Sudbrook, Monmouthshire, UK

Sudbrook, Monmouthshire, UK

Sudbrook is a village in Monmouthshire, south east Wales. It is located 4 miles south west of Chepstow and 1 mile east of Caldicot. It lies close to the Second Severn Crossing on the Severn Estuary, and adjoins the village of Portskewett. It was largely built in the late 19th century for workers on the Severn railway tunnel. At that time it was also known as Southbrook.


Sudbrook Hill Fort

Sudbrook was of early historic importance in guarding the Severn estuary at an ancient ferry crossing place between the Welsh and English sides. An Iron age hillfort is located on the coast, probably built and occupied by the Silures from the 2nd century BC and later occupied by the Romans from the 1st century AD until the 4th century. The hillfort was originally much bigger than now, but has been eroded away over the centuries. Finds of Roman coins at Black Rock, Portskewett, show that the ferry crossing was in use in Roman times, on the route between the Roman stations of Aquae Sulis (Bath) and Venta Silurum (Caerwent).

According to tradition, Caradog Freichfras, the Welsh ruler of Gwent in the 5th century or 6th century AD, moved his court from Caerwent to the Portskewett area, possibly to the fort.

Holy Trinity Church

The ruined Holy Trinity church stands near the Severn cliff. It has mostly fallen into the sea over the centuries. The nave walls date from the 12th century; the chancel was added in the 14th century and the south porch in the 15th century.

The preaching cross which is now inside the church was originally outside and was probably moved to prevent it falling into the sea as the cliff eroded. The area around the church was probably the site of the original medieval village. A manor house and other village buildings stood nearby but later moved inland, probably when climate changes in the 14th century and 15th century led to the widening of the estuary and the erosion of the cliff.

By 1720 the church had fallen down and much of the churchyard had fallen into the river with human bones from the graves often being found on the shore.

Sudbrook Village

Most of Sudbrook was built as a new village for workers on the Severn Tunnel, on which construction began in 1873. The first cottages were built by contractor T. A. Walker in 1877, and rapid development took place over the next decade, including a school, post office, mission hall and infirmary. Some of the houses – originally known as Concrete Row – are believed to be the first concrete houses built in Britain.

Also built was a large pumping station, required to pump water from the tunnel, including three large brick engine houses housing six steam engines, and ventilation towers. The steam engines were replaced by electrical engines in 1962, and the chimney stacks taking smoke from the furnaces were demolished in 1968.

After the Severn tunnel was opened in 1886, Walker started a shipbuilding business at Sudbrook, using the same labour force. This continued in operation, building steamers of up to 700 tonnes, until 1926.

Between 1958 and 2006, local employment in the village was provided by a large paper mill, which made use of water from the tunnel.

Welsh School

In 2002 Ysgol y Ffin, one of only two Welsh language based primary schools in Monmouthshire, was established in the old school building at Sudbrook.

However, in 2008 the school outgrew the site and moved to Sandy Lane in Caldicot.

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