St Woolos Cemetery - The Haunted Holy Ground

From the book "The Haunted Holy Ground" by Mike Buckingham and Richard Frame published in 1988.

About the Authors







By Mike Buckingham and Richard Frame
First published 1988

© Mike Buckingham and Richard Frame 2012

Your chances of coming to Newport and missing the transporter bridge are about the same as visiting Paris and missing the Eiffel Tower.

Soaring 177 feet above the Usk and spanning 645 feet the transporter bridge is the biggest in the world. There is something delightfully Heath- Robinsonish about it but when the lights which festoon it come on there is an almost artistic appeal and you know if the painter Rex Whistler were alive he would want it as a subject for one of his nocturnes.

Whatever aesthetic response the bridge might provoke there is no doubt it is (or was, since it has not been working for two years) immensely practical. The idea was that the travelling frame with the suspended gondola would allow traffic across the Usk at the same time allowing tall sailing ships to pass unimpeded.

There is a certain Gallic flair about the whole thing and it comes as no surprise that transporter bridges were invented, and Newport’s, which was opened in 1906, designed by Monsieur F. Arnodin. Only sixteen were ever built anywhere in the world of which seven remain, three in Britain.

Where M. Arnodin is taking his well-earned rest does not here concern us but Mr R.H. Haynes, then borough engineer and colleague of Arnodin in the building of the transporter bridge is buried at St Woolos, as is the then mayor in 1906 Alderman John Liscombe, in fact only a few feet away.

It is almost certain that the opening of the bridge is the first major event in the town’s life to be recorded on film, the original of which is owned by John Huntley, the London film historian.

You don’t have to be a local history buff to have your imagination excited by the film (a copy of which is held by Newport Museum).

The movements of moustachioed, frock-coated, top-hatted men are jerky but there is a strange sensation of seeing something come to life which had hitherto been confined to a flatter, less evocative medium. Arnodin, Liscombe, Lord Tredegar, who had been at the charge of the Light Brigade and Haynes all come to life once more.

In many ways our greatest landmark is a metaphor for Newport.

There is no doubt that it is begining to show wear and tear and yet is still there having survived floods and war, good times and bad.

We happen to think that any town is ultimately about the people who live in it.

The things that are built in a place are a reflection of the people in the same way a suit of clothes are the reflection of an individual. If the bridge is self-assertive and little eccentric, well ...

At time of writing there is every hope that the bridge will be refurbished and that once more its stately gondola will slide high above the brown waters of the Usk almost as if it were some visiting alien craft.

Then there will have been a resurrection.

How, and when resurrection comes for those lying in St Woolos is not for us to determine but we can help in a rebirth of a more modest kind.

A new pride in a town with its civic monuments cherished and respected, its institutions sound and its past seen not as a millstone but as a pointer to the future is devoutly to be wished for.