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Margam Castle

A Grade I Listed Building in Margam, Neath Port Talbot

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5627 / 51°33'45"N

Longitude: -3.7254 / 3°43'31"W

OS Eastings: 280494

OS Northings: 186284

OS Grid: SS804862

Mapcode National: GBR H6.DMNT

Mapcode Global: VH5H2.CZWD

Entry Name: Margam Castle

Listing Date: 24 February 1975

Last Amended: 25 April 2000

Grade: I

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 14170

Building Class: Domestic

Location: Located in a high and prominent position at the E end of the gardens in Margam Park. Approached from the SW by a new drive.

County: Neath Port Talbot

Town: Port Talbot

Community: Margam

Community: Margam

Locality: Margam Park

Traditional County: Glamorgan

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Margam

History

Designed by the architect Thomas Hopper (1776-1856), for Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803-90). Hopper, County Surveyor of Essex, was patronised by the Prince Regent (George IV) and undertook commissions at Carlton House in London. Hopper's work in Wales includes Penrhyn Castle and Llanover Court, Monmouthshire. The state staircase at Windsor (James Wyatt 1800-4) may have been the inspiration for the vast stairhall, which forms the focus of the interior. The plans were drafted in 1827-9 and the house was built in 1830-35 at a cost of £50,000, using sandstone from nearby Pyle quarry. The supervisory architect was Edward Haycock of Shrewsbury (1790-1870), who contributed to the interiors and the design of the service buildings. Talbot had input into the style of the house, borrowing elements from the Talbot family seat at Lacock Abbey, and the idea of the octagonal tower from his mother's ancestral home at Melbury, Dorset.

On C R M Talbot's death in 1890, Margam Castle was inherited by his eldest daughter, Emily Charlotte (1840-1918). In 1892 she converted the main courtyard into a billiard room, lined completely in Jacobean-style wood panelling. Next in line was her nephew, Andrew Mansel Talbot Fletcher, of Saltoun Hall in Scotland. Against his wishes, the estate was sold by the trustees in 1941-2. The contents were auctioned at Christies and the house and estate were purchased by David Evans-Bevan, a brewery and colliery owner of Neath. He found the castle too large and lived at the agents house on the estate, Twyn yr Hydd. By the early 1970s the castle was becoming ruinous and David Evans-Bevan sold it to Glamorgan County Council in 1973 for £400,000. Following a disastrous fire in 1977, the castle was left as a shell, and the internal panelling and plasterwork were lost. Restoration work included new roofs, upstairs floors and matching sash windows. The ornate ceilings of the entrance hall and stair hall were repaired, and the octagonal tower was restored.

Exterior

Tudor Gothic mansion of 2 stories and attics, of ashlar stone under renewed slate roofs. The house is characterised by its asymmetry (except for the W garden front) and its rich Gothic detail. Irregular gabled bays surround a courtyard and a prominent octagonal tower. Detail includes turrets, crenellated parapets above a continuous string course with decorative bosses, finials, bay windows, oriel windows, a plinth, ornate chimney shafts in groupings of up to 6, and tablets bearing heraldic emblems. Tudor-style windows under hoodmoulds, with central transom and a varied number of lancet-headed lights, mostly containing renewed horned sash windows.

The entrance front is to the N, an advanced gabled bay R of centre containing the porch. Further L is a gateway leading into a service courtyard. The W end of the house forms an impressive garden front overlooking the broadwalk which leads down to the orangery and abbey buildings. A further garden front is to the S overlooking the deer park.

The gabled N entrance bay is 2-storey, the lower storey projecting slightly. Four-centred arched doorway with several orders of mouldings under a hoodmould. Double wooden doors, ribbed and studded with 2 tiers of lancets above mid rail. A panel above includes foiled tracery in the spandrels bearing Mansel and Talbot heraldic emblems. The apex of the arch rises to a shield bearing a lion motif. In the 2nd storey is a 4-light Perpendicular window with pointed head. Flanking octagonal turrets, highly decorated, rising to circular shafts with lattice and quatrefoil tracery under domed caps with finials. Four-light Tudor window to E side of entrance bay. To its R is the gable end of the W front, with pronounced stepped chimney breast. At each stage is a panel with shields, tracery and foliage. Four clustered shafts rise from the stack with varied decoration. Slender octagonal angle turrets rise to circular shafts with lattice and quatrefoil tracery. To the L of the entrance bay are 3 bays, the central bay advanced, beyond which is a large advanced gabled bay, the E side of which forms the boundary of the service courtyard. The 3 bays have stepped gables incorporating half dormers, 2-light to L and centre and 3-light to R. Tablets with shields in gables. The string course forms a continuous hoodmould. The wider advanced central bay has a 4-light window below the attic half dormer and a 6-light bay window with hipped roof to the ground floor. Large octagonal stair turret to R angle bearing narrow lights, that to attic trefoiled with triangular hoodmould, and with battlemented parapets rising from corbel table. The R bay is 2-window under the dormer, with 2-, 3- and 4-light windows. The L bay is 1-window, each of 2-lights. The wide advanced gabled bay to the far L is dominated by an oriel canted bay window at 1st floor level, with crenellated parapets and a hipped roof. Flanking at ground floor level are 2-light windows.

Two-storey symmetrical W front with crenellated parapets above a string course with head and foliate bosses. The elevation is well lit, the Tudor windows having cinquefoil-headed lancets. Full-height canted bay to centre flanked by semi-octagonal bays. The centre bay has 3-light windows and a gable bearing a shield rising above flat-headed parapets. The semi-octagonal bays are narrower to the upper storey and have a light to each face. These bays rise above the parapets with a shield to each face, narrowing to octagonal pinnacles with traceried openings to each face, under ogee domes. The flanking walls each have a full-height canted bay in the centre containing a 3-light window. Two-light windows flanking, to upper storey only. Slender octagonal angle turrets with traceried circular shafts capped with domes.

Symmetrically placed and rising above the central canted bay of the W front is the octagonal tower. Two stages rise above the roof line with slender octagonal turrets at each angle. Three-light windows to lower stage with quarries, above which is a wide frieze with lions and shields in relief. Windows of 4 narrower lights above, surmounted by crenellated parapets with openwork tracery. The circular shafts of the angle turrets, with lattice and quatrefoil decoration, rise high above the parapets. Octagonal stair turret on E side, plain with occasional slits. The upper level, above the tower parapets, is faced with blind trefoil-headed lancets. (The parapets of the stair turret have been truncated.)

The long S front of Margam Castle is highly asymmetrical. There are 6 bays including 3 advanced gabled bays, and towers and turrets. Detail includes string courses at each level; bosses with monks heads, Tudor roses, lions, shields and beasts; gable finials with barley twist decoration, crenellated parapets and windows in the same style as the W front. To the L is the wide advanced gable end of the W front, with slender angle turrets. In its centre is a 2-storey canted bay with openwork traceried parapets, 3-light windows and side lights. To the R is a 3-window bay containing a central full-height canted bay with 3-light window to each storey, flanked by 2-light windows to the ground floor and single-light windows above. On its R is a square stair turret, slightly advanced, with a single light window to each storey, that below with a shield beneath a raised hoodmould. At mid level is a small oriel window. Above parapet level, the turret has a blind light and a quatrefoil frieze, and is surmounted by a cluster of 6 chimney shafts. To the R of the stair turret, the upper windows are at a lower level and there is an attic storey. Immediately to the R is a large advanced gabled bay incorporating a garden entrance to the morning room under a 4-centred arched head with Y-tracery. Glazed door to each side of the central mullion with Gothic tracery. Square hoodmould with shields in the spandrels of the arch. Immediately above is a small decorated limestone block known as the Palladium stone. The emblem is hard to decipher, but is said to confer prosperity to the building. In the storey above are 2 single lights with cinquefoiled heads containing 4-over-4 pane sashes under triangular hoodmoulds. Oriel canted bay window of 2-lights to attic storey with crenellated parapets and hipped roof. Single light window to its L, and 2-light window in gable apex. Projecting from the R angle of the advanced gabled bay is an ornate octagonal turret with single light windows to the lower storey. The storeys above become narrower with blind, mainly ogee-headed lancets. At parapet level is an ornate frieze surmounted by a polygonal shaft with openwork panels of quatrefoils under a domed cap. To the R of the turret is a bay on the original alignment. A panelled half-lit door to the L (possibly a later insertion) leads into the study with 2 windows to the R, all under a single hoodmould. Two-light windows to 1st and attic stories; the latter is a half-dormer with an attic frieze including a shield. To the R is a 3rd projecting gabled bay with slender angle turrets and a shield in the gable. In the centre is a 2-storey bay projecting on a corbel table with trefoiled decoration. Decorated panels at ground floor level, and a 4-light window to 1st floor with hipped roof. On the E side of this projecting bay is a 3-light window to the ground floor and 2-light window to the attic. Set back to the R and on the original alignment is a square stair tower. Two-light window to ground floor and single lights to 1st floor and attic. The tower rises above and is slightly set back with chamfered angles. Square panel to front bearing a cinquefoil and a shield, above which are tall crenellated parapets. A small octagonal turret rises to the rear and provides access to parapet level of the tower. Recessed slightly to the R is the gable end of the kitchen range, with large projecting decorated chimney breast and angle turret to R. The stack has a corbel table at parapet level and then narrows. Three shafts rise from the stack, but the central one is a bell cupola. A boundary wall to the service areas runs E from the decorated angle turret.

The E side of Margam Castle is irregular and is joined by service buildings and courtyards. However, it includes the main kitchen and other service rooms which project to the L. The L side of the kitchen is dominated by a large bay window with a hipped roof. A shield in relief rises from the centre of its eaves. The window has a central chamfered mullion flanked by 3 lights with 2 transoms and contains diagonal quarries. Boarded door to R under chamfered 4-centred arch, within a small enclosure, formerly the Cook's room with the remains of a 3-light window. Two-light window above with lancet heads, and 2 to attic storey. Eaves stack with 2 octagonal shafts L of centre. The N side of the kitchen is gabled with a central 4-light window to the ground floor and 2-light windows to the attic flanking a stack projecting on corbels. Two adjoining gabled bays to the W, also with irregular 2-light windows to 1st floor and attic. The central gabled bay is butted by a long single storey range which runs to the N and forms a corridor to a courtyard behind, which was later converted to a billiard room. It has a porch to R of centre with a cross-window to the front under a stepped gable with blind window containing Y-tracery. Doorway into L side under a chamfered lancet head. Cross-windows flanking porch, and similar 3-light window to L. Small bay in L angle with hipped roof and cross-window. To the R, this corridor continues as a lean-to against a gabled bay relating to the N front. It has a hipped roof, beyond which is a square flat-roofed structure with lancet-headed doorway to L side which forms a buttress to the main gateway to the service courtyard.

The courtyard which contained the billiard room has lean-tos to N and S. That to S has large Tudor arched windows to ground floor lighting service areas. Otherwise, mainly 2-light windows containing sashes in square stone surrounds, with some cross-windows. Late C20 doors to W and N. The E wall is rendered and contains a fireplace.

Interior

Entrance hall to N in advanced gabled bay, leading to main staircase hall. The stairs rise to the E into the lower part of the octagonal tower. Leading off to the W are doorways to the library and drawing room, to the S to the dining room, and E to a passage leading to the morning room, study and service rooms.

The entrance hall has a Quarella stone fireplace in the W wall under a wide Tudor arch with crocketed ogee head. Mantelpiece with blind trefoil-arched frieze. Large octagonal flanking buttresses with blind arches. Oak wainscot panelling with blind Gothic arches and billeted dado rail. Black and white marble floor in design taken from Mansel coat of arms. Stained glass to upper tracery of window above entrance doors with figures and heraldic emblems. Highly ornate ribbed and vaulted 2-bay ceiling supported on angle shafts and polygonal corbels, and with 2 pendant ceiling roses. Down the centre are the letters CRMT. A square-headed doorway with wood panelled double doors with Gothic detail leads to the stairhall.

Square stairhall with oak wainscot panelling as in entrance hall and square-headed openings leading off. Flagstone floor surrounded by white marble tiles. The exceptionally fine imperial stair is of a hard pale grey stone. The 1st flight of stairs is retained by stone walls with blind Gothic arches. The octagonal gallery which includes the upper flights of stairs is fronted by massive full-height Tudor arches. Each has 2 orders of mouldings to each face, supported on triple clustered shafts with ringed capitals. The open balustrades to the stairs and gallery are in Tudor style with cinquefoil-headed ogee arches under heavy moulded handrails, and with square newel posts with recessed panels. Smaller Tudor arches within the full-height arches and under the balustrades. Arches supporting the gallery are supported off the side walls of the stairhall by foliate corbels. Narrow blind trefoiled arches rise from the spandrels of the full-height arches to a string course, above which are the tall windows of the stairhall. Single shafts fronting the jambs of the arches rise to support an ornate lierne-vaulted ceiling with large pendant finials and foliate bosses.

The rooms are in bare brick and stone having lost their plaster and panelling. The library retains its marble fireplace at the N end, in classical style and with flat cornice bearing a foliate frieze on foliate capitals. Original windows and panelling survive in the turrets flanking the central bay windows, along with a ceiling cornice with egg and dart moulding. A doorway leads S into the drawing room. Off the S side of the stair hall is the dining room with an ogee-headed marble fireplace. Further E is the morning room with fireplace and Gothic doors, then the study with fireplaces in E and W walls and a safe in the N wall. The small room beyond has a strong room for keeping silver plate and other valuables. The corridor around the former billiard room leads to the service rooms to the E of the main house; the kitchen has a large bay window to the E with Tudor head and relieving arch, a wide fireplace to the S with a segmental head with keystone and a stone mantelpiece, and a quarry tile floor.

At mezzanine level and facing the bottom of the staircase, is a large blind Tudor archway with ogee head, 3 orders of mouldings and crocketed pinnacles. On the S side of the gallery is a 4-bay brick arcade, now blocked, which provided a view to one of the principle bedrooms. This room also has a pointed arched doorway with part of its stone dressing surviving. Two further main bedrooms were accessed from the W side of the 1st floor gallery through pointed arched doorways. A smaller bedroom on the E side of the house has a cast iron fireplace with a surround of grey-green Mumbles limestone. The arrangement of the upstairs rooms is irregular with floor levels at different heights linked by steps. Most of the floors and roof structures have been replaced, but one King post truss is retained and has 2 pairs of raking struts with vertical members beneath the lower struts. Evidence for light wells and spiral staircases. A room at the top of the main octagonal tower has a small stone ogee-headed fireplace and a panelled door, and access to the open roof.

Reasons for Listing

Listed grade I as a C19 Tudor-Gothic mansion of exceptional quality, and with some spectacular features such as the stairhall. The prospect of the house, rising above the orangery and monastic remains to the W is unique in Wales.

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