 14,195 
OS grid reference ST535935
Principal area Monmouthshire
Ceremonial county Gwent
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CHEPSTOW
Postcode district NP16
Dialling code 01291
Police Gwent
Fire South Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament Monmouth
List of places: UK • Wales • Monmouthshire

Chepstow (Welsh: Cas-gwent) is a town in Monmouthshire, Wales, adjoining the border with Gloucestershire, England. It is located on the River Wye, close to its confluence with the River Severn, and close to the western end of the Severn Bridge on the M48 motorway. It is 16 miles east of Newport and 124 miles west of London.

Chepstow is most notable for its castle, the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain, and for Chepstow Racecourse which hosts the Welsh Grand National. The town is on the west bank of the Wye; adjoining villages on the eastern bank of the Wye, Tutshill and Sedbury, are located in England.



Origins of the name

Chepstow sits on the River Wye, about 2 miles upstream of its confluence with the River Severn. The location was named Striguil (or Estrighoiel) in Norman times - from the Welsh word ystraigyl meaning a bend in the river - but by about the 14th century had become known in English as Chepstow, from the old English ceap / chepe stowe meaning market place. The Welsh name for the town, Cas-gwent (being short for Castell Gwent), means "castle of Gwent", the name Gwent itself deriving ultimately from the Roman name Venta applied to what is now called Caerwent, some 5 miles west of Chepstow.

Early settlement

The oldest known site of human habitation around Chepstow is at Thornwell, near the modern motorway junction, where archaeological investigations in advance of recent housing development revealed continuous human occupation from the Mesolithic period of around 5000 BC until the end of the Roman period, about 400 AD. There are also Iron Age fortified camps in the area, at Bulwark[1][2] and Piercefield, dating from the time of the Silures. Later, there was probably a Roman bridge or ford over the Wye at Castleford about 1 mile upstream of the existing town bridge.[3] Chepstow is located at a crossing point directly between the Roman towns at Gloucester (Glevum) and Caerwent (Venta Silurum). Although historians think it likely that there was a small Roman fort in the area, the only evidence found so far has been of Roman material and burials, rather than buildings.[4]

After the Romans left, Chepstow replaced Caerwent as the main port and market town within the southern part of the Kingdom of Gwent. A priory was established during this period, dedicated to St. Cynfarch (alternatively Cynmarch, Kynemark or Kingsmark) a disciple of St. Dyfrig. Few remains have been found of the priory, which was located in the area originally called Llangynfarch, now a suburban housing estate (Kingsmark Lane). It became an Augustinian priory but was eventually superseded by the later Norman priory in the town centre.[4]

The town is close to the southern end of Offa's Dyke, which begins at Sedbury near the east bank of the Wye and runs all the way to the Irish Sea at Prestatyn in north Wales. This was built in the 8th century as a boundary between English and Welsh kingdoms, although recent research suggests that the part near Chepstow may not actually be part of the original Dyke. The Lancaut and Beachley peninsulas, opposite Chepstow, formed part of Gwent rather than Mercia at that time, although the position was reversed by the time of the Domesday Book, in which Striguil is included as part of Gloucestershire.[5]

The Normans

Norman doorway of St Mary's Priory Church

Chepstow Castle is the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain. After the Norman Invasion Chepstow was identified as an ideal site for a castle, not only because it controlled a crossing point on the strategically important River Wye, but also because the steep limestone gorge and castle dell afforded an excellent defensive location. William the Conqueror ordered its construction in 1067, and, according to the Domesday Book, it was supervised by the master castle builder of the time, William fitzOsbern. The speed with which William the Conqueror committed to the creation of a castle at Chepstow is testament to its strategic importance. At the time, the kingdoms in the area were independent of the English crown and the castle in Chepstow provided a way to deter the Welsh from attacking Gloucestershire. From the 14th century, with the end of the wars between England and Wales, the castle's importance declined.

A town grew up beside the castle, the Priory church, and the port, and in 1294 Chepstow was given the right to hold a weekly market and annual fair. It flourished partly because it was exempt from English taxation. The town wall, locally known as the Port Wall, was built about this time, and mostly still stands. Particularly good sections can be seen at the Welsh Street car park, and either side of the A48 road. The Town Gate through the wall at the top end of the High Street was rebuilt in the 16th century and was used as a toll gate.

Chepstow Town Gate, originally dating from the 13th century

The most significant church in Chepstow is the Parish and Priory Church of St Mary, located at the bottom of the town. It, like the castle, is Norman in origin, although much rebuilt and extended in later centuries. St Mary's was the centre of a religious community with a convent and school, the remains of which are buried under the adjoining car park. Benedictine monks from Cormeilles Abbey in Normandy, Chepstow's twin town, were there until the Dissolution of the Monasteries from 1536.

Three miles southwest of Chepstow is St. Pierre, the longtime holding of the Lewis family, who were seated at St. Pierre from medieval times and who were among the largest landowners in Wales.[6][7]


In addition to being a market town, Chepstow was from medieval times the largest port in Wales. Chepstow was still a bustling port of substance when, during the period 1790 to 1795, records show a greater tonnage of goods handled than Swansea, Cardiff & Newport combined. In the medieval period it mainly traded in timber from the Wye Valley and with Bristol, although records show that Chepstow ships sailed as far afield as Iceland and Turkey, as well as to France, Portugal and Ireland. Ships, including many built and launched in Chepstow, clearly sailed the world, and in 1840 leaders of the Chartist insurrection in Newport were transported from Chepstow to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).

Other goods exported from Chepstow over the years included wire made in the many mills on the tributaries of the Wye, leather which was tanned with the bark of the forest's oaks, and paper primarily from Mounton Mill which produced the first high grade security paper used by the Bank of England for the printing of bank notes. An important aspect of Chepstow's trade was entrepôt trade: bringing larger cargoes into the manageable deep water of the Wye on high tide and breaking down the load for on-shipment in the many trows up the Wye to Hereford past the coin stamping mill at Redbrook, or up the Severn to Gloucester and beyond. Chepstow also traded across the estuary to Bristol on suitable tides to work vessels up and down the Avon to that city's centre.

The port function and local shipbuilding trade declined during the 19th century as ship design developed and the cities of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea became more suitable for handling the bulk export of coal and steel from the Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire valleys. Shipbuilding was briefly revived during the First World War when the first prefabricated ships were constructed. Ships like The War Glory & The War Illiad were constructed and launched primarily from the slipways on the Chepstow side, where 10,000 tons was the manageable limit. The last of these ships was recorded as lost at sea in the South Atlantic losing all hands, whilst carrying a cargo of grain in 1956.

The area known as "Garden City" and parts of Bulwark Village were built to house the workers that were brought to Chepstow from 1917 to work in the new National Shipyard No.1. The Bulwark area is now home to about two thirds of the population of Chepstow.

The shipyard developed on the site where the Wye railway bridge had been constructed, and was subsequently taken over by the engineering firm Fairfield Mabey[8], who now specialise in steelwork producing spans for bridges and other structures. One such structure was the lock gate for Avonmouth Docks where during delivery a squall struck the gates and the delivery crew were swept off and lost. In the 19th century the town was also known for the production of clocks, bells, and grindstones.[5] Other local industries have included the material for artificial ski slopes, developed at the "Dendix" brush factory, which in its time was a producer of everything from small specialist brushes to huge industrial brushes.

Chepstow housed the head office of the Red & White bus company (on Bulwark Road). The town also had links with the international snuff trade through Singleton's Snuff.

MVM Films, an anime distributor, is headquartered in Chepstow.[9]


Old Wye bridge

The old cast iron road bridge across the Wye, dating from 1816 and designed by John Rastrick, is an elegant example of engineering from the Regency period. The bridge comprises five cast-iron arches carried on stone piers and has a central span of 112 ft. It succeeded a number of wooden predecessors which had been built on or near the same site since at least 1228, and possibly much earlier. In 1576 the bridge was described as being in great decay, and an Act (the first to make specific reference to Monmouthshire) was passed making Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire responsible for the repair of their respective halves. Neglect continued however, and in 1606 the bridge was said to have fallen down and been carried away. By the beginning of the 18th century the bridge comprised a wooden decking carried by a central stone pier and five piers on either side each formed by a number of timber piles. The Monmouthshire half of the bridge was rebuilt as four stone arches in 1785, but the Gloucestershire half remained timber until 1815 when rebuilding of the whole bridge was begun to the overall plans of John Rennie, as modified by Rastrick [10].

Until the Severn Bridge - now part of the M48 - was opened in 1966, and a new A48 bridge over the Wye in 1988, the old bridge carried all the road traffic between England and South Wales. The Severn Bridge has the second longest span of any bridge in the UK; it replaced the Aust-Beachley ferry.

Chepstow railway station is on the Gloucester to Newport Line. The railway bridge over the Wye was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1852, but the original structure was replaced in the 1960s. Until 1959, passenger trains operated up the Wye Valley Railway to Monmouth - this service ceased owing to heavy financial losses. The line at Chepstow was blocked by a landslide on 12 November 2009, following heavy rain.[11]

The town today

Chepstow High Street, showing festival bunting

Chepstow town centre has over 130 shops within walking distance of 1000 car park spaces. There are 16 hotels, bars and pubs, and 15 restaurants and cafes.[12] Chepstow Community Hospital was opened in 2002 as a PFI-funded hospital and several new housing estates have been developed across the town. Over £2 million has recently been invested in regenerating the town centre. This scheme, which includes new sculptures including a boatman and other public art, encountered some local criticism over its high cost, but has gained several national awards reflecting its high design quality.

The area beside the river has been attractively landscaped as part of a flood defence scheme. The town holds a biennial festival, an annual folk festival, and has also organised major son et lumiere pageants covering aspects of local history, using local residents under professional direction. There is also a local museum, opposite Chepstow Castle entrance.

There are industrial estates at Bulwark and close to the railway station, and a distribution centre on the edge of the town adjoining the junction with the M48 motorway. There has been housing development in recent years, particularly at the Bayfield estate west of the A466.

Chepstow Racecourse is the leading horse racing facility and course in Wales. It is located on the edge of the town, in the grounds of the ruined Piercefield House. Sundays see a large market set up on the racecourse grounds which is attended by vendors from as far afield as Birmingham, London, Kent and beyond. During the course of the year the racecourse hosts hobby and antique fairs.

Chepstow also has many schools, including Chepstow School. J.K. Rowling is an alumna of Wyedean School and Sixth Form Centre in nearby Sedbury. There are also a number of churches in Chepstow, including non-conformist denominations.

Chepstow Town AFC currently play in Division One of the Gwent County League.[13] They last won the league title in 1997. The town also has a rugby football club and an athletic Club for tennis, bowls, cricket and junior football.

Nearby are the Royal Forest of Dean, the Wye Valley, and the National Diving and Activity Centre. Tintern Abbey is about 5 miles distant. Some residents of the town commute to Bristol, Newport, Cardiff and elsewhere.

Chepstow is twinned with Cormeilles, France.

Notable people from Chepstow

See also

References and sources

  • Ivor Waters (1972) The Town of Chepstow
  • Ivor Waters Numerous other books and pamphlets by this local historian
  • Anne Rainsbury (ed.) (1989) Chepstow and the River Wye in old photographs
  • Rick Turner & Andy Johnson (eds.) (2006) Chepstow Castle - its history and buildings

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

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Chepstow Castle and Bridge
Chepstow Castle and Bridge

Chepstow [1] (Cas-gwent) is an ancient market town and former port situated on the River Wye (Afon Gwy) in South Wales a short distance upstream from where the Wye and Severn rivers merge. A Norman castle founded in 1067 stands at the water's edge. A considerable portion of the massive town wall (Port Wall ) remains intact as does the Town Gate which provides access from the west. Until the bypass was built a few years ago, access from the east was limited to John Rennie's cast iron 1816 bridge across the river Wye.

Get in

Chepstow is well served by rail and road: it lies on the railway line from Gloucester to Cardiff; the A466 follows the Wye Valley to Monmouth via Tintern and Llandogo; the 1966 Severn Bridge and M4 motorway provides easy access to London and elsewhere. Regrettably, a toll of £5.40 has to be paid for cars when travelling from east to west (into Wales). It costs nothing to travel to England. The same charges apply on the Second Severn Crossing, a newer road bridge downstream of the original 1966 bridge. The airports of Bristol [2] and Cardiff [3] are not too far away

  • The Priory Church of St Mary, was founded in 1071. Benedictine monks from Cormeilles in Normandy (Chepstow's twin town) were there until the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1540. Today it serves as Chepstow's parish church.
  • Chepstow Racecourse [4] is in the grounds of the ruined Piercefield House.
  • Chepstow Castle [5] is open every day except 24/25/26 Dec and 1 Jan. Mon-Sat 09:30-16:00, Sun 11:00-16:00. There is a charge to enter: £3 adults, £2.50 concession to over 60, children, and student with student card, £8.50 family (2 adults 3 children).
  • Chepstow Museum [6] (free) is opposite the Castle car park.
  • The Severn Princess restoration project : [7]. One of the Beachley/Aust ferry boats, which ran before the Severn Bridge was opened in 1966, has been rescued from Ireland and is being restored.


Chepstow has long served as the gateway for the scenic Lower Wye Valley and two long distance walks are accessible from Chepstow: the Offa's Dyke Path [8] and the Wye Valley Walk [9].

If you find yourself at a loose end having viewed the Museum and the Castle at the lower end of Chepstow, there are a few suggestions for a pleasant stroll up to the Town Gate:

  • standing in the car park facing the castle, notice a path to the left going up the hill. This leads to The Dell , a green oasis that gets overlooked by some. There are different views of the surprisingly long castle wall. You can even scramble up close to the wall and walk along until you get to the Barbican end of the castle. Approaching the top of The Dell you have an option of climbing some grassy steps and entering the main car park via the "hole in the wall", an ancient stone doorway in the Town Wall, and then finding your way into the upper town via various alternative exits at the far side. The other option is to exit the iron gate at the top of The Dell and turn left to reach the outside of the Town Gate at the traffic lights.
  • the middle option involves starting from the Museum, and strolling up Bridge Street past a row of bow-windows on the right, past the Powis Almshouses (1716 - see if you can read the tablet high up on the wall), past The Five Alls public house (check the inn sign ), up cobbled Hocker Hill Street (some say Hawker Hill), past St Maur where Horatio Nelson stayed in 1802, according to the plaque on the wall. You can now walk straight ahead to the Town Gate or veer left up the High Street.
  • the third option, starting from the Museum, is to head towards the river, passing Afon Gwy, a place to eat and sleep, on the left. Take a stroll over the 1816 iron bridge (not that much newer than the world's oldest (1781) at Ironbridge, a 100 miles or so to the north). You have to take a photograph of the castle from the bridge (why be different?). It's more photogenic when the tide is in, the water is reflecting, and the sun shining but never mind, with the tide out, and the mud on show, the castle looks more impregnable. The rise and fall of the tide, at 12m, is the second highest in the world. Come back off the bridge to the Bridge Inn and walk along the river bank, which is less pleasant since the flood defences were built in 2001, obscuring the view and re-arranging the seats (they used to line the river bank facing the river). Spot the wall plaque recording the fact that the leaders of the Chartist Insurrection were transported from the Port of Chepstow to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on the 3 February 1840. Just before you reach the Boat Inn, turn right and make your way up Lower Church Street, through the iron-railinged path across the graveyard of St Mary's Church, across to Upper Church Street from where, opposite the Montague Almshouses (1615), you can amble up the pedestrianized St Mary Street and the High Street to the Town Gate.

If you support charity shops, Chepstow has about five (it does sometimes vary), watch out for them. St Mary Street has some shops which deal in antiques and objects which one day might be antiques. Every three weeks or so, on a Saturday morning, there is a Farmers' Market in the Place de Cormeilles, adjacent to the Town Gate. Every Sunday morning there is a market at the racecourse which can attract large crowds.

  • A few miles upstream from Chepstow, on the river Wye, are the ruins of the Cistercian Tintern Abbey, founded in 1131. While the UK cycycling group Sustrans [10] have proposed an off-road cycling route along the former railway to Monmouth this has been rejected again recently due to local opposition, and consequently the re-instatement of the railway is currently equally likely (i.e. not very).
  • The first part of the Wye Valley Walk [11], which starts at the bottom of The Dell, by the Castle will take you to Tintern. The Offa's Dyke Path [12] will also get you there. Cross the 1816 Bridge over the Wye and follow the steep path up the hill on the other side. You really need walking boots because there are usually some muddy sections. Allow about 3-4 hours for either way. Go one way and come back the other is a good day out, lunching in Tintern.
  • Go climbing at Woodcroft, a couple of miles out of Chepstow, on the Gloucestershire side of the Wye. Wintour's Leap [13] is a limestone cliff popular with climbers and considered "the gem of the Wye Valley".
  • The National Diving & Activity Centre [14] is at Tidenham, a couple of miles away along the road to Gloucester (A48). Site open Wed - Fri: 9:30AM - 5PM 1st dive 10AM, out of water by 4:00PM. Friday/Saturday/Sunday & bank holidays: 8AM - 5PM, Out of water by 4PM. Tel: 01291 630850, e-mail:
  • Visit the Dean Forest Railway [15] which is based at the Norchard Steam Centre, on the B4234 Forest Road between Lydney and Whitecroft, about 9 miles from Chepstow. Entrance is free on non-passenger train days. An example of steam train fares is Adult: £6.50, Senior: £5.50, Child aged 5 to 16: £4.50, child under 5 is free, for all day, travel as many times as you like. But see the web site for alternatives: [16].
  • A map of the area (available from most good bookshops and tourist information centres in Chepstow) will allow you to plan your own walks - although beware that several footpaths marked do not exist or will not be in a suitable state. Nonetheless, this can allow some excellent views of the landscape without going far from Chepstow. Check that the map does mark footpaths clearly before buying however, as many don't.


There is a fish and chip shop just outside the Town Gate (The Arch), in Albion Square, and a Chinese takeaway a little further up Moor Street, on the right; there is another sandwiched between the main car park and Bank Street, where you can also sit down. There is an Indian Restaurant at the top of Hocker Hill Street. There are quite a few pubs serving food as well as tea-rooms. Chepstow even has a local department store, Herbert Lewis, in the High Street, which has a coffee shop. Late in 2004, a Greek Meze Bar opened in Welsh Street.

The Coach and Horses Inn on Welsh Street serves proper good-quality home cooking with a specials menu that changes daily

  • George Hotel, [17] is just outside the Town Gate, in Moor Street. Tel: 01291 625363
  • Chepstow Hotel, [18] is about half a mile up the hill from the Town Gate, on the Newport Road. Tel: 01291 626261
  • Beaufort Hotel, [19] is in the town centre at the top end of St Mary Street. Tel: 01291 622497
  • Castle View Hotel, [20] is opposite the Castle (as you would expect). Tel: 01291 620349
  • B&B accommodation can be booked through the Chepstow Tourist Information Centre, Bridge Street (opp. Castle), Tel: 01291 623772.
  • The First Hurdle Guest House, [21]. Comfortable B&B in central Chepstow location.
  • Coach and Horses Inn, Welsh Street, 01291-622626. A popular B&B which specialises in real ales and cracking proper home-cooking.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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Simple English

Welsh - Cas-gwent

Population 14,195
OS grid reference ST535935
Principal area Monmouthshire
Ceremonial county Gwent
Constituent country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CHEPSTOW
Postcode district NP16
Dialling code 01291
Police Gwent
Fire South Wales
Ambulance Welsh
UK Parliament Monmouth
European Parliament Wales
List of places: UK • Wales • Monmouthshire
Coordinates: 51°38′31″N 2°40′30″W / 51.642°N 2.6751°W / 51.642; -2.6751

Chepstow (Welsh: Cas-gwent) is a town in Monmouthshire, Wales. It is next to the border with England. It is built beside the River Wye, close to where it joins with the River Severn. It is near the western end of the Severn Bridge on the M48 motorway. It is 16 mi (26 km) east of Newport and 124 mi (200 km) west of London.

Chepstow is famous for its castle, the oldest stone castle still standing in Britain, and for Chepstow Racecourse which is home to the Welsh Grand National. The town is on the west bank of the Wye; villages on the east bank of the Wye, Tutshill and Sedbury, are in England.

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