Abergavenny (/ˌæbərɡəˈvɛni/; Welsh: Y Fenni pronounced [ə ˈvɛnɪ], archaically Abergafenni meaning "mouth of the River Gavenny") is both a market town and a community in Monmouthshire, Wales. Abergavenny is promoted as a Gateway to Wales; it is approximately 6 miles (10 km) from the border with England and is located where the A40 trunk road and the A465 Heads of the Valleys road meet. [1][2]

The clock tower of Abergavenny Town Hall, Cross Street
Abergavenny is located in Monmouthshire
Location within Monmouthshire
Population12,515 (2011)[citation needed]
OS grid referenceSO295145
  • Abergavenny
Principal area
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtNP7
Dialling code01873
FireSouth Wales
UK Parliament
Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament
List of places
51°49′26″N 3°01′00″W / 51.824°N 3.0167°W / 51.824; -3.0167Coordinates: 51°49′26″N 3°01′00″W / 51.824°N 3.0167°W / 51.824; -3.0167

Originally the site of a Roman fort, Gobannium, it became a medieval walled town within the Welsh Marches. The town contains the remains of a medieval stone castle built soon after the Norman conquest of Wales.

Abergavenny is situated at the confluence of the River Usk and a tributary stream, the Gavenny.[3] It is almost entirely surrounded by mountains and hills: the Blorenge (559 m, 1,834 ft),[4] the Sugar Loaf (596 m, 1,955 ft), Ysgyryd Fawr (Great Skirrid), Ysgyryd Fach (Little Skirrid), Deri, Rholben and Mynydd Llanwenarth, known locally as "Llanwenarth Breast". Abergavenny provides access to the nearby Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons National Park. The Marches Way and Beacons Way pass through Abergavenny whilst the Offa's Dyke Path passes through Pandy five miles to the north and the Usk Valley Walk passes through nearby Llanfoist.

In the UK 2011 census, the six relevant wards (Lansdown, Grofield, Castle, Croesonen, Cantref and Priory) collectively listed Abergavenny's population as 12,515.[5][6][7][8][9][10] The town hosted the 2016 National Eisteddfod of Wales.


The town derives its name from a Brythonic word Gobannia meaning "river of the blacksmiths", and relates to the town's pre-Roman importance in iron smelting. The name is related to the modern Welsh word gof (blacksmith), and so is also associated with the Welsh smith Gofannon from folklore. The river later became, in Welsh, Gafenni, and the town's name became Abergafenni, meaning "mouth of (Welsh: Aber) the Gavenny (Gafenni)". In Welsh, the shortened form Y Fenni may have come into use after about the 15th century, and is now used as the Welsh name. Abergavenny, the English spelling, is in general use.[11]


The town originally developed on the high ground to the north of the floodplain of the River Usk and to the west of the valley of the much smaller Gavenny River though has since extended to the east of the latter. It has merged with the originally separate settlement of Mardy to the north but remains separate from that of Llanfoist to the south due to the presence of the river and its floodplain; nevertheless Llanfoist is in many ways a suburb of the town. The ground rises gradually in the north of the town before steepening to form the Deri and Rholben spurs of Sugar Loaf. The A4143 crossing of the Usk by means of the historic Usk Bridge is sited at the narrowest point of the floodplain, a site also chosen for the former crossing of a tramroad and the later mainline railway. The high ground at either side is formed by a legacy of the last ice age, the recessional Llanfoist moraine which underlies both the village which gives it its name, the town centre and the Nevill Hall area. The older parts of the town north of its centre are built upon a relatively flat-lying alluvial fan extending west from the area of St Mary's Priory to Cantref and of similar age to the moraine.[12]


Roman periodEdit

Gobannium was a Roman fort guarding the road along the valley of the River Usk,[3] which linked the legionary fortress of Burrium (Usk) and later Isca Augusta or Isca Silurum (Caerleon) in the south with Y Gaer, Brecon and Mid Wales. It was also built to keep the peace among the local British Iron Age tribe, the Silures.[citation needed]

Remains of the walls of this fort were discovered west of the castle when excavating the foundations for a new post office and telephone exchange building in the late 1960s.[13]

11th centuryEdit

Part of Abergavenny and Ysgyryd Fach (Little Skirrid) from the castle ruins
St Mary's Priory Church

Abergavenny grew as a town in early Norman times under the protection of the Baron Bergavenny (or Abergavenny). The first Baron was Hamelin de Balun, from Ballon, a small town with a castle in Maine-Anjou near Le Mans. Today it is in the Sarthe département of France. He founded the Benedictine priory, now the Priory Church of St Mary, in the late 11th century. The Priory belonged originally to the Benedictine foundation of St. Vincent Abbaye at Le Mans. It was subsequently endowed by William de Braose, with a tithe of the profits of the castle and town.[14] The church contains some unique alabaster effigies, church monuments and unique medieval wood carving, such as the Tree of Jesse.[15]

12th and 13th centuriesEdit

Owing to its geographical location, the town was frequently embroiled in the border warfare and power play of the 12th and 13th centuries in the Welsh Marches. In 1175, Abergavenny Castle was the site of a massacre of Seisyll ap Dyfnwal and his associates by William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber.[16] Reference to a market at Abergavenny is found in a charter granted to the Prior by William de Braose.[14]

15th to 17th centuriesEdit

Abergavenny and Ysgyryd Fawr in the 1890s

Owain Glyndŵr attacked Abergavenny in 1404. According to popular legend, his raiders gained access to the walled town with the aid of a local woman who sympathised with the rebellion, letting a small party in via the Market Street gate at midnight. They were able to open the gate and allow a much larger party who set fire to the town and plundered its churches and homes leaving Abergavenny Castle intact. Market Street has been referred to as "Traitors' Lane" thereafter. In 1404 Abergavenny was declared its own nation by Ieuan ab Owain Glyndŵr, illegitimate son of Owain Glyndŵr. The arrangement lasted approximately two weeks.[citation needed]

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1541, the priory's endowment went towards the foundation of a free grammar school, King Henry VIII Grammar School, the site itself passing to the Gunter family.[14]

During the Civil War, prior to the siege of Raglan Castle in 1645, King Charles I visited Abergavenny and presided in person over the trial of Sir Trefor Williams, 1st Baronet of Llangibby, a Royalist who changed sides, and other Parliamentarians.[14]

In 1639, Abergavenny received a charter of incorporation under the title of bailiff and burgesses. A charter with extended privileges was drafted in 1657, but appears never to have been enrolled or to have come into effect. Owing to the refusal of the chief officers of the corporation to take the oath of allegiance to William III in 1688, the charter was annulled, and the town subsequently declined in prosperity. Chapter 28 of the 1535 Act of Henry VIII, which provided that Monmouth, as county town, should return one burgess to Parliament, further stated that other ancient Monmouthshire boroughs were to contribute towards the payment of the member. In consequence of this clause Abergavenny on various occasions shared in the election, the last instance being in 1685.[14]

The right to hold two weekly markets and three yearly fairs, beginning in the 13th century, was held ever since as confirmed in 1657.[17] Abergavenny was celebrated for the production of Welsh flannel, and also for the manufacture, whilst the fashion prevailed, of goats' hair periwigs.[14]

19th to 21st centuriesEdit

Abergavenny Boys National School (1865)

Abergavenny railway station, situated southeast of the town centre, opened on 2 January 1854 as part of the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway. The London North Western Railway sponsored the construction of the railway linking Newport station to Hereford station. The line was taken over by the West Midland Railway in 1860 before becoming part of the Great Western Railway in 1863. The station is on the Welsh Marches Line and is mostly served by Transport for Wales services.[18] A railway line also ran up the valley towards Brynmawr and to Merthyr Tydfil. This line was closed following the Beeching cuts and the line to Clydach Gorge is now a cycle track and footpath.

The Baker Street drill hall was completed in 1896.[19] Adolf Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess was kept under escort at Maindiff Court Hospital during the Second World War, after his flight to Britain.[20]

Baron of AbergavennyEdit

The title of Baron Abergavenny, in the Nevill family, dates from the 15th century with Edward Nevill, 3rd Baron Bergavenny, who was the youngest son of Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland by his second wife Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster.[citation needed] He married the heiress of Richard de Beauchamp, 1st Earl of Worcester, whose father had inherited the castle and estate of Abergavenny, and was summoned in 1392 to parliament as Lord Bergavenny.[citation needed] Edward Nevill was summoned to parliament with this title in 1450.[citation needed] His direct male descendants ended in 1587 in Henry Nevill, 6th Baron Bergavenny, but a cousin, Edward Nevill, 8th Baron Bergavenny, was confirmed in the barony in 1604.[citation needed] From him it has descended continuously, through fifteen individuals, the title being increased to an earldom in 1784; and in 1876 William Nevill [sic] 5th Earl, an indefatigable and powerful supporter of the Tory Party, was created 1st Marquess of Abergavenny.[14]

Coldbrook Park was a country house in an estate some 1+14 miles (2 km) southeast of the town. The house was originally built in the 14th century and belonged to the Herbert family for many generations until purchased by John Hanbury for his son, the diplomat Sir Charles Hanbury Williams.[21] Sir Charles reconstructed the house in 1746 with the addition of a nine-bay two-storey Georgian façade with a Doric portico. It subsequently passed down in the Hanbury Williams family until it was demolished in 1954.[22]


Held during the first week of August every year, the National Eisteddfod is a celebration of the culture and language in Wales. The festival travels from place to place, alternating between north and south Wales, attracting around 150,000 visitors and over 250 tradestands and stalls. In 2016 it was held in Abergavenny for the first time since 1913. The Chair and Crown for 2016 were presented to the festival's Executive Committee at a ceremony held in Monmouth on 14 June 2016.[23]

The Abergavenny Food Festival is held in the second week of September each year. The Steam, Veteran and Vintage Rally takes place in May every year. The event expands year on year with the 2016 rally including a rock choir, shire horses, motorcycling stunts, vintage cars and steam engines.[24] The Country and Western Music Festival is attended by enthusiasts of country music. It marked its third year in 2016 and was attended by acts including Ben Thompson, LA Country and many more. The event was last held in 2017.[25][26] The Abergavenny Writing Festival began in April 2016 and is a celebration of writing and the written word.[27] The Abergavenny Arts Festival, first held in 2018, celebrates arts in their broadest sense and showcases amateur and professional artists from the vibrant local arts scene together with some from further afield.[28]

Welsh languageEdit

In recent decades the number of Welsh speakers in the town has increased dramatically. The 2001 census recorded 10% of the local population spoke the language, a five-fold increase over ten years from the figure of 2% recorded in 1991.[29]

The town has one of the two Welsh-medium primary schools in Monmouthshire, Ysgol Gymraeg y Fenni,[30] which was founded in the early 1990s. It is also home to the Abergavenny Welsh society, Cymreigyddion y Fenni,[31] and the local Abergavenny Eisteddfod.[32]

Sporting traditionsEdit

Abergavenny was the home of Abergavenny Thursdays F.C., formed in 1927, and merged with Govilon, the local village side in 2013. The new club, Abergavenny Town FC, plays at the Pen-y-pound Stadium, maintained and run by Thursday’s football trust, as members of the Welsh League Division 1 for the 2019-20 season.

Abergavenny Cricket Club play at Pen-y-Pound, Avenue Road, and Glamorgan CCC also play some of their games here. Abergavenny Cricket Club is one of the oldest in the country. It was founded in 1834, and celebrated the 175th anniversary of its foundation in 2009.[33] Abergavenny Tennis Club also play at Pen-y-Pound and plays in the South Wales Doubles League and Aegon Team Tennis. The club engages the services of a head tennis professional to run a coaching programme for the town and was crowned Tennis Wales' Club of the Year in 2010.[citation needed]

Abergavenny is also the home of Abergavenny RFC, a rugby union club founded in 1875 who play at Bailey Park. In the 2018-19 season they play in the Welsh Rugby Union Division Three East A league.[34] Abergavenny Hockey Club, formed in 1897, currently compete in the Davis Woods hockey league and play at the Old Hereford Road ground.[citation needed] Abergavenny hosted the British National Cycling Championships in 2007, 2009 and 2014, as part of the town's Festival of Cycling.[35]

Cattle marketEdit

A cattle market was held in Abergavenny from 1863 to December 2013.[3][36] During the period 1825–1863 a sheep market was held at a site in Castle Street, to stop the sale of sheep on the streets of the town. At the time of its closure the market was leased and operated by Abergavenny Market Auctioneers Ltd, who held regular livestock auctions on the site. Market days were held on Tuesdays for the auction sale of finished sheep, cull ewe/store and fodder (hay and straw), and some Fridays for the auction sale of cattle. Following the closure of Newport's cattle market in 2009 for redevelopment, Newport’s sales were held at Abergavenny every Wednesday.[37]

In 2011, doubts about the future of Abergavenny Cattle Market were raised following the granting of planning permission by Monmouthshire County Council for its demolition and replacement with a supermarket, car park, and library.[38]

In January 2012, the Welsh Government announced the repeal the Abergavenny Improvement Acts of 1854 to 1871 which obliged the holding of a livestock market within the boundaries of Abergavenny town;[39] that repeal being effective from 26 March 2012.[40]

Monmouthshire County Council, which requested that the Abergavenny Improvement Acts be repealed, supported plans for a new cattle market to be established about 10 miles (16 km) from Abergavenny in countryside at Bryngwyn, some 3 miles (5 km) from Raglan. There was extensive local opposition to this site, which is situated on a notoriously dangerous B road.[41][42][43] The new Monmouthshire Livestock Centre, a 27-acre site at Bryngwyn, opened in November 2013.[44]

The Market HallEdit

Abergavenny Market Hall in 2009

Various markets are held in the Market Hall, for example: Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays – retail market; Wednesdays – flea market; fourth Thursday of each month – farmers' market; third Sunday of each month – antique fair; second Saturday of each month – craft fair.[45]

Cultural historyEdit

  • Abergavenny hosted the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1838, 1913 and most recently in 2016
  • In 1996 a film, Intimate Relations starring Julie Walters, Rupert Graves, Les Dennis and Amanda Holden was filmed at many locations in and around Abergavenny.
  • The town's local radio stations are currently Sunshine Radio, at 107.8 FM, and NH Sound 1287 AM.
  • Abergavenny is twinned with Östringen in Germany, Beaupréau in France and Sarno in Italy.
  • Abergavenny is home to an award winning brass band.[46] Formed in Abergavenny prior to 1884[47] the band became joint National Welsh League Champions in 2006[48] and SEWBBA[clarification needed] and again joint National Welsh League Champions in 2011.[49] The band also operate a Junior Band training local young musicians
  • During September the town holds the Abergavenny Food Festival.[50]
  • Abergavenny was named one of the best places to live in Wales in 2017.[51]
  • The Borough Theatre in the town centre hosts live events covering drama, opera, ballet, music, children’s events, dance, comedy, storytelling, tribute bands and talks.[52]
  • The town held its first Abergavenny Arts Festival in 2018.[53]
  • The Melville Centre is close to the town centre and includes the Melville Theatre that hosts a range of live events.[54]

In popular cultureEdit

Buildings of noteEdit

Church of the Holy Trinity

Abergavenny Castle is located strategically just south of the town centre overlooking the River Usk. It was built in about 1067 by the Norman baron Hamelin de Ballon to guard against incursions by the Welsh from the hills to the north and west. All that remains is defensive ditches and the ruins of the stone keep, towers, and part of the curtain wall. It is a Grade I listed building.[57]

The Church in Wales church of the Holy Trinity is in the Diocese of Monmouth. Holy Trinity Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Llandaff on 6 November 1840. It was originally built as a chapel to serve the adjacent almshouses and the nearby school. It has been Grade II listed since January 1974.

Other listed buildings in the town include the parish Priory Church of St Mary, a medieval and Victorian building that was originally the church of the Benedictine priory founded in Abergavenny before 1100; the sixteenth century tithe barn near St Mary's; the Victorian Church of the Holy Trinity; the Grade II* listed St John's Masonic Lodge; the Museum; the Public Library; the Town Hall; and the remains of Abergavenny town walls behind Neville Street.[58]

From 1851, the Monmouthshire lunatic asylum, later Pen-y-Fal Hospital, a psychiatric hospital, stood on the outskirts of Abergavenny. Between 1851 and 1950, over 3,000 patients died at the hospital. A memorial plaque for the deceased has now been placed at the site. After closure in the 1990s, its buildings and grounds were redeveloped as a luxury housing development comprising houses as well as apartments.[59] Some psychiatric services are now administered from Maindiff Court Hospital on the outskirts of the town, close to the foot of the Skirrid mountain. The hospital is housed in historic buildings, and is known for Rudolf Hess who was incarcerated here during WW2.

Abergavenny from the Monmouthshire Canal with the Skirrid in the centre with its characteristic notched outline (2014)



One of the eleven Victoria Cross medals won at Rorke's Drift was awarded to John Fielding from Abergavenny. He had enlisted under the false name of Williams. One was also awarded for the same action to Robert Jones, born at Clytha between Abergavenny and Raglan. Another Abergavenny-born soldier, Thomas Monaghan received his VC for defending his colonel during the Indian Rebellion.

In 1908 following the formation of the Territorial Force the Abergavenny Cadet Corps was formed and affiliated with the 3rd Battalion, The Monmouthshire Regiment. In 1912 the regiment was affiliated with the new formed 1st Cadet Battalion, The Monmouthshire Regiment.[61]

Notable peopleEdit

See also Category:People from Abergavenny

See alsoEdit


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  2. ^ Frommers. "Introduction to Abergavenny". Retrieved 8 February 2011.
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  4. ^ Geograph British Isles – The Blorenge from the B4598 road at Ty'r-pwll
  5. ^ Services, Good Stuff IT. "Lansdown - UK Census Data 2011". UK Census Data. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
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  10. ^ Services, Good Stuff IT. "Priory - UK Census Data 2011". UK Census Data. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
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  14. ^ a b c d e f g   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abergavenny". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 53.
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  16. ^ Carradice, Phil (9 December 2013). "Treachery, stealth and slaughter at Abergavenny Castle". BBC blogs.
  17. ^ Chisholm, Hugh (1922). Encyclopaedia Britannica:a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature, and General Information (11 ed.). New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica. p. 53.
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External linksEdit