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Neath Abbey

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NPRN133
Map ReferenceSS79NW
Grid ReferenceSS7378097360
Unitary (Local) AuthorityNeath Port Talbot
Old CountyGlamorgan
CommunityDyffryn Clydach
Type Of SiteABBEY
PeriodMedieval
Description
Neath Abbey was initially founded in 1130 for a community of Savigniac monks and in 1147 was absorbed into the rapidly expanding Cistercian monastic order. By the end of the twelfth century a stone church and accompanying cloister buildings were completed. From the early 1220s, the monks began to outgrow these early structures and began a process of rebuilding, with a new abbey church being commissioned in the late thirteenth century. The abbey was suppressed in 1539 and the Tudor family began to build a house over the south-east corner of the former monastic complex, which remained in use until it was abandoned and fell into decay in the early eighteenth century. As industry began encroaching upon the site, the buildings became more ruinous, covered in screens of brambles and ivy. The site was first explored and cleared in the first half of the twentieth century and in 1944 the ruins were placed in the care of the state.

Source: Robinson, D.M. 2006. Neath Abbey: CADW

RCAHMW, February 2011

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Neath Abbey was established as a Savignac monastery in 1130, but when the Order was absorbed by the rapidly expanding Cistercian order in 1147, Neath became a Cistercian House. A monastic complex was completed by the end of the twelfth century, and despite attacks during the Welsh uprisings, the site quickly prospered under the patronage of Robert de Clare and rebuilding on a larger scale started in the late thirteenth century. Its wealth came largely from the extensive estates its was granted across Glamorgan, Devon and Somerset, and the expansion of the former brought it into bitter dispute with the neighbouring abbey of Margam.

Although Neath Abbey escaped the first wave of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in 1535, four years later Abbot Leyshon Thomas was forced to surrender the monastery to the Crown. The site was granted to Richard Williams, though by 1600 was in the hands of Sir John Herbert. A large Tudor mansion was built into the south-east corner of the cloisters during the latter part of the sixteenth century, though after a century of occupation this too fell into disrepair.

With the rise of heavy industry during the eighteenth century, some of the former monastic buildings were repurposed for copper smelting and an ironworks opened its doors nearby. When the exiled Breton aristocrat Armand-Louis-Bon Maudet, Comte de Penhouet visited the site in 1796, he praised the beauty of the ruins, which clearly still showed traces or their former, medieval, glory, but ran in fright from the begging homeless women and children who lived among them. They reminded him just a little too much of the Parisian Women's March on Versailles that jumpstarted the French Revolution. Taken into state care in 1944, the site is now owned by Cadw, and is a popular site for filming having been extensively used in televisions shows such as Doctor Who and Merlin.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.
Resources
DownloadTypeSourceDescription
application/pdfETW - European Travellers to Wales ProjectDescription of visit to Neath Abbey by Armand-Louis Bon Maudet, Comte de Penhou?t, from 'Letters Describing a Tour through Part of South Wales'(1796).Text available in Welsh, English, French & German. Produced through European Travellers to Wales project.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital contractor drawing: 'Site Constraints.' Produced by Purcell for Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 7 January 2020. Part of the archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesProject specification relating to archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey. Produced by Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 15th January 2020.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital contractor drawing: 'INTERNAL COURTYARD - Survey elevations 1.2.3 AND 1.2.5.' Produced by Purcell for Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 7 January 2020. Part of the archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesPdf document - 'finds register' - relating to archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey. Produced by Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, March 2020 - August 2021.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital contractor drawing: 'Ground Floor Plan - Proposed groundworks and guardrails.' Produced by Purcell for Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 7 January 2020. Part of the archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital pdf report relating to archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey. Produced by Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, February 2021. (Compressed version). HRSWales report no. 214.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital contractor drawing: 'EAST ELEVATION - Survey elevations 1.4.20 and 1.1.4.2.' Produced by Purcell for Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 7 January 2020. Part of the archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital contractor drawing: 'SOUTH BOUNDARY - Survey elevations 1.1.1; 1.2.1; 1.4.1; 1.4.21.' Produced by Purcell for Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 7 January 2020. Part of the archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital contractor drawing: 'INTERNAL COURTYARD - Survey elevations 1.4.4, 1.4.18 and 1.4.3.' Produced by Purcell for Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 7 January 2020. Part of the archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesArchaeological Geo-physics survey relating to archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey. Produced by Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, September 2020. Report no. 223. (low resolution version).
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital contractor drawing: 'Ground Floor Plan Indicating boundaries and location of Phase 3, 4 and 5.' Produced by Purcell for Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 7 January 2020. Part of the archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesDigital contractor drawing: 'INTERNAL COURTYARD - Survey elevations 1.2.4, 1.2.8 and 1.4.2.' Produced by Purcell for Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, 7 January 2020. Part of the archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey.
application/pdfHRS - Heritage Recording Services Wales Project ArchivesPdf document - 'context register' - relating to archaeological building investigation and recording of Neath Abbey. Produced by Richard Scott Jones of Heritage Recording Service Wales, March 2020 - August 2021.