Neath Borough Council unknowingly purchased two houses for the price of one when obtaining Gnoll house in 1923. Gnoll house was demolished in 1957 by the council and this house was known as the 18th century mansion of the Mackworth family.
The other unknown house purchased was the original and smaller 17th century gentry hall-house built by the Evans family who were 'of the Gnoll' and Neath. The Mackworths married into the Evans family 30 years after the Evans gentry hall-house was built on the Gnoll Estate.
During the 18th Century, generations of the Mackworths upgraded Gnoll House. Sir Herbert Mackworth added north and south wings to create the illusion of castle towers turning a classical mansion into the grandeur of Gnoll House.
By 1845 the north east wing of the house had gone. The end of the Mackworth era saw the demise of the Great Gnoll House and Estate. In 1881 Charles Evan Thomas who then owned the Gnoll House pulled down the east wing of the house and changed the appearance of the house by removing the castellated ornamentation. These changes reduced the grandeur of the house by 40ft.
A grassy terrace runs from the site of the original old house terminating in a 'ha ha'
The 'ha ha' is a sunken fence or trench which acts as a boundary to a park or garden without interrupting the view. From the 'ha ha' there is a viewing point of the formal cascades.
Near the 'ha ha' steps lead down to the ice house where ice was transported from as far afield as the Arctic in the Summer months while being obtained locally in the winter months.
Bowling Green & Tennis Court
The bowling green and tennis court were located near to Gnoll House. Now redundant these features are still visible to the trained eye. The bowling green was unique in that it was circular.
The Formal Gardens
It is unlikely that the initial Gnoll House had any large gardens. The first garden of any significance was in 1702 when Sir Humphrey Mackworth included features from the French tradition. These included a formal terrace, parterres, and an avenue of sweet chestnuts. Sir Humphrey Mackworth also installed three of the ponds.
These were built very formally in straight lines with clipped limes flanking the woodland. During the early 19th Century the Rhododendrons and trees around the house were introduced as were the tennis courts and bowling greens.
Fishpond House was residence for the bailiff whose responsibility was for the upkeep and protection of the fishpond. Which was stocked with carp for the Mackworth table.
The Ivy Tower
The Ivy Tower was built in 1795 by Mary (Molly) Mackworth as a viewing tower overlooking the town and valleys of Neath and also viewing the Mosshouse cascades. It is also is one of the most important landmarks in the Neath Valley being visible to the town centre and bypass.
The Ivy Tower was one of the later buildings to be erected in the 18th Century but it played a significant part in the recreational use of the Gnoll Estate at that time. The ground floor was occupied by a caretaker with a large circular room, 8 metres in diameter at 1st floor level which was used as a dance floor and as a banqueting area. The gamekeeper of the Estate would have resided there until 1920 when it was destroyed by fire. All that remains of the tower now is the outer shell, however it has been Grade II listed by Cadw, as it is listed as having special architectural and historic interest.