Often overlooked, Neath Abbey is a stunning example of a Cistercian monastry. Once the largest abbey in Wales, its substantial ruins can still be seen and enjoyed today.
The abbey itself was established in 1129AD, when Richard I de Grenville, one of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan, gave a portion of his estate to Savignic monks from western Normandy. The abbey was dissolved in 1539 during Henry VIIIs Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the land was gifted to Richard Williams. It was eventually owned by Sir John Herbert in 1600, who built a substantial Tudor mansion occupying part of the cloisters. During our visit, there was much renovation work ongoing around the mansion, which looked very impressive from afar.
During its time as an abbey, Neath Abbey enjoyed being one of Wales' most wealthy abbey, with around 50 monks living here, alongside a larger number of lay brothers who worked on the estate. During its later life, the abbey became a copper smelting plant with furnaces, workshops and ironworks next door!