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Magram Castle

Notwithstanding the title of ‘Castle’, Margam Castle, which is found in Margam, Port Talbot, Wales, is actually a very large Victorian era country house. One of the many built during what is known as the 19th century Gothic Revival. Although the Castle as we know it today started to be built in 1830, the actual site on which it stands had been occupied for around 4,000 years. The house itself was built over a period of ten years, from 1830 to 1840 for Christopher Rice Talbot, a Liberal politician, landowner and industrialist.

History of Magram Castle

Margam Castle is set in 850 acres of beautiful parkland where there is evidence of over 4,000 years of continuous habitation and use. The country estate is situated two miles east of Port Talbot on the narrow coastal plain, set on the southern slopes of Mynydd Margam, a forested mountain. Its history can be traced back even to pre-historic times, and in fact Bronze Age and Iron Age relics have been found close by, evidence of Roman and Celtic occupation.

The Castle is one of three notable buildings situated in what is known as the Margam County Park, which was once owned by the Mansel Talbot family. The other two are Margam Abbey, a Cistercian Monastery, and the 18th century Orangery. The Abbey was built in 1147 by Sir Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the illegitimate son of King Henry I. At the time it was the largest and wealthiest Abbey in Wales, however during the Dissolution period proclaimed by King Henry VIII in 1536, the last monks remaining were evicted and the site fell into the hands of Sir Rice Mansel of Gower. The remains of the Abbey are extensive and the remains of the Chapter House are to be found between the Castle and the Orangery. There were various restoration attempts on the abbey throughout the 19th and 20th century, which altered it significantly since it was rebuilt in the Norman style. The magnificent Burne-Jones windows in the west end are to be noted. The surviving buildings form a unique record of the historical and architectural development of the Castle. (more)

Magram Castle Today

When the entire Estate was sold to the Neath Port Talbot Borough, the majority of the buildings, as well as the surrounding gardens were derelict. Much work has been done to restore them, as well as the Orangery gardens. These contain many varieties of trees and shrubs, and augment the beauty of the estate as a whole. The Broadwalk Steps leading to the Castle are flanked by rhododendron and there are also a Bamboo Collection and a Japanese garden nearby. Deer roam freely in the park, as do other animals like foxes, squirrels and hares.

The grounds are a very popular country park, where families habitually stroll and picnic while enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Throughout the year, a number of events catering to all age-groups are hosted within the grounds, ranging from Living History weekends to Charity Walks.

The Castle itself is architecturally centred around three courtyards and is built of local sandstone. The rafters and floorings are made of oak and pine, while cast iron railway lines were used as support to strengthen stone landings and staircases. The Talbot crest can be seen affixed to each drip box pertaining to the lead gutter and water pipes. There are also numerous shields and coat of arms of the Mansel family present within the stonework itself. The interior decoration is in the Gothic style, both within the entrance and the marvellous stairs. Later, gothic seats were even installed around the edges of the staircase hall, each carved with the monograms of CRM Talbot. Paintings by Rubens and Canaletto offer the perfect foil for the gold leaf, carved marble, crystal chandeliers and fine furniture within each room.

Margam Castle is also known as one of the most haunted Castles in Wales. Its Gothic architecture is not the only thing which promotes an eerie atmosphere, since it has a fairly troubled past as well. There have been an astounding number of reports of sightings of apparitions and poltergeist activity throughout the years. It is the frequency of these reports which have given the Castle its current reputation, not to mention its status as a hotspot for paranormal research and psychic investigation. So much so in fact, that the T.V show ‘Ghost Hunters International’ even visited from Los Angeles, California, in order to dedicate an episode of their popular series on the SyFy Channel to the Castle. The paranormal investigators used low lux cameras, full spectrum photography and super sensitive recording devices to capture ‘electronic voice phenomena’, which is said to be spirit world voices. They claimed to have captured on camera a floating figure wearing a white habit, as well as the shadow of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, the man who commissioned the building of the Castle, and heard the footsteps of Lady Emily Charlotte in the bedroom where she died. This episode aired to American audiences on July 21, 2010 and was viewed by over a million viewers. As a result, the Neath Port Talbot Council has had an incursion of American visitors who want to experience the Castle themselves.

At present, a number of ghost hunts are on offer in both in the Castle and grounds. There are both afternoon sessions and overnight ones for the more adventurous. Strange light anomalies, loud footsteps and extreme temperature drops were all reported on multiple occasions during ghost hunts. The most well-known and violent spirit which permeates the grounds is known to be that of the angry Robert Scott, who was a gamekeeper, reportedly murdered by a poacher who shot him in 1898. He is believed to be the one responsible for most of the poltergeist activity observed; having slammed doors, thrown objects and even rocks at viewers. People often said his malevolent energy during these times was palpable, with some people even stating that they were pushed or grabbed violently during ghost vigils.

Apart from the ghost of Robert Scott, who was seen ascending the Gothic main staircase various times, the sound of giggling children is another frequent occurrence. Their sinister laughter has often been reported to have been heard along the corridors and family rooms, and there have been also reports of children in Victorian dress being seen drifting in the doorways and moving objects. Many members of the staff have also maintained they have seen a large figure belonging to a blacksmith and the Castle’s security guards have reported hearing the noise of running footsteps and chattering voices while there was no one else in the building.

Opening Hours of Margam Castle

Spring/Summer Season 2016-2017 – All Park facilities are open. Free Entry - Car Parking. On Special event days an entry fee will apply.
Autumn/Winter Season 2016/2017 - 5th September - 2016 to March 2017 - Open Daily from 10am to 4.30pm. From 1st November to mid January - Mondays & Tuesdays open 1.00pm - 4.30pm.
The Children’s’ Village opens from 10 am to 3.30pm at weekends and during school holidays. Margam Park Train is closed during the Autumn/Winter Season.

Text: Melisande Aquilina