The remains of the Chapter House are situated within the grounds of Margam Country Park.
The Monastic ruins of the Chapter house date back to 1147, they were part of the Cistercian Abbey, the wealthiest and largest in Wales.
Amongst the ruins you can see some lovely arches, pillars and windows which would have formed part of the Abbey years ago.
Margam Castle is sadly not really a castle, it is a large Manor house built in the 19th century during the Gothic Revival but the site has been under constant habitation for well over 4000 years. The present house was commissioned by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot and constructed over ten years from 1830 to 1840, The mansion was designed in the Tudor Gothic style by architect Thomas Hopper.
In its heyday it was visited by the gentry. The Prince and Princess of Wales, later to become Edward VII and Queen Alexandra came for lunch on 17th October 1881 and a tree was planted to commemorate this event,
The house continued to be used by the family until 1941 when it was sold to David Evans-Bevan whose family owned the Vale of Neath Brewery and had extensive mining interests, but after buying it found it too large to live choosing instead to live in the former land agent's house of Twyn Yr Hyddin and the manor house fell into disrepair it finaly became the property of Glamorgan council who did nothing with it untill it was severely damaged by fire in August 1977 it caused substantial damage and it was only after this that the restoration project seriously began.
It wa opened to the public in the Spring of 1992
The house and grounds are said to be haunted by numouruse spirits and the sound of giggling children is heard frequently in the long corridors and rooms of the family areas. There have also been reports of children in Victorian dress being seen to drift through doorways and of mischievously moving objects.
Emily Charlotte a previous owner has been known to haunt the house while rocks have been thrown at people who hold seances, the most violent and angry spirit is said to be of Robert Scott a gamekeeper employed at the house for many years. Scott was murdered by a poacher and his spirit is said to roam the grounds today and has often been seen ascending the Gothic staircase. His presence has come forward regularly with psychic investigators, all of whom have insisted his spirit is consumed with rage over his unjust killing. His ghost has been known to slam doors and hurl projectiles.
The house has been subjected to many supernatural investigations and has appeared on UKTV's Most haunted !
From the car park by the fispond take the road to the right and then take the wide path which skirts the edge of the pond. The ruins of the Monastic Mill can be seen on the banks of the fishpond just a little way down the path. A short distance further along the path you will see a dam and mill-race previously used to store and channel water onto a water wheel for the mill.
Keep your eyes open for the Mill as it's covered with Ivy on the side facing the car park but much more visible from the other side.
The ruins of this litte old church sits nestled up on the hillside overlooking Margam Abbey and the Heritage coastline. I have seen this building on many occasions when travelling westbound on the M4 and have always wanted to find out more about it.
Hen Eglwys literally means 'Old church' in Welsh. The Church dates back from Monasitc times where the lay farming community associated with Margam Abbey worshipped, as only the Monks were allowed to worship in the Abbey itself.
There is a great circular walk, called the Monastic trail (2.5) miles which can be started from Margam park itself or from the carpark near the fishpond. I did a variation of the walk-I ended up doing most of it in reverse!! I parked by the fishpond and spotted some newly constructed steps which zig zagged their way up the hillside. The steps are a little strenuous but there are a few benches along the way for you to catch your breath. Once up the top you are rewarded with some breathtaking views over the Margam estate and the beautiful Heritage coastline all the way down to Swansea bay; and of course Hen Eglwys is right before you. The remains of Hen Eglwys show that it was a small, quaint church. Remains of the lovely ornate windows can still be seen.
After admiring the church, and the views, I followed the path downwards into the woods. After reaching the country lane you can either follow the road downwards to the car park or you can carry on with the monastic trail by climbing the large ladder style which you will see on your left hand side as you descend.
High up on an escarpment behind Margam Castle is the site of an Iron Age Hill fort of Mynydd Y Castell. Here you can see the remins of a roundhouse and the ditches and ramparts can also be seen.
I found the Iron Age Hill fort trail just by chance as it is not signposted from the start of the woodland walks. Take the wooden gate towards woodland trails. Follow the path until you reach the point where the different trails go off in different directions. To your left you should see a steep muddy track - this is the Iron Age Hill fort trail, further on up this track you will see a sign on your left giving some information about the fort.
Once you've reached the top of the hill you can see the clearing and ditches where the hillfort used to be. Don't miss the fantastic views of the coastline.
Margam Country Park is home to a magnificent 18th Century Orangery. It was completed in 1790 and is the longest Orangery in Britain. The Orangery is fronted by an elegant terrace with three ornate fountains depicting dolphins and scallop shells.
Fairytale Land is a lovely Childrens play area within the grounds of Margam Country Park. It has a selection of oversized play houses for the little ones to explore, each depicting a fairytale or two - it even has its' own Fairytale Castle.
This small but delightful museum contains some wonderful engraved and carved stones dating back from the 6th Century. The assortment include milestones, memorial stones and my favourite was a 14th Century Effigy of a Knight. The Stones collection were obtained from Margam and the immediate area and include a number of grave-slabs from the medieval Cistercian abbey at Margam.
The Museum is open between Wednesday and Sunday and by appointment only during the winter months.
Admission: Adult £2,00; Concession £1.50; Family ticket (2 + 3 under 16yrs) £5.50.
Margam park is set in 1000 acres of glorious parkland where you are free to explore the wonderful gardens, lakeside walks and woodland trails it has on offer. It is a great place to get out into the outdoors and get some fresh air. The parklands are alive with birdsong & when I was there I saw a Buzzard soaring over the hills.
There is a 'Four walks at Margam' leaflet which is available from the shop or the car park kiosk. These are waymarked walking trails of varying lengths for you to follow.
There are also long distance walks which start within the park, details of which can be found by enquiring at the visitor centre.
Locally known as the 'Castle' this magnificent building is actually a Tudor Gothic style Grade I listed Mansion House. It was built in 1827 by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot who was a Member of Parliament for Glamorgan in 1830. The Mansel Talbot family occupied the house until the outbreak of the war in 1939 when the Government requisitioned the Orangery and part of the Castle. The trustees of the Margam estate decided to sell the greater part of the property. The furnishings and fittings were sold at Auction. Local people were anxious to have a last opportunity to view the treasures and maybe purchase an inexpensive memento. Monday was the sale of the 18th and 19th century collection of silver, Tuesday that of the many fine books which raised more than the silver.
Wednesday saw the highlight of the sale with the disposal of Talbot’s fine collection of paintings, sculpture and ancient marbles. They included work by Canaletto, the National Gallery represented by Sir Kenneth Clark secured the dell’Abbate of "The Story of Aristaeus", Gentileschi’s "Repose on the Flight to Egypt" was sold to the Duke of Kent, and the Rembrant to a Dutch buyer whilst the National Museum of Wales acquired seven watercolours of Welsh scenes by Ibbetson.
Of the sculpture and marbles, some were acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm and Lord Trent. One item was left unsold, a life-size statue of an obscure Roman Emporer called Lucius Verus, this is now housed in the Orangery where it can be seen today. The final day saw the sale of the furniture, tapestries and household effects.
The contents of the Castle were soon dispersed leaving an empty and forlorn mansion.
n 1942 the estate was sold to Sir David Evans-Bevan, the proprietor of the Vale of Neath Brewery. He never actually lived in the building and it gradually fell prey to vandals and thieves, and into decline becoming an empty shell.
Restoration and renewal
The Local Council acquired the Estate in 1973 began an encouraging new chapter in the history of the Castle which was interrupted in 1977.The vast amount of work found necessary at the estate and the need for urgent work to safeguard the Georgian Orangery meant that the Castle was virtually last on the list of priorities. The stables and squash court were renovated, an Interpretative Centre opened in June 1977. Some clearance work at the Castle had been commenced when a disastrous fire gutted the interior of the Castle on August 4th, 1977. Gradually a programme of restoration and improvement work was undertaken.
The North wing has now been converted for use as a residential centre for education purposes and accommodates a Field Study Centre housing dormitories and bedrooms, together with classrooms and laboratories, for use by school parties and adult courses from Wales and further afield. The outbuildings around the east courtyards house the park administration offices and the Visitor Centre.
During the summer months, the main staircase area and some of the ground floor rooms may be viewed by the public