Monastic Wales.

Event detail for site: Margam

1147: Foundation

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.

The house lay between the Welsh lands of Afan and the Norman lordship of Kenfig and was effectively in a buffer zone.
Margam was one of the few houses in Britain to be directly colonised by monks from the renowned abbey of Clairvaux, France. The new community was led by Abbot William.
Prior to Margam's foundation, there was a ceremony of endowment at Bristol, where Earl Robert handed over a symbol of endowment (some 18000 acres of land) to Bernard of Clairvaux's own brother, who came across from France specifically to receive this.
Robert's endowment included all the lands between the rivers Kenfig and Afan, 'from the brow of the mountains to the sea' [Robinson, The Cistercians in Wales: Architecture and Archaeology, p. 253].

Gerald of Wales recounts a miracle that allegedly ocurred about the time of Margam's foundation:
At the time of its first foundation or thereabouts a certain young man of those parts, by birth a Welshman, kept making vociferous claims for certain lands which had been donated to the monastery, for he wanted to use them himself. He pressed his claims by various acts of violence and eventually he was inspired by the Devil to set light to the best barn belonging to the monks, which was piled high at the time with corn. Then he lost his reason completely and careered around the countryside quite distraught and raving mad. There seemed no likelihood that he would recover and in the end his relations had to seize hold of him and tie him up. Soon afterwards he tore off the chains which bound him, overpowered his captors and escaped to the abbey, baying like a dog and shouting that thanks to the monks he was being burnt up inside. In a few days he died, still howling miserably.
[Journey through Wales, trans. Thorpe, p. 127]

People associated with this event

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

Bibliographical sources

Printed sources

The Cistercian Abbeys of Britain: far from the concourse of men, ed. David M. Robinson (London, 1998) pp. 138-141

'Annals of Margam 1066-1232', in Annales Monastici, 1, Rolls Series, 36, 5 vols, ed. H. R. Luard (London, 1864; repr. 1965) p. 14

Medieval Religious Houses, England and Wales, ed. R. Neville Hadcock and David Knowles (Harlow, 1971) pp. 113, 122

Earldom of Gloucester Charters: the Charters and Scribes of the Earls and Countesses of Gloucester to A.D. 1217, ed. Robert B. Patterson (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1973) p. 114

Cowley, F. G., The Monastic Order in South Wales 1066-1349 (Cardiff, 1977) p. 71

Kinder, Terryl N., Cistercian Europe: Architecture of Contemplation, Cistercian Studies Series, 191 (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002) p. 82

Robinson, David M., The Cistercians in Wales: Architecture and Archaeology 1130-1540, Society of Antiquaries of London, Research Committee Report (London, 2006) pp. 253, 350

Web links (open in new window)

The Cistercians in Yorkshire Project - Margam (View website)

Other 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 sources]
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 sources]
1268Hospitality withheld - The Cistercian General Chapter excused the community from receiving guests for five years on account of its poverty. [1 sources]
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 sources]
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]