The Story of Usk - the Romantic Poets


1822: Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in Italy. His cremation and burial were organised by Edward Trelawny, a political radical and friend of Lord Byron.
After a chequered career which included (or so he claimed) a spell as a pirate, involvement with Byron in the Greek war of independence, and travelling extensively in the USA, Trelawny lived for 20 years in and around Usk, in what are now the Royal Hotel, Twyn Bell and Cefn Ila.

His “advanced” views on things like women’s rights (not to mention his multiple relationships and bohemian lifestyle, including nude bathing in the Usk) scandalised many local people.

The Story of Usk - Chartist Riots

1832: the Reform Act tried to reflect demographic changes by abolishing many “rotten boroughs” and extending the franchise, but Monmouthshire’s parliamentary seats remained unchanged despite its huge growth in population.

John Frost, a Newport businessman, was active in the cause of reform. In 1836 he was elected Mayor of Newport and soon became a leading activist in the People’s Charter movement, which campaigned for universal (male) suffrage.

1840: following the Chartist Riots in Newport, Frost and other alleged ringleaders were tried in Monmouth. Less important participants went on trial in the upper rooms of Usk Town Hall (now the Royal British Legion Club).

Usk Prison was built shortly afterwards in 1842 and the rifle-slits in the old gatehouse were not for decoration – they reflect a genuine fear of violent revolution.