Category Archives: GLAMORGAN

SINGLETON ABBEY

On this day, one hundred years ago, the Daily Express reported that Lord Swansea had decided to sell his ancestral home, Singleton Abbey, Swansea, owing to rates, taxes and the general increase of the cost of upkeep.

Singleton Abbey - The Penny Illustrated Paper - June 11 1887 - BNA
During the 19th century, Swansea became a major centre of industry and commerce, its port a gateway to the world. There were opportunities for shrewd-minded entrepreneurs (many from outside Wales) to cash in on the economic boom, among them the Vivian family from Truro in Cornwall. Already with major investments in the Cornish copper trade, in 1809 John Vivian established the Hafod copper works and subsequently created the company Vivian and Sons. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

The whole estate of 250 acres and the mansion, with its priceless contents of 70 fully furnished rooms was going to auction.

“I don’t want to do it,” said Lord Swansea, “but it is a sad necessity. To keep up the place as I should like would entail £100,000 a year, and I have not the means to do it. That accounts for my living away from Swansea so largely. It will be a great wrench to part with the place, but it is inevitable.”

Singleton Abbey - Coflein (1)
In 1817, John Henry Vivian, purchased Marino, an octagonal neo-classical villa, and went about enlarging the original house into a mansion befitting his new wealth and growing social status. The house grew over the following two decades into the building in the photograph. “Marino” became “Singleton Abbey” in 1832. Image: Coflein.

The nucleus of the house was built in 1784 by Edward King, a customs official. In 1817 it was bought by the industrialist John Henry Vivian who extended the house and later engaged architect Peter Frederick Robinson to re-model it in neo-gothic style.

Singleton Abbey - Coflein (2)
Before 1851 the stables and coach house were added and minor works were carried out in 1887 for visit of Prince of Wales. A major fire in 1896 resulted in some rebuilding. Image: Coflein.

Ernest Vivian, 2nd Baron Swansea, sold Singleton Abbey to Swansea Corporation for £115,000 in July 1919, and died three years later.

The council wanted to develop the estate largely for housing purposes and gifted the mansion to the Swansea University College in 1923 – still used today as offices for Swansea University on its Singleton Park campus.

Singleton Abbey - Coflein (3)
The London architect, P. F. Robinson (1776-1858) was well-known at the time for his ‘Designs for Ornamental Villas’ and other pattern book publications. Image: Coflein.
Swansea_University_Singleton_Abbey
Singleton Abbey, and a portion of the estate, became part of the University College of Swansea during the 1920s. It now houses many of the administrative offices of Swansea University.