The Kymin Roundhouse

The Kymin Roundhouse

 

The Kymin, (Welsh: Cae-y-Maen), is a hill overlooking Monmouth, in Monmouthshire, Wales. It is located approximately one mile east of Monmouth, on the eastern side of the River Wye and adjacent to the border with the Forest of Dean and England. The summit of the hill, about 800 feet above sea level, is known for its neo-classical monuments, the Roundhouse and the Naval Temple, built between 1794 and 1800. The site is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is owned by the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty.

The Roundhouse was built by members of the Monmouth Picnic Club or Kymin Club, a group of Monmouth's gentlemen, led by Philip Meakins Hardwick. The members of the Kymin Club were drawn from "the principal Gentlemen of Monmouth and its vicinity", and met each week "for the purpose of dining together, and spending the day in a social and friendly manner".

The Roundhouse was constructed to provide "security from the inclemency of the weather" and the subscription list for funding was headed by the local landowner, the Duke of Beaufort, and eight Members of Parliament. Construction began in 1794 and the local author and artist Fred Hando records that the building "was completed within two years". The building was sited to take advantage of the views and the Monmouth antiquarian and publisher Charles Heath recorded in his 1807 history; Descriptive Account of the Kymin Pavilion and Beaulieu Grove with their various views; also a description of the Naval Temple that ten counties could be seen from the Roundhouse; (Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, Glamorganshire, Breconshire, Montgomeryshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Radnorshire, Shropshire and Somerset). A telescope by Peter Dollond was fitted in the upper room and Heath detailed a large number of the sights that could be viewed from the five windows.

The Roundhouse is a white round tower, in two storeys with a crenellated roof, similar to a folly. The club members wanted a venue suitable for their regular meetings, dining and events and the building was designed with kitchens on the ground floor and a banqueting room above. The building was restored in the early 20th century, when it ceased to be used as a residence. It is a Grade II* listed building as of 27 June 1952.

The Naval Temple was constructed by the Kymin Club in 1800 to commemorate the second anniversary of the British naval victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and in recognition of sixteen of the British Royal Navy's Admirals who had delivered significant victories in other major sea battles of the age around the globe to that date. The temple was dedicated by the Duchess of Beaufort, the daughter of Admiral Boscawen, one of those commemorated in the building.

Nelson visited Monmouth in 1802, along with Lady Hamilton and her husband, Sir William Hamilton. They travelled on the River Wye from Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth, to be greeted by a cannonade and the band of the Monmouthshire Militia playing See, the Conquering Hero Comes. Staying in Monmouth for just a couple of days, Nelson visited the Naval Temple and the Roundhouse on Kymin Hill, where he breakfasted and admired the views. He was struck with the Naval Temple, saying that "it was the only monument of its kind erected to the Royal Navy in the Kingdom".

The building of the temple, in a small county town in Wales, far from the sea and with no great naval or seafaring traditions, was surprising. According to researcher Peter Borsay, the monument's design, and its location overlooking the border between England and Wales, were symbolic of the formation of Great Britain. It was built at the time of the Act of Union with Ireland, about a century after that with Scotland, and at a time when the United Kingdom was engaged in a war with France which was helping to define, and being used to define, what it was to be British.

Up until 1797 Britannia was conventionally depicted holding a spear, but as a consequence of the increasingly prominent role of the navy in the war against the French, and of several spectacular victories, the spear was replaced by a trident. It is this that the Kymin Britannia wields. The navy had come to be seen... as the very bulwark of British liberty and the essence of what it was to be British... It was therefore entirely appropriate that the temple should be a naval one, that the heroes celebrated should all be naval officers, and that battles commemorated ones fought at sea." In building the temple, Monmouth staked its own claim to be the centre of British identity as the birthplace of King Henry V, of whom a statue was placed on the Shire Hall in 1792. Within two years of the battle of Waterloo in 1815 the name of the town's market place had been changed to Agincourt Square "in order to celebrate a victory of Henry V's that seemed as famous as Wellington's.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare saw the Temple in 1803, soon after its construction, and was unimpressed, describing it as "in very bad taste". Monmouthshire artist and author, Fred Hando, who described many Monmouthshire landmarks in his series of articles for the South Wales Argus running from 1922-1970, visited the Temple in 1964. At that time, the figure of Britannia had been lost, as had the two naval seascape paintings depicting the Battle of the Nile and The Standard of Great Britain Triumphant.

The temple has been restored on a number of occasions, most recently in 2012, following storm damage. The latest restoration saw the restoration of the statue of Britannia, the re-painting of the two seascapes and the re-installation of the gates.

The memorial is classical in design, topped by a bronze seated figure of Britannia (now a replica). It comprises two porticos, back to back, with Doric columns. The architectural historian John Newman describes the architectural style as; "hard(..) to come to terms with". The temple is a Grade II listed building.

The square Naval Temple has round plaques or medallions, four on each face, for each Admiral and the victory with which he was most closely associated and its date. The named Admirals are: Vice Admiral Charles Thompson, Rear Admiral Adam Duncan, Vice Admiral Edward Boscawen, Vice Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, Admiral Howe, Admiral John Warren, Admiral John Gell (was retired locally near Crickhowell when this was built), Admiral Lord Nelson, Admiral of the Fleet John Jervis, Vice Admiral George Rodney, Admiral Hawke who was also First Lord of the Admiralty, Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Hood, Vice-Admiral William Cornwallis, Admiral Sir Peter Parker another Admiral of the Fleet, Admiral George Elphinstone and Admiral Andrew Mitchell

In 1802 The Kymin in Monmouth played host to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who to this day remains the most famous guest to have dined at the Round House. As was fashionable at the time, with the popular Wye Tour, Lord Nelson travelled down the River Wye from Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth, accompanied by the infamous Lady Hamilton and her husband Sir William. They alighted at Monmouth to cannonades firing, the town band playing and were greeted by the mayor, all the local dignitaries of the county and cheering crowds of locals.

During their two-day stay in the town, on 19 August 1802, Nelson and the Hamiltons breakfasted in the Round House and admired the views. They also spent time at the Naval Temple, a particularly poignant visit given that its creation was likely inspired by Nelson’s own celebrated victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, which is the subject of one of the temple’s triumphal arch paintings, and that he is one of the 16 admirals commemorated on the monument.

Charles Heath, a citizen of Monmouth, recorded Nelson’s visit and observed him as he inspected the Naval Temple: “On his Lordship's arrival at this part of the building, he surveyed, with an opera glass which he held in his hand, this representation of his fame with the most calm emotion, as though it had been accomplished by another officer, - after pausing on it for some minutes, he directed his attention to other interesting objects around him.”

Afterwards Nelson commented that: “it was not only one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen, but, to the boast of Monmouth, the Temple was the only Monument of its kind erected to the English Navy in the whole range of the Kingdom.” That the Naval Temple was erected not in one of Britain’s major naval ports but in a small provincial county town in Wales, far from the sea and with no great naval or seafaring traditions, stayed with Nelson. Nelson’s Column would not be built until 1843, nearly 40-years after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

It may be a small place, but The Kymin, near Monmouth, is chock full of a variety of wildlife from badgers to bats. Roughly half The Kymin is an area of semi-natural, broad-leaved native woodland, dominated by beech and oak with a few sycamore and rowan trees. Some of these trees were planted more than 200-years-ago around the time the Round House was built, to enhance the beauty of this hilltop site. In particular, several Scots pine trees were planted, which today provide a much needed home for one of the UK’s rarest ants, the red wood ant.

To the north is Beaulieu Wood or Grove, owned by the Woodland Trust. At one time, an arched doorway led from the path outside the Round House through to this woodland. With areas of ancient semi-natural woodland, it’s the perfect place to spot the best of woodland birds and mammals.

The Kymin borders one of the few areas in the UK now home to one of our most elusive large animals – the wild boar in the Forest of Dean. Wild boar were once a common and native species to Britain, but were hunted to extinction by the 13th century. They were subsequently re-introduced but again became extinct by the 17th century. The piglets and sows that we see today are the first in around 300-years to roam Britain as freely as their native ancestors did. Wild boars don’t seek human company and can be difficult to catch sight of. But they have been known to appear at The Kymin, so with luck and patience on your side, you may just get a glimpse of these elusive creatures. But please be careful, as they can become dangerous if they feel threatened.

Nocturnal Nature. Pipistrelle and soprano bats have both made The Kymin their home. Pipistrelles are the UK’s smallest and most common bats, and can eat up to 3,000 insects in one night. The Kymin’s woods provide the perfect habitat for owls, especially Tawny owls. Take a walk at dusk to hear their distinctive ‘twit-twoo’ and high pitched screeching. Badgers are another night-time woodland-dwelling animal found at The Kymin. These elusive and shy mammals are wonderful to watch if you’re lucky enough to catch them playing on a quiet, summer’s evening.

Greater Spotted Woodpeckers

Greater Spotted Woodpeckers

There is parking at the entrance to the property, this is free; donations are welcome. Toilets are available to visitors of the Round House (only when open, located on the first floor, not accessible to wheelchairs unfortunately). Dogs are allowed in the grounds and well behaved dogs are welcome in the Round House. There are Picnic areas on the lawns and there are some benches dotted around. Refreshments - soft drinks and snacks are available from the Round House when it is open. There are a number of pubs to choose from in nearby Monmouth. The Round House can be booked for small events when it is not open to the public.

This is an ideal tranquil spot for family picnics. There is a Croquet set available for hire when the Round House is open. There is a children's quiz/trail available.

There is mobility parking available with three accessible parking spaces, adjacent to the Round House, beyond the car park. There are Sensory Experiences. The Grounds are partly accessible with hard gravel paths and slopes with some steps. The Pleasure grounds are mostly lawns. There are seating benches scattered across the property. The Naval Temple is accessible, all on one level. The Round House - ground floor only accessible by ramp (please ask the room steward). The Pathways have rough and uneven surfaces throughout the property, some level ground. There is one large flat area of lawn, which is only accessible by crossing other sloping lawns. Assistance dogs are welcome.

Bus routes : H & H 60 from Newport (passing close railway station); Drake 83 from Abergavenny (passing close railway station); Stagecoach Wye & Dean 416 from Hereford railway station; Stagecoach Wye & Dean 34 from Ross on Wye and Classic 65 from Chepstow (passing close railway station). All of these services stop in Monmouth, which is a 1½ mile walk to the property following the Offa's Dyke footpath signs over the Wye Bridge.

 

Location : The Round House, The Kymin, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, NP25 3SF

Transport : National Rail - Lydney 10 miles; Abergavenny 13 miles; Chepstow 12 miles. Bus Routes : see above.

Opening Times Roundhouse: April through October; Saturday/Sunday; 11:00 to 16:00

Opening Times Park: Daily, 07:00 to 21:00

Tickets Roundhouse: Adults £3.00;  Children £1.50

Tickets Park: Free

Tel : 01600 719241