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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the town in Monmouthshire. For the similarly named river which runs through the town, see River Usk. For the hamlet in British Columbia, see Usk, British Columbia. For the German software rating organization, see Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle.

Coordinates: 51°42′13″N 2°54′07″W / 51.7035°N 2.9019°W / 51.7035; -2.9019

Welsh: Brynbuga
General view of Usk
Usk is located in Wales2

 Usk shown within Wales
Population 2,318 
OS grid reference SO375005
Principal area Monmouthshire
Ceremonial county Gwent
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town USK
Postcode district NP15
Dialling code 01291
Police Gwent
Fire South Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament Monmouth
List of places: UK • Wales • Monmouthshire

Usk (Welsh: Brynbuga) is a small town in Monmouthshire, Wales, situated 10 miles northeast of Newport.

Usk is noted for its rural setting, tranquil lifestyle and quality of life. It feels more like a village than a town. The River Usk [1] flows through the town and is spanned by an ancient, arched stone bridge [2] at the western entrance to the town. A castle above the town overlooks the ancient Anglo-Welsh border crossing - the river can usually be crossed on foot in summer even today. Usk won the Large Village award in the 2005 Britain in Bloom awards [3].



The current population is less than 2,500 and the town is known for its pubs, restaurants and antique shops. The narrow main street (the A472), has a collection of old houses, restaurants, pubs, shops and businesses, with some premises dating back to the 15th century. The road passes a large and tranquil town square [4].

"Usk Island" is a park named after the small island in the middle of the river. The park is mostly laid to grass, with surrounding woodland. It also has a substantial adventure playground.

The South Wales Gliding Club is located near Gwernesney, about three miles east of the town. Usk Tennis Club is currently Tennis Wales "Club of the Year".

The town benefits from several high quality hotels including the Rat Trap Hotel, the Glan yr Afon and the Three Salmons, which bring a lot of tourism into the area.


Roman times

Usk was founded about AD 55 as the Roman legionary fortress of Burrium, the earliest legionary fortress in Wales. Although the site was constricted by hills, subject to flooding, and not on a navigable river, it offered good communications inland up the River Usk. However, by around AD 75 its disadvantages had become apparent and the Romans relocated their military base south to Caerleon. The Roman remains at Usk are buried on the southern side of the town.[1]

Norman times

After the fortress was abandoned, it continued to be occupied as a civilian settlement, with evidence of iron working. The Normans also realised Usk's geographical and military importance within the region, and the powerful de Clare family built Usk Castle as part of their plans for controlling the area's resources and people. The castle[2], whilst hidden from view by surrounding trees planted in the early 20th century, is one of the few castles still privately owned and occupied.


A Benedictine priory was founded around 1170, and part of the building is retained in the church of St. Mary. The town was incorporated by charters granted by Edmund de Mortimer, King Edward II, Edward IV, and succeeding monarchs[3]. Its location meant that it was inevitably frequently caught up in the border disputes between the English and the Welsh in this section of the Welsh Marches.

The Welsh Revolt

Usk was the birthplace of Adam of Usk. His chronicle records the 'Welsh Revolt', in 1403, when Owain Glyndŵr burned Usk to the ground while gaining control of South Wales from the English under King Henry IV and his son, later to become King Henry V. The important Battle of Pwll Melyn (Usk) in 1405 occurred when English forces routed their Welsh opponents causing much loss of life, including the execution of three hundred Welshmen in front of Usk castle when taken prisoner. Owain's brother Tudur was killed in this battle. In 2005, the 600th anniversary of the battle of Pwll Melyn was commemorated by a son-et-lumiere show.

Notable people

In 1679 Usk was the site of the martyrdom of St David Lewis, who was hanged for his alleged part in the bogus Popish Plot of Titus Oates.

In 1823 Llanbadoc, just across the river from Usk, was the birthplace of Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of evolution.


From the late 18th century, Usk became well known for the quality of its Japanware, a process of decorating metals by applying a lacquer to tinplate. The process, known as Pontypool japan, was first developed in the west by Thomas Allgood of nearby Pontypool and was taken on in Usk by his grandsons Thomas and Edward Allgood[4].

About 3 miles west of Usk is the 1,000 acre site of the munitions production facility of BAE Systems at Glascoed.

English and Welsh names

Usk was a thriving market town through Victorian times. It takes its English name from the River Usk - a name derived from an ancient Brythonic word for river which may also mean "abounding in fish". The name resembles many others in Britain (e.g. Exe, Esk), and is related to Scottish uisge ("water"), and therefore to "whisky". During the latter 20th century the town was officially allocated the Welsh name Brynbuga, meaning "Buga's hill" and first recorded for the town in the 15th century.[5] The Welsh speaking population locally is very low.


HM Prison Usk is situated close to the centre of the town, being of Victorian 'rotunda' design. The sister establishment of HM Prison Usk is HM Prison Prescoed, which is located 3 miles to the south-west of the town towards Pontypool. HM Prison Usk is a 250-bed establishment that accommodates vulnerable prisoners, but mainly sex offenders.

Twin town

Usk was twinned with the German town Graben-Neudorf in Baden-Württemberg in 1980 and over the past few years there have been numerous visits between the two towns, with the Usk Youth Brass Band making its most recent visit in autumn 2006. In 2006 the colour scheme of Usk in Bloom was based on those within the crests of both Usk and Graben-Neudorf.

See also


  1. ^ John Newman, The Buildings of Wales: Gwent/Monmouthshire, 2000, ISBN 0-14-071053-1
  2. ^ Usk Castle - Official Website
  3. ^ GENUKI: Usk, Monmouthshire - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868
  4. ^ - Pontypool and Usk rivalry
  5. ^ Hywel Wyn Owen, The Place-names of Wales, 1998, ISBN 0-7083-1458-9

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Usk is a town in Monmouthshire, South Wales located in the valley of the River Usk.


Throughout the year Usk and the neighboring towns host popular events such as the Usk Show, The Abergavenny Food Festival, racing at Chepstow and the annual Brecon jazz festival.


For a small town with a population of just over two thousand people Usk has at least 100 pubs and bars.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

There is more than one meaning of Usk discussed in the 1911 Encyclopedia. We are planning to let all links go to the correct meaning directly, but for now you will have to search it out from the list below by yourself. If you want to change the link that led you here yourself, it would be appreciated.

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