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COURT -COLMAN HOUSE.1

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COURT COLMAN HOUSE. A FINE STATELY MANSION. FORMERLY A MANOR OR GRANGE HELD UNDER MARGAM ABBEY. (By Mr. T. M. PRICE, Late of Boverton). There are few more attractive or charming country mansions in the county of Glamorgan than Court Colman House, the fine, stately re- sidence of Captain W. Herbert Clydwyn Llewellyn, J.P.; yet it is one of the least known in historical records and to the general public-and what is true to-day appears to have been true a century or more ago, for we find that the numerous historians and topo- graphers who toured and travelled through South Wales in large numbers during the latter part of the 18th century and in the early part of the 19th century, and who gener- ally had an eye to notable historical houses, appear to have passed it by, apparently un- noticed or possibly without being aware of its existence save in one particular instance. Proceeding from Bridgend to Pyle on the Great Western Railway, just a short distance beyond Bridgend the railway takes a turn in a north-westerly .direction, winding along the pretty valley to avoid Newcastle Hill; and a couple of miles further on the way towards Pyle the railway takes a bend round in a south-westerly direction, and here, to the right and northern side of the line, is a pretty little valley extending to the hills beyond in the distance. Pleasantly situated on the eastern slope of this little valley, set well back and above the level, stands Court Colman House. Travellers or tourists, keeping a sharp look out from the train, may catch a glimpse and bird's eye view across several hundred yards of pic- turesque greensward of the stately front of this fine old Georgian mansion called Court Colman. Similar to most of the larger man- sions or manor houses in the county of Gla- morgan, it is delightfully set against a charm- ing sylvan background, and faces nearly due south. It is well sheltered on the north and eastern side by lofty hills and some venerable old trees, many of which were probably planted ages ago and soon after the present stately mansion was erected. There are two roads leading from Bridgend to Court Colmanâone known as the new road, which winds along up the Ogmore Valley for about a mile, and then turns to the left through the pretty little village of Penyfai; but the older road, if more arduous and diffi- cult for pedestrians, is much more picturesque and interesting, for it takes you right over the crest of the hill by Newcastle, and thence down a long slope ot bare hill, where it joins the new road at Penyfai Village. The eastern entrance lodge to the mansion at Court Col- man is in the village of Penyfai, the pretty drive being flanked at its entrance on the one side by the magnificent, picturesque church of Penyfai, and by the school on the opposite side. From' here about half a mile of undu- lating roadway leads to the inner lodge, bor- dered on the one side of the Roadway with rock, plants and creepers on a sloping wall, and on the other by a fine broad border of Rose of Sharons. Westward of the inner entrance lodge the drive is bordered by a long, neatly designed rockery upon its northern side. Pass- ing beneath a group of fine old forest trees, you emerge upon the terrace before the mansion, and from here a dainty prospect and pic- turesque scene is revealed. Looking down the pretty valley, the ground falls away steeply to the south-west, where the streamlet that clatters at the bottom of the ravine has been dammed up so as to form a miniatur/s lake. Oil every side, to right and left, the vegetation is of the most luxuriant character, and in addition to our own native trees, a charming variety of shade has further been added by the planting of Wellingtonia ( and Irish yew trees. No dwelling houses are > near to mar the pretty scene. The busy rail- f way line is well hidden by some lofty and stately trees, and further beyond, on the oppo- site side of the valley is a range of bare hill that adds a pleasing sense of wildness to the pretty romantic scenery surrounding the man- sion. I LANDMARKS IN ITS HISTORY. An old sundial which is fixed over the centre of the main front of Court Colman bears an inscription, which states that the present mansion was erected by H. Rees, Esq. in the year 1766; but this does not signify or in- dicate the beginning of things. The numerous old trees which fringe the sloping lawns on the eastern side of the mansion conceal from view a large and wonderfully productive walled garden of various fruits and vegetables. At the extreme end or upper end of this wall is an ancient stone gateway of Tudor mould, and over the top of it are inscribed the initials F.T. while in its spandrels is the inscribed date 1638 âwhich is direct evidence of the fact that the house which H. Rees erected in 1766 was on or near the site of a previous older house in 1638, as the date implies. At the western end of the present mansion the ground descends very steeply, and here, above a pretty waterfall, is an old ruin which may be described as a "sham ruin," in which there are several old windows of a distinctly Tudor type or style. These old Tudor relics were found lying bout in various unused corners near the mansion. Many other interesting points are to be noted. Among these is the fact that the wall | in the present mansion betwixt the library and the study is fully 6ft. in thickness. It is very improbable that any 18th century builder would have erected a wall of such immense thickness and solidity in such a house, and j there appears to be little doubt that this old wall is undoubtedly in reality the old original outer wall of the Tudor House ages ago. Previous to some extensive alterations at Court Colman which were made by the late Mr. R. W. Llewellyn, J.P., father of the pre- sent owner, in the years 1906-7-to which I shall refer in a subsequent articleâthere might have been seen in the eastern gable end of the house two or three quaint old Tudor windows. It is regrettable from an antiquarian point of view that these old Tudor relics were not pre- served and retained when these alterations and renovations were executed. I FORMERLY A MANOR HOUSE OR GRANGE UNDER MARGAM ABBEY. I History tells us that Court Colman was formerly held as a manor or grange under Margam Abbey a few centuries ago; and after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century during the reign of Henry VIII., 1532- 34, it was held under the 1.;p)"1 family of Margam Abbey. When the oi-'r'n house was first erected, and who were definitely the ear- lier occupiers, there is meagre or little evidence to prove from old historical records, but we find that a family of Thomas, descendants of the Thomas family of Llanmihangel Place, an old Tudor Manor House, near Cowbridge, were connected with Court Colman as lessees if not actual owners, from the reign of Queeft Eliza- beth, 1558-1603, to about the middle of the 17th century, and the initials F.T." over the an- cient Tudor gateway at Court Colman, al- ready referred to, very probably refer to Francis Thomas, a member of the Thomas family, who resided at Llanmihangel Place, near Cowbridge, in the 16th and 17th centuries. At some period of the Civil Wars, during the reign of Charles I. (1625-49), the property appears to have passed into other hands, and John Watkins, a member of an old Brecon- shire family, settled himself and took up his residence at Court Colman, which, with other valuable property, had been conferred upon him by Colonel Philip Jones, of Fonmon Castle, near Barry, as a reward and recogni- tion of his and his father's attachment to the Parliamentary Cause led by Oliver Cromwell. John Watkins was the elder son of William Watkins, of Penyrwrlodd in Llanigon, in the county of Breconshire, who was an active par- tisan and prominent officer in the army of the Parliamentary Party led by Cromwell against that hapless, ill-fated monarch Charles I. William Watkins was one of the strenuous and zealous propagators or supporters of Cromwell and his gospel in South Wales during the Civil Wars. After the death of William Watkins, his son, John Watkins, resigned, and left Court Colman and other property in Glamorganshire to his younger brother, and removed to Brecon- shire, his native county. His descendants sold Penywrlodd, his residence in Breconshire. Benjamin Watkins, the younger son of William Watkins, of Penyrwrlodd, Brecon- shire, by Alice, daughter of James Pritchard, of Campstone, near Monmouth (gent), suc- ceeded to Court Colman. He died in the year 1703, leaving a family of nine children by his wife Mary, daughter of John Bennett (gent), of Laleston, near Bridgend. Mary Bennett, one of the daughters, married Miles Basset, of Bonvilston, near Cardiff, in 1697. STORY OF A LOST WILL. I As years rolled on, we find in the year 1782 that the Watkins family or their descendants had setlled themselves in New York, U.S.A., and had at this period sold nearly all their valuable property to various persons in the I county of Glamorgan, and Court Colman had been acquired some years previously by Hopkin Rees, Esq., representative of an old local family descended in the male line from Einen ap Collwyn, representing an ancient lineage in Wales. Mr. Hopkin Rees served the office of Sheriff of Glamorgan County in 1736. He mar- ried Florence, one of the seventeen children of Edward Thomas, of Tregroes, a relative of Francis Thomas, Llanmihangel Place, previ- ously mentioned, and died in 1758. aged 71. His eldest son, Hopkin Rees, died in the year 1780, aged 51, and was succeeded by William Rees, who died without issue in 1820. Al- though it was definitely known that the late Mr. William Rees had made a will, no trace of his will could anywhere be found after his death. It was generally thought and suspected that his widow had probably concealed it for reasons best known to herself; and certain of his immediate relatives who had fully expec-tpd to benefit largely under his will (including three local magnates or squires who were in- fluential men of social position in the county), attempted to exhume the coffin a few davs after I the funeral. Robert Thomas, of Glyn, heir at law of William Rees, died in 1837. Subse- quently, by an arrangement between the widow and the heir at law, Robert Thomas, the estates were sold. The estates comprised a large area of lands in the parishes of Coy- church, Newcastle, Oldcastle, Llanilid, Llan- 1, gan, St. Mary Hill, Monknash, Marcroey, and several other places within the county of Gla- » morgan. It was at this period that Court Colman mansion and lands passed by purchase into the hands of the Llewellyn family, who still retain possession of it. to-day. (TO BE CONTINUED).

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