infobox UK place
country = Wales
latitude= 51.615
longitude= -2.959
official_name= Caerleon
unitary_wales= Newport
lieutenancy_wales= Gwent
constituency_westminster= Newport West
post_town= NEWPORT
postcode_district = NP18
postcode_area= NP
dial_code= 01633
os_grid_reference= ST336909
population= 8,708 (2001 census)

Caerleon ( _cy. Caerllion) is a suburban village and community, situated on the River Usk [] in the northern outskirts of the city of Newport, South Wales.

It is a site of archaeological importance, being the site of a notable Roman legionary fortress and an Iron Age hill fort. It also has strong literary associations as Geoffrey of Monmouth makes Caerleon one of the most important cities in Britain in his "Historia Regum Britanniæ", and Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote "Idylls of the King" while staying in Caerleon.


Roman fortress

Caerleon is a site of considerable archaeological importance, being the site of a Roman legionary fortress or Castra (it was the headquarters for Legio II Augusta from about 75 to 300 AD) and an Iron Age hill fort. The name "Caerleon" is derived from the Welsh for "fortress of the legion"; the Romans themselves called it "Isca". Substantial excavated Roman remains can be seen, including the military amphitheatre, baths or Thermae and barracks occupied by the Roman Legion. According to Gildas (followed by Bede), Roman Caerleon was the site of two early Christian martyrdoms, that of Julius and Aaron. Recent finds suggest Roman occupation of some kind as late as AD 380 [ [ Archaelogy at Caerelon 2008] ] . Roman remains have also been discovered at The Mynde, itself a distinctive historical site [ [ The Mynde, Caerleon] ]

Middle Ages

The parish church of St Cadoc was founded on the site of the legionary headquarters building probably sometime in the 6th century. A Norman-style motte and bailey castle was built outside the eastern corner of the old Roman fort, probably by the Welsh Lord of Caerleon, Caradog ap Gruffydd. Caerleon was an important market and port and presumably became a borough by 1171, although no independent charters exist. Both castle and borough were seized by William Marshal in 1217 and the castle was rebuilt in stone. The remains of many of the old Roman buildings stood to some height until this time and were probably demolished for their building materials.

Georgian and Victorian times

The old wooden bridge at Caerleon was destroyed in a storm in 1779 and the present stone version was erected in the early 19th century. Until the Victorian development of the downstream docks at Newport Docks, Caerleon acted as the major port on the Usk river. The wharf was located on the right bank, to the west of today's river bridge which marked the limit of navigability for masted ships. A tinplate works was established on the outskirts of the town around this time and Caerleon expanded to become almost joined to Newport.


Caerleon is an electoral ward of Newport in south-east Wales.


The centre of Caerleon sits in the Usk valley and the river forms part of the community's southern boundary. In the northern part of the village, across the railway, the land rises sharply up to Lodge Wood and its hill fort. The community's western boundary is formed by the A4042 road and the northern one partly by the Malthouse Road and partly by the River Llwyd which flows southwards along the village's eastern side. Across the river, in the region of Penrhos Farm, are two Civil War forts. Across the Usk, St Julian's Park, the village of Christchurch and the upland region around Christchurch Hill as far as the M4 motorway and the A449 road are also within the community. It is also home to a large campus of the University of Wales, Newport.

Arthurian legend

Geoffrey of Monmouth makes Caerleon one of the most important cities in Britain in his "Historia Regum Britanniæ". He gives it a long glorious history from its founding by King Belinus then making it the location of a metropolitan see, an Archbishopric superior to Canterbury and York under Saint Dubricius. He was followed by St David who moved the archbishopric to St David's Cathedral. This builds up to its use by Geoffrey as a Court for King Arthur.

Caerleon is one of the sites most often connected with King Arthur's capital later called Camelot. There was no Camelot mentioned in the early Arthurian traditions recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, and Layamon. These early Arthurian authors say that Arthur's capital was in Caerleon, and even the later recaster of Arthurian material, Sir Thomas Malory, has Arthur re-crowned at "Carlion". It has been suggested that the still-visible Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon is the source of the 'Round-Table' element of the tales, and was used for discussion and entertainment. (The "Camelot" reference originates with the French writer of courtly romance, Chrétien de Troyes.)

Geoffrey of Monmouth writes of Caerleon in the mid 12th century:

:"For it was located in a delightful spot in Glamorgan, on the River Usk, not far from the Severn Sea. Abounding in wealth more than other cities, it was suited for such a ceremony. For the noble river I have named flows along it on one side, upon which the kings and princes who would be coming from overseas could be carried by ship. But on the other side, protected by meadow and woods, it was remarkable for royal palaces, so that it imitated Rome in the golden roofs of its buildings... Famous for so many pleasant features, Caerleon was made ready for the announced feast." (Historia Regum Britanniae "History of the Kings of Britain")

This is only a short part of a description which emphasises the power and wealth of Arthur's court, a description transferred later to Camelot. The huge scale of the ruins along with Caerleon's importance as a urban centre in early mediæval Gwent would have inspired stories which Geoffrey expanded on.

Caerleon also has later Arthurian literary associations, as the birthplace of the writer Arthur Machen who often used it as a location in his work. Alfred Lord Tennyson also wrote his Idylls of the King overlooking the Usk in a bay window of what is now the saloon bar of the "Hanbury Arms" public house. Today Caerleon has a modern statue of a knight, "The Hanbury knight", in reflecting inox by Belgian sculptorThierry Lauwers. [ [ cv nederlands ] ] , its name echoing that of the pub.

In Michael Morpurgo's novel "Arthur, High King of Britain", Caerleon is the castle where Arthur unknowingly commits incest with his half-sister Margause, resulting in the conception of his bastard son Mordred, who will later bring about his downfall.


The community has a large number of pubs for its size, including The Bell Inn, The Olde Bull, The Ship Inn, The Red Lion, The Goldcroft, The Minstrels Sporting Bar, The White Hart, and just outside Caerleon, The St Julians Inn. The list of pubs also includes the Hanbury Arms and the Drovers Arms. The Hanbury Arms is located on Castle Street, at the side of the River Usk, near the field in which the annual Arts Festival takes place. In 1856 the poet Tennyson lodged at the inn while he wrote his "Morte D'Arthur" (later incorporated into his "Idylls of the King". [ [ Caerleon Net - Caerleon and Arthur] ]

The name of the Drovers Arms, located on Goldcroft Common, bears witness to the ancient drovers route on the old road from Malpas. It is thought that the common itself was once the site of a cattle market. [ [ Caerleon Net - Caerleon Market Hall, by Eija Kennerley] ]


The Caerleon ward is home to the Celtic Manor Resort, location of the 2010 Ryder Cup. [] Caerleon also has a good quality 9-hole municipal golf course and driving range, however, during winter months the golf course is prone to flooding due to its situation next to the River Usk.

The association football club Caerleon A.F.C. are based in Caerleon along with two rugby union clubs; Newport High School Old Boys RFC and Caerleon RFC. []

Caerleon is also home to one chapter of the Academy of Historical Fencing, a western martial arts group who study and practice the weapons and styles of medieval and renaissance Europe. The club trains on the University Campus and also has two Chapters in Bristol.

Culture and community

Caerleon hosts an arts festival in July each year which includes tree sculptors from around the world. [] Many of the sizeable sculptures are retained around Caerleon as a Sculpture park and local landmarks. The arts festival coincides with the Roman military re-enactment in the amphitheatre, demonstrating Roman military armour, Roman infantry tactics and techniques for fighting on foot and Roman cavalry tactics and equipment revealing horseback fighting tactics and also siege engines such as ballista.

Future plans

It had been proposed that the site of the former Esso garage, near the bridge, will be used for residential development. [Information can be found on the notice board at Caerleon Library.]

ee also

* Caerleon Comprehensive School
* St Cadoc's Hospital
* University of Wales, Newport
* HMS Caerleon
* Caerleon Endowed Junior School
* Academy of Historical Fencing




*Chris Barber, "Arthurian Caerleon: In Literature and Legend", Blorenge Books (Jun 1996), ISBN 1872730108
*Richard J. Brewer, "Caerleon and the Roman Army", Llyfrau Amgueddfa Cymru/ National Museum Wales Books; 2Rev Ed edition (Sep 2000), ISBN 0720004888

External links

* [ : photos of Caerleon and surrounding area]
* [] site containing details about the history of Caerleon
* [ Caerleon and Arthur]
* [ Roman Legionary Museum] NMGW's Caerleon Museum page
* [ Caerleon Castle] Castle description
* [ Encyclopaedia Britannica Caerleon]
* [ Caerleon Tourist Information Centre]
* [ Home to the Academy of Historical Fencing

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