The Gnoll Families
The earliest recorded owners of the Gnoll Estate were the Earls
of Pembroke, given by gift of Queen Elizabeth 1st.
The Evans family of Neath make the customary claim to be
descended from Iestyn Ap Gwrgan who is known as the last prince of
Morgannwg (which encompassed the traditional counties of Glamorgan
The first member of the family to make a more convincing figure
was Evan Yr Halen (Evan the salt), a 16th century salt merchant and
one of the richest men in the area, his grandson, David Evans
lived in Neath and became the High Sheriff of Glamorgan.
David Evans originally leased the Gnoll from the Earl of
Pembroke for a sum of £20. The Evans family were described as 'of
the Gnoll' by others and the Gnoll Estate was eventually bought by
the family in 1658.
David Evans’ son Thomas Evans also lived in Neath in 1600's
owning a house on Water Street, Neath, in 1658 he leased the
Gnoll from his nephew Sir Herbert Evans 'of the Gnoll' and it was a
condition of the lease that he build a new house there.Therefore
the gentry hall-house was built at the Gnoll by the Evans family
and became the first of the properties which eventually turned into
the Gnoll mansion.
Sir Herbert Evan's heiress his daughter Mary Evans married a Sir
Humphrey Mackworth in 1686. Sir Humphrey Mackworth was a budding
entrepurner who established a variety of industrial enterprises in
the area and by the end of the 17th century the Mackworth works
were the best known in the country.
Sir Humphrey exploited the rich resources of the area and by
1702 mills and furnaces had been established the mills at the Gnoll
- A double and single battery mill which made brass battery and
- A mill for rolling iron and brass making 'black latern' (thin
plates or sheets).
- A mill to manufacture brass wire.
- Several workhouses for swadering, turning, lantering &
finishing (soldering kettles & shining them).
- Also several work houses existed for the workers and their
The success of the Mackworth enterprises brought with it great
wealth and led to Gnoll House being extended and formal gardens
Sir Humphrey was succeeded by his son Herbert Mackworth who saw
the next extension of the house in 1730. He had 28 men working to
beautify the gardens, at this time a major vista was created and
formal cascades were built in Fishpond Wood.
Through the 1740's natural cascades were created in Mosshouse
Woods over a mile away from Gnoll house. And through time the
grotto, mock castellated temple, gate house and Ivy Tower were
also built on the estate.
Herbert Mackworth was succeeded by his son Sir Herbert Mackworth
who built a much grander house between 1776 - 78 to match his
financial status. He added north and south wings to create the
impression of castle towers.
Sir Herbert Mackworth was succeeded by Sir Robert Mackworth in
1791 he married a Mary Ann in 1792 at the tendre age of 16 years
old. But only two years later Sir Robert Mackworth died age 30
The beginning of the end