Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

NEWNHAM, a market-town and parish, in the hundred of WESTBURY, county of GLOUCESTER, 11½ miles (W.S.W.) from Gloucester, and 116 (W. by N.) from London, containing 1012 inhabitants. This town appears to have originated in a ford over the river Severn, formed by a ridge of rocks and a sand-bank, the shifting of which latter, in 1802, rendered the river no longer fordable. Here was anciently a castle, which constituted one of the fortresses on the Welch frontier, in the times of our Norman kings, but there are no traces of it. The town is situated on the western bank of the river, which is navigable, and across which there is a ferry to Arlingham.

A harbour for vessels of one hundred and fifty tons' burden was constructed about eighty years ago, and some coasting trade is carried on, though the difficult navigation of the river near the town has contributed to lessen its commerce, much of which has been transferred to a port, a few miles to the south, called Gatcombe. A verdegris manufactory, and shipbuilding, afford employment to some of the inhabitants; and at Aylesford, in this parish, are large forges for working iron and making iron-wire. There being in the neighbourhood extensive iron and coal mines, and the carriage of their produce is facilitated by the Bullo Pill railway, which passes from the marble works on the Severn southward of the town, into the Forest of Dean, through a tunnel one thousand and sixty yards in extent, and also by the Berkeley canal.

The market, now very inconsiderable, is on Friday; and fairs are held on the 11th of June and 18th of October. The government was vested in a mayor and burgesses in the reign of Edward I., but there are now few relics of its former importance, except a sword of state, said to have been the gift of King John: two constables, locally termed Beams, are appointed, but, until the beginning of the present century, the inhabitants annually celebrated the election of a mayor and six aldermen. The lord of the manor holds a court leet yearly; and petty sessions for the Forest of Dean are held here and at Woolaston alternately. Newnham was returned as one of the five boroughs in Gloucestershire, on a mandate from the Crown, in the ninth of Edward I, and is said formerly to have sent two members to parliament.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Gloucester, and in the patronage of the Mayor and Corporation of that city. The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, and stands on a cliff near the river, contains some portions of Norman architecture, especially the arched entrance into the chancel, ornamented with zig-zag mouldings, and supposed to have belonged to a more ancient edifice. There is a place of worship for Independents. Fifteen poor boys are annually clothed from the funds of a charity, called "Jocham's charity"; James Jocham having, by will, dated December 21st, 1764, given the interest of £1000 for ever, for this and other benevolent purposes. There is also a savings bank.

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