Abergavenny is a market town and municipal borough in Monmouthshire in Wales. It is 14 miles west of Monmouth. It is situated at the junction of a small stream called the Gavenny with the River Usk; and the site, almost surrounded by lofty hills, is very beautiful. The town was formerly walled, and has the remains of a castle built soon after the conquest, frequently the scene of border strife.
The church of St Mary belonged originally to a Benedictine monastery founded early in the 12th century. The existing building, however, is Decorated and Perpendicular.
This was the Roman Gobannium, a small fort guarding the road along the valley of the Usk and ensuring quiet among the hill tribes. There is practically no trace of this fort. Abergavenny (Bergavenny) grew under the protection of the lords of Abergavenny, whose title dated from William I (the Conqueror).
Owing to its situation, the town was frequently embroiled in the border warfare of the 12th and 13th centuries, and Giraldus Cambrensis relates how in 1173 the castle was seized by the Welsh. Hamelyn de Baalun, first lord of Abergavenny, founded the Benedictine priory, which was subsequently endowed by William de Braose with a tenth of the profits of the castle and town. At the dissolution of the priory part of this endowment went towards the foundation of a free grammar school, the site itself passing to the Gunter family. During the Civil War prior to the siege of Ragban Castle in 1645, Charles I visited Abergavenny, and presided in person over the trial of Sir Trevor Williams and other Parliamentarians.
In 1639 Abergavenny received a charter of incorporation under the title of bailiff and burgesses. A charter with extended privileges was drafted in 1657, but appears never to have been enrolled or to have come into effect. Owing to the refusal of the chief officers of the corporation to take the oath of allegiance to William III in 1688, the charter was annullod, and the town subsequently declined in prosperity.
The act of 27 Henry VIII, which provided that Monmouth, as county town, should return one burgess to parliament, further stated that other ancient Monmouthshire boroughs were to contribute towards the payment of the member. In consequence of this clause Abergavenny on various occasions shared in the election, the last instance being in 1685. Reference to a market at Abergavenny is found in a charter granted to the prior by William de Braose (d. r211). The right to hold two weekly markets and three yearly fairs, as hitherto held, was confirmed in 1657. Abergavenny was celebrated for the production of Welsh flannel, and also for the manufacture, whilst the fashion prevailed, of periwigs of goats hair.
The title of Baron Abergavenny, in the Neville family, dates from Edward Neville (d. 1476), who was the youngest son of the 1st earl of Westmorland by Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt. He married the heiress of Richard, earl of Worcester, whose father had inherited the castle and estate of Abergavenny, and was summoned in 1392 to parliament as Lord Bergavenny. Edward Neville was summoned to parliament with this title in 1450. His direct male descendants ended in 1387 in Henry Neville, but a cousin, Edward Neville (d. 1622), was confirmed in the barony in 1604. From him it has descended continuously, the title being increased to an earldom in 1784; and in 1876 William Nevill (sic) 5th earl (b. 1826), an indefatigable and powerful supporter of the conservative party, was created 1st marquess of Abergavenny. (See Neville.)