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Margam Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in Margam, Neath Port Talbot (Castell-nedd Port Talbot)

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5624 / 51°33'44"N

Longitude: -3.7299 / 3°43'47"W

OS Eastings: 280185

OS Northings: 186252

OS Grid: SS801862

Mapcode National: GBR H6.DSMG

Mapcode Global: VH5H2.9ZJN

Entry Name: Margam Abbey

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2854

Cadw Legacy ID: GM005

Schedule Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Category: Abbey

Period: Medieval

County: Neath Port Talbot (Castell-nedd Port Talbot)

Community: Margam

Traditional County: Glamorgan

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a medieval Cistercian abbey founded in 1147. Only part of the church, the ruined chapter house and a few fragments of neighbouring buildings survive of this once great and wealthy abbey.

The great abbey church, cruciform in shape, was begun in the 12th century, at its western end. The remains of this phase – part of the west end and some piers and arches of the nave – are in the parish church, which was heavily restored and altered in the 19th century. On the west front the fine deeply recessed door and three windows above are of this phase, and Romanesque in style. Of the same phase are the rectangular piers and plain semicircular arches of the nave. The rest of the abbey church, which dates from about 1200, lies to the east, and is much ruined. The most complete part is the south transept. In its east wall are two windows with very early decorated quatrefoil tracery at their heads. There is a piscine with an octagonal bowl on the south wall. Part of the north and south walls of the choir remain, with an early decorated window and a fine small doorway with moulded decoration on the south side. The rest of the church has gone with huge pier bases marking the site of the crossings and choir.

The layout of the abbey was probably the standard Cistercian one, with the cloisters and ancillary buildings to the south of the nave of the church. These have completely disappeared and the only hint of their existence is the double doorway which would have led to the cloisters, and the remains of the vestibule on what would have been their east side. The chapter house, built in about 1200 is impressive. Until 1799 when it was badly damaged in a storm, it stood intact. Cistercian chapter houses were usually rectangular but this one was made 12-sided outside and circular within. The smooth ashlar masonry that once covered the outside remains only around the windows and on the external flat buttresses. In the centre is a delicate clustered column of shafts crowned by a foliage capital, from which spring the bases of 24 moulded vaulting ribs. To the south of the chapter house are the ruins of another building which may have been the infirmary. Part of the ground floor is all that remains. It has large arched openings on the north and south sides, and a rib-vaulted ceiling.

Margam Abbey flourished for about 200 years. Its secular activities were extensive; it had large tracts of land, huge flocks of sheep, mills, fisheries and coal mines. But Welsh uprisings and the encroachment of sand on the coast led to insecurity and decline, and by 1536 there were only nine monks left. After the abbey’s dissolution Sir Rice Mansel of Oxwich Castle bought it and converted the buildings into his principal residence.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of the organisation and practice of medieval Christianity. The site forms an important element within the wider medieval landscape. The site is well preserved and retains considerable archaeological potential. There is a strong probability of the presence of evidence relating to chronology, layout, building techniques and functional detail. The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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