Monday, 16 February 2015

Edward II and Neath Abbey

Neath Abbey was once the biggest abbey in Wales.  It was founded in 1129 on land given by Richard de Grenville to Savigniac monks, and in 1147, it became a house for Cistercian monks.  Like most religious orders, the Abbey was dissolved, and a Tudor manor house built amongst the ruins.    The site is now owned by CADW, and has recently featured as a backdrop for tv shows such as Dr. Who and Da Vinic's Demons.  On warm, sunny days people visit to walk through the vast grounds or climb the ruins.   I visited it last year, and was disappointed that there was no mention of one of the most dramatic events in history occurring there.  For it was here, on November 6, 1326, that Edward II and Hugh Despencer found themselves shortly before they were captured.   

Despencer, of course, held vast lands in Wales, including the impressive Caerphilly Castle, where Edward and Despencer sought refuge when Edward's Queen, Isabella, landed with an army to depose Edward.  Caerphilly Castle was a mighty fortress, and should easily have been able to hold out if under siege.  For reasons unknown, Edward and Hugh left Caerphilly for Neath Abbey.  It seems a foolhardy thing to do - leave a well-fortified castle for a religious house - but maybe Edward hoped the Abbey would provide him with sanctuary?  He sent the abbot to try to negotiate with Isabella, but when no compromise could be reached, Edward and Hugh set out to return to Caerphilly Castle.  It was on their return that Edward and Hugh were captured.  For many years afterwards, stories about Edward's possessions being 'stolen' or found around Neath Abbey have persisted.  There are stories of gold coins being found after being hidden in various nooks and crannies in the Abbey.  Rumour has it Edward had £30,000 with him.  And yet, visitors to Neath Abbey have no idea of this part of the Abbey's history, for no-where on the information boards is it mentioned.  How can such an important part of history be ignored?  Below are some of the pictures I took.


 Above - the Tudor Manor House.  Below are the ruins of the Abbey.





5 comments:

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

I always find it so very irritating... I mean the lack of info where it should be... It happens everywhere - in Poland too - and usually the earliest bits are missing :-(

Kathryn Warner said...

Great pics! It's really a shame that Edward's story isn't even mentioned at all in connection with the abbey, though :/ And it's such a great story!

Anerje said...

I hate the way the Abbey has just been left to rot, basically. It's a big site, and there's quite a bit of it left, but the town does nothing to promote it. Edward's capture was such a huge event, and there's nothing there to mark it.

Gabriele Campbell said...

I added a link to your post in my post about Chepstow. I didn't know the exact place of his capture was Neath Abbey, only that it was 'on his way back to Caerphilly'.

Anerje said...

Hi Gabriele - I'm afraid very few people know about Neath Abbey. Shame on CADW.