Whitson is located seven miles south east of Newport city centre on the Caldicot and Wentloog Levels, a large area of coastal land reclaimed from the sea. Administratively, Whitson is part of the community (parish) of Goldcliff.
Sir Joseph Bradney, who published his "History of Monmouthshire" in 1932, was undecided on the derivation of the name of the manor and surrounding village, but notes early spellings such as Witston, Widson and Wyttston. It is however most likely that the name came from Whitestone as Goldcliffe is also in the three parishes. In 1358 it was held by John de Saint Maur of Penhow of Peter de Cusance by knight service, as of his manor of Langstone. In the 18th century and 19th century a family named Phillips owned a large estate in the parish and lived at what was then called Whitson House (see "Whitson Court" below).
At high-tide much of the land in the village is below sea-level. A main drainage ditch, with an origin near Llanwern, known as "Monksditch" or "Goldcliff Pill" (probably from the Welsh "pwll" for pool) passes through the village on its way to the sea. Local folklore maintains that the sides of the Monksditch are laced with smuggler's brandy.
The main part of the village has the houses and farmsteads set back from the road in long strips of pasture reflecting a medieval 'cope' land allocation pattern, similar to that used in land reclamation in Holland .
Commercial properties are given as:
An ancient building of stone, in the Early English style, it consists of chancel, nave, south porch and a western tower, originally containing two bells. The inscription for the larger ball was "God save our King and Kingdom, and send us peace. W. and E. 1758" and for the smaller bell of the same date "Obedite"..
Prior to the 20th century the nave has been restored and the chancel substantially rebuilt. There is a handsome Norman font and a stained glass memorial east window erected in 1884 by the family the Reverend John Beynon. In 1901 there were 100 sittings. The register of baptisms dates from the year 1744; marriages from 1729; burials from 1728. In 1901 the living was a vicarage with a net income of £196, including 49 acres of glebe and residence, in the gift of Eton College and the Dean and Chapter of Llandaff alternately, and held from 1900 by the Reverend John Price.
Bradney (1933) noted the church as "remarkable for its fine tower with a pinacle at one corner." The church is now closed but the churchyard may still be accessed by means of a public footpath though private land.
The real outpost of the village is the remote Lower Porton House, situated next to the sea and which was, until recently, accessible only via the seawall. Historically Porton has been part of Goldcliff and may have once had its own separate church, although confusion with Whitson church seems more likely.
Monumental inscriptions at Whitson Church indicate that the house was called Whitson House from at least 1789 and for most of the 19th century, but was known as Whitson Court by 1903. Memorial stones for the Phillips family may also be found in St.Mary's church in Nash. (William Phillips also built Redbrick House in nearby Redwick).
After the death of St. John Knox Rickards Phillips, in 1901 the house went to a distant relative, the Rev. Oliver Rodie Vassall-Phillips. In consequence of the persecution of religious congregations in France, the Sacramentines of Bernay of the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament at the time of the expulsion in July 1903, were compelled to close their boarding-school and go into exile. Thirteen of the sisters retired to Belgium, and founded a house at Hal, while the rest of their community settled in Wales at Whitson Court - thanks to teh generosity of Rev. Oliver Rodie Vassall-Phillips.
This order of nuns existence is precarious, for they are not permitted to open a school. Their days are spent in prayer, adoration, and the making of altar-breads, vestments, and church ornaments. In March, 1911, the Sacramentines were permitted by Archbishop Farley to open a house in Holy Trinity parish, Yonkers, New York. The house and estate was then used as a training school for the African missions. In 1917, The vast Whitson Estate which encompased most of the local farms totalling 1050 acres and the Manorial Title, were sold at auction mainly to its tennant farmers. When Sir Joseph Bradney's published his "History of Monmouthshire" in 1932, the house stood empty.
In 1933, Whitson Court and its remaining 18 acres of gardens and parkland, were purchased from the then owner, Squire Oakley, by Mr Garroway Smith of "The Chalet" at Ridgeway in Newport. He took up residency at the property with his wife Mary and his sister Louise. Mr William Maybury, his wife Olive Maybury and their daughters, Jane and Elizabeth also moved into The House. Their third daughter, Mary, was born at Whitson Court in May 1938.
During World War 2, the family gave sanctuary to several German Jewish refugees, as well as providing work for German Prisoners of War - many of the paths in the grounds were built by German POW officers from the Nash prison camp. The house was also used as a reference point by German bomber crews, aiming for runs at Newport Docks.
Following the death of Garroway Smith in the late 1950s, the house and grounds passed to his niece, Olive Maybury, who collected exotic animals including bears and lions. She opened the grounds to the public during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1980 the private zoo was closed and the animals either re homed or aloud to live out their natural lives. Olive Maybury lived there until her death in 1998 at the age of 99.
The house was subsequently sold by the family and was again left empty, listed on Newport Councils "Buildings at Risk" register. It was sold again in 2008, and is presently under restoration under the guidance of Cadw.
The village enjoys a regular public bus service (Route 63, seven a day, six days a week) provided by Francis Drake Travel.
On July 4, 2008 a light aircraft crash-landed after taking off from Upfield Farm. Narrowly missing both the old Village Hall and a nearby stables, the aircraft burst into flames and was almost completely destroyed. Emergency services attended and both occupants escaped unharmed.
The resultant accident inquiry by Newport City Council and the Civil Aviation Authority found that the airstrip at the farm had grown considerably from its original approved planning permission, and was now, according to some local residents, taking as many as ten flights per day. Mr Bowen applied for retrospective planning permission to retain the facility with its concrete runway, but was denied by the council planning committee on 17 September, 2008 acting on advice from the planning department. The owner did not attend the meeting but may appeal the decision within six months.