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Kenfig - The Complete History
A Welsh Documentary Heritage Website
Identified by The National Library of Wales Kenfig - The Complete History
A Welsh Documentary Heritage Website
Identified by The National Library of Wales

The Great House at Sker

The Great House at Sker || Sker House


Latest News: Visting Sker House

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Sker House is now Privately owned. The new owners of the property have executed their obligations with regards allowing the general public access to the premises and all present and future public visits have now been terminated.


There are public footpaths surrounding Sker House and that is as far as the general public can go as far as visiting the house without trespass on the owners property.


Documenting the entire history of the old kenfig borough / old bro cynffig

www.kenfig.org.uk
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Identified by The National Library of Wales

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The Great House at Sker || Sker House



Location

Location Map - Kenfig, South Wales
Sker House is situated approximately 3 miles North of Porthcawl on the Bristol Channel coast and about 2 miles South of Margam and Port Talbot.
See opposite for location map.

Origins

The Great House at Sker began its origins as a monastic grange over 900 years ago, farmed by members of the Cistercian order who chose to praise God through the work of their hands rather than by prayer.
Despite the close proximity of Margam Abbey, Sker was originally a grange of Neath Abbey and besides a barn and other farm buildings, the grange would have included accommodation for the brethren and also, given the distance from the Abbey, a chapel for daily monastic services.
Sker House - Front Easterly View
The oldest masonary at Sker house belongs to this medieval period, but is so masked by later improvements it is difficult to discern the original form of the building. Part of the large barn known as Ty yr Ychen (The oxen's house) near to Sker house is also said to be medieval.

The Great House

Sker house is a large gaunt, rectangular building of local limestone constructed on a North/South axis. So far as the Commission's Inspector was able to ascertain, its shape and form appears to have been determined by the medieval grange that preceeded it.
Few traces of that earlier building now remain, unless further portions have been revealed by the recent restoration work. In the last quarter of the 16th century, during the time of Jenkin Turberville, this early house was massively altered.
Sker House - South View showing collapsed South Wing
Sker House - North View
The original building had only one storey, but was raised to include a first and second floor with quite spacious attics above.
The east front of the building, which greets the visitor, was adorned with the two symmetrically placed turrets which gave access to all floors.
There seems to have been no main entrance as such (the door in the centre of this face today is comparitively modern), but originally there was a door at the base of each turret facing each other across the building's frontage.
A more random arrangment of turrets and towers adorn the west front of the house, the largest of which, placed roughly in the centre, belongs to the 17th century and houses a stairway giving access to all floors.

The Great Hall

Internal Stairway - Collapsed South Wing
Kitchen Stove set into wall in collapsed South Wing
The glory of the house is the great hall, and it almost seems though the entire building was designed around it. It occupies the entire width of the first floor of the building between the two turrets on the east side, and extends up through the second floor to the roof.
In the centre of the west wall is a great stone fireplace and this spacious room is lighted by three large windows of four lights. Two of these are set in the east wall, whilst the third is on the west side, south of the fireplace. Its location has suggested that perhaps there was a dais at this end where the family in residence would have sat during baronial style banquets.
Probably it was here that fugitive priests stood saying mass for congregations of fugitive followers. The wall at the north side of the hall was a carved wooden screen that separated it from a passage crossing the width of the house and a small anteroom.

The Ground Floor

Access between the two was by a centrally placed doorway. At the hall's southern end a doorway gave access to a parlour which was possibly part of the family's private appartments. It is believed that the ground floor of the house was occupied by service areas such as kitchens, whilst the house's living accommodation occupied the north and south wings on either side of the hall.

Neglected and Abused

Once the Turberville's left, this great house became the property of absentee landlords and the home of their tenants. As such it tended to be neglected and abused by both, settling into the long slow decline that culminated in the collapse of the south wing, and whch has only at last been arrested by the restoration work executed in the last few years.

The Present

Sker House was put up for sale in 2003 after much needed renovation work was completed - the Great House is now privately owned and is again taking on all its former glory.




Location Map || Sker House, South Wales



View Larger Map

The Maids of Sker

There was more than one Maid of Sker. In truth, however, the title properly belongs to Elizabeth the daughter of Issac Williams who died in 1776.
The other real-life "Maid of Sker" was Martha Howells (b.1771) - both these two were daughters of well-to-do gentleman tennent farmers who lived and worked the farm at Sker House.
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Austrailian Connection

An Australian connection with the Maid of Sker story has been unearthed since the development and design of the Kenfig.org website - A paddle steamer built in Brisbane in 1885 was named the 'Maid of Sker'.
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Ghost Stories & Legends

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Saint Philip Evans (1645-79)

Roman Catholic priest arrested at Sker House in 1678 - executed at Cardiff on 22 July 1679 in the hysteria of the Titus Oates plot to kill King Charles II.
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The Maids of Sker The Maids of Sker Old Photo of Sker House c.1900

RIBA Award Winner 2004

Royal Institute of British Architects for high architectural standards and their contribution to their local environment
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Sker House || Present Owner

Sker House is privately owned by Professor Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
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Shipwrecks around Kenfig

1753 - Le Vainqueur (17 December)

French merchantman floundered on Sker Rocks - enroute from Lisbon to Le Harve (Shameful plundering of the wreck by local people resulted in 17 arrests - 1 being hanged for the offences committed)
Isaac Williams of Sker House was accussed as having a hand in the plundering of the wreck.
Better known as the father of Elizabeth Williams - The Maid of Sker he was at this time both the Constable for the Hundred of Newcastle and a local magistrate.
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Cutaway Drawing of Sker House


Cutaway Drawing of Sker House
Image: © Crown copyright: RCAHMW
The cutaway drawing of Sker House appears here courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. (Item reference: Lluniau/Drawings 61 X11)

Gathering the Jewels || Welsh Heritage & Culture

Features over 30,000 images of objects, books, letters, aerial photographs and other items from museums, archives and libraries throughout Wales.
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Related Website Links ||

Acknowledgements ||


Bibliography

(1) Bridgend County Borough Council
(2) Wendy Lawday, Via emial (Old Photograph of Sker House)
(3) Kenfig History Society
(4) Rob Bowen - Kenfig.org Local Community Group
(5) Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Webpage Author

(1) Mr Rob Bowen - Kenfig.org Local Community Group, 2009.
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