A small but pretty town

Crickhowell, St Edmunds and the Vale of Usk from an old print by Henry Gastineau (1830-1). This view is taken from the top of the Norman motte looking northwest

Crickhowell
through the eyes of the visitor 1740-1910
by Robert Gant, William Gibbs and Elizabeth Siberry.
Crickhowell District Archive Centre 2021

Crickhowel [sic] is a small but pretty town … very close to the river, which looking upwards from the bridge, is truly picturesque in its windings and the character of the landscape on either side. It is a charming ‘bit’ for the painter.

Miles Birket Foster, 1864

This handsome and profusely illustrated booklet of some hundred pages has a history of its own, revised in 2009 after its first appearance in 1981 and now expanded from its previous 1780-1870 range to include new images from as early as 1740 and as late as 1910.

Along with reproductions of maps, prints, engravings, paintings and sketches is an informed and informative text, drawing on material in the Crickhowell District Archive Centre as well as that found online and in collections including the National Libraries of Wales and of Scotland, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and institutions in New Zealand and Canada.

But this publication has more than merely local interest: it could serve as a template for how such historical guides focused on visitor experience may be successfully produced, and it shows how even an apparently out of the way small town may feature in national or even international consciousness when figures such as Lord John Wesley, Nelson, the Duke of Clarence and Compton Mackenzie stayed locally, and aristocrats fled here escaping the French Revolution.

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