This is the third part of Gwent historian Fred Hando’s Journey through the Vale of Usk, from the book Hando's Gwent Volume 1, which is edited by Chris Barber. It continues with a description of Llantrisant’s Church of Three Saints.

ADJOINING the tower is a projecting turret, the slit windows of which light the spiral stairs leading up to the battlements. There are two bells, dated 1622 and 1829.

The inner doorway of the porch has a stone into which a beautiful consecration cross is cut. Within the church the sun shines on the tombstones forming part of the floor, and all is simple and plain. This was - still is - a church of the country folk, and the few wall monuments emphasise this fact. An inner sense perceives the spirit of this holy place, compounded of the hopes and fears and prayers of the thousands of Llantrisant folk who have worshipped here during six centuries.

Passers-by see only the north side of Llanllowell Church, with its leaning chimney, and windows of two widely separated periods, but the view of the porch, the south wall and the bell-turret on that sunny morning was of pure delight, intensified by the heady scent of syringa which grows luxuriously in the churchyard.

I opened the gate under the depressed arch of the porch and was about to open the inner door when I paused in astonishment. The lintel of this inner doorway, was obviously an early Christian monument. I examined it with care. Comparing it with the stones illustrated and described by Dr Nash-Williams in his Early Christian Monuments of Wales I noted that there was only one other stone with a similar six-pointed incised cross, and it seems that the Llanllowell stone was missed by Dr Nash-Williams in his survey of the Monmouthshire monuments.

Two of the stones on the doorway bear consecration crosses, while in the north wall of the nave is a good example of a thirteenth-century window. An earlier window may be seen in the west wall. The font and inner arch of the south entrance are also Norman, while the projection on the south wall houses the steps leading to the rood-loft which has disappeared. of the two bells, both modern, only one is in use.

There was a church at Llanllowell in 1254, when Mr Maurice was the rector. Usk Priory owned land in the parish in later years, and in 1603 it was recorded that ‘William Nicholas, Gent, holdeth it, allowing the curate 40s. per annum.’

For many travellers, memories of Usk centre around the Three Salmons. To Thoresby-Jones, Usk was the natural jumping-on centre for trips to Caerleon, Abergavenny, Monmouth and Chepstow. He found the old borough of considerable historic interest but what was more important to the wayfarer was that Usk contained ‘one of the most comfortable and intelligently contained hotels in all the border - the venerable Three Salmons.’

In season, he tells us, he was offered fresh usk trout for breakfast and a choice between Usk Salmon and Severn Salmon for dinner. The beds were soporific and ‘ if you do - after salmon - remain wakeful you will find a judicious selection of books in your bedroom.’

It seems that until salmon fishing became ‘the thing’ the old inn was known as the Golden Cross. this may well have been for it stands where the Roman roads cross, one facade on Bridge Street, the other on Porthycarne Street. Like all big solid Silurians, its hands are warm, and some of my pleasant memories are of meals at the Salmons after driving many miles in mid-winter.

Indeed its reputation for cosy warmth was the reason why for many years the autumn sessions would adjourn to the inn after the court-house was too cold.

Today, with its entrance lounge, two bars, three dining rooms, a TV room, 12 bedrooms, a ballroom and a vast cellar in three compartments (used as an air raid shelter during the last war), The Three Salmons makes a happy port of call for the traveller, the historian, the artist, and especially the angler.

This is an extract from Hando’s Gwent, Volume One, edited by Chris Barber.