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Views of Caerleon by Samuel Loxton

The Old Market Place Caerleon drawn by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
1. The Old Market Place

Remains of Amphitheatre Caerleon drawn by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
2. Remains of Amphitheatre

The Priory Caerleon drawn by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
3. The Priory

Corner of Roman Wall Caerleon drawn by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
4. Corner of Roman Wall *

Remains of Roman Tower Ultra Pontem Caerleon drawn by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
5. Remains of Roman Tower

Hanbury Arms and Roman Tower Caerleon drawn by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
6. Hanbury Arms & Roman Tower

Castle Mound in the Mynde Caerleon drawn by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
7. Castle Mound in the Mynde *

The Church and Museum Caerleon drawn by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
8. The Church & Museum

* Our titles - the titles on these pictures were missing on the copies we have

 

It would seem that these views were drawn for inclusion in the Bristol Observer - a weekly Newspaper. Bristol Central Library donated six of the above views to Gwent County Council in 1980 and Newport City Community Learning and Libraries now hold the originals. They have kindly given us permission to publish the pictures here.

The sketches are thought to date from around 1906. Each week the front page of the Bristol Observer displayed several views of local and distant towns and cities. Sometimes a suburb of Bristol, sometimes as far away as Japan. Bristol Reference Library has bound copies of the paper dating from 1859 to 1962. On a recent visit I searched through the 1902 to 1907 editions. I found interesting pictures and articles on excavations at Roman Caerwent and the construction of Newport's transporter bridge but no sign of the above sketches. I think they date from the mid to late 1890s. If any readers of this page have the time, patience and access to Bristol Reference Library, maybe they could continue the search for the original article in the paper. It would be interesting to publish the text alongside the illustrations.

The artist Samuel Loxton drew literally thousands of illustrations for Bristol newspapers. You can read about him by following this link. The architectural details are accurate and sketches like these duplicated more clearly than photographic images with the printing process in use then.

Pictures number 2 (Amphitheatre) and 5 (Roman Tower) are probably the most interesting. Excavations on the amphitheatre started in 1911. It is possible that the sketches were done just before that date - though, as stated earlier, I think they are earlier. Picture 5 - The Remains of Roman Tower - is reproduced on a larger scale below:

Remains of Roman Tower Caerleon Sketch by Samuel Loxton c. 1900
 

This tower stood on the river bank in Ultra Pontem. (In fact the two figures are just climbing up from the Usk.) It was situated adjacent to the old wooden bridge which once crossed the river here. The remains of the tower were still in place in 1928 when Atwood Thorne published "A Popular Guide to Caerleon". However it was removed in 1929 a year before W A Morris wrote his "Guide to Caerlleon-on-Usk" - he described the demolition as an act of "vandalism and ignorance".

On the section of the 1901 OS Map of Caerleon below, the tower is marked in red:

section of 1901 OS Map

Judging by the curvature of the part of the tower remaining it would appear that the road to the old wooden bridge originally passed through its centre. It almost certainly was not Roman but medieval, and its purpose would have been the defence of the southern end of the bridge.

Coxe's Tour of Monmouthshire (1801) contains a view of this tower. This is reproduced below:

Ruins near the Bridge Caerleon c. 1800

Here I think we are looking from the other side of the tower through the windows which can be seen in Loxton's sketch.

Coxe wrote the following about the remains:

Close to the southern extremity of the bridge, in the district sometimes called the village of Caerleon, and sometimes distinguished by the Roman appellation of Ultra Pontem, are the ruins of an ancient fort, intended for the purpose of guarding the passage over the river. Grose has given an engraving as it existed in 1778, and from the roundness of the arches and the mode of construction, concludes that it was a Roman edifice; but the dilapidated state of the work renders it difficult to ascertain its exact form or era.

I think he was mistaken when he associated this tower with the one depicted in 1778 by Grose (follow this link to see the print). I believe that tower was near the Hanbury arms and had fallen down by the time Coxe made his visit.

Here's another view of the 'Ultra Pontem' tower from an 1803 publication (source not known):

Tower at Carleon Monmouth 1803

Do you have a photograph of the tower in Ultra Pontem or a painting or print? Can you find the date of the original article in the Bristol Observer? Any comments about the other views of Caerleon? Or do you have any other interesting old pictures of Caerleon we could feature? Please contact us via the link below:

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