Page images
[blocks in formation]



[blocks in formation]

Our tour now took an eastward direction. Crossing Swansea river by an exceeding good ferry, and passing a region of furnaces, we traversed a considerable hill to the neighbouring valley of Neath; a spot that might be deemed pleasing, were it not overhung with the smoke of numerous manufactories, and its soil blackened with coal-works and rail-ways *. Neath abbey is a short distance west of the town, and its remains are extensive. Besides the abbey church, the walls of the offices and other apartments are yet standing; but, undecorated with verdure, and partaking of the sable hue that impinges on every object around, it fails to create an. idea of beauty or grandeur. As we were exploring the dark recesses of the ruin, a number of haggard forms on a sudden darted from various apertures, and eagerly pressed toward us.


* Rail-ways are so called, from being constructed of iron (in some places wooden) rails, placed in such a manner as ta receive the wheels of a sort of low cart, used in the conveyance of metal and coals. These cars, as they are called, are of very ponderous structure; their wheels, grooved round, with a shoulder dipping on the inside, pass with great facility over the rails; which latter, projecting an inch or two above


Their wan countenances, half hidden by black matted hair, bore the strongest expression of misery; which was further heightened by a scanty ragged apparel, that scarcely covered their

limbs :

upon) their whole appearance one might have asked with Banquo,

" What are these, “ So wither'd, and so wild in their attire, That look not like th' inhabitants o'the earth, And yet are on't ?-You should be women ; And yet your beards forbid me to interpret “ That you are so."

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the ground, are kept in their places by a sunken frame of wood. The advantages of these roads are very considerable for the purposes to which they are applied; insomuch that many persons have suggested their useft:iness for public ways; but perhaps without considering the numerous practical objections tbat would encounter the project.


The poor creatures were the wives of miners, and women that worked in the manufactories, who burrowed and brought up their families in the cells of the ruin. Unceasing drudgery, however, was unable to obtain them the necessaries of life; much less a taste of those comforts, to which the exertion of useful labour might seem to have a just claim. An old woman, bent nearly double with

years, Of ashy semblance, meagre, pale, and bloodless," gave us her account of the ruin. She shewed us the suns' dining-room, the roof of which is still entire, supported by Saxon, or rather early. Norman pillars and arches. From the refectory we passed to what was once the dormitory, and were shewn a nauscous dungeon, in which, as the legend of the ruin relates, offending nuns were wont to be confined. This abbey was built by Richard de Granville and Constance his wife, in the reign of Henry the First, for Cistertian monks, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity: at the dissolution of monasteries its revenues were valued at 1501. per annum.

The abbeyhouse, about a century and a half since, forined an admired seat of the Hobby's fa


L 2


[ocr errors]

Neath, the Nidum of Antoninus, was formerly of greater extent and importance than at present; for, notwithstanding its flourishing manufactories, it now makes but a poor dirty appearance. The Castle, now an inconsiderable ruin, was built by Richard de Granville, one of Fitzhammon's knights, upon the site of a British fortress of very antient foundation ; and was taken and in part burnt by Prince Llewelyn A. D. 1231. The Neath river limits that tract of country called Gower; it also formed the western boundary of the Lordship of Glamorgan, which anciently extended eastward to the river Usk. The latter district fell under the dominion of the Normans in the following manner.

In the year 1090, Jestyn, lord of Glamorgan, having a difference with Rees, King of Wales, had recourse to arms, and solicited the assistance of Fitzhammon, an AngloNorman chieftain, to support his cause. The 'confederates were successful; but, as it generally happens when foreign aid is required in domestic disputes, the remedy proved worse than the disease; for, on the plea that the conditions of their compact had not been fulfilled, Fiizhammon collected his forces, attacked Jestyn, and deprived liim of his life and territory. Fitzhammon shared the spoil with twelve knights who accompanied him, rewarding each with a manor. Now, as a dominion thus acquired must be supported by the iron arm of coercion, we find the first attention of the conquerors directed to rearing fortresses on their domains; and shortly afterwards an appendant creation of religious houses makes its appearance, as a salvo for the slaughter and injustice that purchased their greatness.

attacked from

To this foundation most of the picturesque ruins that we are about to examine in Glamorganshire, and part of Monmouthshire, may be traced : it will, therefore, be necessary not to lose sight of this point of history.

We did not fail to admire the Knoll, a castellated seat of Sir Herbert Mackwortli's, occupying the summit of a hill at the termi, nation of a noble lawn. The fine views which its elevation commands, encompassed by hanging woods and extensive plantations, its shady walks and picturesque cascades, render it a place deservedly attractive. Bea neath the tufted hills of this cstate, we passed L 3

« PreviousContinue »