The Neath Abbey was founded in 1130 for a convent of monks from Savigny in northern France from the foundation of Norman Richard de Grenville. Already in 1147, the abbey was absorbed into the rapidly growing Cistercian Order. At the end of the 12th century, the construction of a stone church and the accompanying monastery buildings was completed, but from the beginning of the twenties of the thirteenth century, the monks, under the patronage of Robert de Clare, began to expand and rebuild these early buildings. This was partly due to the destructions caused by multiple Welsh raids. The new monastery church was put into use at the end of the 13th century.
The abbey avoid the first wave of the cassation of monasteries in 1535, but four years later the abbot Leyshon Thomas was forced to dissolve the convent and donate the abbey to the Crown. The buildings were then transformed into a renaissance residence with a new house on the south-eastern edge of the former abbey complex. The residence was owned by Richard Williams, and then by Sir John Herbert. It was abandoned at the beginning of the 18th century and quickly fell into disrepair.
The abbey consisted of a church and monastery buildings south of it. The temple was a typical Cistercian building: a three-nave basilica on a cruciform plan with a tower at the intersection of the naves and the chancel ended from the east with a straight wall. A patio surrounded by cloisters adjoined the southern nave. On its west side was an oblong, rectangular, two-story range intended for lay brothers. In its northern part there was a common room, and in the southern part refectory. This building was accessible from the west, through the 14th-century square porch protruded by the face of the walls. The whole was surrounded by buttresses, between which ogival, gothic windows were placed. On the south side of the monastery there was a square-shaped kitchen, then a refectory of monks and a smaller warm room. The eastern range of the monastery adjoined directly to the southern transept of the church. It was an oblong, rectangular building in which from the north there was a sacristy, a chapter house with a vault supported on four pillars, an audience room with two pillars and a two-nave dormitory. From the corridor located in front of the bedrooms, it was possible to go to the easternmost building, in which, among others, there were latrines.
The abbey has been preserved in the form of a ruin with a fairly clear layout of the entire complex. In the best condition, the monastery’s western range has survived with preserved pillars supporting the rib vault. In the relatively good condition are also the remains of the south-eastern part of abbey, however, it was thoroughly rebuilt in the sixteenth century to a renaissance residence.
Website archwilio.org.uk, Neath Abbey.
Website wikipedia.org, Neath Abbey.