Caerleon Net
The Mynde Walls

Around the year 1820, John Jenkins moved into Castle Villa (later called The Mynde). It seems that his family, through hard work and 'good fortune', had risen from relatively humble beginnings to being one of the wealthiest families in Caerleon. John was part owner and manager of the tin works in Ponthir (the Caerleon Works). This business was important to the prosperity of the area. Much of its 'output' was brought down the Tram Road to the quayside at Caerleon to be loaded onto ships.

By 1829 Jenkins had become a magistrate. Although the majority of the crimes he had to deal with could be described as petty, the punishments were certainly not - many of the convicted were transported to Australia. In 1838 John Jenkins became Sheriff for the county - a very high position.

Now, these were times of restlessness. The Chartist Movement (campaigning for the right to vote) was gaining momentum. John Frost (later deported to Australia for his part in the Chartist Riots in Newport) visited Caerleon on several occasions to speak at public meetings. It's not clear where John Jenkins' sympathies lay. He did attend some of these meetings, though what his motives were we can only guess. We get some insight into his 'attitude and bearing' from this notice in a local paper (The Merlin) some years later on his death:

"Mr Jenkins occupied a position of considerable influence, and wielded that influence in a manner which secured him the utmost esteem and respect by whom he was known."

There are some strong words here, and it seems likely that those who held him in high 'esteem and respect' were the wealthy who like Jenkins also held powerful positions.

Another local was actually accused of wielding influence by none other than John Frost. This was Thomas Prothero ( or Protheroe ) of whom Frost said:

"Prothero had come to Newport without a shirt on his back, and was worth 20 000 within two years the inevitable result of setting a beggar on horseback."

Prothero was agent for the Charles Williams Charity. He was accused of using this position by supplying materials for alterations and repairs to charity properties (as a timber and slate merchant) and having practically unlimited power over tenants of charity properties.

In 1821 Prothero took legal action against John Frost for an alleged libellous letter. The trial could hardly be described as fair - seven of the nine jury members were tenants of properties owned by the Charles Williams Charity of which Prothero was the treasurer! It is said that at some time during these proceedings Frost was kept in custody at the Charles Williams School in Caerleon.

Powerful people (such as Jenkins and Prothero) must have felt that the Chartist leaders were watching their every move. It is likely that for this reason John Jenkins built the high wall around the castle grounds. There was a genuine fear that a revolution might take place here as it did in France.

A large volume of stone was used in the construction of the walls - mostly taken from the nearby ancient ruins (Roman and Medieval). Much destruction must have taken place to elicit so much facing stone. As well as giving those living within a sense of security and considerable privacy, it must have added to their status, placing them even higher above the 'ordinary locals'.

It is interesting to note that within a few years the fear of a revolution had passed and we find John Jenkins spending his later life in Broadwell house, this building was without the high walls of the Mynde. Also, and you may like to delve into this rather cryptic statement, John Frost's headstone may well have ended up inside the Mynde Walls!

Caerleon Net
[ Back ]   [ Home ]   [ History Index ]  [ Search ]