Explore a region where heroes and villains alike have their final resting places...
St Mary’s Church, Aberavon, Port Talbot SA12 6DZ. Map...
Born near Port Talbot, labourer and miner Dic Penderyn, aka Richard Lewis, was involved in the Merthyr Rising of June 1831, the violent climax of years of unrest among a large working class.
Penderyn was arrested and charged with stabbing a soldier with a seized bayonet (the soldier survived). The people of Merthyr Tydfil, where he lived, did not believe the 23-year-old was guilty and 11,000 people signed a petition, but he was hanged outside Cardiff gaol on August 13. After his death, Penderyn was treated as a martyr across Wales. He was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church in Port Talbot, where an engraved cross marks his final resting place. Forty years later, a Welshman living in the US confessed to the stabbing. Supporters are campaigning for Penderyn to be pardoned.
Margam Castle, Margam Country Park, Port Talbot SA13 2TJ. Map...
In 1898, armed with just a stick, gamekeeper Robert Scott was on the lookout for poachers in Margam Woods when he came across violent Army deserter Joseph Lewis and challenged him. Lewis fired both barrels of his shotgun into the gamekeeper’s head, killing him. Arrested and convicted of the crime, Lewis was hanged and more than 3,000 people gathered in Swansea to watch his execution. Robert Scott’s mortal remains were buried in Margam Abbey Cemetery but his ghost is frequently reported striding up the Gothic staircase that leads to the entrance of Margam Castle. The spectre is said to be furious and walking purposefully.
Margam Stones Museum, Margam, Port Talbot SA13 2TA. Map...
Housed in an early church schoolhouse, the Margam Stone Museum includes a number of important early Christian memorials and grave-slabs. Most of the grave slabs give simple initials, but three have names: Robert, Abbot of Rievaulx (No. 21, 1307); Henry, the 9th Abbot (No. 23, 14th century) and a partial inscription in Welsh ‘...EV GORWEDD GORPH ELI[ZABETH] ...HON V GLADDWYD ( [here] lies the body of Elizabeth ... who was buried...’, (No. 25, c. 1600). Meanwhile, a stone pillar also known as The Margam Stone or Carreg Lythyrenog came from a prehistoric burial mound. According to folklore anyone who read the inscription would die soon afterwards, so you might want to avoid that one.
Ebenezer Chapel, Glynneath SA11 5NR. Map...
In the mid-19th Century, cholera was raging in Port Talbot and Dr Archibald Alexander Brodie fought tirelessly to save his afflicted patients. Perhaps inevitably, he became infected himself and succumbed to the disease in 1851, aged 50. A striking headstone bearing a fitting tribute to the selfless physician can be seen at the Ebenezer Chapel, Glynneath, a small town, community and electoral ward lying on the River Neath. The distinctive gravestone can even be spotted from the pavement.
Cadoxton Murder Stone, St Catwg Parish Church, Cadoxton, Neath SA10 8AP.
On the morning of July 14, 1822, 26-year-old Margaret Williams’ body was found in a ditch in Cadoxton, bruises all around her neck. She had been brutally strangled. Unmarried - and pregnant - Margaret was a serving girl in the house of a local man, and it was rumoured she was his son’s mistress. A murder stone in the graveyard of St Catwg Parish Church, Cadoxton, Neath, marks the final resting place of the poor young woman from Carmarthen - such stones, bearing accounts of family tragedy, were often intended to prick the conscience of a murderer who had escaped detection. Not surprisingly, the main suspect was the son, but nothing was proved. Even pointing the stone towards his home could not prompt a confession, and he later sailed for America.