THE NEWSDESK Why Newport has to go back to the future

South Wales Argus: THE NEWSDESK: Why Newport has to go back to the future THE NEWSDESK: Why Newport has to go back to the future

MONOPOLY - it ended up being banned in our house.

Games would go on for days on end, opaque, tortuous loan deals would be done with the banker, the more rapacious among us would seize the chance to build hotels everywhere and punish everyone else with high rents. Way too like real life for comfort.

So while I like the idea of Monopoly featuring Newport's landmarks, I still suffer from Post Childhood Monopoly Disorder.

Perhaps I'll leave playing it to the rest of you.

It has got me thinking, though. And so has the uncovering of what is thought to be the medieval friary on the site of the old bus station during the Friar's Walk redevelopment.

It is thought the building survived into the 19th century, despite the order founded by the Earl of Stafford in 1377 being disolved by Henry VIII. The former Newport Corporation demolished it in 1860.

The discovery is not unexpected, but experts are investigating the find.

It makes me wonder what else lurks beneath the 1960s monstrosities in the city centre, what other echoes of this city's past are dormant, waiting to be discovered?

I have been looking at the website of historian Bob Trett, Newport Past, and back copies of the South Wales Argus, and finding the city's history is more and more fascinating.

From the Celtic and Roman times, medieval trading, Chartist Rising, rise and fall of the coal trade in the docks, to 1920s riots, and outbreaks of diseases to royal visits, the building of the civic centre, and slum clearances in Shaftesbury.

There is a rich seam here which we are simply not mining enough right now.

Perhaps alongside existing landmarks like Newport Cathedral and Tredegar House, there should also be a lost heritage version of Newport Monopoly including the city's former landmarks.

Let's start with the friary, moving swiftly on to Newport Castle, a portion of which still stands.

Not being a Newportonian, even though my grandparents were and despite the fact I have worked here for 14 years, I had been blissfully unaware that in the 19th century, the castle had, by turns, been a tannery and a brewery.

Brunel's railway works destroyed the area used as a brewery in the east range of the castle, the building of the nearby road destroyed most of the inner bailey. It was in a deplorable state when it was handed by Lord Tredegar to the Office of Works in 1934.

It's sad to see old photographs of what it once was, though few would argue it was as impressive as Caerphilly or Chepstow. But it was the city's own.

On to the lost Lyceum Theatre.

The previous Victoria Theatre on the site was destroyed by a fire on May 28 1896 after the audience had gone home.

The Argus then reported: "Probably the greatest fire ever witnessed in Newport occurred early this morning. Shortly before 1 am an alarm of fire was raised and immediately a constable dashed off to the police-office and communicated to the fire brigade the news that the Victoria Theatre was ablaze. The brigade was promptly on the spot under the direction of Captain Horace Lyne and Lieutenant E. Coulman with the hose-carts, fire escapes, and the steamer and manual engines. In a short time the men were directing the water towards the flames. At this period the whole roof was ablaze - for the fire, which had apparently started at the stage, travelled from end to end of the building, before igniting the roof. So low was the pressure of water that not a jet could be thrust to half the height of the building. It is pretty certain that nothing could have saved the theatre, even if the pressure from the mains had been of the fullest."

The walls and columns of the old building had not been weakened by the fire, and could be used in the construction of the new building, the Lyceum, built later that year.

It accommodated 1,250 people and was designed by WR Sprague. The work was carried out by John Linton of Newport.

For 65 years, it entertained the people of Newport. Harry Houdini performed at the theatre in April 1905, it staged boxing bouts, and ice shows were also on the bill.

Its last performance was in 1961, and it was bulldozed to make way for the ABC Cinema. They called it progress.

I'm sure many of you could add many more such landmarks to the list.

In difficult economic times, such as these, we have to focus on what one Gwent MP rightly called last week "bread and butter issues" - getting people jobs, a fair wage and a decent healthcare system.

But I can't be the only person to believe that Newport has lost enough of its heritage, and that places which treasure theirs more than this city has in the past reap all sorts of economic and social benefits from that. It's time this city's history was a key plank of its vision for the future.

Comments (3)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

9:01am Sun 9 Mar 14

Woodgnome says...

SWA seems obsessed with Monopoly - other towns and cities have had personalised Monopoly for years.
SWA seems obsessed with Monopoly - other towns and cities have had personalised Monopoly for years. Woodgnome
  • Score: 0

3:44pm Sun 9 Mar 14

cath 872 says...

I believe the past should stay in the past. What we need in Newport is a thriving city centre, jobs and enough money to pay the bills with hopefully, a bit left over to spend on other things. Admiring Newport's heritage is interesting for some, but won't put food on the table. We need to look forward, not back.
I believe the past should stay in the past. What we need in Newport is a thriving city centre, jobs and enough money to pay the bills with hopefully, a bit left over to spend on other things. Admiring Newport's heritage is interesting for some, but won't put food on the table. We need to look forward, not back. cath 872
  • Score: 1

7:40pm Sun 9 Mar 14

Mervyn James says...

Newport's corporation and the Tredegar families, had an history of destroying Newport itself. The old green crossing, the ridiculous railway and traffic bridges which cut straight through the castle. The pursuit of profit had no time for sentimentality. Newport's history was systematically got rid of by design. if we are to believe the chartist memorial sympathiser (I don't personally), the the Council lost no time getting rid of that either. Lets all praise the God of Destruction, Newport Planning.
Newport's corporation and the Tredegar families, had an history of destroying Newport itself. The old green crossing, the ridiculous railway and traffic bridges which cut straight through the castle. The pursuit of profit had no time for sentimentality. Newport's history was systematically got rid of by design. if we are to believe the chartist memorial sympathiser (I don't personally), the the Council lost no time getting rid of that either. Lets all praise the God of Destruction, Newport Planning. Mervyn James
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree