Friday, 12 October 2018

Great Frampton House

Located within the picturesque countryside just north of Llantwit Major and accessible only by a narrow single track lane which often floods during the winter months are the moulding ruins of Great Frampton farm house. Despite being a ruin Great Frampton house, which is situated within its own private grounds, is a Grade II listed building which is defined as being of 'special architectural or historical interest'. There is a veritable air of yesteryear at Great Frampton as a place which the modern world has yet to penetrate; crumbling pedestals, rusting gates, overgrown vegetation and an aura of neglect and decay greet the visitor upon arrival lending to Great Frampton a sombre atmosphere which has attracted a great deal of interest from photographers and curious parties who are drawn by the intrigue and romance that historical ruins often exude.

(Great Frampton as seen from its garden)

Great Frampton’s late eighteenth century façade, which consists of five bays elevated at three storeys, was constructed with many of the hallmarks of a fashionable and elegant Georgian country house which included a Roman inspired pediment gracing its front door, quintessential rows of neat sash windows and orbed finals at each end of its parapet. Concealed beneath the eighteenth century façade however is a building of much greater antiquity.

The original Great Frampton house was a Tudor period farmhouse which was built around the year 1600, substantial elements of which such as a sixteenth century stone stair turret located at the east side of the property and various internal features such as two characteristically Tudor chamfered doorways with arched heads, and several stone window molds, can still be discerned amongst the eighteenth century re-modelling. Behind Great Frampton house is a rear annex which was built during the early seventeenth century and most likely acted as a kitchen and service wing. This building did not benefit from the eighteenth century re-modelling although it was substantially altered and modernised during the twentieth century.

(View of the eighteenth century facade-the orbed finals which were still in situ not long ago, are now to be found on the ground as a result of vandalism)

Great Frampton house was for centuries a comfortable home to various local gentry families who were prominent local landowners within the Llantwit Major area such as the Jones family who are recorded as occupying Great Frampton throughout much the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A detailed inventory of Great Frampton is recorded in the year 1636 upon the death of Mary Jones. One Morgan Jones is recorded in the Hearth Tax assessment of 1670 as residing as Great Frampton which was noted to have contained seven hearths thus making Jones eligible to pay a levy of 2 shillings per hearth.

Upon the death of Stephen Jones in 1725 he left his wife, called Mary Jones, his 'Frampton Estate'. Stephen's daughter, also called Mary Jones, received one hundred pounds and a bed. Stephen's servant Jane Rees was bequeathed the sum of ten shillings, although oddly Stephen leaves his son Morgan Jones a paltry two shillings and six pence; one can only assume that Stephen's son was a minor at the time. An Inventory of Stephen's varied live stock was also drawn up as well as a basic inventory of his household goods which included 'four feather beds', valued at five pounds,  indicating that Frampton house before it was remodeled in the late eighteenth century contained four bedrooms. There were also various pewter items valued at two pounds and ten shillings, and a plough valued at one pound. The total value of Stephen's worldly goods came to the sum of £62. 10.s, which seems very modest for a gentleman farmer, even the sums of money he left to his family seem small.

Famed astronomer Nathaniel Piggot (1725-1804) during the latter part of the 1770’s resided at Great Frampton and constructed an observatory within its grounds where he made several notable astronomical observations which were published by the Royal Society. A family called Wilkin, who it seems were related to the Jones family and whose family members throughout the eighteenth century occupied nearby Little Frampton, a small single story farmhouse dating to the early seventeenth century, acquired Great Frampton during the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century; it was they who were most likely responsible for the rebuilding of the facade. The Wilkin family leased much of the land to tenant farmers. During the twentieth century Great Frampton was known for its herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle; this herd frequently won many prestigious accolades and prizes from various cattle and farming shows across Britain.

(Great Frampton during the 1960's)

Great Frampton house was put on the market during the early 1990’s but was sadly gutted by a fire in 1994 with the roof, internal floors and all internal architectural features including its fine late-eighteenth century centre staircase complete with turned balustrades and a Chinese Chippendale inspired attic balustrade, destroyed by the blaze. The sixteenth century stone step turret along with the seventeenth century rear wing however were spared the flames, although the rear annex lies in a state of dereliction and has sadly been the subject of vandalism.  Great Frampton house was essentially left as a shell and remains in a precarious state-so much so that the internal walls are being retained in situ by a series of scaffolding to prevent total collapse. The building was put onto the Vale of Glamorgan Council's 2013 'Buildings at Risk Register and Strategy' report and seemed destined to eventually succumb to the elements and vandalism.

                             (Interior view of the vandalized rear annex) 

In 2017 however Great Frampton house would begin a new lease of life. Husband and wife entrepreneurs Rhodri and Gaynor Davis of Llantwit Major have begun to undertake an ambitious renovation scheme which will transform the crumbling ruins of Great Frampton house and its associated farm out-buildings into habitable dwellings. Restoration plans for Great Frampton's charred and gutted interior will attempt to incorporate traditional styling whilst also assimilating modern elements in an interesting amalgamation of styles in order to get the best of both worlds and to make Great Frampton house a comfortable residence fit for the twenty first century. The renovations of the outbuildings is  already well underway and work on Great Frampton house is due to begin early next year with the whole project expected to be finished by 2020. 

Friday, 24 August 2018

Cadoxton Court and Dovecote

Have you ever wondered what the unusual shaped building perched on the edge of the steep and rugged incline on Gladstone Road is? You probably have, and you are not the only person who has been intrigued by this odd-looking construction. This curious building is called a dovecote or columbarium and dates to the thirteenth century making it one of the very few medieval buildings from the Barry area to survive into the twenty first century intact. This ancient and archaic structure is located within the private grounds of Cadoxton Court and was built simply in order to provide birds with a comfortable place to nest, which in turn provided its owner with a convenient and fresh supply of eggs and meat-a convenience which only the well-off could afford.

               (Mid twentieth century view of Cadoxton Court dovecote)

The dovecote at Cadoxton is the sole surviving remnant a medieval manorial complex which once occupied the site of the present Cadoxton Court and was for centuries home to the lords of Cadoxton. This manorial complex has all but vanished with only the dovecote left to remind us that it once existed at all. The landscape around Cadoxton Court would have looked vastly different during the medieval period; in fact, the landscape was almost entirely rural until fairly recently. The land around Cadoxton Court was drastically altered during the late nineteenth century when quarrying activities were responsible for the appearance of the steep precipice adjacent to the dovecote. Soon after when the docks were opened a multitude of Victorian terraced houses were built obliterating much the green landscape around Cadoxton. The small parcels of land which were left were gradually enveloped by piecemeal constructions during the twentieth century with the march of progress leaving the medieval dovecote at Cadoxton Court in unfamiliar environs surrounded by a modern fast-changing world. 

Cadoxton, or East Barry as it was initially known, was founded sometime during the early-mid twelfth century by a family named Mitdehorguill as a sub-enfeoffed manor or fief (fee) to the lordship of Dinas Powys. The only surviving remnant from this period is a Norman font which is to be found within the nearby church of St Cadoc. Cadoxton manor was held at one knight’s fee meaning that the lord of Cadoxton was obliged to provide his overlord, the lord of Glamorgan, with a number of feudal duties in exchange for his tenure, which in times of peace included attending the comitatus (county court) at Cardiff castle, and guard duties, once again usually at Cardiff castle, although later on in the medieval period this practice was substituted for an annual cash payment of 6 shillings per fee called ward silver. In times of war however the lord of Cadoxton was obliged to don his hauberk, coif and helm and fight his lord’s, or his king’s, battles which could have lead him anywhere in Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland or France.

(Late nineteenth/early twentieth century view of Cadoxton as a rural village with the church of St Cadoc in the foreground)

The manor of Cadoxton was a valuable land holding initially consisting of 2000 acres and was intended to provide its knightly incumbent with everything that he would need in order to fulfil his feudal duties. The lord of Cadoxton extracted everything that he required from his fief keeping the best tracts of land for his own demesne, the woods and animals which dwelt within exclusively for himself and claiming innumerable rights over the common serfs (peasants) who inhabited Cadoxton village and whom were taxed and generally exploited by their lord in order for him to grow rich off their labour and to lead a lordly existence.

The lord of Cadoxton would have lived a comfortable life within his manor complex which by the late thirteenth century would probably have consisted of a handsome stone-built residence with various outbuildings including the thirteenth century dovecote. The dovecote is supported by four slender buttresses and is entered by a small single entrance way which is surmounted by a Gothic arch. Within there are hundreds of small niches for birds to nest in making the task of gathering eggs and bird meat an easy one.

The Mitdehorguill’s were not in possession of the fee of Cadoxton for long as by the late twelfth century their male line became extinct. The daughter of the last Mitdehorguil lord, one Milisant Mitdehorguil, married her overlord Adam de Sumeri, Lord of Dinas Powys, who then took over the tenue of the manor of Cadoxton. By the late fourteenth century, a family called Andrew had acquired the manor of Cadoxton who were to retain possession of it for centuries to come.

  (The remains of Dinas Powys castle, the seat of the Lord of Cadoxton's immediate overlord)

It is likely that Cadoxton Court was either subject to major alterations or was totally rebuilt during the Andrew’s tenure as the various building fragments which have been recovered over the years seemingly point towards a fifteenth to sixteenth century date for the former Cadoxton Court manor house. These architectural dressed stone fragments include parts of mullioned windows and door jambs, some of which have been incorporated into several of the outbuildings within Cadoxton Court. The late medieval manor house was a fairly substantial structure containing at least four hearths making it a suitable residence for a member of the minor gentry.  

Cadoxton Court is mentioned in numerous documents from this period such as the Beauchamp survey of 1429, a deed dating to 1545 curiously makes reference to a ‘little tower’ and ‘a mill’ which were located the west side of ‘Courte Hille’. Between the years 1628 and 1631 Nicholas Andrew of Cadoxton Court sold a total of 700 acres of land to William Herbert of Cogan Pill and Edmund Thomas of Wenvoe Castle; an indication perhaps of financial difficulties. The Andrew’s were still in the possession of Cadoxton Court by the Hearth Tax Assessment of 1670 being held by one William Andrew but it seems that by this time terminal decline had set in which was to culminate with the abandonment of Cadoxton Court during the eighteenth century.

The sustained occupation of Cadoxton Court over the centuries is perhaps the reason why the dovecote has remained unmolested, unlike the example at nearby Cosmeston which has been robbed of its stone, as its usefulness gave it protection from being dismantled. The same cannot unfortunately be said of the manor house as by the year 1811 Cadoxton Court was described as ‘the remains of a fine old castle’ further described in the year 1866 as the ‘extensive ruins of a castled mansion’.

                                        (The dovecote at Cosmeston)

The present medieval looking building which comprises Cadoxton Court House was built in 1873 by the Rev John Hughes alongside the ruins of the original manor complex as during the Victorian era a romance of the medieval period and its architecture was fashionable amongst the middle and upper classes with no doubt the still extant ruins of Cadoxton Court and its dovecote helping to provide genuine medieval antecedents and an air of authenticity to the Rev John’s newly built quasi-medieval Gothic style mansion. These ruins, parts of which were fairly substantial, were still in existence until the late nineteenth century when they were sadly demolished to make way for a formal garden. Recent archaeological excavations undertaken by archaeologist Gareth Tyley at Cadoxton Court however have revealed the foundations of several buildings ranging in date from the thirteenth through to the seventeenth century, including a fifteenth century kitchen with finds including pottery, a whetstone and two iron knifes.

            (Cadoxton Court and dovecote during the mid twentieth century)

The wanton and unsentimental destruction of medieval ruins in the pursuit of quite often rather contradictorily, a romanticized facsimile, or just as frequently-a better view of the surrounding landscape, was sadly quite common amongst members of the upper and middle classes in the preceding centuries. Cardiff castle for example saw large sections of the outer baily of its Norman derived keep, cross wall,  medieval shire house and knights hall all demolished during the late eighteenth century on the advice of the much-vaunted Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, so that the fourth Earl of Bute might have a better view of his garden, a price he felt was clearly worth paying, and a large section of the medieval circuit wall at Ewenny Priory suffered much the same fate during the early nineteenth century.

A persistent local rumour regarding Cadoxton Court is that a hidden tunnel exists between the former manor house and Sully Island which is said to have been dug during the eighteenth century by smugglers. This of course would have been a virtually impossible, not to mention a pointless endeavour. Smuggling was rife on the coastline of South Wales during the eighteenth century, and many of the exploits of the smugglers persisted as local legends long after smuggling had ceased during the early nineteenth century. Perhaps the ruins of the medieval and post medieval buildings provided a convenient location for smugglers to temporarily store their contraband and this association has been embellished and incorporated into local folklore over the years to include a smugglers tunnel.

An alternative explanation put forth by Gareth Tyley suggests that the tunnel myth could have been derived from the fact that during 1882 a fight of stone steps was accidently discovered at Cadoxton Court which lead deep below ground level. These steps, which most likely lead down to cellar, were not explored-perhaps because access was restricted due to the cellar being filled with earth and building debris, but also because the owners, quite sensibly, most likely considered it to be unsafe to enter. The steps were filled in shortly after they were discovered and are presumably still within the vicinity of the house.

        (View of Cadoxton Court dovecote from Gladstone Road)

The dovecote at Cadoxton Court is a grade one listed monument and is sadly not open to the public, however if one wishes to see another example of a medieval dovecote in all its complete glory up close, a near identical structure exists at Llantwit Major, and in stark contrast the Cadoxton Court dovecote, its environs are by and large still rural thus its place within the landscape is as familiar in the twenty first century as it would have been during the medieval period.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Romano – British Key Handle

This is the first article of our series on fascinating objects which will focus on unusual, significant and ancient artefacts discovered by us from the Vale of Glamorgan. This intriguing artefact is around two thousand years old and dates from the Roman period. It lay in the ground undisturbed for the majority of this time. To our knowledge it is the only one of its kind discovered in Britain making it unique.

This ancient object is in remarkably good condition considering that the acidic soils of the lime stone geology of Glamorgan arn't usually kind to bronze. This object would have once been of a dull gold - like hue, but over the long years in the ground it has developed a deep green patina, the colour bronze and copper turn when oxidized. 

The object depicts three separate images which are melded into one – a highly unusual composition, even by Roman standards. The object has a mixture of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic imagery, with two human faces and one animal depicted, a boar. One of the human faces is that of a bearded older male, whilst the opposing face is that of a young male or female. Both faces look away from each other; curiously, the younger face has one eye closed. The boar is also naturally depicted with an aperture through the mouth area for a suspension loop. There is much to consider when attempting to understand the symbolism of such an enigmatic object – it is possible that the bearded face could represent Bacchus or Dionysus, both are associated with wine. It is also possible that time is also represented with both the young and old faces representing the passing of time, yet we will never be certain of the true meaning, if there ever was any beyond aesthetics.

It is likely that this was an elaborate key handle as a very similar object has been excavated in Continental Europe which still has an iron key in situ. There is no known Roman archaeology near to where this object was found, although other interesting objects from the same period have also been unearthed in the area making it possible that there was a Romano-British settlement somewhere in the vicinity where this object was discovered.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Cogan Pill House

Hemmed in by a busy junction and overshadowed by an abundance of modern houses and apartments, Cogan Pill house, a Tudor period mansion also known as 'The Baron's Court', seems somewhat out of place in our hectic modern world.  Crooked and aged, Cogan Pill house is a mass of mullioned windows and protruding chimney stacks; a veritable historical Gem, and although heavily remodelled during the middle of the nineteenth century, Cogan Pill house has a long history dating back to the late medieval period giving it the distinction of being by far the oldest standing building in the Penarth area.

(Cogan Pill House when it was sill a private residence taken during the early 1960's)

The earliest written reference to this grey and ancient gentry house comes from the will of Mathew Craddock of Swansea who died in 1533.  John Leland in the late 1530's mentions Cogan Pill house in his Itinerary in Wales recording that "Cogan march Pille wher is a fair maner place on the ripe side longging to Mr. Herbert of Swansey". Glamorgan antiquarian Rice Merrick (Rhys Meurug) lists Cogan Pill house in his 1578 publication, 'a Booke of Glamorganshire Antiquities', as a "castle bordering near the sea coast".

The ancient medieval manor of Cogan, once rated at two knight's fees, was purchased by George Herbert (1494/1570) of Swansea from king Henry VIII in 1544. The Herbert family of Cogan were related to a vast family network who held land and manors across South Wales and beyond. The Herbert family were also directly related to the earl of Pembroke and as a result benefited from his patronage often holding high offices within Glamorganshire and at court.

George Herbert was actively engaged in political affairs of both local and national importance.  For example, George helped to set up the Act of Union in 1536 and also fought for Henry VIII in France at Boulogne in the 1540's. George Herbert became Glamorgan's first sheriff in 1540/1, Glamorgan's first knight in parliament and mayor of Cardiff in 1553 to name but a few of the offices held by this powerful and influential man.

It seemed however that George Herbert also had enemies.  One such man was local rival and fellow Glamorgan gentry member Sir Rhys Mansell of Oxwich, and later Margam, whose position of Chamberlin of South Wales was jealously sought by Herbert.  Acting on a tip-off, the exchequer in 1555 ordered George Herbert to limit his personal retinue to no more than forty men. It is possible that it was Rhys who informed the exchequer being alarmed at the considerable number of men at George's disposal and their potential to inflict violence. These concerns were not unwarranted as it was a fact that George Herbert had a capacity for violence as in 1538 George was accused of assaulting two of Sir Edward Carne's sons at Cowbridge and was brought before the Star Chamber in London as a result.

                      (Oxwich castle, the home of George Herbert's rival Rhys Mansell)

The Herbert and Mansell clans eventually came to blows at Oxwich in 1557 over the fate of the survivors and contents of a floundered French vessel.  In the melee which followed Mansell's sister  one Anne Mansell was accidentally killed which lead to the arrest of George Herbert, a relative of George named William Herbert and eighteen other people, many of whom were from Swansea, and their subsequent trial for manslaughter; all pleaded pardon and allowance. The outcome of the trial however in not known. Upon George's death in 1570 he was badly in debt to the crown owing over £1000, a terrific sum of money in the sixteenth century.  George's inability to pay off his debt saw the crown seize George's property for a total of two years until the debt was fully paid.

George Herbert's son and heir William Herbert (1532-1576) is believed to have been responsible for the construction of much of Cogan Pill house as we see it today. William Herbert like his father was also active in politics and held the office of sheriff of Glamorgan in 1552 and again in 1567.

(William Herbert Earl of Pembroke 1501-1570)

In 1557/8 William Herbert was accused by Sir Thomas Stradling of St Donats of extorting money from five of his servants and the local population at large by issuing a tax "for his own private lucre and gain of his own authority and to extort power by colour of furniture of harness".  This tax was ostensibly to help fund Herbert, who was commissioned by his uncle the earl of Pembroke, also called William Herbert, on a military campaign in France in 1557 where he was to command one hundred men, but in reality it was to line his own pockets. Apparently the tax was scrupulously enforced with neither "widow nor orphan being spared" making William Herbert very unpopular and earning him the nickname 'Black Will'. This was a serious matter which was brought to the Star Chamber in London, and although Herbert did his best to avoid being present at his indictment, he was eventually apprehended by the sheriff of Glamorgan, William Bassett of Old Beaupre.  The case against Herbert however eventually lapsed upon the death of Queen Mary in 1558.

Another unscrupulous member of the Herbert clan of Cogan Pill, one Nicholas Herbert (1543-1601) who also held the office of sheriff of Glamorgan on numerous occasions, was similarly covetous and in 1577 was fined £200 for colluding with pirates.

During the early seventeenth century yet another William Herbert of Cogan Pill found himself embroiled in controversy and was indicted in the Court of Chivalry in 1637 for giving one John Matthew of Llandaff "scandalous words provocative of a duel". Quarreling, feuds and violence as we have seen were common amongst the Glamorgan gentry during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, often resulting in mass brawls, serious injury and even death.  For example, a relation of William, one John Herbert (1540-1617) of Neath died a violent death in Cardiff coming off the losing end of a duel fought against Sir Lewis Tresham in 1617; his tomb can be seen inside St John's church Cardiff. The outcome of this particular quarrel however is not known although it's likely that violence on this occasion was averted.

During the middle of the seventeenth century Lt Colonel William Herbert of Cogan Pill, who was a prominent royalist during the English Civil War, met his end at the battle of Edge-hill in 1642 fighting with a Glamorgan contingent alongside Sir Edward Stradling of St Donats, who himself commanded a regiment of foot and was taken prisoner after the battle.

Upon the death of Colonel Herbert in 1642, a relation and fellow royalist who resided at Grey Friars in Cardiff-also called William Herbert, received wardship of Cogan Pill. This particular William Herbert in 1642 handed over Cardiff castle to royalist forces and willingly gave the Earl of Pembroke's revenues from his estates in South Wales, which he was entrusted to manage on the Earl's behalf, to king Charles I, thus earning himself the appellation of "ungrateful kinsman" from the Earl who was himself a prominent parliamentarian. This particular William Herbert died in 1645 and the wardship of Cogan Pill was then taken over by his wife Anne Herbert, who in turn died in around 1650 leaving Cogan Pill to her nephew William Morgan of Pencrug in Monmouthshire. 

(Herbert House/Grey Friars Cardiff, a possession of the Herbert family and the home to William Herbert who from 1642-5 held the wardship of  Cogan Pill, pictured not long before its sad demolition in the 1960's)

The Herbert family continued to occupy Cogan Pill house throughout the rest of the seventeenth century as well as the majority of the eighteenth century as their wills attest to - many of whom are buried in the church of St Peter's at Cogan. By this time many of the great Tudor houses of Glamorgan were seen by and large to be outdated, uncomfortable and unfashionable.  Many were vacated by their fashion conscious owners who sought the refined elegance of new mansions in the neoclassical style which was very much in vogue during this period.  Cogan Pill house by the late eighteenth century had markedly declined in its former grandeur and importance and was relegated in status to a farmhouse. 

                       (Painting of Cogan Pill house dating from 1850)

In 1793 the house and manor of Cogan was purchased by the Earl of Bute who continued to rent Cogan Pill as a farmhouse. By the early nineteenth century the great hall had apparently been reduced to the use of a barn. Cogan Pill continued to be a farmhouse until the middle of the nineteenth century when it was renovated and converted into a comfortable residence for a relative of the Marquis of Bute a Mr H S Corbett.  The interior of the main hall was given a total makeover in a quasi-medieval style complete with multi-coloured brick walls and gothic arch adjacent to the grand fireplace. The castellated parapets were also added at this time.

(Some of Mr H S Corbett's mid nineteenth century alterations)

Cogan Pill house continued to be a private residence until the middle of the twentieth century when it became a pub/disco followed by a carvery restaurant. By this time it was sadly gutted of most of its ancient interior.  Oak panelled walls, fireplaces, ancient oak beams and spiral staircases have been swept away to accommodate open planning with the rooms, corridors and halls where the Herbert family were born, lived, schemed and died being no more.  The Herbert coat of Arms however can still be seen surmounted above the main entrance porch. 

(View of Cogan Pill house porch with the Herbert Coat of arms surmounted above the entrance)

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Plough and Harrow

Situated on the beautiful Heritage Coast of the Vale of Glamorgan within the tiny hamlet of Monknash is the Plough and Harrow. Surrounded by rolling countryside and accessed only by a long drive through a series of winding country coastal lanes, the Plough and Harrow is an ideal retreat for those seeking to get away from the urban conglomeration of Cardiff.

Resembling a whitewashed long house, the Plough and Harrow, ostensibly a rusticated Georgian dwelling, has long antecedents and is no ordinary country pub being a grade II listed building which dates back at least to the reign of Edward III during the fourteenth century; this is owing to its connection within the remains of a medieval monastic grange (a farm owned by monks), the layout of which can still be seen at the rear of the pub.

             (Monastic grange at the rear of the Plough and Harrow)

The grange is known to have been in existence since 1130 with the land here once being owned by Neath abbey. The Knights of St. John and the Benedictine abbey at Tewksbury also both farmed parts of this large monastic farm. Among its numerous buildings was a huge tithe barn and a dovecot (which is still standing). The grange was sold off during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in the early sixteenth century and was acquired not long after by Sir Edward Stradling of nearby St. Donat’s Castle.

The Plough and Harrow has a cobbled path leading up to its time worn entrance and once inside, the warmth of a large open log fire is a welcome reception on a cold winters evening. Farmer’s wellies, crocked architecture, a smoky atmosphere and sometimes the sound of folk music reminds one that this isn’t a generic and bland chain pub.    

The building’s history is etched in many details in this fine establishment - glace to the right of the fireplace in the main bar and see a medieval two centred arch which braces a concealed entrance. The Plough and Harrow reputedly contains wooden beams from local shipwrecks –given that this is documented from other buildings around the coasts of Glamorgan, this seems likely.

                                                             (The Plough and Harrow

The Plough and Harrow is renowned for it's selection of real ales and congenial atmosphere. This award winning pub won the South Wales Campaign for Real Ale pub of the year in 2009 and was also voted Cider Pub of the Year by the Campaign for Real Ale in 2014. The Plough and Harrow was also listed among the top ten pubs in Britain by the Guardian in 2011; this pub is also host to an annual Real Ale Festival during the Summer months.  Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, The Lord of the Rings actor Elija Wood and also Benedict Cumberpatch can be counted as past patrons of this establishment, such is its renown.  

Monday, 26 February 2018

Old Leckwith Bridge

Situated at the bottom of Leckwith Hill on the boundary between the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff is old Leckwith bridge. This graceful triple-arched medieval stone built bridge, complete with triangular shaped recesses for pedestrians, has survived into the twenty first century remarkably intact and is flanked by the 'new' Leckwith bridge; this somewhat over shadows old Leckwith bridge to the extent that many people are wholly unaware of its existence.

                                                   (Leckwith bridge as it is today)

Leckwith Bridge derives its name from the village of Leckwith which is located at the top of Leckwith Hill. Leckwith village began its existence as a demesne manor belonging to Robert Fitzhamon, the first Norman lord of Glamorgan, during the late eleventh century. It's likely that an earlier wooden built bridge once existed prior to the construction of the present old Leckwith bridge which would have been needed to help facilitate the transport of agrarian produce to Cardiff castle.

Old Leckwith bridge has spanned the River Ely since the late medieval period with references being made to its existence dating as far back as the middle of the fifteenth century. Antiquarian John Leland mentioned Leckwith bridge on his journey through South Wales in 1536 and repairs were made to the bridge during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries testifying to its importance for commerce and the local community.

 (A late nineteenth century view of Leckwith bridge when Leckwith and its surrounding area were still rural

During the eighteenth century it would appear that the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of not only Leckwith bridge, but also the road which ran in both directions from it, was placed upon the inhabitants of the local community-a burden that they probably resented. In the year 1725 the inhabitants of Leckwith were ordered to repair the bridge and highway as ‘the causeway leading from Cardiff to Leckwith bridge, from the south Leckwith bridge to the stone bridge which divides the parishes of Llandaff and Leckwith to be out of repaire and ought to be repaired by the said inhabitants of Leckwith.’ 

The meandering road which ran through Leckwith Village and across the bridge was a busy one as throughout the centuries horses, carts and their riders would have trundled their way through Leckwith from the many small ports which were dotted along the coastline of lower Glamorgan and across Leckwith Bridge through the lonely marshes of Canton Common and on to Cardiff, an arduous journey at the best of times.

(Photograph dating to the early twentieth century showing the old road running through Leckwith village)

This slow paced way of life remained unchanged for centuries until the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century changed South Wales forever. By the early twentieth century with increasing traffic and use of the motor car, old Leckwith Bridge quickly became obsolete and was eventually replaced with a new single arched concrete bridge in 1935.  The sound of clopping hoof -beats and the grinding of carts superseded by the revving of motor engines and the rumbling of heavy traffic.  
Old Leckwith Bridge is Grade II listen monument and can still be accessed by foot or by car.

The Blue Anchor

Hidden away along the old Glamorgan coastal road from Rhoose Village to the hamlet of East Aberthaw is the picturesque Blue Anchor pub. The Blue Anchor, reputedly named from the blue hued mud present in the locality which would cling to the anchors of moored vessels, personifies the popular imagination of a rural British pub with its quaint thatched roof, small windows, crooked interior, open fires and real ale; indeed, the Blue Anchor is well renowned for its good selection of ales winning awards such as the Daily Telegraph Cask Ale Pub of the Year 2008, the CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2018, the Which Good Pub Guide 2017, as well as numerous years of winning the South Wales Food Pub of the Year accolade.

Despite claims that the Blue Anchor has been established as a hostelry since 1380, there is no sound historical basis for this assertion (much like The Skirrid Mountain Inn which is a seventeenth century building ascribed a rather spurious eleventh century date), although the building that is now the Blue Anchor was indeed constructed sometime during the fourteenth century: its two centered arched doorways are an indication of this. The building was in fact built as a copyhold farmhouse associated with a form of late medieval manorial land tenure: connected with this farm building was a substantial sixty two acres of farmland. This building continued to be used as a functioning farmhouse into the seventeenth century where a yeoman farmer named Jenkin Spencer occupied the house, eventually dying there in 1647 leaving a considerable estate.

                    (Photo of the Blue Anchor taken in the early 1960's)

The farmhouse was enlarged during the eighteenth century and it is most likely around this point it became the Blue Anchor pub, no doubt becoming a popular 'stop off' point for the sailors and merchants who would have frequented the area during this period. The Blue Anchor would also have been a popular place for members of the rural working community with many men frequenting the Blue Anchor after a hard day's work in the fields.

There has for a long time been a port at Aberthaw. It is likely the Romans once used this area as a point of crossing from the West Country to facilitate their commerce. During the medieval period the small port of Aberthaw was a part of the Lord of Glamorgan's demesne manor of Llantwit major and is mentioned in a medieval Ministers Account for the year 1316 where the income from its tolls were rather modest; during the Tudor period the port of Aberthaw was controlled by Sir Edward Stradling of St Donats.

Throughout the eighteenth century Aberthaw was a smuggling hot spot and it is almost certain that the Blue Anchor would have been mute witness to many acts of smuggling which was endemic along the Glamorgan coast during this time.  It's likely that the smugglers' themselves frequented the Blue Anchor, perhaps even working in cahoots with the publican and using the pub to conceal contraband from the authorities.

In 1732, Cardiff Customs Officials wrote to London to advise that smuggling activity has increased along the Glamorgan coast, particularly at Barry and Aberthaw. In 1735 there is an account of a large seizure of rum at Aberthaw. The accounts describe two men observed returning suspiciously from a ship anchored here; the men were quite drunk.  When confronted the drunken men, Thomas Sweet and Richard Forest, proceeded to taunt the customs official saying that, 'they had a mind to have a little fun with them,' intimating that they had hidden smuggled brandy on board their vessel. The men were caught red handed that very night unloading barrels of brandy under the moonlight: the smugglers attempted to escape on horseback across open countryside but were quickly apprehended.

                                       (A dramatic depiction of smugglers in action)

The Blue Anchor caught fire in 2004 which destroyed its ancient roof beams and thatched roof but was thankfully put out before it could engulf the rest of the building.  The roof was shortly after restored and the Blue Anchor remains the perfect retreat from busy modern life.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Power, Prerogative and Privileges of the Lords of Glamorgan

The medieval lordship of Glamorgan was one of the largest, wealthiest and perhaps the most important lordship within the Welsh marches. The lord of Glamorgan also simultaneously held the honour of Gloucester and other lordships within England making him one of the richest and most powerful men in Britain who was close to the king often engaged in affairs of national importance. 

(Sixteenth Century depiction of Robert Fitzhamon founder of Glamorgan)

The lordship of Glamorgan was formed in 1093 when Norman baron and vassal of king William II (1056-1100) Robert Fitzhamon (d 1107) seized power from the last native Welsh ruler of Morganwg, Iestyn ap Gwrgant (d 1093), and divided out his new fiefdom amongst his retainers. The stronghold and administrative centre of the lord of Glamorgan was Cardiff castle, its Norman stone built keep after nearly 900 years is still a dominant feature of Cardiff's skyline. The impressive stronghold of the de Clare dynasty Caerphilly castle, one of the largest castles in Britain, too still stands as a silent and evocative reminder of the power and ambition of the lords of Glamorgan.

(The Norman keep at Cardiff castle)

In the centuries after the initial conquest Glamorgan was gradually expanded by an aggressive series of military campaigns instigated by successive lords of Glamorgan; conflict with the native Welsh rulers of Blaenau Glamorgan and beyond it seemed was an almost permanent feature of life in the march and would be an issue that many of the lords of Glamorgan would have to address.

The marcher lordship of Glamorgan however owing to its unique foundation incorporated rights and privileges that made the lord of Glamorgan more powerful than the King’s English barons.  Upon accession to the lordship of Glamorgan the new lord could enjoy almost complete autonomy from the English crown as the king’s writ did not apply in the march, the lord of Glamorgan did not even owe the king military service. 

The lord of Glamorgan could deal with all civil matters regarding his subjects in his own court; for example, in the year 1245 Richard Seward lord of Talyfan and Llanblethlian was outlawed by Richard de Clare (1222-1262) on account of his alliance with Hywel ap Maredudd leader of Welsh resistance against the de Clare’s, and had his estates confiscated by earl Richard.  Seward felt that he had been unfairly treated and appealed directly to king Henry III (1207-1272) to intercede on his behalf, but there was little the king could do and Seward it seems lost all of his land holdings and possessions within Glamorgan.

(King Henry III)

The lord of Glamorgan did not need a royal license to construct castles.  For example, a dispute between Gilbert de Clare, also known as Gilbert the Red, (1243-1295) and Llewellyn ap Gruffudd prince of Wales (1223-1282) in the early 1270's lead Gilbert to begin building a massive new castle at Caerphilly.  This new construction was not appreciated by king Henry III who did not want to enflame further hostilities between prince Llewellyn and the ambitious Gilbert de Clare who were both also embroiled in the second Barons War in England (1264-1267).  Caerphilly castle was temporarily in royal control while a solution to the trouble was sought, Gilbert however had other ideas, and managed to regain his castle at Caerphilly by a simple rouse; the king was virtually powerless to take it back.

(Caerphilly castle)

Perhaps the most prized privilege enjoyed by the lords of Glamorgan was the right to wage private war.  It was not just Welsh lords that the lord of Glamorgan would turn his ire to if he was aggrieved or felt a sense of entitlement, but on occasion his fellow marcher lords.  For example, in the year 1222, earl Gilbert de Clare (1180-1230) mobilised a force of soldiers and began a siege of Dinas Powys castle seemingly over the issue of wardship with the heir to the lordship of Dinas Powys being a minor at the time.  The castle of Dinas Powys for reasons that are unclear was in the custody of William Marshal the younger earl of Pembroke (1190-1231) and Gilbert was quite within his rights to not only claim wardship of any given lordship within his territory but to go to war to enforce his prerogative.  It took the efforts of King Henry III to quell the violence and order William Marshal to give custody of the castle to Gilbert.

(Contemporary depiction of a medieval siege

These events show us just how powerful the lords of Glamorgan actually were and the lengths that they would go to to get what they wanted.

The power enjoyed by the lords of Glamorgan did not go unnoticed by the monarchy and after nearly two hundred years of near complete autonomy in the march and no doubt many a raised eyebrow in England, the lord of Glamorgan finally met his match in none other than king Edward I (1239-1307). King Edward I, also known as Longshanks, really needs little introduction.  King Edward's campaigns in Wales and Scotland show us just how brutal and efficient he could be if he wanted something badly enough and Edward had a very clear vision of Britain unified under his rule which did not include his barons waging private war. 

A series of events involving Gilbert de Clare the red earl of Gloucester and lord of Glamorgan, and Humphrey de Bohun (1249-1298) earl of Herford and lord of Brecon during the late thirteenth century, gradually drove Edward to curtail the power of both earls and exert royal authority over the marcher lords, something previous monarchs were unable or unwilling to do.  There were quite a few  sources of discontent between Gilbert and Humphrey but the most contentious issue between the earls occurred in 1289 when Gilbert began building a castle at Morlais near Merthyr Tydfil on land claimed by Humphrey to be within the boundaries of his lordship.

(Gilbert de Clare The Red)

Edward was abroad at the time in Gascony and could not deal with the issue personally but a commission consisting of some of the most powerful people in England including Queen Eleanor, the king's cousin the earl of Cornwall, regent of England while Edward was away, and the archbishop of Canterbury, assembled with a view to persuading Gilbert to desist from his actions, but they failed.

In the year 1290 earl Humphrey formally appealed to the king against earl Gilbert for trespass; however, Gilbert failed to turn up at the royal court.  Edward promptly issued a proclamation forbidding private war.  Gilbert's response was audacious.  Gilbert sent his soldiers into Brecon with the de Clare banners unfurled and stole livestock and other possessions belonging to earl Humphrey.  Several of Humphrey's men were also killed in the raid.  This brazen act of aggression was a direct challenge to the king's authority which tells us a great deal about Gilbert's character and his sense of privilege within his lordship.

(Brecon castle)

A second Brecon raid took place not long after in June when earl Gilbert was actually with king Edward at Westminster, and a third raid took place in November.

Earl Humphrey once again protested to the king but it seems he was prepared to drop the matter for the sake of marcher prerogative, but by now Edward was heartily fed up of Gilbert's increasing acts of defiance towards the crown and established a royal commission at Brecon in 1291 with a jury of 24 to hear evidence of raids and counter raids that took place in 1290.  Earl Gilbert, predictably, and in another act of defiance didn't show up. 

A new royal commission was established at Abergavenny in October 1291 this time personally headed by the king.  Both earls had no choice but to attend on this occasion, and although Gilbert vehemently protested he was arrested along with earl Humphrey. Both earls were put on trail at Westminster in January 1292 where they had their estates declared forfeit for life; both earls were then thrown back in jail afterwards.

(King Edward I)

King Edward however didn't intend to keep the earls in jail for too long or to permanently keep their estates and their liberty and possessions were eventually restored to them although they were both heavily fined, earl Gilbert 10,000 marks and Humphrey 1000 marks respectively.  Edward's actions were intended to show both earls that royal authority was supreme and that waging private war would no longer be tolerated.

For a time there was peace in the march, but in 1295 King Edward had further cause to take Glamorgan into royal custody as Gilbert intended to launch a millitary offensive against one Morgan ap Maredudd, the leader of a short lived rebellion against Gilbert within Glamorgan, after Morgan had capitulated declared himself the king's loyal subject.  Gilbert had also delayed surrendering the temporalities of the bishopric of Llandaff to John of Monmouth who had been elected to the see of Llandaff which contributed towards Edward's decision to once again temporarily confiscate the earl's estates as a reminder that the earl's actions would not be tolerated.  Earl Gilbert's estates were restored to him in 1296 but shortly after Gilbert de Clare died with the prerogative of the marcher lord to wage private war dying with him.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Secret Barry Island

After much hard work, many late nights and countless cups of coffee, the authors’ of this blog, Mark and Jonathan Lambert, are to have our first book published with Amberley Publishing. The book is devoted to the past - times of Barry Island; we take the reader deep into history through the long distant past of this once lonely island turned popular tourist destination.  

During the course of many years research into the locality, which began a long time ago in a quiet corner of the library at Cardiff University whilst attempting to write an archaeological dissertation, it became clear that there was not one single publication dedicated alone to the history of Barry Island, although there was certainly scope for such a work – a vision was formed.

Previous to our book, one could gain snippets of information about the history of Barry Island in various old and out of print publications, but nothing particularly detailed or anything which formed anything close to a cohesive whole. They all seemed to lack something whether it be detail, periods from Barry Island’s past which were omitted, or were written in a dated style. 

Amberley Publishing have been very good with us during the whole process giving us the freedom to write the book the way we wanted to, but there will always it seems be some form of compromise to be reached. The most notable in our case was the amount of images, the word count and the title. The book was originally called 'Saints, Smugglers and Sand – the Barry Island Story'. This was something we changed to fit in with the Secret series Amberley publish. Our original cover was also changed for a generic but tasteful cover which all of the books in Amberley Publishing Secret series have.

(The original cover for Saints, Smugglers and Sand – the Barry Island Story 

We are thankful that during the formative years of the island’s development during the late Nineteenth Century, archaeologists' such as John Storrie and John Romilly Allen took an active interest in the archaeological remains there and recorded what they could, or there would be less material for the historian to utilise. Incidentally, the authors’ believe it highly likely that there were probably more remains from other periods in time on the island, but were destroyed during the construction of the majority of the housing.

Some readers might be wondering why there is no Butlins, train tunnels or much about the Twentieth Century discussed. Fundamentally the book is about the period of time when Barry Island was literally an island and this history terminates during the late Nineteenth Century. The history post - Edwardian is very well known and we do not have much interest in holiday camps, Twentieth Century domestic architecture or the Second World War – major themes that, as interesting as they are to many, would be much more suited to a picture history book rather than a primarily text based publication.

The process of dealing with organisations and institutions in regard to obtaining permission to reproduce written material or images was an interesting one. The authors' were surprised just how obliging and helpful the majority of the organisations we approached were. We are grateful to the Cambrian Archaeological Society, the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society and British History Online as well as the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales and Mark Lodwick for their kind permissions to reproduce images and utilise academic articles from within their pages. The Glamorgan Archives were also very helpful and is also a great place for the historian to find material. We are also grateful to individuals such as local historian Tom Clements of Barry who, without his kind permission to reproduce a good number of his fascinating images of old Barry, there would be no Secret Barry Island.

Overall we are very pleased with the end product, a work that we feel is well balanced and takes into account all of the major themes of the past – times of this popular resort.  We hope you enjoy reading about and discovering the history of Barry Island as much as the authors' have enjoyed writing this book.

Available Thursday 15th June 2017 from any major distributer of books as well as direct from Amberley Publishing.

Signed copies are available direct from the authors' at £12 a copy with free postage (UK mainland only). Please email us using the blog address

Friday, 21 April 2017

Ewenny Priory

Located off the beaten path down a series of meandering lanes Ewenny Priory is one of many hidden gems to be found throughout the Vale of Glamorgan.  Although only a ten minute drive to the nearby town of Bridgend, Ewenny Priory has the feeling of yesteryear about it due to its pleasant rural surroundings and the fact that it is very much a working estate.  With a few small exceptions it would appear that little has changed at Ewenny Priory for centuries. 

 (Early nineteenth century print of Ewenny Priory which appears pretty much as it is today)

Ewenny Priory was founded around 1116-1126 on land given to the Benedictine religious order by William de Londres, one of Robert Fitzhamon's followers, who had by the year 1107 firmly established himself in the area by building nearby Ogmore castle to control his new fief.  William's son Maurice it seemed further endowed the priory and his tombstone records him as being 'the founder'.

At the heart of Ewenny Priory is the church of St Michael which for the most part has remained unaltered since its construction making it the most complete surviving example of Norman architecture in South Wales and certainly the most impressive; impressive enough that William Turner felt inspired to make sketches for a full blown painting when he visited in 1795. Two gentlemen antiquarians who paid a visit during the 1830's were also enthralled by their sojourn to the church of St Michael which was expressed in their 1840's publication 'The Tourist in Wales' stating that 'every admirer of antiquity will be highly gratified in examining its simple and impressive architecture'.  We couldn't agree more.

(Ewenny Priory by J.M.W Turner 1797)

Equally as impressive are the fortifications which surround the priory, constructed during the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, one might well be forgiven for thinking that they belonged to a castle befitting that of a marcher lord than a religious establishment; a testament to the turbulent times in which Ewenny Priory began its existence.

The visitor however must be content to view this medieval marvel from the exterior as despite being able to access the church, which is owned by Church in Wales, the majority of the medieval Priory forms a part of the private grounds of the Turbervill family who have owned Ewenny Priory and its surrounding lands since the beginning of the Eighteenth Century. 

We were therefore surprised upon one of our previous visits to discover that the current owners of Ewenny Priory had decided to throw open their doors and invite the general public into the grounds of their private residence, for a limited time, which afforded us a rare opportunity for a wander around this fascinating place, something we had always wanted to do.

Upon entering the grounds one is greeted with several outbuildings, several of which bear the date 1871.  These buildings are of an obsolete function as they were intended to house horses and coaches and now form a quaint reminder of times gone by.  Contiguous is a large building ostensibly of Nineteenth Century date but containing both medieval and Tudor period mullions set in its walls betraying its antiquity. Described by our Victorian antiquarians as being 'ruinous' at the time of their visit, this building from what we saw was in a tolerable state of repair, although it did look like it hasn't been modernised at all, right down to sporting its original sash windows, behind one of which an archaic Victorian gas lamp is still in situ. 

(View of Tudor and medieval features)

This building was most likely a service wing to the main residence and once originally formed part of the medieval cloister and presumably a part of the now vanished Tudor mansion that was built by the Carne family who purchased the Ewenny Priory from the crown in 1545 for the sum of £727. 6s. 4d. 

The main residence which is contiguous to the service wing is a stately looking Georgian mansion replete with neat rows of sash windows and dates to the early Nineteenth Century.  Our Victorian gentlemen visitors it seemed also appreciated this building describing it as a 'handsome mansion', although like the adjacent service wing this building has earlier antecedents and possibly incorporates medieval structures in its fabric.

(Ewenny Priory House)

It was in the environs of Ewenny in the year 1770 that local gentleman Henry Knight (esq) felt aggrieved enough by another local gentleman, one Thomas Bennet, to write him a formal letter inviting him to settle a score and we could not help but to think of this as we approached..

'Respect to the company prevented my taking the proper notice of the insolence of your language yesterday at Ewenny, but it were disrespect to myself not to resent it now.  I therefore acquaint your self-importance that you behaved like a fool and spoke like a liar-which I am ready to make good as a gentleman ought, when and wheresoever you think proper to appoint'

We tentatively walked across the neatly kept front lawn of the house, ever conscious that we were visitors on private land, half expecting an irate grounds man to come storming over to eject us, but of course that was not to be.  In fact, with the exception of a few other curious people we barely saw a soul.

(Eighteenth century view of Ewenny Priory from the south giving a view of not only the remarkable completeness of the medieval fortifications but also the Tudor/Stuart period mansion which has since been demolished)

Access to the interior of Ewenny Priory afforded us a look at the rear of the church, which contained as we expected an abundance of Romanesque architecture. One particular arch was a source of curiosity as it seemingly exits in isolation to the church and forms the entrance to a small garden.  As we approached something large quickly flittered its way across the other side of the arch.  Our ears were almost immediately assailed by a loud squawking sound.  A quick look revealed the source of this noise and before us stood a rather magnificent looking peacock with its wings fully stretched; something you don't see every day.

(Romanesque Arch in isolation)

To the south of the Romanesque arch is a substantial medieval tower which was probably constructed during the mid to late Twelfth Century and formed a part of the original defensive circuit that surrounded the Priory.  Despite the fact that the tower is roofless it is still in a good state of preservation, we were however surprised upon entering to discover that this building had been converted into a dovecote sometime after its use as a defensive structure had ended.

(Late Twelfth Century tower)

The original Twelfth Century curtain wall had once extended to the west of this tower but was unfortunately torn down during the early Nineteenth Century to afford the owners of the newly rebuilt house a better view of the deer park, which is where we decided to explore next.  We walked the entire precinct of the park which is now in use as arable farmland.   

(View of Ewenny Priory from the deer park)

We re-entered the Priory precincts through the south gatehouse, something we have only been able to glimpse from the road outside on previous visits.  This gatehouse is in very good repair and looks like it has hardly been altered since it was built during the late Thirteenth Century.  We noted a number of murder holes in the vaulted passage but no grooves for a portcullis such as the north gatehouse exhibits.

(The south gatehouse)

To  access the upper part one has to climb an external stone staircase which leads to a narrow corridor.  To the right of this corridor is the chamber directly above the vaulted passage below.  This room was very plain and austere displaying no internal features of note whatsoever, not even a fireplace.  The floor tiles looked Victorian in date and the walls washed a yellow colour.  Following the corridor leads to a medieval garderobe, or latrine and with that a dead end.

The other part of the gatehouse is to be accessed from downstairs, and with very good reason, as it is missing its upper floors and roof.  Its seems an incongruous sight to see a late Victorian fireplace, with a much earlier fireback bearing the date 1719, which probably was taken from the big house surmounted half way up the wall. 

(Interior of south gatehouse complete with Victorian fireplace)

Our next port of call was a large garden which lies immediately west of the south gatehouse.  This garden is surrounded on three sides by the original medieval curtain wall, which one could walk if feeling adventurous enough, although we decided against it.  With the exception of a row of bee-hives located against the north wall, it seems that this garden is utilized for very little else at present with its current state being unkempt, which we thought lent it a certain charm. 

There was however a curious stone built feature to the south of the garden that attracted our attention which looked a bit like a large well with a set of steps leading down into a pool of water.  This feature is most likely contemporary with the medieval priory although its function puzzled us somewhat.

(The garden as seen from the north gatehouse)

Our last stop was the north gatehouse which we have viewed many times from the lane outside.  A short walk up a stone spiral staircase to the rear of the building and we were in the room directly above the vaulted entrance.  It would seem that this building unlike the south gatehouse had not been utilized during the Victorian period but like every other medieval feature we have come across was in excellent repair and looked almost exactly how it looked when it was first constructed.  Behind this room is another smaller room accessed by a very low door, which I banged my head on more than once being quite tall, with alcoves set in the south wall reminiscent of the dovecote we saw earlier.   A doorway on the opposite side of the main room lead to a garderobe which was unprotected by iron bars so we didn't get too close, and then out onto the curtain wall. 

(View of the curtain wall from the north tower)

The current owners of Ewenny Priory must be commended for this generous act and hopefully we will see the medieval Priory of Ewenny open again at a further date.