IN Trostrey Church is a wall tablet inscribed in memory of “Captain Charles Hughes of Trostrey who fought for his Majestie against ye rebelles” and died, aged 57, in 1676.

Charles Hughes, the second son of Thomas Hughes, of Moynes Court, had married Jane, daughter of Thomas Jones, of Trostrey, and so came under papist and royalist influence. His brother remaining at Moynes Court fought in the parliament forces.

With the county of Monmouth and some of the best county families thus divided in their loyalties, the summer of 1646 saw little progress made in the siege of Raglan.

The fierce old Marquis of Worcester whose body, soul, and wealth were dedicated to the service of Charles, was prepared “to die nobly, rather than to live with infamy.”

This stubborn opposition brought Fairfax into Gwent. He appears to have stayed for a short while at Trostrey Court before setting up his headquarters at Cefn Tilla on 7th August, 1646. By 19th August, Raglan had surrendered and the garrison had marched out. Among the prisoners may have been Captain Charles Hughes.

It was with a thrill of pleasure that I received an invitation to inspect Trostrey Court, the home of the royalist captain. The name “Trostrey” signifies “over the town,” and the Court stands on rising ground, 2½ miles north of Usk, on the Bettws Newydd road.

A high wall hides it from the road. My first glimpse of the Court was singularly picturesque.

Set against the gently undulating land of the Usk Valley the grey house with its three-storied porch, gables, and walled garden, seemed, in the February sunshine, scarred yet unconquered like a veteran of many wars. Facing it was the famous oxhouse and granary dated 1667, and nearby the pool and that graceful weeping willow which adds such charm to the Trostrey scene. The porch attracted immediate attention.

It was originally of one storey, and is reputed to date back to Henry VII. I could find no evidence of work wrought before the early days of the first Elizabeth, and to that period I assign also the stout door and its iron-work.

The beautiful room above the porch belongs to the end of the sixteenth century, and its panelling, and unique fireplace are among the great treasures of Trostrey. Midway between the fluted pilasters of the fireplace is a most excellently-carved open doorway, bringing relief to the otherwise geometrical severity of the panelling. The layout of the original house is typically Tudor. To the left of the passage is the hall, and to the right, the kitchen quarters. Between the passage and the hall, is a wall seven feet thick.

Supporting the ceiling of the panelled are beams twenty-five feet long, from one corner of the hall a door leads into a fascinating little apartment known as “the oratory.”

This may well have been so in a Catholic home with a priest in residence, but I was reminded here of the “parlwr bach” of another Welsh squire’s home at Cillwch, nine miles away. Behind the hail and opening on to the garden is the drawing-room, with more panelling and ceiling beams.

Several pegs can he noticed in the wall eight feet high. There were hardly giants at Trostrey, but I rather fancy there were harpists, for it was from pegs like these that the weighted harpstings were stretched.

The balusters on the main staircase are somewhat flat and crude, possibly the “utility” standard of 1600.

Constrasting with these are the dainty balusters in the north wing, displaying the attractive spiral effect of the “corn-doily” seen at Pernbridge.

There are fourteen bedrooms at Trostrey, many panelled, and many with wide polished oak floorboards. Some of the panels are eight feet in height, dwarfing our stalwart host, and Robert, aged seven, bearing vivid memories of Cefn Mably, asked, “Are there any secret rooms behind these panels, Mr. Smith ? “

“Come with me, sonnie,” commanded Mr. Smith (son of my old friend, “the Builder of Bridges”). We trailed behind him into a room with several tall panels hinged on a diagonal wall. Opening one, he disclosed a space hacked by the rough masonry of a chimney-piece. “Here, many years ago,” he told us, “a packet of kilns written by Cromwell were discovered. The finder thought that they were valueless, and destroyed them!’

So much for ancient Trostrey. And when I report that in addition to ponies and pigs, the cows and sheep, and two ponds, there were three dogs, a cat, and over a hundred lambs, is it any wonder that our small boy asked, “Could we come here every Saturday, Mrs. Smith ?”

  • Fred Hando’s work is published courtesy of Chris Barber.