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Margam (Abbey)

also known as: Margam

Order: Cistercian

Margam was founded by Robert, earl of Gloucester and lord of Glamorgan, and was one of the first Cistercian abbeys in Wales. It remained largely an Anglo-Norman house throughout its history. In the later Middle Ages the abbey was a vibrant centre of patronage of the bards.
Margam is today regarded as one of the most important houses of the Order in Wales, both from an architectural and historical standpoint. Indeed, the Margam archive is one of the most complete of any medieval abbey in Great Britain.

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Dedicated to: Virgin Mary Medieval Diocese: Llandaff
Affiliated to: Clairvaux, France (mother-house)
Lordship at foundation: Glamorgan
Access: Open to the public
Owned by: Representative Body of the Church in Wales; surrounding ruins owned by County Council

Main events in the history of this site

1147Foundation - Margam was founded on 23 November 1147 by Robert, earl of Gloucester and lord of Glamorgan, and was one of the first Cistercian abbeys in Wales.  [8 sources]
pre 1166Patronage - Earl Robert's son and heir, William of Gloucester, consolidated the abbey's holdings, granting lands that ensured its survival. [2 sources]
1170x1175Proposed foundation of daughter-house - Plans were considered to establish a daughter-house at Pendar, in the uplands of Glamorgan.  [5 sources]
1180Brawl - In 1180 a young man was found dead in the refectory of the abbey's guesthall. [1 source]
1187Dedication of altar - The bishop of Llandaff, William of Saltmarsh, dedicated the altar of the Holy Trinity. [2 sources]
1188Visit - Gerald of Wales and Archbishop Baldwin stayed at the house while preaching the Crusade throughout Wales. [2 sources]
c.1190Official reprimand - The General Chapter took action against the excessive beer-drinking by the lay-brothers of Margam.  [3 sources]
1203Papal Confirmation - Abbot Gilbert acquired papal confirmation of Margam's possessions. [2 sources]
1205Royal confirmation - King John confirmed the abbey's resources. [2 sources]
1206Rebellion - The lay-brothers of Margam rebelled against their abbot in 1206. [3 sources]
1210Royal Visit - King John stayed at the abbey on 27 May and 28 August, on his way to and from Ireland. [3 sources]
1228Irish business - Abbot John of Goldcliff (1213-c. 1236) accompanied the abbot of Stanley (Stephen of Lexington) to Ireland, to correct abuses there. [5 sources]
1233Meeting - In December, Earl Richard Marshal received the Blessed Agnellus of Pisa, the first provincial of the Franciscans in England, at Margam. [2 sources]
1236Royal confirmation - The abbey secured royal confirmation of its possessions from Henry III. [2 sources]
1246-1247Destruction - The abbey suffered damage to its crops and stock, to the sum of £477, and incurred £60 worth of damages to its grange at Egyl Wys. [1 source]
1268Hospitality withheld - The Cistercian General Chapter excused the community from receiving guests for five years on account of its poverty. [1 source]
1285Property seized - Margam's granges were seized on the orders of the abbey's patron, Gilbert de Clare. [3 sources]
c.1291Wealth - At this time Margam had an income of c. £256 and was one of the wealthiest houses in Wales.  [4 sources]
c.1292Troubles with patron - The General Chapter wrote to Edward I on behalf of Margam, explaining the abbey's troubled situation with its patron, Earl Gilbert de Clare. [3 sources]
1321Delegation - Edward II sent the abbots of Margam and Dore to Ireland to check that the Cistercian houses there were not simply recruiting from the native population. [2 sources]
1326Royal fugitive - Edward II stayed briefly as a fugitive, 3-4 November [1 source]
1329Restoration of lands - After a judicial hearing Margam's lands were restored. [3 sources]
1336Decline - Clairvaux Abbey instructed Margam to draw up a valuation to assess its decline and debts. [4 sources]
1383-5Income - In 1383 Margam's annual income allegedly fell below 400 marks sterling (£266); in 1385 the figure was under 500 marks (£366). [3 sources]
1394Royal visit - Richard III stayed at the house 10-11 September. 
1399Royal visit - 11 May, Richard II stayed at the house. 
1412Destruction - The community suffered extensively from the Glyn Dŵr rebellion.  [4 sources]
c.1535Wealth - According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus Margam had a net income of £181 7s 4d. [3 sources]
1536 Dissolution - Margam was dissolved 23-24 August 1536 under the 1536 Act of Suppression. [7 sources]
+ 27 minor events. Show minor events

People associated with this site

Abbots of Margam

Edward II , king of England (fugitive)

Gerald of Wales; Giraldus Cambrensis , archdeacon of Brecon (GUEST)

Gilbert de Clare, seventh earl of Gloucester and sixth earl of Hereford (patron)

Gilbert, abbot of Margam (1203-1213) (abbot)

Isabella, queen of England and countess of Gloucester (patron)

John (Lackland) , king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou (Guest)

Morgan ap Caradog , lord of Afan (patron)

Richard II , king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine (Guest)

Richard Marshal , sixth earl of Pembroke, lord of Leinster, Longueville, and Orbec (Holds meeting)

Robert , first earl of Gloucester, lord of Glamorgan (founder)

William (second) earl of Gloucester (patron)

Bibliographical sources

111 Printed sources

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7 On-line sources

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Archival sources

British Library, 'Agreement between the abbeys of Margam and Llantarnam', (Document), (View website)

Trinity College Dublin, 'Margam Chronicle', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Wales, 'Margam Chronicle; manuscript of Gerald’s Journey through Wales', (Document), (View website)

National Library of Wales, 'Penrice and Margam Estate Records', (Collection), (View website)

British Library, 'Seal of abbot and convent of Margam attached', (Document), (View website)

Related articles on Monastic Wales

Remnants of Margam Abbey,
The Cistercians in Wales, Professor Janet Burton

Images of this site

Chapterhouse, Margam Abbey

Doorway into the cloister, Margam

Exterior of chapterhouse

Exterior of chapterhouse, Margam

Exterior of the south choir aisle and transept chapel walls

Interior, Margam parish church

Margam Abbey church, interior

Margam Abbey parish church, interior

Remains of the chapterhouse, Margam

Respond pier, Margam, 13th century

South aisle of the choir from the north east

South east crossing pier of the church, 13th century

The polygonal chapter-house, Margam Abbey

View from the south east of part of the dormitory undercroft and the vestibule of the chapter house

West door, Margam parish church

West front of the abbey church of St Mary, Margam

West front of the abbey church of St Mary, Margam

Exterior of chapterhouse, Margam

Neath Port Talbot, OS Grid:SS80188628
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