Chronology of Key Events

Margam Park is a complex site and as an introduction to the history, archaeology and landscape of the site, set out below is a summary of key events.


The Bronze and Iron Ages and the Roman Era

Bronze age man had settled and begun to farm on Margam Mountain, several burial mounds exist to the North and East of the park.

An Iron Age Hillfort, an area of about seven acres enclosed by a massive bank, which would have been topped by a wooden fence, a ditch and another smaller bank is established on Mynydd-y-castell.

Tangible evidence of the Roman occupation and early Christian occupation is provided by a number of stones, including a Roman milestone, now at National Museum of Wales, bearing name of Emperor Postumus (258-67), the Bodvoc stone and later Celtic stone crosses.

The Monastic Era 1147 - 1536

Year Event
1147 Cistercian Abbey of Margam founded.
1200 The twelve sided Chapter House built.
Cistercian monks hunt wild deer and mine coal.
1349 The Black Death reaches Margam and the number of lay brothers dwindle.
1400s The now ruined church of Cryke Chapel, Hen Eglwys, established to serve the needs of the local peasantry and yeoman who did not have the right to worship in the Abbey itself.
1536 Only nine monks left at the Abbey.

The Mansel Era 1536 - 1750

Year Event
1537 Dissolution of the monastic establishment by the Crown Visitors of Henry VIII.
1540 Abbey bought by Sir Rice Mansel(1487-1559) of Oxwich Castle, Gower Peninsular and Old Beaupre, Vale of Glamorgan.
Tudor Mansion built out of and on the former monastic ranges of the Abbey, the Abbey's stone buildings being adapted, elaborated and extended over a period of two hundred years. The house is remodelled in the late sixteenth century by Sir Thomas Mansel.
1611 Sir Thomas Mansel becomes a Baronet when James I creates the hereditary order.
1661 The first mention of the gardens when accounts show that there was a gardener, John Thomas, and reference is made to various walls and gardens.
1711 Sir Thomas Mansel, who had been Comtroller of the Household of Queen Anne, was elevated to the peerage as Baron Mansel of Margam.
1723 Lord Thomas Mansel dies.
1727 Joseph Kirkman, the gardener at Margam, drew up a catalogue of the greenhouse plants in the garden which is the earliest detailed list of the orange trees at Margam which has survived, an earlier reference being a 1711 book of household accounts.

Talbot Era 1750 - 1941

Year Event
1750 Bussy Mansel, the fourth and last Baron, dies without a male heir. The title becomes extinct and Margam, along with Oxwich and Penrice, passed through marriage into the Talbot family to the Reverend Thomas Talbot of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire. He enjoyed his inheritance for a brief number of years, Margam passing to his son, Thomas Mansel Talbot.
1768 Thomas Mansel Talbot sets out on a Grand Tour of the Continent, an accepted part of the eighteenth-century gentleman's education, returning home in 1772 to the Estate at Penrice, Gower to construct his new villa there. Only as it neared completion did his attention be directed to improvements at Margam.
1786 Construction of the Orangery begins to the design of Anthony Keck
1792 Viscount Torrington reports with horror that the chapter house now houses a stag - it's roof collapses in 1799 and an outstanding piece of medieval architecture was wrecked.
1793 Completion of the Orangery.
Estate accounts record the final demolition of the dilapidated Tudor House by Thomas Mansel Talbot, now residing at his newly built villa at Penrice. When visiting the Orangery and Gardens the family lodged at Margam Cottage on the outskirts of the Park.
1794 The gardens were fenced to keep out the deer and an entrance of stone piers and rustic gates was made.
1800 The Citrus House was erected to house some of the famous citrus tree collection.
1802 Lord Nelson, travelling through South Wales with Sir William and Lady Hamilton, visited the Orangery and gave the gardener who showed them around a three-shilling tip.
1814 Estate map shows that Talbot achieved his aim of creating a Park for it illustrates the different areas called 'Great', 'Little' and 'Upper' Parks
1820s Christopher Rice TalbotPlans to build a new house at Margam were commissioned by Christopher (Kit) Rice Mansel Talbot (1803 - 90), Thomas Mansel Talbot's son, who had Romantic ideas about the Park, its history and the style of house that he wanted.
1830 Drawing of Staircase Hall, by Thomas HopperWork commences on the construction of Margam Castle, a romantic extravaganza designed by Thomas Hopper (1776-1856). Edward Haycock (1790-1870) of Shrewsbury was supervisory architect during this period and was also responsible for some work on the interior and exterior of the house, the stables, terraces and lodges. Talbot took a keen interest in the works and carefully supervised the expenses.
1837 The historic stone façade attributed to Inigo Jones, the Temple of the Four Seasons, is re-erected fronting a gardener's house, Ivy Cottage - this front is all that remains of the seventeenth century banqueting house.
The West driveway, including the bridge at the north end of the fishpond lake, was built. Also it is probable that at this time the gate piers were moved from the gardens to their somewhat odd position at the now west entrance.
1840 The construction of Castle complete and works to stable and courtyards in progress.
Main driveway from the east constructed by C.R.M. Talbot.
Construction of the East Lodges commenced, designed by Edward Haycock, together with Middle Lodge and the West Lodge, which was demolished in 1975 to make way for the M4 motorway.
1841 The marshy valley to the north of the gardens was dammed to form the present fishpond lake, the water used to supply the fountains on the Orangery Terrace.
The west end of the park was extended to include much of the public road and the village of Margam; the new model village of Groes was built at this time, designed by Haycock, but was also demolished for the M4 motorway.
1852 The construction of the Orangery terrace.
Henry Fox Talbot, the pioneer photographer and a frequent visitor to Margam at this time, carried out several early experiments in the grounds of Margam Castle and succeeded in taking the earliest photographic views of the mansion.
1876 The only son of Christopher R.M. Talbot dies as a result of a riding accident.
1881 The Staircase Hall. Photographed by Spencer Nicholl, September 1885.The Prince and Princess of Wales, later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, visited Margam on Monday, 17th October 1881.
The couple stayed for luncheon after which the Princess planted a tree in the Orangery Gardens.
1890

Emily Charlotte TalbotMargam was inherited by Emily Charlotte Talbot. The Vine House is built and most of the greenhouses were replaced with new ones by Messenger & Co. of Loughborough, which have now all disappeared except the small one to the rear of the Citrus House.
Engine house built.

1891 Electricity is introduced into the Castle.
1892 At the Castle, a Billiards Room was built over a small inner courtyard. Twyn-yr-Hydd House, with its separate dressed stone rusticated piered entrance was built as a home for Emily Charlotte Talbot's agent, Edward Knox.
1902 A bamboo garden is established below the lake and a Pergola introduced to the south western part of the Orangery garden by Emily Charlotte Talbot.
1918 Emily Charlotte Talbot dies and Margam was left in trust to her great nephew, a minor, John Theodore Talbot Fletcher whose father Captain Andrew Mansel Talbot Fletcher was a keen horticulturalist who helped to finance the plant hunting expeditions of Frank Kingdom Ward. Some of his introductions of rhododendrons and azaleas were planted at Margam, many of which still flourish.
1926 New Pond was created by Captain Fletcher to relieve unemployment and improve the view from the house.
1930 Captain Fletcher converts the old stable block into a squash court and garage, and creates a tennis court to the south east of the Castle.

The Wartime Years and Sir David Evans-Bevan

Year Event
1941 The Second World War saw the billeting of troops at Margam Castle, even while the Fletcher family were still in residence.
The trustees of Margam estate decide to sell the Estate and Captain and Mrs. Fletcher return to Saltoun Hall. East Lothian. The contents of the House were auctioned by Christies of London in a four day sale between 27th and 30th October, 1941.
The Castle continued in the occupation of troops, both British and American, during the war years.
1942 Estate acquired by Mr D.M. (later Sir David) Evans-Bevan, owner of the Vale of Neath Brewery.
At the end of the war, following de-requisitioning, the Castle remained empty, the family residing in Twyn yr Hydd. It became prey to vandals, thieves and decay.
1950s Sir David Evans-Bevan commissions the landscape designer Ralph Hancock to redesign the gardens of Twyn yr Hydd which included new walls and a ha-ha.
Breast Plantations, five rectangular blocks of firs, planted by Sir David Evans-Bevan on the lower part of Craig y Lodge scarp.

The County Council Years

Year Event
1973 Estate acquired in July by the Glamorgan County Council.
1974 On Local Government Re-organisation in April the Estate passes to West Glamorgan County Council who commence a programme of refurbishment and make public access available.
1977

Renovation works in progress, 1976The completely restored Orangery was opened by Her Majesty the Queen during her Silver Jubilee visit in June 1977.
Modern entrances constructed to the west off the A48 and to the south of the east lodges, both with tarmac parking areas.
Archaeological dig of the kitchen garden to the rear of the Citrus House reveals footings of cottages and the Corner House Inn of the old village of Margam, as well as the foundations of the medieval complex. A further dig of the present Orangery car park exposed remnants of the balustraded walls, gateways and large ponds.
On Thursday, 4th August at 10a.m. a fire within the Castle brings down the roof and destroys the interior.

1978 Glamorgan Cattle brought to the Estate from Sussex.
1981 On the 29th July, a spray of orange blossom from Margam Park is affixed to the carriage of the bride and bridegroom for the wedding of HRH the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.
1982 The North Wing of the Castle is re-roofed and work continued on the stabilising and consolidation of the structure of the south and west wings.
1983 The first stage of the rescue plan for the Castle is commenced and electricity is re-introduced for the second time in it's history.
1985 Park staff move into offices in the first floor of the North Wing.
In collaboration with the Welsh Sculpture Trust, the first sculpture park in Wales was established and internationally famous sculptors such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Elizabeth Frink exhibited.
1986 Repair works to the Chapter House and Vestibule carried out.
1987 A rare daguerreotype of the Castle from the south east, taken by C.R.M. Talbot's great friend, the Reverend Calvert Jones of Swansea is put up for sale by Talbot's descendants and sells at Christies to an American gallery. This unique picture, probably the earliest view of the Castle and one of the first photographs taken in Wales is fortunately saved by the refusal of an export licence and ultimately purchased by the National Library of Wales.
1995 A service is held on the 1st March by the Bishop of Llandaff to commemorate the restoration works to date.
1996 In April, Local Government Re-organisation, West Glamorgan County Council ceased to exist and Margam Park becomes the responsibility of the newly created Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council who continue the commitment to restoration.
1999 The refurbishment of the North Wing of the Castle takes place for educational use by the Field Studies Council.
The Citrus House becomes the home of a major collection of Fuchsia.

The Twenty First Century

Year Event
2001

Work on gardens restoration begins in late January :-
The restoration of the gardens to the rear of the Citrus House as a walled fruit garden and the creation of a grey garden, a knot garden and a monastic herb garden.
The reinstatement of the seven beds on the castle terrace and restoration of the Orangery terrace.
Pathways upgraded for wheelchair and pushchair use.
Children's adventure playground replaced near the pond.

Phase one of a narrow-gauge railway completed late autumn.

Works are programmed to commence on the replacement of the 19th Century Victorian Vine House.

2007

Phase two of the narrow-gauge railway is now completed to allow a journey from the main car park through the park woodlands, around New Pond to the station beside the Castle and Visitor Centre Courtyard.

2007

Margam hosts the major summer outdoor concert ‘Katherine Jenkins in the Park’

October sees the start of the construction on the Margam Discovery Centre, an education facility, based within the farm trail area of the Park.

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