Newport First Stop - 100 Years of News Stories


By Derrick Cyril Vaughan

The Chartist Insurrection of 1839, abortive as it was, had a profound effect on the Monarchy and Government of the United Kingdom. Newport was held to be culpable in spite of the fact that the source of the trouble lay in hills and valleys of the hinterland.

Although Thomas Phillips the Mayor of Newport had been knighted by Queen Victoria and lionised in London for his services to the Crown in quelling the riot, it is significant that no member of the Royal Family visited the town for the next sixty eight years. In 1875 the great Alexandra Dock had been completed and named after the Princess of Wales, an invitation was sent to the Prince and Princess to inaugurate this massive undertaking. The invitation, however, was declined and Lord Tredegar was delegated to act in their place; a task he was unable to perform due to illness and the duty finally fell to the Mayoress.

In spite of the unswerving loyalty and dedication of generations of Newportonians, Newport was ostracised until 1907 when, apparently purged of its undeserved guilt, the then Prince of Wales (later George V) opened the Bath and West Show in St. Julian's Fields. Another thirty years were to pass before full recognition was accorded the Borough when King George VI in 1937 cut the first sod to commence the building of the Civic Centre.

The last year of the century was marred by the Boer War which was not going well for the British who were being besieged at Mafeking, Ladysmith and Kimberley. There was little reason for celebration at the turn of the century and a gloom pervaded this country, particularly in Newport as many men of the town were fighting in South Africa with the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the South Wales Borderers.

Thus this most enterprising 19th Century ended in sadness and foreboding for the shadow of the greatest war in the history of man loomed over the horizon. Some thousands of young men alive in Newport at the turn of the century would be sacrificed at the whim of the politicians and generals in the stinking hell-holes of the Western Front - but that was to come.

The old Queen passed from senility to death in January 1901 and the patient Prince of Wales became King at the age of sixty. Mafeking was finally relieved in May 1900 and the Boer War ended in 1901. The gloom of the late 1890's was dissipated in an era of gaiety and spontaneity, unequalled in the previous decade, ending with the death of Edward VII nine years later.

So Newport entered the 20th Century well prepared and organized for the years ahead, a far cry from the position in 1800 when there had been corruption in high places and the lot of the poor had been desperate. New problems would have to be overcome, but in any event the town now had the stamina and will to sustain itself - the spirit of Newport was safe.

Derrick Vaughan


Monmouthshire, 1990

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