These images from our archive are a small selection from the Album of the late Captain J. Williams of Newport. They are dated between 1868 and 1890 and represent his extensive travels in Britain and across Europe.

  A Short History Of Pillgwennly

There has been a settlement on the banks of the Usk for over a thousand years. The Romans inhabited the area freely, notably the garrison town of Caerleon and of course of more importance Caerwent. The present City of Newport has always had an identity through it’s Castle. Albeit somewhat lack lustre and rarely fully occupied throughout it’s life . The unique features of this monument on the banks of the River Usk is that it has a water gate, and it is in essence facing the wrong way. Originally constructed to keep out the marauding hordes from Wales it actually faces England. Pillgwenlly however, began life in the shadows of the ancient borough of Newport being but a small inlet on the marshes, which until quite recently were some fifteen feet below sea level.
  Pillgwenlly The Name.
The name Pillgwenlly has two components. Pill, meaning sea ditch and Gwenlly arriving from a 4th Century scoundrel Gwyllam who kept his boat in the Pill., thus becoming sea ditch belonging to Gwyllum. Other links to the man in question is that he lived in a tower which was to become the Cathedral of St Woolos. On seeing a lucrative prize in the channel or river he would rush down the hill across the marshes to launch his vessel from the Pill.
This became the first hamlet of Pillgwenlly, a few small stone cottages and later a pottery was sited in the area. Whilst the Newport Ware has long finished in production it is believed to be quite marketable.
This situation remained the same for many hundreds of years. Then in the late 1700s with the oncoming of the Industrial Revolution, Pill at last found it’s identity and gave Newport the status it know enjoys.
The original Docks were in the town reach and over a period of time spread further down the river founding a series of Wharfs , each one bearing the name of their financial founders. The GWR, Black Vein Colliery, and many more added their title to the identity of the River Usk.
Desperately needing a deep water dock, to meet the massive export demands of the coal and iron producers, it was decided that Pillgwenlly would be the prime location. Pill as already stated was marsh land and this posed massive problems for the early engineers. It was decided that the ballast from the many visiting ships to Newport would be dumped onto the marshes thus providing a foundation and also bringing the land level to above that of the sea.
Pill has the seed of a multitude of nations under its historic feet. Shamrock can be found growing in secret places known only to just a few elderly ladies who’s families came from the Emerald Isles. In a 150 years the population exploded. A main thoroughfare from the Dock entrance to the gates of Newport Castle nearly two miles in length was borne to meet the needs of the community and the consumer.
Streets of a hundred and more houses permeated from this main artery , terraced in dressed stone or simple render, these were the homes of the dock landers, the Pill people who’s families invested their lives and committed their futures to this most fascinating of areas.
A similar story throughout Britain ? perhaps so. Only those borne and bred in the shadow of the spindly Transporter Bridge, and who’s boots are caked with the grey green mud of the Usk know the real story and love of Pillgwenlly.
Jan Preece January 2008


 " a main thoroughfare from the Dock entrance to the gates of Newport Castle was borne."

  Commercial Road, the Main Street
  running through the length of Pillgwenlly.

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