Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Dreamed A Dream Of Times Gone By: Rheola


This month’s meeting was rather unusual in that it happened al fresco at the Rheola Estate. Mr Howard Rees, who is in the process of restoring the estate to its former glory through a series of highly exciting ventures, extended an invitation to the Society to undertake a guided tour of the Vale of Neath estate. Even though every member is used to passing the former aluminium works site with its Saturday market on an almost daily basis, the sheer scale of the features of the estate was truly wonderful.

Mr Rees began the visit by welcoming the thirty plus contingent of members and supporters to Rheola and explained his plans for its 150 acres. It appears that both Howard and his late father Ron had a shared dream of restoring Rheola to its Georgian/Victorian splendour as one of the best Nash designed properties in the UK ( A short history of Rheola will follow in a later posting). This has involved a major project in partnership with the local authority and the Welsh Assembly. The aim is to re-develop Rheola as a working estate and also to incorporate tourist facilities in an ecologically sensitive way. It was quite obvious from Howard's enthusiasm that this was very much a labour of love and also that the project, in its several guises, will take many years to complete fully.

The members were then taken on a two hour hike around the estate terminating at Rheola House itself where the substantial walled gardens are in the process of being carefully restored by a permanent team of historians and archaeologists.

Some photos of the visit with footnotes appear below:

Mr Howard Rees welcomes the History Society.

The stable block at Rheola.

The remains of workers cottages

The original stagecoach road which ran through the Vale of Neath. The road ran past the Farmers Arms ( Ynisbipan) and Abergarwed to Neath.

The ice house with Rheola pond in background. In the colder winters of the nineteenth century blocks of ice from the pond were cut, stored and insulated in an ice house which would be used when needed to chill food and wine in the summer.

Californian Redwoods. It was usual for Victorians to gather exotic plants from their travels and the Vaughans developed a famous pinery. However another less exotic import from this practice still inhabits the estate, Japanese knotweed.

A recently discovered granite bottomed cold bath, those Victorians were tough!!

An unusual view of Rheola House showing the extent of the building. The dome in the middle of the mansion is a signature of Nash's designs

The walled garden with a hypercaust system supplied by coal from the estate.This enabled Rheola to produce tropical fruits such as pineapples, a giant example was presented to Queen Victoria by the Vaughan family.

Both Mr Phylip Jones and Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Rees for a memorable visit and congratulated him on his forthcoming wedding.

Editor's note: Mrs Ceri Watkins who was due to speak this month will come to visit us next year.


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