Coordinates: 51°36′54″N 2°57′32″W / 51.615°N 2.959°W / 51.615; -2.959

Caerleon ( /kəˈliːən/; Welsh: Caerllion) is a suburban village and community, situated on the River Usk in the northern outskirts of the city of Newport, South Wales. Caerleon is a site of archaeological importance, being the site of a notable Roman legionary fortress, Isca Augusta, and an Iron Age hill fort. The Wales National Roman Legion Museum and Roman Baths Museum are in Caerleon close to the remains of Isca Augusta. Caerleon also has strong literary associations, as Geoffrey of Monmouth makes Caerleon one of the most important cities in Britain in his Historia Regum Britanniæ, and Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote Idylls of the King while staying in Caerleon.

Roman fortress

Caerleon is a site of considerable archaeological importance, being the location of a Roman legionary fortress or Castra (it was the headquarters for Legio II Augusta from about 75 to 300 AD) and an Iron Age hill fort. The name Caerleon is derived from the Welsh for "fortress of the legion"; the Romans themselves called it Isca which itself comes from the Welsh name for the river: "Wysg". Substantial excavated Roman remains can be seen, including the military amphitheatre, thermae (baths) and barracks occupied by the Roman Legion. In August 2011 it was announced that the remains of a Roman harbour had been discovered in Caerleon .

According to Gildas (followed by Bede), Roman Caerleon was the site of two early Christian martyrdoms, those of Julius and Aaron. Recent finds suggest Roman occupation of some kind as late as AD 380. Roman remains have also been discovered at The Mynde, itself a distinctive historical site.

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, after the Romans had left Britain, Caerleon or nearby Venta Silurum (now Caerwent) was the administrative centre of the Kingdom of Gwent. The parish church of St Cadoc was founded on the site of the legionary headquarters building probably sometime in the 6th century. A Norman-style motte and bailey castle was built outside the eastern corner of the old Roman fort, probably by the Welsh Lord of Caerleon, Caradog ap Gruffydd. It was held in 1086 by Turstin FitzRolf, standard bearer to William the Conqueror at Hastings. From the apparent banishment of Turstin by William II, it was held from 1088 by Wynebald de Ballon, brother of Hamelin de Ballon who held Abergavenny further up the Usk. Battles raged between the Welsh and Normans and in 1171 Iorwerth ab Owain and his two sons destroyed the town of Caerleon and burned the Castle. Caerleon was an important market and port and presumably became a borough by 1171, although no independent charters exist. Both castle and borough were seized by William Marshal in 1217 and Caerleon castle was rebuilt in stone. The remains of many of the old Roman buildings stood to some height until this time and were probably demolished for their building materials.

The Welsh Revolt

During the Welsh Revolt in 1402 Rhys Gethin, General for Owain Glyndŵr, took Caerleon Castle together with those of Newport, Cardiff, Llandaff, Abergavenny, Caerphilly and Usk by force. This was probably the last time Caerleon castle was ruined, though the walls were still standing in 1537 and the castle ruins only finally collapsed in 1739 - their most obvious remnant is the Round Tower at the Hanbury Arms public house.

English Civil War

Across the Afon Llwyd from Caerleon, in the region of Penrhos Farm, are two English Civil War forts. In 1648 Oliver Cromwell's troops camped overnight on Christchurch Hill, overlooking Newport, before their attack on Newport Castle the next day.

Modern period

The old wooden Caerleon Bridge was destroyed in a storm in 1779 and the present stone version was erected in the early 19th century. Until the Victorian development of the downstream docks at Newport Docks, Caerleon acted as the major port on the River Usk. The wharf was located on the right bank, to the west of today's river bridge which marked the limit of navigability for masted ships. A tinplate works was established on the outskirts of the town around this time and Caerleon expanded to become almost joined to Newport.

The name of the Drovers' Arms on Goldcroft Common bears witness to the ancient drovers' road on the old road from Malpas. It is thought that the common itself was once the site of a cattle market.

Legend of King Arthur

Geoffrey of Monmouth makes Caerleon one of the most important cities in Britain in his Historia Regum Britanniæ. He gives it a long, glorious history from its foundation by King Belinus to becoming the location of a metropolitan see, an Archbishopric, superior to Canterbury and York, under Saint Dubricius. He was followed by St David who moved the archbishopric to St David's Cathedral. This culminates in Geoffrey's making the town a court of King Arthur.

There was no Camelot mentioned in the early Arthurian account of Geoffrey of Monmouth and his translators Wace and Layamon: "Camelot" originates with the French writer of courtly romance Chrétien de Troyes. These earlier authors say that Arthur's capital was Caerleon (which Chretien also mentions), while even the later recaster of Arthurian material in English, Sir Thomas Malory, has Arthur re-crowned at "Carlion". The still-visible Roman amphitheatre at Caerleon has been associated with Arthur's 'Round-Table' element of the tales. and has been suggested as a possible source for the legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth writes of Caerleon in the mid 12th century:

This is only a short part of a description that emphasises the power and wealth of Arthur's court. The huge scale of the ruins along with Caerleon's importance as a urban centre in early mediæval Kingdom of Gwent would have inspired stories which Geoffrey expanded.

Caerleon also has later Arthurian literary associations, as the birthplace of the writer Arthur Machen who often used it as a location in his work. The Hanbury Arms was visited by the poet Tennyson who lodged at the inn while he wrote his Morte d'Arthur (later incorporated into his Idylls of the King). Today Caerleon has a modern statue of a knight, "The Hanbury Knight", in reflecting inox by Belgian sculptor Thierry Lauwers.

In Michael Morpurgo's novel Arthur, High King of Britain, Caerleon is the castle where Arthur unknowingly commits incest with his half-sister Margause, resulting in the conception of his son Mordred who will later bring about his downfall.

Modern day Caerleon

Caerleon is centred around a small common. Goldcroft Common is the only remaining of the seven commons of Caerleon. Most of the small businesses of Caerleon are near the common as is the Tourist Information Office and Town Hall which has a World War I and World War II memorial garden. The intersection of High Street and Cross Street is known as The Square.

Buildings of note are Saint Cadoc's Church, the National Roman Legion Museum, the Roman Baths Museum, The Mynde, The Priory Hotel, Caerleon Catholic Church and Rectory, Caerleon Endowed School, the Round Tower, the Toll House at Caerleon Bridge, The Malt House hotel, University of Wales, Newport Caerleon Campus and St Cadoc's Hospital. The historic remains of the Roman Legionary Fortress Isca Augusta is popular with tourists and school parties and there is a marked heritage trail in the village. The Millennium Wildlife Garden is a small nature garden on the banks of the River Usk. The hilltop vantage point at Christchurch provides panoramic views of the Vale of Usk and Bristol Channel.

The municipal playing fields are at Caerleon Broadway and a good quality children's playground is in Cold Bath Road. Private sport and leisure facilities are available at the Celtic Manor and the University of Wales, Newport Caerleon Campus. Caerleon library is located in the grounds of Caerleon Comprehensive School. Caerleon has a few restaurants, cafés and take-away food outlets and many public houses that have restaurant facilities. The Ffwrrwm is a small specialist shopping courtyard with an eclectic display of sculpture. Caerleon also has its own station of Gwent Police and an active community policing presence.


Caerleon is an electoral ward of Newport City Council. Caerleon is within the UK Parliamentary consituency of Newport West, the National Assembly for Wales constituency of Newport West and the Wales European Parliament Constituency.


The centre of Caerleon sits in the Vale of Usk and the River Usk forms part of the community's southern boundary. In the north-west part of the village, across the railway bridges, the land rises sharply up to Lodge Wood and its hill fort. The community's western boundary is formed by the A4042 road (Heidenheim Drive) and the northern boundary partly by the Malthouse Road and partly by the Afon Llwyd river which flows southwards to the River Usk along the village's eastern side. Across the River Usk from Caerleon, to the south-east and east, St Julian's Park, the village of Christchurch and the upland region around Christchurch Hill as far as the M4 motorway and the A449 road are also within the community.


Caerleon is 3½ miles from Newport city centre and 5½ miles from Cwmbran. Caerleon is 2 miles north of the M4 motorway.

Caerleon is accessed via Junction 25 (Caerleon Road) for westbound M4 traffic. There is no M4 Junction 25 exit for eastbound M4 traffic so for eastbound traffic Caerleon is accessed via M4 Junction 26, then A4051 (Malpas Road) and A4042 (Heidenheim Drive) to the Junction 25A offslip.

An alternative route to Caerleon is M4 Junction 24 (Coldra), B4237 (Chepstow Road), then B4236 (Royal Oak Hill/Belmont Hill) over Christchurch.

Conversely, traffic joining the M4 from Caerleon can join the M4 eastbound at Junction 25 but to join the M4 westbound traffic must follow the Junction 25A offslip, Heidenheim Drive, Malpas Road route to M4 Junction 26. Alternatively, traffic can join the M4 both eastbound and westbound at Junction 24.

The B4596 (Caerleon Road) links Newport city centre to Caerleon via M4 Junction 25, crossing Caerleon Bridge into Caerleon High Street. The B4236 (Ponthir Road) links Caerleon to Cwmbran. The Usk Road links Caerleon to Usk.

The centre of Caerleon (High Street, Mill Street and Castle Street) is a one-way traffic system and there are car parks at Broadway and Cold Bath Road. A regular bus service links Newport city centre to Caerleon and there is a limited City Sightseeing open-top bus service in summer months. A cycle and pedestrian walkway alongside the River Usk links Caerleon to Malpas and Newport city centre at Crindau. Trains do not stop at Caerleon railway station, the nearest passenger stations are Newport railway station, Cwmbran railway station and Rogerstone railway station. The nearest airport is Cardiff Airport (30 miles/48 km).


A large campus of the University of Wales, Newport is located in Caerleon including student accommodation blocks. The secondary school is Caerleon Comprehensive. The primary schools are Caerleon Endowed Infants and Juniors and Caerleon Lodge Hill Infants and Juniors.

Education is generally conducted in the English language in schools but at least a mandatory Welsh language content must be provided under the Welsh education curriculum. There are no Welsh-medium education schools in Caerleon but there are two primary schools elsewhere in Newport; Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd in Hartridge and Ysgol Gymraeg Ifor Hael in Bettws. The nearest Welsh-medium secondary school is Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Trevethin, Pontypool.


Historically housing was largely located on the west bank of the River Usk between Caerleon Bridge and the College along with a small number of houses on the east bank. A number of substantial housing developments have been created to the West of Caerleon: Lodge Hill, Home Farm, Roman Reach, Trinity View, Brooklea and The Brades as well as smaller cluster developments near the centre of the village. Substantial housing developments in nearby Ponthir and Cwmbran has also increased traffic congestion in Caerleon.


The Caerleon ward is home to the Celtic Manor Resort, location of the 2010 Ryder Cup. Caerleon also has a good quality 9-hole municipal golf course, driving range and golf clubhouse. However, during winter months the golf course is prone to flooding due to its location alongside the River Usk.

The association football club Caerleon A.F.C. is based in Caerleon along with two rugby union clubs; Newport High School Old Boys RFC and Caerleon RFC whose grounds are less than a mile apart and who are known for their fierce rivalry.

Caerleon Bowls Club has a good quality outdoor green. Caerleon has one chapter of the Academy of Historical Fencing, a western martial arts group who study and practise fencing with the weapons and styles of medieval and renaissance Europe. The club trains on the University Campus and also has two Chapters in Bristol.

Culture and community

Caerleon has hosted an arts festival in July each year since 2002, which includes tree sculptors from around the world. Many of the sizeable sculptures are retained around Caerleon as a Sculpture park and local landmarks. The arts festival coincides with the Roman military re-enactment in the amphitheatre which demonstrates Roman military armour, infantry tactics, cavalry tactics, equipment and siege engines such as ballistae.

Live music events and Visual arts are staged at venues including the open-air Roman Amphitheatre, which hosts plays in the summer.

An informative and wide ranging history of Caerleon was published in 1970 by local amateur historian Primrose Hockey MBE, who was a founder member of Caerleon Local History Society. An archive of her local history collection is kept by the Gwent Record Office.

St Cadoc's Hospital in Caerleon has been featured as a location of episodes in the BBC television programmes Doctor Who and Being Human.

Notable people

Inclusion criteria: notable people who were born, resided or were schooled in Caerleon.

  • The Darling Buds (Indie band)
  • Roger Freestone, Wales international footballer
  • Len Hill, footballer and cricketer
  • Gary Hocking, motorcycle racer
  • Arthur Machen, author
  • James May, television presenter
  • Lyndon Mustoe, Wales international rugby union player
  • Carl Sargent, author
  • James Sommerin, chef
  • Nigel Vaughan, Wales international footballer
  • Nick Walne, Wales international rugby union player
  • Violet Lawrence, aged 102 (in June 2010 became Britain's oldest surviving police widow).
  • Barber, Chris (1996) Arthurian Caerleon: in literature and legend. Blorenge Books ISBN 1872730108
  • Brewer, Richard J. (2000) Caerleon and the Roman Army: Roman Legionary Museum, a guide ; 2nd ed. Cardiff: National Museum Wales Books ISBN 0720004888 (1st ed. Caerleon - Isca: the Roman Legionary Museum, 1987)

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