Neath Abbey

Neath, United Kingdom

Neath Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, located near the present-day town of Neath. It was once the largest abbey in Wales. Substantial ruins can still be seen, and are in the care of Cadw.

Neath Abbey was established in 1129 AD when Richard I de Grenville, one of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan, gave (3,200 ha of his estate in Glamorgan, Wales, to Savigniac monks from western Normandy. The first monks arrived in 1130. Following the assumption of the Savigniac order into the Cistercian order in 1147, Neath Abbey also became a Cistercian house. The abbey was ravaged by the Welsh uprisings of the 13th century. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII of England the last abbot, Lleision ap Thomas, managed to buy time through payment of a large fine in 1536, but the abbey was dissolved in 1539.

At this time, the abbey was turned into a large estate, initially granted to Richard Williams, although by 1600 it was owned by Sir John Herbert, and had a substantial Tudor mansion occupying a part of the cloisters. The mansion itself was only habitable for 100 years or so, before being abandoned as the site became a scene of industry.

By 1730, some of the buildings were being used for copper smelting, and the rest were abandoned. In the late 18th century, an iron foundry was opened near the abbey ruins by a company owned by the Price, Fox and Tregelles families. The ruined walls of both the Abbey and later mansion were gradually engulfed in quantities of industrial waste. The ownership of the site passed to the Rice family, Barons Dynevor, and it was in the 1920s, under Walter FitzUryan Rice, 7th Baron Dynevor that a local group of amateur archaeologists began the process of uncovering the medieval ruins.

North of the abbey ruins are the remains of the gatehouse which would have controlled access into the abbey precinct. It now stands on New Road alongside the playground of Abbey Primary School. It was originally built around 1130, but the most prominent surviving features, two pointed windows that face onto the road, date from the 13th or 14th century.

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Neath, United Kingdom
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Founded: 1129
Category: Religious sites in United Kingdom

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