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History of The Kymin

Visitors at the two-storey, circular, castellated Georgian banqueting house at the Kymin, Monmouthshire, Wales
Visitors in front of the Round Tower at The Kymin | © National Trust Images/John Millar

The Kymin and its nine acres of pleasure grounds overlooks Monmouth and the beautiful Wye Valley. Discover how it was once part of the estate of the Duke of Beaufort and how The Kymin’s fortunes have fluctuated over the last two centuries.

History of the Round House

Originally a popular picnic site in the late 18th century, building on the Round House began in 1794. The Kymin’s Round House is an unusual, quirky building, which whilst small in stature sits prominently above the town of Monmouth, South Wales, and takes in spectacular, far-reaching views.

Georgian gentility

With its circular, castellated design and diminutive size, the Grade II listed Round House looks as though it’s been plucked from a child’s playground castle, and indeed the Kymin could be described as once the playground of the local gentry.

Towards the end of the 18th century, a group of gentlemen met at local beauty spots to picnic. It’s understood that in 1793, one gentleman suggested the Kymin and it proved so popular that the group decided to return each week.

A place to picnic in all weather

The British weather put an end to such frivolity, but this prompted the group to start up a collection to raise funds to build a banqueting house where they could picnic whatever the weather.

A lavish spread

For the very wealthy Georgians, the period offered unprecedented access to delicious new foods and a lavish picnic spread. Exotic fruits were grown in spacious orangeries and were also imported from British colonies abroad. Sugar was becoming increasingly available from plantations in the West Indies.

Appetite for fine dining

A new industry arose in the production of cookery books. This only fuelled the Georgians' appetite for fine dining. Recipes ranged from the modest to the extraordinary and serving luxurious food at banquets and picnics became an important sign of social status. The more out-of-season delicacies you could provide, the greater your reputation as a host.

Laying the foundations

The first stone was laid on 1 May 1794 and the Round House was completed in 1796. Consisting of two storeys with just one room on each floor, the Round House included a kitchen downstairs and the ‘banqueting apartment’ above.

The fortunes of the Round House, along with the rest of the Kymin, fluctuated over the next 100 years, and in 1902 was bought by public subscription for £300 and given to the National Trust.

A woodland path with overhanging trees leading towards the Naval Temple at The Kymin, Monmouthshire, which can be partially seen behind a stone wall.
A path leading to the Naval Temple at The Kymin | © National Trust Images/Mike Hallett

History of the Naval Temple

Inspired by Britain’s naval supremacy at the height of the British Empire, the Naval Temple at The Kymin in Monmouth, South Wales, has undergone many transformations since its inception in 1800.

One of its kind

Believed to be the only one of its kind in the world, the Naval Temple was built by public subscription in 1800 in recognition of the British Navy and 16 admirals, who had delivered significant victories in major sea battles. It’s likely that the inspiration for the Naval Temple came from Nelson’s destruction of the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

A hero’s welcome

It was completed in 1801 and visited by Lord Nelson in 1802, who travelled down the River Wye, accompanied by Lady Hamilton and her husband Sir William. They arrived at Monmouth to cannonades firing, the town band playing and were greeted by the mayor.

‘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.’

- Charles Heath, a citizen of Monmouth, recorded Nelson’s visit as he inspected the Naval Temple

A beautiful place

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.

A sad decline

Changes were made to the Naval Temple in the early half of the 19th century, most notably the addition of a veranda. But by the middle of the century, the structure had fallen into a state of disrepair with many features lost, and by 1850 the whole of The Kymin was in a deplorable state.

The Kymin Improvement Committee was set up around 1851 and attempts to restore the Naval Temple were made in 1882.

Triumphant restoration

The Kymin was given to the National Trust in 1902, and the Grade II listed Naval Temple underwent a major restoration in 1987. The veranda was removed, missing plaques restored, and the lost Britannia was replaced with a replica.

But severe weather, particularly during the winters of 2009 to 2011 resulted in serious damage to the building.

A three-month project

In 2012, we undertook an £85,000, three-month project to restore the Naval Temple to its original glory, with the help of Cadw, Monmouth Royal Naval Association, Gwent National Trust Association and Anna Tribe, Lord Nelson’s descendant.

The Naval Temple’s restoration was completed with the two magnificent paintings in the triumphal arch, ‘The Standard of Great Britain waving triumphant over the fallen and captive flags of France, Spain and Holland’ and ‘The Glorious and Ever Memorable Battle of the Nile’; and a newly sculpted Britannia lowered into pride of place atop the monument.

Grand re-opening

We celebrated a grand re-opening of the newly restored Naval Temple on 1 August 2012, exactly 211 years after its official opening on 1 August 1801.

Today, the Naval Temple has been restored and we plan to preserve this special monument, so future generations can walk in the footsteps of Nelson.

A small group of visitors is standing in front of the white, two-storey, circular, castellated Georgian banqueting house at The Kymin, Monmouthshire, at sunset.

Discover more at The Kymin

Find out when The Kymin is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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A small group of visitors is standing in front of the white, two-storey, circular, castellated Georgian banqueting house at The Kymin, Monmouthshire, at sunset.

Visiting The Kymin 

Discover a world of magnificent views and peaceful woodlands, combined with beautiful pleasure grounds just waiting to be enjoyed - with lots of picnics and gentle walks.