Which road was the town’s first by-pass? Which was the first suburb built for the more prosperous middle classes? What is unusual about some cottages in Priory Road? Where was Oakland Road? When did bay windows start to appear in the town? These are a few of the questions to which answers may be found in a small new book published by the Abergavenny and District Civic Society.
The Civic Society would like us all to become more interested in the development of our town. To encourage this, and celebrate fifty years of Society activity, they have published ‘Take a Look at Abergavenny and Mardy’ describing the town’s growth since the early 1800s, the many changes in architectural style and the materials used. The book is illustrated by nearly sixty colour photographs and three maps and has a section suggesting parts of the town most worth exploring.
The author is the Society’s Vice Chair, Dick Cole, a retired town planner who admits to having had little experience in architectural history during his career, but to learning much since. The book was inspired by his contribution to the Society’s substantial ‘Exploring Abergavenny’ urban characterisation study exhibited at the Gunter Mansion last year and available on the Society’s website. ‘Over four years a group of us researched and surveyed the history and character of the town in considerable detail and I felt that this resource deserved to be condensed into an affordable publication that might stimulate interest in how the town has grown, and thereby its future – the central concern of the Society,’ he explained.
While the town has a distinctive setting and character that makes it a special place for many that live and visit here, it is also a quite typical country town. The book pays as much attention to the streets of ordinary houses as it does to, say, the small gem of Fosterville – and how many of us know where that is? ‘If we look around us we can find that there are instances of pleasing urban character throughout the town, as well as plenty of missed opportunities’, said the author. ‘We want to inspire interest in the quality of our surroundings, to encourage engagement with town planning, and maybe to stimulate research that uncovers more of the history hidden in dusty documents’, he added.