A short hop for me today from Cardiff to Newport. In fact it may have been quicker for me to go by bus but that’s not the point – this is a railway challenge. I bet it’s surprising how few Cardiffians visit nearby Newport. I had a summer job there once, back in college days, but haven’t explored the centre very much. Today I was going to rectify that. This would be a day of statues, sculptures and history.
It was luxury all the way for me on the rails today. None of those TfW Pacers. I travelled on the new GWR 800 trains to and from Newport.
The first statue was Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar House. This is a pretty old statue dating back to 1850. Sir Charles Morgan 1760-1846 was an MP & wealthy landowner in Newport during the 19th Century. The family owned land in Cardiff as well as Newport – I should know, my house if built on their land. This statue by J.E.Thomas was first placed in the High Street in 1850 but removed 10 years later. In 1992 it was returned to a prominent position in Bridge Street.
My next stop was the Chartist’s sculpture outside the Bridge Hotel. The history of the Chartist’s was something I was completely ignorant of until recent years. Is that because they don’t feature as much in Cardiff history I wonder. They marched to Newport from nearby Rogerstone and some were shot at this location in Newport. Other survivors were sent to Australia. The Chartist Sculptures were erected in 1991 to commemorate the Chartist uprising of 1839. Twenty people died when soldiers clashed with demonstrators demanding political reform. The sculptures form three groups, each representing a different aspect of the political and social change the Chartists hoped to bring about. The first group is ‘Union,’ showing an idealized view of Newport; the second, ‘Prudence’, shows the struggle for change, and the third, ‘Energy’, symbolises both labour and victory.
I headed sown to the waterfront, or alternatively I could call it the muddy banks of the River Usk. There I saw the giant red Steel Wave sculpture. This award-winning sculpture, created by Peter Fink in 1991. It stands 40 feet high and represents steel and sea trades which have played such important roles in Newport’s development.
Outside the Riverside Arts Centre is a sculpture I very much liked. It is two-metres high, made of steel and called The Lost Sailor and was created to remember a skeleton which was found when the theatre was being built and depicts a story of who it might have been.
Lastly I paid a visit to the Newport Museum and Art Gallery. This was a bit of a gem of a place. Much bigger than I imagined it would be and had all sorts of things crammed into it; archaeology, paintings, and historical displays. I was taken with the L.S.Lowry painting of a Salford street scene and the Chartist’s display which explained a lot about their aims which may have appeared outlandish to many at the time but now make perfect common sense:-
- A vote for every man aged twenty-one years and above, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
- The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
- No property qualification for Members of Parliament (MPs), to allow the constituencies to return the man of their choice.
- Payment of Members, enabling tradesmen, working men, or other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation.
- Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing less populous constituencies to have as much or more weight than larger ones.
- Annual Parliamentary elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since no purse could buy a constituency under a system of universal manhood suffrage in every twelve months.
Date of trip: 13 Mar 1919
See progress to date: A-Z of Railway Stations