A Welsh Estate Makes the Most of Its Roman Past ; Ancient Castle Mound Towers above Vestiges of History at the Mynde

By Saltmarsh, Abigail | International New York Times, June 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

A Welsh Estate Makes the Most of Its Roman Past ; Ancient Castle Mound Towers above Vestiges of History at the Mynde


Saltmarsh, Abigail, International New York Times


Set behind a high stone wall, right in the center of the Roman town of Caerleon, in Wales, the Mynde has a history of its own that spans the ages.

Set behind a high stone wall, right in the center of the Roman town of Caerleon, in Wales, the Mynde has a history of its own that spans the ages.

Home to Terry and Jenny Greenhaf for more than 37 years, the property, which is on the market for 1,795,000 pounds, or $2.8 million, comprises not only an 8,100-square-foot house but also grounds of 3.5 acres, including an ancient castle mound, where Roman remains were once discovered.

"We fell in love with the house because it was right in the middle of the town, yet had beautiful gardens and was private and peaceful," said Mr. Greenhaf, a civil engineer and property developer, who did not wish to disclose what he paid for the property in 1978. "But we also liked the idea of owning our own little piece of history."

Situated on the River Usk, Caerleon was once a bustling port and the site of a notable Roman legionary fortress, Isca Augusta. Substantial Roman remains, including a military amphitheater, baths and barracks, can still be seen in the town.

Now contained within the boundaries of the Mynde, the former castle mound is believed to have been an Iron Age hill fort and to have seen Roman activity. Today it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, an archaeological site, which is protected from change under law.

"It is thought the Castle of Caerleon was then in existence on the site some time before 1086," said Mr. Greenhaf. "It was probably founded during the initial Anglo-Norman advance from Chepstow in 1067 to 1075. Although you can still see one of the towers of the drawbridge, nothing remains of the keep."

The 90-foot mound is now wooded and makes a striking feature in the grounds of the house. A footpath spirals up to its summit, from which there are far-reaching views in all directions. "We climb the mound most days and often still find remains, such as pieces of pottery and shells from the oysters that would have been an important part of the diet in centuries gone by," Mr. Greenhaf said.

The protective wall around the property, which is 20 feet high in places, was built by a man named John Jenkins in the early 19th century. Mr. Jenkins, who lived in another large house, which was also on the grounds at the time, was part owner and manager of a nearby tin works. He later became a magistrate and then sheriff of Monmouthshire and, fearing an uprising by members of the Chartist movement, decided to wall the property in.

Stone from nearby Roman and Medieval ruins was used, and the wall has a Grade II conservation listing for its "special interest" from Cadw, the Welsh Government's historic environment service.

"In the middle of the 19th century, Mr. …

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