by W. Ruth Kozak
It was the mention of the famous pirate Captain Henry Morgan that first sparked my interest when my cousin Nicola suggested we visit a country manor in Wales. Although Capt. Morgan, for whom the famous rum was named, was the son of one of the nine illustrious sons of the original owner of this 17th century Charles II era country house, it somehow made the visit more intriguing.
Tredegar House, near Newport Wales, was the home of the Morgan family for over 500 years and later the home of the Lords Tredegar, one of the most powerful and influential families in the area. The mansion is surrounded by a landscaped garden of 90 acres and is one of the most outstanding houses of the Restoration period in Britain. The earliest part of the building dates back to the late 15th century but it’s been restored over the ages. It was originally built of stone and later rebuilt with red brick.
The name Tredegar came from Tredegar Fawr, the name of the mansion of the old Morgans who were descended from Cadifor the Great, the son of Collwyn who owned the land where the mansion stands. It was occupied by the Morgan family from about 1402. The earliest documented owner was Llewelyn ap Morgan. The Morgans were one of the most powerful and influential families in the area. In 1448 John Morgan was created a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre and was rewarded for his support of King Henry VII. Around 1490 he commissioned the building of a new house at Tredegar, though a wing of the original stone manor house still exists. The newer palatial house was visited by Charles I and his retinue during the 1600’s.
We walked through the gardens and passed through the high ornate Edney Gates to get into the building. The gilded gates were built between 1714 and 1718 for John Morgan and are an example of early 18ty century decorative wrought ironwork. Just past the gates is the Stable Block which housed the many horses owned by the family.
Once inside the palatial mansion, the docent showed us the way to proceed through the various rooms, all furnished in the style of the period with oil paintings on the walls. In one of the rooms there was a large oil painting of Godfrey Morgan who fought in the Charge of the Light Brigade. He is pictured with his famous steed, Sir Briggs. Morgan, age 22 and Captain in the 17th Lancers, and his horse survived the battle. They lived at Tredgar house until the horse’s death at the age of 28. Sir Briggs was buried with full military honours in the Cedar Garden of Tredgar House. There were luxurious bedrooms with decorative furnishings, everything laid out as if the rooms were still occupied by the ladies and gentlemen of the family. In the dining room there was even food displayed on the tables to illustrate the sumptuous feasts that were served there.
Every room we visited had display of the history of this illustrious family, throughout the generations. The Morgans were a renown family. Besides the infamous Caribbean privateer, Henry (Sir Harri) Morgan who began as an admiral of the Royal Navy, there are many tales of ill-fated marriages, riotous parties, war heroism and even the dark arts. The docent hosts at the house related some of these tales to us as we walked through the various room.
The last of the Morgans of Tredegar came in 1962 with the death of John Morgan, 6th Baron Tredegar, who died childless at the age of 54. After his death the house was stripped of its contents. For 23 years it was a school, until in 1974 when it was restored and refurbished and eventually passed to the National Trust.
We really enjoyed our afternoon tour through Tredegar House. The history of the Morgan family is a fascinating one. Not only did we get a glimpse of how the wealthy family lived, but we also were able to visit the servant’s quarters, kitchens and areas of the house, reminiscent of the popular TV series Downton Abbey.
If You Go:
A Snapshot of Wales
About the author:
W. Ruth Kozak is the former editor and publisher of Travel Thru History, an ardent traveler with family roots in Wales. She’s always been fascinated by pirates so this visit to Capt. Henry Morgan’s family home was a special adventure. Ruth is president of the BC Association of Travel Writers and the author of a historical fiction novel SHADOW OF THE LION, about the fall of Alexander the Great’s dynasty. www.inalexandersfootsteps.com