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ExhibitionA Lost House and Landscape: Margam in about 1700

National Museum Cardiff
From 17 October 2012

Margam House was created out of the domestic buildings of the Cistercian abbey of Margam during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Today Margam is a country park where you can still see some surviving fragments of the abbey.

These bird’s eye views are typical of British topographical painting around 1700. Though naïve, they are full of incident and detail.

Discover more by taking a virtual tour of these paintings on our website.

The artist may be Thomas Smith, who made similar views in Wales for the 1st Duke of Beaufort. Sir Edward Mansel (1636-1706) may have commissioned the paintings to commemorate recent improvements.

Alternatively, they may have been made for his son Thomas, 1st Lord Mansel (1667-1723) as a record of what he intended to rebuild.

A 'fair and sumptuous house'

The largest and most important country house in Glamorgan, it was demolished around 1790. The surrounding landscape has also changed greatly over the last three hundred years.

Sir Rice Mansel (1487-1559) of Oxwich acquired Margam after the monastery was dissolved in 1537.

His grandson Sir Thomas Mansel (1566-1631) completed the conversion of its buildings into the ‘fair and sumptuous house’ seen here.

In the 1830s the owner of the estate Chistopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803-1890) built a new house on higher ground to the East, known as Margam Castle, and developed the town and harbour of Port Talbot.

Since the 1970s, the M4 has run between Margam and the coast.

These paintings remained at Margam until the 1940s and their return to south Wales in 2012 was made possible by the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund.

View of Margam House, Glamorgan, looking North
View of Margam House, Glamorgan, looking North
View of Margam House, Glamorgan, looking South
View of Margam House, Glamorgan, looking South
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