Following on from last week’s photograph of the Monmouth County Gaol where the Chartists were imprisoned awaiting trial 180 years ago, this week’s photo is a later 19th century one of the Shire Hall, the scene of the trials.

Monmouth had the notorious distinction of being the site of the last mass treason trial in Britain.

A Grand Jury met on 10 December to decide who should stand trial for treason, and then adjourned until December 31 when the 12 captured of the 14 men facing trial for high treason appeared in the court room at Shire Hall chained together.

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John Frost was the first to be tried – his trial ended on January 8; Zephaniah Williams’ trial on January 13, and William Jones’ on January 14.

All three were found “guilty, with mercy”.

Their sentence of death by hanging, followed by decapitation and quartering, the last time this punishment was issued in England and Wales, was then subject to the Queen and her Government’s mercy, and it was commuted to transportation.

Shire Hall still retains a court room restored to its appearance in 1840, and it’s also possible to visit the holding cells.

Built in 1724 the Shire Hall had undergone extensive improvements just about 10 years before the trial including its impressive staircase and the enlargement of the courtrooms.

Text by the curator of Chepstow Museum.