Goldcliff, Newport

Goldcliff, Newport

Infobox Newport parish
Parish = Goldcliff
Population = 339 (2001 census [ [ Office for National Statistics Parish Headcounts: Goldcliff Community (Whitson combined)] ] )
Council = Goldcliff
GridReference =
Constituency = Newport East
PostCode = NP18 2
DiallingCode = +44-1633
Maindee exchange

Goldcliff ( _cy. Allteuryn) is a small hamlet and community parish to the south east of the city of Newport in South Wales.


Goldcliff is located three miles south east of Newport and is bounded to the south by the sea wall, which protects the surrounding landscape from the Severn estuary and the waters of the Bristol Channel.

Origin of the name

The name is said to have originated from the silicious limestone cliff, about 60 feet high, at Hill Farm, rising over a great bed of yellow mica which breaks the level at the shore and has a glittering appearance in sunshine, especially to ships passing in the Bristol Channel.

Giraldus Cambrensis, who toured Wales in 1188 refers to it as "Gouldclyffe" and describes it in Latin as "...glittering with a wonderful brightness" [Bradney, Sir Joseph. A History of Monmouthshire, Vol 4 part 2: The Hundred of Caldicot (Part 2). pub 1914, reprinted 1994, Merton Priory Press.] .


Together with the neighbouring parishes of Nash and Whitson, it is one of "The Three Parishes" which have long been a unit - geographical, socially, economically and ecclesiastically. All three parishes are typical of the Caldicot Levels.

At high-tide much of the land in the village is below sea-level and the entire area is drained by a vast network of inter-linking ditches or 'reens' [] . A main drainage ditch, with an origin near Llanwern, known as "Monksditch" or "Goldcliff Pill" [] (probably from the Welsh "pwll" for pool) passes through the village on its way to the sea. Local folklore maintains that the sides of the Monksditch are laced with smuggler's brandy.


Hidden in the laminated silts of the Severn estuary foreshore at Goldcliff are 8,000-year-old (mesolithic) human footprints [ [ Timeteam webpage 2004] ] and the intertidal region of the coast near Goldcliff has attracted considerable archaeological interest (see Archaeology below).

A connection with Roman activity was firmly established with the discovery near Goldcliff Point in 1878 of the inscribed "Goldcliff Stone" recording the work of legionaries on a linear earthwork, presumably a sea wall. [ Morgan, Octavious (1882), "Goldcliff and the Ancient Roman Inscribed Stone Found There 1878", Monmoushire & Caerleon Antiquarian Association ] Further evidence of occupation was found when ash pits were dug at Nash during construction of the Uskmouth Power Station.

Goldcliff was part of the possessions of the native princes of Wales and was taken from Owen Wan by Robert de Chandos who, shortly before 1113, founded a priory there. [Bradney, Sir Joseph. A History of Monmouthshire, Vol 4 Part 2: The Hundred of Caldicot (Part 2). pub 1914, reprinted 1994, Merton Priory Press.]

The higher coastal parts of the area were certainly reclaimed by the late 11th century and early 12th century when Goldcliff and Nash were granted to the Benedictine priory. Lower-lying areas inland were enclosed and drained [] by the 13th century and 14th century.

The Priory

Hill Farm, situated on the prominent knoll of high ground next to the sea, stands on the site of Goldcliff Priory [Williams, D. H., (1970) "Goldcliff Priory", The Monmouthshire Antiquary, 3:1 (1970-1), 37-54. ISSN 13599062] which was founded in 1113. The Priory was subject to the abbey of Bec in Normandy. Outlines of buildings which were probably part of the Priory, may be seen in grass patterns or crop marks at certain times of the year.

Robert de Chandos was followed by his son Robert who deed in 1120 and was buried in the church on the south side of the choir.

In 1322 the Prior at Goldcliff was William de Saint Albin [ [ National Archive at Kew] ] . A series of charters exist for Goldcliff Priory as do 13th century accounts of how the drainage system worked. Local farmers widely attribute the reclamation of this area to the monks. Henry VI granted the patronage of the priory to Henry Earl of Warwick, with licence to appropriate it to Tewkesbury Abbey. In 1344 the prior Phillip Gopillarius was charged, along with a monk, some clergy and fifty other persons from Newport, Nash, Goldcliff, Clevedon and Portishead, with stealing wine and other merchandise from a vessel wrecked at Goldcliff.Hando, F.J., (1958) "Out and About in Monmouthshire", R. H. Johns, Newport.]

In 1442, with the full approval of Eugenius IV, the Priory was made a cell of Tewkesbury. The revenues of the monastery did not then exceed 2,000 marks, and the priory was worth £200 a year. The abbot and convent were bound to maintain a prior and two monks in priest's orders. In 1445 the three monks of Tewkesbury were expelled from Goldcliff by the Welsh, although in 1447 they again took possession of it. But their enjoyment of its revenues was short, for in 1450 the priory was granted by Henry VI to Eton College [ [ 'Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Tewkesbury', A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2 (1907), pp. 61-66.] ]

Thus, at the Dissolution, ownership of the parish, together with the valuable salmon fishing rights, passed to Eton College. The Provost and Fellows of Eton were still the lords of the manor and the largest landowners in 1901. Many archival records for the Priory (and its successors as lords of the manor), such as deeds and charters for the 12th to the 16th centuries (mainly 16th century copies of originals), and manorial records for the 15th to the early 16th centuries [ [ Goldcliff Priory (Alien), cell of Bec Abbey, later of Tewkesbury Abbey Archives] ] are held in the College Archives at Eton [ [ Eton College Archives] ] .

Local Industry and education

Goldcliff has long been associated with the tidal putcher fishing of salmon, which may well have had its origins with the Priory or even in Roman times. The technique used the so-called "putcher" basket traditionally made from hazel rods and withy (willow) plait, set out against the tides in huge wooden "ranks". The last main exponent of the art of wooden putcher-making at Goldcliff was Mr. George Whittaker, although a working knowledge of the technique was also kept into the 1970s by Mr. Wyndham Howells of Saltmarsh Farm, the last fulltime fisherman at Goldcliff. Deeds for Saltmarsh Farm for 1867–1918 are held by Gwent Record Office [ [ Saltmarsh Farm, Gwent Record Office]

The mixed school for the parishes of Goldcliff and Whitson was erected in 1872 for 60 children and in 1901 had an average attendance of 46, with a Miss Mary Edith Tomlinson as the mistress. [ [ Kelly's Directory of Monmouthshire (1901)] ] Until it closed in July 1954, the school received an annual gift of £2 from Eton College

Kelly's 1901 Directory also has the only private residence in the village as The Moorlands, but lists no fewer than 27 commercial concerns, mostly farners, but also including a haulier, two fishermen, a female publican, a farm baliff, a female hotellier, a hay dealer, a mason and a shoe maker.

Historic sites

A small enclosure on Chapel Lane, to the north of the present parish church, is thought to hold the remains of an ancient chapel, probably connected with the Priory. Also lying off Chapel Lane, the farmhouse and barn at Great Newra Farm has Grade II Listed buildings.

The quaint Congregational (later United Reformed Church) chapel [] near the junction of the Sea Wall road, built in 1840 and restored 1900/1901, is now also a private dwelling, but was still active as late as the 1980s.

The Church

The church of Saint Mary Magdelene [] has a well maintained churchyard with a beautiful tree arch canopy and many old gravestones. [] It is an ancient stone building in the Early English style and is located directly behind The Farmer's Arms public house. At the front of the churchyard are the remains of an ancient mounded cross. The church itself has a small brass plaque, on the north wall near the altar, commemorating the Great Flood of 1607 when a tidal wave (possibly tsunami) swept along the Bristol Channel drowning 2,000 people. The plate, about three feet above ground level today at this point, marks the height of the flood waters.

The former vicarge for the Three Parishes, located in Whitson, is now a private dwelling. The minister for the Rectoral Benefice of Magor, which includes Magor, Nash, Undy and Redwick is based in Magor. Following recent interior re-decoration, including the removal of the old pews and pulpit, a service of re-dedication was held on 4th February 2007 with the Bishop of Monmouth. The interior is now tastefully decorated with individually dedicated chairs and matching carpet.


A considerable amount of archaeology has centred on Goldcliff. A useful report, published jointly by CBA and CADW, has been produced by Martin Bell and colleagues [ [ Maritime and Intertidal Archaeology agenda] ] . Bell was instrumental in the discovery of the mesolithic human footprints.(see History above). Further archaeological excavation has also been carried out by Martin Locock and colleagues prior to the introduction of the Wetlands Reserve, for example at Hill Farm [ [ Gwent Levels Wetland Reserve, Hill Farm, Goldcliff: excavations 1997] ] .


Goldcliff is home to part of the extensive Newport Wetlands Reserve [] , opened in March 2000 as a mitigation for the loss of mudflats caused by the building of the Cardiff Bay Barrage. [ [ RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve] ] Parts of Goldcliff and Whitson together are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest SSSI. [ [ City of Newport Countryside and Parks] ]

The village pub is The Farmer's Arms [] , located close to the church.

The village still has use of a communal parish room located in the Old School at the side of the Monksditch which here forms the border with Whitson.

The village enjoys a regular public bus service (Route 63, seven a day, six days a week) provided by Francis Drake Travel.

The local newspaper is the South Wales Argus which is published in Newport.

Goldcliff Community Council is a member of the Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM) Alliance fromed in 2006 by the Friends of the Earth Cymru [ [ Friends of the Earth: Protest to greet new M4 exhibition] ]


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