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which are circularly arched; but the exterior walls of the castle appear to have been originally only furnished with oilets or chinks for shooting arrows through. Encumbered by the lowly habitations of a poor village, it has little claim to picturesque merit from most points of view; but on the opposite side of the Monnow, combined with a Gothic bridge of two arches crossing the stream, it forms a pleasing picture.
Screnfrith Castle is allowed to be the oldest in Monmouthshire; it is certainly of British erection, and is probably of as remote antiquity as any in Wales.
Screnfrith, Grosmont, and White Castles, formerly defended the lordship of Overwent; which, extending from the Wye to the Usk, nearly comprised the whole northern portion of Monmouthshire. This tract of country, with its castles, fell into the hands of Brian Fitz Count, Earl of Hereford, who came over with the Conqueror; but soon deviated from his family, and was afterwards seized by Henry the Third, and conferred on his favourite Hubert de Burgh. Upon the disgrace of that virtuous and able minister, the capricious monarch granted the three castles to his son the Earl of Lancaster; and, with Çaldecot castle, they still remain annexed to the dutchy.
The continuance of our journey to Gross: mont, wandering in an irriguous valley among bye-lanes that were scarcely passable, although it proved very tedious in travelling, afforded us a succession of the most pleasing retired scenes imaginable. On our right a diversity of swells and hollows, variously clad in wild woods or cultivation, extended throughout our ride, where the lively and transparent Monnow, illumined by
The noon-tide beams “Which sparkling dances on the treinbling streain," serpentized its current in endless variety. Inmediately on our left, the Graig, a huge solitary mountain, reared its towering sides from the low lands in uncontended majesty, and accompanied our road to the pleasing little village of GROSMONT.
This place stands at the north-eastern limit of Monmouthshire, in an agreeable undulating valley, diversified with wood and pasture, and beautifully accompanied by the meandering Monnow, here wantoning its
most fantastic course. On an eminence near the village, and swelling above the river, is the picturesque ruin of its castle ; a pile of no great extent, but well disposed, and pro-, fusely decorated with shrubs and ivy. The form of the structure is irregular : large circular towers cover the angles of the ramparts; within which are traces of the baronial hall, and other apartments, and beyond the mount are some remains of the barbican, or redoubt, and several entrenchments. All the door and window arches are pointed Gothic, and of the proportion in use about the thirteenth century ; but the foundation of the castle is supposed to be coeval with that of Screnfrith's. Grosmont church is a large Gothic structure, built in the form of a Roman cross; and, with its octagon tower, and high tapering spire, is a conspicuous ornament to the village.
Though now an insignificant cluster of habitations, Grosmont was formerly a town of some note. Many exterior traces of buildings, and raised causeways, constructed like Roman roads with large blocks of stone, diverging from it, prove its antique extent and importance to have been considerable: nor
is the legend of the place deficient in asserting its quondam consequence.
But withi still higher interest, with more voluble eart:estness, the natives recount the exploits of their reputed necromancer, John of KENT. Among a thousand other instances of his magical skill, they confidently assure you, that when he was a boy, being ordered to protect some corn from the birds, he conjured all the crows in the neighbourhood into a barn without a roof, and by force of his incantations obliged them to remain there while he visited Grosmont fair. A greater service that he performed for the country was, his building the bridge over the Monnow in one night by the agency of one of his familiars. Long did his strange actions frightenmen out of their wits; and at length, dying, he outwitted the devil; for, in consideration of services while living, he agreed to surrender himself to his satanic majesty after his death, whether he was buried in or out of church ; but, by ordering his body to be interred under the church wall, he contrived to slip out of the contract. A stone in the church-yard, near the chan
cel, cel, is said to mark the spot of this interment.
Higher tradition relates, that this extraordinary personage was a monk, who, possessing a greater knowledge in natural philosophy than could at that time be generally comprehended, was reputed a sorcerer. The family of the Scudamores, at Kentchurchliouse, about a mile from Grosmont, where he became domesticated, had a Latin translation of the Bible written by him on vellum, but which is now lost. An ancient painting of him upon wood is, however, preserved in the mansion; and a cellar in the house is described to have been the stable of his horses ; steeds of no vulgar pedigree, which carried him through the air with more than the speed of witches.
From a collation of different legends and circumstances, several respectable enquirers are inclined to believe, that this necromancer was no other than the famous Owen Glendower; who, after his defeat, and the dispersion of his army, concealed himself in the disguise of a bard, or wizard. A strong circumstance which favours this conjecture is,