PORTSKEWETT and SUDBROOK form a parish, on the river Severn, which here is about 4 miles across, 5 miles south-west-by-south from Chepstow and 146 from London, in the Southern division of the county, lower division of Caldicot hundred, petty sessional division, union and county court district of Chepstow, rural deanery of Chepstow, archdeaconry of Monmouth and diocese of Llandaff.
The South Wales Railway (Great Western) has a station here, and this place was formerly the junction of the Bristol and South Wales Union railways.
The name of this place is said to be a corruption of Porth-ys-coed - the port by the wood - and here, in ancient times, is said to have been the chief port of Gwent. Here Harold built for himself a palace, at which he entertained King Edward the Confessor, who had been keeping his court at Gloucester, in 1065: that same year the palace was sacked and burned by Caradoc ap Griffith, who surprised Harold's followers whilst hunting in forest of Wentwood, on St. Bartholomew's day, and having put them to the sword, came on to Portskewett and destroyed the palace. Its site may yet be discerned in a field near the west end of the church.
The church of St. Mary is an ancient building of stone, in the Norman and Early English styles, consisting of chancel, nave, south porch, and a small western tower containing 1bell. It presents several interesting features, the most remarkable of which is a small doorway in the wall, with a rudely carved tympanum of Early Norman date. The church was reseated in 1869, and has 130 sittings. In the churchyard are the remains of a fine cross. The register dates from the year 1593. The living is a rectory, with that of St. Pierre annexed, joint net yearly income £413, with 49 acres of glebe and residence, in the gift of Charles Edward Lewis esq., and held since 1880 by the Rev. William Henry Williams M.A. of Jesus College, Oxford, and rural dean of Netherwent.
In this parish is the western end of the tunnel under the Severn, constructed by the Great Western Railway Company, to connect their main lines with their branches in South Wales and to shorten the route from London to this place by thirteen miles: this undertaking was first promoted in 1864, but Parliamentary powers were not secured until 1872, when the preliminary borings were commenced, and the geological features of the pierced strata were noted by Dr. Yeats, of Chepstow, and valuable information obtained relative to the Somerset and South Wales coalfields and their connection.
In 1879 the actual construction of the tunnel was begun. The Severn is at this part 2½ miles broad, and 2 additional miles of tunnel were required to bring the lines to the level. The total length is 4 miles and 634 yards. The extreme interior width is 26 feet and height 24½ feet, or 20 feet from the rails to the roof. The main portion of the cutting runs through the Pennant sandstone or grit. The walls of the tunnel were covered with brickwork 3 feet in thickness as they were formed. Wells and ponds in this and the neighbouring parishes have been drained by the shafts sunk. The work with one important exception (when it was completely flooded for twelve months) was proceeded without serious hindrances. The engineer-in-chief was Sir John Hawkshaw, with whom was associated Mr Charles Richardson. The present resident engineer is Mr James Richards. The contractor was the late Thomas Andrew Walker esq. The works were all completed in 1886 and the tunnel opened for goods traffic on the 1st Sept and for local passenger traffic on Dec 1st. The quantity of water now pumped from the tunnel averages from 20 to 25 million gallons a day, of which 13 millions are from the Sudbrook springs. There are fourteen pumps, with buckets averaging 3 feet in diameter, lifting per minute 2,431 gallons, from a depth of 230 feet; but at the maximum speed of 10 strokes per minute, raising 4,420 gallons. The maximum quantity pumped per day is 32 million gallons, or 143,000 tons . the tunnel is ventilated by a fan measuring 40 feet in circumference by 12 feet wide : the total cost was about £2,250,000. Portskewett is the nearest station to the tunnel works.
Charles E. Lewis esq of Moymes court, is lord of the manor and also chief landowner. The soil is a good loam, with a subsoil of gravel and clay. The chief crops are wheat and barley The area is 1,111 acres of land, 1 of water, 423 of tidal water and 543 of foreshore; rateable value, £13,073 ; the population in 1891 was 1,190. Post Office, MO & TO, TM O. Express Delivery, Parcel Post, S B & Annuity & Insurance Office, Portskewett - Miss Mary Kyte, sub-postmistress. Letters through Chepstow arrive at 7:45am, dispatched at 5:00pm & 6:35pm, Sundays 10:25am. Wall Letter Box at the Church, cleared at 4:25pm and 6:35 pm, Sundays, 10:20am.
National School (mixed), built in 1876, & enlarged in 1895, to hold 91 children, average attendance, 78. Miss Mary A. Smith, mistress
Railway station: Portskewett, Thos. Lewis, station master.
SUDBROOK, or Southbrook, now united to the parish of Portskewett, was once a distinct parish. The ruins of the small parish church of Holy Trinity stand upon the brink of a small cliff overhanging the Bristol Channel, and in the foss of a large camp. It was originally Norman, but was enlarged and altered in the 14th century. Mr. Blethin Smith, captain of a merchant ship, was buried in the chancel in 1757.
Here is a mission hall, erected by the contractor for the Severn tunnel; it contains a good organ and will seat about 1,000 persons. There is also a reading room. The Sudbrook Orphanage was founded in 1890 by Miss Walker. In this place is a ship building yard. Post Office, M. O. & T O., T. M. 0., Express Delivery, Parcel Post, S. B & Annuity & Insurance Office, Sudbrook. - William Frederick Bartle, sub-postnaster. Letters through Chepstow arrive at 9:00 a.m ; dispatched 3:00 p.m. & 6:00 p.m., Sundays, 9:00a.m
Sudbrook Board School (mixed), for 240 children; Walter.James Brett, master
PRIVATE RESIDENTSGriffiths David, Blackrock house
Lysaght Daniel Connor
Spencer Charles Albert, Severn villas
Tanner William, Rock villa
Williams Rev. William Henry MA, JP, (rector & rural dean), The Rectory
COMMERCIALBennett Charles Robert, farmer, Laburnum Cottage
Cheriton Frederick, farm bailiff to Oliver Norris esq. Rectory farm
Gwilliam Chas. wheelwright & coal dlr
Huggett, John, farmer & Hay Dealer, Ifton Hill farm, telegraphic address "Huggett, Portskewett"
Harris, William, shopkeeper
Kyte & Co. coal dealers, Station
Kyte, Mary. (Miss), shopkeeper & postmistress
Lewis, Thomas, station master
Norris, Oliver, farmer, timber merchant & contractor,Portskewett farm
Parsons, Valentine, farmer, Southbrook
Preece, Francis, coal merchant
Sheppard, George, Portskewett hotel
Thomas, John, blacksmith
Foster, George C. 8 The Villas
Nicholls, John, 5 The Villas
Royal, John George, 1 The Villas
Trimmer, Mrs, 14 The Villas
Wraight, Herbert, 3 The Villas
Brett, Walter James, schoolmaster, 13 The Villas
Hanks, Harriett (Mrs.), shopkeeper, 5 Camp road
Leonard, Samuel, butcher, 8 Camp rd
Parsons, Robert Henry, resident evangelist,, Mission hall
Reading Room & Library (Henry Cane, sec.)
Richards, James, resident engineer to Severn tunnel pumping station
Sudbrook Orphanage for Girls (Miss Matthews, matron)
Talbot, Sarah (Mrs.), grocer
Tyson, Mary (Mrs.) shopkeeper
Walker C. H & Co Ltd. (John George Royal, manager), ship builders & repairers & engineers
Williams & Marshall, grocers, drapers & general stores
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