Monmouth is found nestled in the middle of the Wye Valley, and is surrounded by magnificent countryside, being part of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The town has its origins in Roman times when a small Roman garrison known as Blestium was located here. Over time, local archaeologists have found various traces of this Roman settlement, including pieces of pottery, coins, and jewellery. Monmouth is so named because it is found on the River Monnow, a tributary of the River Wye.
Thanks to Wordsworth and many other poets and artists operating in the 18th and 19th centuries, the number of visitors to Monmouth and the surrounding Wye Valley greatly increased. Today the rivers and beautiful countryside are coupled with fine Georgian and Victorian architecture for residents and visitors to enjoy.
Well known for its iconic 13th century gatehouse bridge, known as the Monnow Bridge, Monmouth has a famous recent past thanks to connections with rock bands such as Queen, Oasis & Simple Minds.
Found just outside the town is Rockfield Studios, one of the most famous British recording studios, where Queen recorded parts of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, their most iconic song in 1975. Twenty years later, it was the scene of more excesses when Mancunian Britpop legends Oasis recorded their most successful second album “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”
Built shortly after the Norman invasion, Monmouth Castle was intended to be a key fortress maintaining English power over the Welsh. The site was later the birthplace of King Henry V, best known for the Shakespeare play about his victory at Agincourt, and during the seventeenth century Civil War, the castle changed hands three times before it was then partially ruined by parliamentary forces.
The town of Monmouth was granted its first market charter in 1256, by royal order, making it important as the biggest market in a predominantly agricultural region. One of the first wave of specialist retailers to arrive at Borough Market was Monmouth Coffee Company in the 1990s. The local coffee specialists have gone on to become one of the best known names in British-produced coffee as well as a pioneering some of the development of café culture in the UK.
Although ostensibly still very much a local company, Monmouth Coffee imports a wide variety of beans from farms, estates and cooperatives around the coffee-growing world. These beans are then skilfully roasted in nearby Bermondsey, while remaining their single origin status.
Three rivers, the Trothy, Wye and its tributary the Monnow, all converge in the south of Monmouth. It’s the last of these three that the town takes its name. Being a county town, Monmouth also gives its name to the county of Monmouthshire.
The 13th century Monnow Bridge is the only one of its type left in Britain. Monmouth was also famous in history due to its association with aviator Charles Rolls of The Hendre (a large house just outside of the town), who achieved the longest single flight in a hot-air balloon and the world’s first non-stop double Channel crossing in an aeroplane. He was sadly killed in a plane crash aged just 32, but had already founded the Rolls-Royce automobile company with Henry Royce in 1904.
Other historical points of interest around Monmouth include the remains of an 11th-century Benedictine priory, a boys’ school founded in 1614, the 17th-century Wye Bridge, and the Shire Hall (1724).
Since 1966, the A40 dual carriageway road has linked Monmouth to the M50 motorway at nearby Ross-on-Wye. Regular bus services run between the town and nearby towns such as Hereford, Ross-on-Wye, Coleford, Chepstow, Newport and Abergavenny.
Monmouth developed primarily as a agrarian economy, with farmland surrounding a thriving market town, rather than as a centre of industry. The wool industry did play an important role in the early growth of Monmouth, with the town being a centre for the production of a popular type of knitted caps from the 15th century onwards.
Monmouth over the years has also featured iron and tinplate works, together with paper and corn mills. At one point, the town was also an important river port, with warehouses and wharves along the banks of the Wye later being removed for the building of the A40 relief road.
The town’s small traditional theatre and cinema, the Savoy Theatre, on Church Street, is believed to be the oldest working theatre in Wales. There are a number of local performance groups which operate around Monmouth, including the Off Centre Theatre Company, Monmouth Operatic Society, Monmouth Choral Society, and one of the largest music societies in the country known as the Merlin Society.
Outdoor location scenes for Doctor Who were filmed in Monmouth. Episodes of the BBC sci-fi drama were filmed in the town in 2005 (The Unquiet Dead) and also in 2008 (The Next Doctor).