From Wikishire
Jump to: navigation, search
A reen in Goldcliff with The Farmers Arms beyond
Location: 51°32’35"N, 2°54’53"W
Population: 233
Post town: Newport
Postcode: NP18
Dialling code: 01633
Local Government
Council: Newport
Newport East
Groynes at Goldcliff Point


from the 1607 plaque in St Mary's Church

Goldcliff is a village and parish to the south-east of the city of Newport in Monmouthshire.

Origin of the name

The name is said to have originated from the silicious limestone cliff, standing about 60 feet high, at Hill Farm, rising over a great bed of yellow mica which breaks the level at the shore and has a glittering appearance in sunshine, especially to ships passing in the Bristol Channel. Giraldus Cambrensis, who toured Wales in 1188 refers to it as "Gouldclyffe" and describes it in Latin as "...glittering with a wonderful brightness".[1]


Together with the neighbouring parishes of Nash and Whitson, it is one of "The Three Parishes" which have long been a unit - geographically, socially, economically and ecclesiastically. All three parishes are typical of the Caldicot Levels. At the highest tides the village lies below sea-level. The entire area is drained by a vast network of inter-linking ditches or 'reens'.[2] A main drainage ditch, with an origin near Llanwern, known as "Monksditch" or "Goldcliff Pill" [3] passes through the village on its way to the sea. Local folklore maintains that the sides of the Monksditch are laced with smuggler's brandy.

Fields are drained by low depressions running the width of the fields, known locally as grips. The field area between grips is termed a span or spain. The grips drain into the reens which are slow-moving and in Summer months are often stagnant. Reens run towards the sea where they empty between tides at a gout. The level of reens is controlled by means of a series of sluices or stanks; separate boards in which may be raised or lowered to keep water levels high enough for livestock to drink. The faster flowing Monksditch carries water from more distant higher ground, above the level of the reens, some of which pass underneath the ditch by means of culverts.

The south of the village is bounded by the foreshore of the Severn Estuary, which lies behind a tall concrete-faced sea wall. A number of groynes can be seen at low tide.


Prehistoric, Roman and Mediæval

Hidden in the laminated silts of the Severn estuary foreshore at Goldcliff are 8,000-year-old (mesolithic) human footprints [4] and the intertidal region of the coast near Goldcliff has attracted considerable archaeological interest (see Archaeology below). Goldcliff has notable evidence of occupation by the Silures.[5]

A connection with Roman activity was firmly established with the discovery near Goldcliff Point in 1878 of the inscribed "Goldcliff Stone" recording the work of legionaries on a linear earthwork, presumably a sea wall.[6] Further evidence of occupation was found when ash pits were dug at Nash during construction of the Uskmouth Power Station.

Goldcliff was originally owned by the native princes of Wales, but was taken from Owain Wan, son of the last king of Gwent, Caradawg ap Gruffydd, by the Norman nobleman Robert de Chandos who, shortly before 1113, founded a priory there.[1]

The higher coastal parts of the area were certainly reclaimed by the late 11th century and early 12th century when Goldcliff and Nash were granted to the Benedictine priory. Lower-lying areas inland were enclosed and drained [2] by the 13th century and 14th century.

Goldcliff Priory

On the site of Hill Farm, situated on a prominent knoll of high ground, south of the village and next to the sea, stood Goldcliff Priory. Founded in 1113 as a subject house of the Abbey of Bec in Normandy, it passed during the fifteenth century into the control of Tewkesbury Abbey and then of Eton College.

Historic sites

Former Congregational Chapel

A small enclosure on Chapel Lane to the north of the present parish church, is thought to hold the remains of an ancient chapel, probably connected with the Priory. Also located off Chapel Lane, the farmhouse and barn at Great Newra Farm has Grade II listed buildings.[7]

The quaint Congregational (later United Reformed Church) chapel [8] near the junction of the Sea Wall Road, built in 1840 and restored in 1900-01, is now also a private dwelling, but was still active as late as the 1980s.

Local Industry and education

Clifton Common, Goldcliff

Goldcliff has long been associated with the tidal putcher fishing of salmon, which may well have had its origins with the Priory or even in Roman times. The technique used the so-called "putcher" basket traditionally made from hazel rods and withy (willow) plait, set out against the tides in huge wooden "ranks". The last main exponent of the art of wooden putcher-making at Goldcliff was George Whittaker, although a working knowledge of the technique was also kept into the 1970s by Wyndham Howells of Saltmarsh Farm, the last full-time fisherman at Goldcliff. Deeds for Saltmarsh Farm for 1867–1918 are held by Gwent Record Office [9]

The mixed school for the parishes of Goldcliff and Whitson was erected in 1872 for 60 children and in 1901 had an average attendance of 46, with a Miss Mary Edith Tomlinson as the mistress.[10] Until it closed in July 1954, the school received an annual gift of £2 from Eton College.[11]

Kelly's 1901 Directory lists the only private residence in the village as "The Moorlands", but has no fewer than 27 commercial concerns, mostly farmers, but also including a haulier, two fishermen, a female publican, a farm bailiff, a hay dealer, a mason and a shoe maker. The Directory also lists a Mrs Annie Louise Taylor as hotellier at "The Temperance Hotel".[10] The hotel, situated at the end of the Sea Wall Road, was a well-known landmark as late as the 1950s.

The Moorlands, a Victorian house built in 1870 for the Waters family, has a garden which includes acacia, American oak and Christmas strawberry.[12]

The Church

The parish church of Saint Mary Magdelene[13] has a well maintained churchyard with a beautiful tree arch canopy and many old gravestones.[14] It is an ancient stone building in the Early English style and is located directly behind The Farmer's Arms public house. At the front of the churchyard are the remains of an ancient mounded cross. The first vicar was Roger de Holbrook in 1349 and church records are available from 1724.[12]

The church itself has a small brass plaque on the north wall near the altar, commemorating the Great Flood of 1607 when a tidal wave (possibly a tsunami) swept along the Bristol Channel drowning 2,000 people. The plate, about three feet above ground level today at this point, marks the height of the flood waters. The estimate of financial loss is given as approximately £5,000[15]

The tower contains one bell, recast by Taylors of Loughborough in 1969.[16]

The former vicarage for the three parishes, located in Whitson, is now a private dwelling. The minister for the Rectoral Benefice of Magor, which includes Magor, Nash, Undy, Llanwern, Wilcrick, Bishton, Llanmartin, Langstone and Redwick is based in Magor.[17]

Following interior re-decoration in 2006, including the removal of the old pews and pulpit, a service of re-dedication was held on 4 February 2007 with the Bishop of Monmouth. The interior is now decorated with individually dedicated chairs and matching carpet.[18]

1607 Flood plaque, in St Mary's Church. The plaque records the year as 1606 because, under the Julian calendar in use at that time, the new year did not start until Lady Day, 25 March.


A considerable amount of archaeology has centred on Goldcliff. A useful report, published jointly by the Council for British Archaeology and Cadw, has been produced by Martin Bell and colleagues.[19] Bell was instrumental in the discovery of the mesolithic human footprints and in 2004 his work at Goldcliff featured on Channel 4's archaeological television programme Time Team.[20] Further archaeological excavation has also been carried out by Martin Locock and colleagues prior to the introduction of the Newport Wetlands reserve, for example at Hill Farm.[21]


Interior of St Mary's Church
Former School House and parish room

Goldcliff is home to part of the extensive Newport Wetlands,[22] opened in March 2000 as a mitigation for the loss of mudflats caused by the building of the Cardiff Bay Barrage.[23] Parts of Goldcliff and Whitson together are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest SSSI.[24]

The village pub is The Farmer's Arms,[25] located close to the church. The village still has use of a communal parish room located in the Old School at the side of the Monksditch, which there forms the border with Whitson.

Goldcliff is a popular venue for sea fishing [26] and for ornithology.[27] Bird species sighted include little egret, cormorant, chaffinch, magpie, woodpigeon, wren, greenfinch, moorhen, dunlin, ringed plover, lapwing, shelduck, avocets, common redshank, Canada goose, oystercatcher, shoveler, teal, spotted redshank, black-winged stilt, common buzzard, grey heron, tufted ducks, mallard, swallow, black-tailed godwit, skylark, raven, gadwall, common pochar, kestrel, sedge warbler and peregrine.[28]


This article contains public domain material from J. A. Bradney's History of Monmouthshire (1904).

  1. 1.0 1.1 Bradney, Sir Joseph, A History of Monmouthshire, Vol 4 part 2: The Hundred of Caldicot (Part 2). pub 1914, reprinted 1994, Merton Priory Press.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Drainage Ditch by Chapel Road, Goldcliff:: OS grid ST3683 :: Geograph Britain and Ireland - photograph every grid square!
  3. Goldcliff Pill:: OS grid ST3682 :: Geograph Britain and Ireland - photograph every grid square!
  4. Timeteam webpage 2004
  5. Miranda Aldhouse-Green and Ray Howell (eds.), Gwent In Prehistory and Early History: The Gwent County History Vol.1, 2004, ISBN 0-7083-1826-6
  6. Morgan, Octavius (1882), "Goldcliff and the Ancient Roman Inscribed Stone Found There 1878", Monmouthshire & Caerleon Antiquarian Association
  7. Barn at Great Newra, Goldcliff
  8. Congregational Chapel, Goldcliff
  9. Saltmarsh Farm, Gwent Record Office
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kelly's Directory of Monmouthshire (1901)
  11. Fred Hando, (1958) "Out and About in Monmouthshire", R. H. Johns, Newport.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Goldcliff & Whitson at From: The Gwent Village Book, Gwent Federation of Women's Institutes, published by Countryside Books.
  13. St Mary Magdalene Church, Goldcliff
  14. Monmouthshire: Goldcliff: St. Mary Magdalene's Church
  15. Flood plaque, Goldcliff Parish Church:: OS grid ST3683 :: Geograph Britain and Ireland - photograph every grid square!
  16. St.Mary's Goldcliff at Rectorial Benefice of Magor
  17. Rectorial Benefice of Magor
  18. Interior of Goldcliff Parish Church at
  19. Maritime and Intertidal Archaeology agenda
  20. "Goldcliff Severn Estuary, 22 February 2004" at
  21. "Gwent Levels Wetland Reserve, Hill Farm, Goldcliff: excavations 1997" at
  22. Wetlands, Goldcliff, Monmouthshire:: OS grid ST3583 :: Geograph Britain and Ireland - photograph every grid square!
  23. RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve
  24. City of Newport Countryside and Parks
  25. Farmers Arms, Goldcliff, Monmouthshire:: OS grid ST3683 :: Geograph Britain and Ireland - photograph every grid square!
  26. Goldcliff beach sea fishing mark at
  27. Dawn at Goldcliff lagoons, Newport Wetlands at
  28. "Black Winger Stilts, Apr 26th 2013, Golkdcliff". Retrieved 23 May 2013. 

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Goldcliff)