Trellech (occasionally spelt Trelech, Treleck or Trelleck) (Modern Welsh: Tryleg) is a village in Monmouthshire, south-east Wales, near Monmouth and the location of an archaeological site. The village is designated as a Conservation Area. The village gives its name to the community of Trellech United, in which the village is situated.
The name of the village derives from the Welsh language and means either “the town (tre) of slates (llech)” or “three (tri) slates (llech)”. There are three standing stones in the village, known as Harold’s Stones. There are 26 known spellings for the village, including those mentioned above which can be found on road signs at three of the six entrances into the village.
Trellech was one of the major towns of medieval Wales, the remains of which have been subject to excavations which have been sustained over many years and which continue today. It is most likely that the town was established by the De Clare family specifically for the exploitation of local supplies of iron ore and charcoal, to provide weapons, armour and iron work for their military advances in Wales, including the building of Caerphilly Castle. By 1288 there were 378 burgage plots recorded in Trellech, which would have made it bigger than Cardiff or Chepstow at the time. Trellech was largely destroyed in 1291, however, as a result of a raid following a dispute over alleged deer poaching. The Black Death struck in 1340 and again in 1350. Subsequently the ravages of Owain Glyndŵr and his men in the early 15th century further reduced the prosperity and in consequence the importance of Trellech.
Archaeological investigations at Trellech have been led since the early 1990s by the South Wales Centre for Historical and Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Wales, Newport. There is currently some dispute over the layout and development of the medieval town and its environs. In 2005, young archaeology graduate Stuart Wilson privately bought a field in which, he was convinced, were remains of the lost medieval town. His interest in this field and the possibility that his hunch might be correct was the subject of a 30-minute BBC Radio 4 documentary, presented by the archaeologist Francis Pryor, and entitled The Boy Who Bought a Field, broadcast on 6 March 2006. The programme revealed that Wilson had apparently discovered medieval walls and yard-paving. According to the Monmouth Archaeological Society, “there is now no room for debate” that the excavations by Wilson and others have now identified the main site of the medieval town to be around the minor road towards Catbrook, to the south of the current village on what is now farmland. This site was first identified by (the unrelated) Julia Wilson in an article in the journal Current Archaeology, “A New Location for an Old Town”.
Places of historical interest
These large monoliths of conglomerate stone, commonly referred to as pudding stone, are situated in a field to the south of the village. They date back to the Bronze Age – much earlier than King Harold. It is supposed that they were dragged to the site on logs and levered into position, probably either for seasonal information or for use at religious ceremonies. Some believe that they were aligned on the winter solstice with the Skirrid mountain, also known as the “Holy Mountain of Gwent”. A fourth stone, on nearby common land, was destroyed in the 18th century. The Standing Stones are the property of the Davies family of Crosshands Farm in Trellech. The family have always been happy to keep the field open to the public, but ask that their property is respected.
Sometimes known as St Anne’s Well, this can be found in a field on the left of the road to Tintern, a little way out of the village to the east. Water from the well is alleged to be rich in iron and has been thought to possess curative properties. Tump Terret is situated within the grounds of Court Farm to the south-west of the church. It dates back to Norman times, as the site of a small motte and bailey castle; traces of its surrounding ditch remain.
The church is a central focal point of the village and has an elegant pointed and prominent spire, a font and ancient sundial. A church on this site, probably a wooden structure, was endowed by Kings Ffernwael ap Ithel and Meurig ap Tewdrig who were rulers of Gwent in the 7th and 8th centuries. The Preaching Cross in the churchyard may date back to this time as may the font. The present building dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The early English Gothic stonework has been dated to between 1225 and 1272, and that of the Decorated Gothic up to 1350.
When the weathercock was removed from the spire in 1972 it was found to have been made in Ross-on-Wye in 1792. The original spire fell, damaging the roof of the nave, and a contemporary reference attributes this to “lightning and storms”. In the belfry the cage housing the three bells is of a type similar to that found in others constructed about the year 1700.
At the end of the last century the church was in a neglected state and was extensively renovated and re-roofed. The Belgian slates then in place were replaced with Welsh slates in 1961. The chancel was replastered in 1972 and painted white. During 1974 considerable further repairs were undertaken to the north and south aisles, and in 2001 the majority of the churchyard dry-stone wall was removed and rebuilt. There remains a fair amount yet to be done to the building, however, if it is to be kept at a reasonable standard.
Records are held by the church dating from 1692. A complete list of vicars and churchwardens, dating from 1359, can be found hanging by the entrance to the south aisle. The church is a Grade I listed building.
Other places of interest
The Lion Inn
The Lion Inn has won CAMRA awards for its real ales, the inn has activities including an annual beer festival, a cider and perry festival, the entering of a team in the Monmouth raft race and a Burns Night celebration. Alternate Mondays feature ‘Open Mic’ evenings with musicians travelling from Cardiff and Bristol to participate in music ranging from rock to folk.
The village is home to Trellech Primary School.
The Babington Centre
The Babington Centre is the main asset owned by the Babington Educational Foundation. The Centre is a focus for many aspects of village life including film nights, concerts, educational classes, private parties and other social events. It is the home of the Busy Bodies playgroup.
Philosopher, logician and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) was born at “Ravenscroft”, the country home of his parents Lord and Lady Amberley, situated between Trellech and Llandogo. The property is now called “Cleddon Hall”.