THE WALFORDS THE WORST FENCES IN NEWPORT by Tony Jukes Newport grew rapidly following the construction of the Monmouthshire Canal Company's lines of canals and tramroads in the 1790's and the opening of the tramroad from Sirhowy in 1805, bringing large quantities of iron and coal to the River Usk for shipment. In 1801, the Borough of Newport consisted of 221 houses with 1,057 inhabitants, rising by 1841 to 2230 houses in the enlarged Borough of Newport, now incorporating the growing area of Pillgwenlly, and the population had risen to 13,737. In the last two of these years, 731 new houses had been built.1 Some of the earliest houses were built on the Friars' Fields, part of the estate of John Jones (Llanarth Estate), by lease for a term of 60 years from 25th December 1809. Houses were built without plan, crowded together, in a low and damp place, and most without ventilation, drainage, privies, water supply, back yards or windows at the rear. One landlord owned a court of twenty such tenements, which housed four hundred people.2 The Newport Improvement Act of 1826 did not give the commissioners so appointed any powers to enforce standards of public health, sanitation and housing. In his history of the Corporation of Newport, B.P. Jones said3 that they 'never did more than scratch the surface of the chief problems and ignored some of the most acute questions'. Developers remained free of all restrictions, including the attention of sanitary inspectors. The Improvement Commissioners asked John Jones to make a drain for Friars' Fields, but achieved little. Another brief attempt to reassert their authority was made in 1831, when the mayor and five other commissioners were asked to ensure that houses were whitewashed and roads cleansed and a letter sent to the owner of Friars'Fields, asking for proper drainage to be installed. When the first cholera epidemic reached Newport on 24 June 1832, the first nine victims, five of who died, had contracted the disease in a low, dirty and densely populated part of the town.4 The dirtiest parts of the town, where the drainage was said to be either defective or non-existent, were between the 'Hope and Anchor' public house and the canal, and about Friars' Fields.5 In 1834, the Newport Improvement Act Commissioners adopted a great drain construction scheme that was dependent on contributions from each landowner and, unsurprisingly, never completed. The medical officer to the eastern division of the Newport Union reported that 116 out of 216 deaths in the year 1839 were due to fever and noted,6 'A great majority of these cases of fever have occurred in Friars' Field, which is situate in the lowest part of the town of Newport. It consists of two