The Great House, Old Market Street

What appears to be a large block of separate terraced houses, nos. 17 to 27 Old Market Street is in fact the rear of the Great House described by Newman as “the most remarkable early house in the town”. The front of the house faced south across a large garden extending as far as the present day cricket ground.

In 1551 the then owner of Usk Castle Sir William Herbert allowed his steward Roger Williams to strip the Castle of stone and timbers to build the Great House. Many of the ruined openings, robbed of their dressed stonework by Williams, may be seen in the Castle today. Roger Williams had bought Usk Priory and land following its dissolution in 1536. As the High Sheriff of Monmouthshire he was one of the “new gentry” and had acquired large holdings of land in Usk and the surrounding area.

The impressive plaster ceilings in the house which is now No. 27 were decorated with Jacobean Tudor Roses, marguerites and thistles contained within ribs of interlocking pointed quatrefoils in one the rooms. The ceilings of upper rooms are ribbed with more flowers and have a frieze with shields and “affronted wyverns” (winged forward facing dragons with forked tails). This work with probably carried out by the then owner, Sir Charles Williams, a descendant, after 1603.

House number 19 has an outside chimney stack which could well be the conversion to a fireplace from a toilet chute on what was then the back of the house.
In the early nineteenth century the grand staircase was removed and the house divided into the five dwellings you see today.

Sources –
The Buildings of Wales Gwent/Monmouthshire. John Newman (Penguin 2000).
“Usk Town Trail” Geoffrey Mein (Usk Civic Society 2010)