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Centre of fight for democratic rights in the olden days.
Currently under major redevelopment, generally for the worst
In a nutshell
Honestly I only discovered Newport Indoor Market very recently, despite visitng Newport for many years!
The Market is just off the High Street, between Market Street and Griffin Street. From the outside it looks like a drab stone building. But inside it opens out dramatically, with two levels and an impressive, vaulted cast-iron roof. To the north end is a massive modern multi-coloured galss window.
On floor one you have a mixture of colourful shops and stalls, selling everything you could want - fruit, veg, meat, carpets, pet food etc.
Above the shopping floor is a mezzanine level, which is used as a big open space for music, jazz bands, tables and chairs. Around the edge are craft shops and a large cafe.
Great place to visit if it is raining (which is often in Wales).
Written Jun 25, 2005
Address: Market Street/Griffin Street, Newport
You will soon realise how important the Chartist movement is to Newport's history and identity. I mean to say, there are murals, sculptures and references to them all over the city. John Frost Square, Newport's main plaza, is named after a leading Chartist.
Chartism is a political movement which developed rapidly in Britain in the 1830's. They were unhappy that 'democratic' reforms were benefitting the super rich gentry at the expense of the workers and middle-classes.
In 1838 The Peoples' Charter was written, demanding democratic reforms, particularly the vote for all men over 21 years old (yeah, the idea of women voting was too advanced for most). Within a year The Charter was signed by more than 1 million people, not a mean feat before the age of mass communications!
Chartist demonstrations and uprisings took place across England and Wales. In November 1839 three marches were planned to converge on Newport. They were demanding better, safer working conditions for the iron- and coal-workers of Southeast Wales.
However, the plans went a bit pear-shaped. Not all the demonstrators reached Newport at the agreed time. On Monday 4th November, those who did were fired on by soldiers from the Westgate Hotel. 20 were killed.
John Frost had led the march from Blackwood. He was a draper in Newport and had also been Mayor of Newport in 1836. He was transported to Tasmania for 17 years.
Zephaniah Williams was an innkeeper who led the march from the top of the Valleys. He was shipped off to Tasmania too and died there in old age.
I guess we have to be grateful to the men who died for the democratic reforms we now all enjoy in the modern world. Fair pay, free trade unions, safe working conditions, the Vote ~ they didn't come cheap!
Written Mar 26, 2005
The Westgate Hotel was the site of the famous 1839 battle, between Chartist demonstrators and soldiers. I have read in many books and internet sites that "you can still see the bullet holes in the doorway of the Westgate Hotel". So I thought aha, great photo opportunity.
However, the lady at the Tourist Information Centre knew nothing about them. In her view, they did not exist and she was sure the door had been replaced.
Well, I found the main door to the Westgate Hotel. The bottom part is definitely modern. The old, stone top part was sooo worn with age that there was no way of telling whether the holes and bumps were caused in battle, or by bullets.
So don't expect Newport to look like downtown Sarajevo. You have to be a forensic archaologist to spot a bullet hole, if they exist.
Unique Suggestions: Opposite the Westgate Hotel are a collection of statues commemorating the Chartist rebellion.
Well, actually around every corner there is something commemorating the Chartist Rebellion. You will begin to spot a theme :-)
Fun Alternatives: (a) go to the Museum in John Frost Square and read the story.
(b) bring a semi-automatic machine gun with you and create your own holes as required.
Written Mar 26, 2005
I was glad to finally locate the bus to Caerleon, where the teaching campus is located. The people in Caerleon were a much nicer breed: they actually smiled and were helpful. This was a pleasant surprise, as in most of my trips across the border I have always sensed the kind of suspicion you get in old movies where strangers turn up in remote public houses to be met with complete silence. That was north Wales, though. My friend's parents bought a hotel in the valleys of north Wales, and their welcoming present from the locals was a dead cat hanging from the front door. They would only speak to them once the name on the door was changed from his fathers name, a Yorkshireman, to his wife's Welsh maiden name of Jones.
The most bizarre thing about Caerleon was the number of children. When I left the town the place flooded with so many school children that didn't seem feasible for such a small population. There were literally thousands of school children on every street corner, in every shop and filling up the bus as I returned to Newport; this is about the same as the actual reported population of Caerleon. It was almost as if the desperate population of the city were sending their children away from the hideousness that is Newport out into the wilds of the surrounding villages and vales. This idea was supported by the huge traffic jam created by the early afternoon workers returning from their jobs in the city to the pleasantness of rural Caerleon.
Updated Oct 23, 2006
Favorite thing: Despite only recently becoming a city, Newport has a 900 year history. Unfortunately for Newport it has always been second best to Cardiff, 12 miles down the road!
If you arrive in Newport by train or car from England you will see the Castle, sandwiched between the railway bridge, road bridge and dual-carraigeway to the Bus Station. Built between 1093 and the mid 1400's it is now completely ruined.
The famous Welsh leader, Owain Glyndwr attacked and burnt Newport to the ground in 1402!!
Not until the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century did Newport become anything significant. It developed into a busy port, with a canal bringing goods all the way from Brecon.
More will be said about the famous failed Chartist Unprising of 1839 in my other tips...
Today the city centre has one or two pleasant main streets which wind along their old routes. I quite like Newport's main shopping route - Commercial Street. But large dual carriageways and road systems have destroyed some of the city's character. Maybe one day things will change!
Check the localhistories.org pages on Newport for a more comprehensive history:
Updated Jan 29, 2005