West Glamorgan Archive Service
Briton Ferry Estate
Reference code(s): GB 0216 DD BF
Held at: West Glamorgan Archive Service
Title: Briton Ferry Estate
Short title: Briton Ferry estate
Dates of creation: 1679-1960
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: c. 3200 items
Name of creator(s): Mansel family; Villiers family (Earls of Jersey); Vernon family.
Administrative and biographical history: The Briton Ferry estate formed part of the lands of the Margam Abbey and passed successively to the Mansel, Villiers, and Vernon families (Earls of Jersey). The estate lay in the parishes of Aberavon, Baglan, Briton Ferry, Cadoxton-juxta-Neath, Glyncorrwg, Llangyfelach, Llansamlet, Llantwit-juxta-Neath, Margam, Michaelston-super-Avon, Neath, St John-juxta-Swansea, Swansea, Swansea St Mary, and Swansea St Thomas. The Briton Ferry estate was owned by the Price family of Briton Ferry until Jane Price, daughter and heiress of William Price of Briton Ferry (will dated 1627), married Arthur, third son of Thomas Mansel of Margam (buried 1611). Arthur Mansel was succeeded by his son, Bussy Mansel, who inherited the Briton Ferry estate. Bussy Mansel was succeeded by his son, Thomas (d. 1684), who was succeeded by his son, another Thomas. He died childless and bequeathed his estate to his godson Bussy, son of Thomas, fourth lord Mansel of Margam. The estate remained in the hands of the Mansell family until the marriage of Louisa Barbara Mansell, sole daughter and heir of Bussy, lord Mansell, by his second wife, Barbara, daughter of William Villiers, 2nd earl of Jersey, with George Venables Vernon, Lord Vernon, in 1757. There was no male issue. After the death of Lady Louisa Barbara Vernon the estate remained in the hands of her husband for life, subject to the terms of her will by which she devised her Britton Ferry estate to her godson George, earl of Jersey. When he inherited the estate he set about rationalising and modernising. He made his tenants renew their leases, and cut down and sold huge quantities of timber. In order to pay off a mortgage dating back to 1693, he put up for sale the outlying portions of the estate, including lands in Gower, in other parts of Glamorgan, and in Brecknockshire. The effect of these sales was to reduce the size of the estate by half, but it was on a much surer financial footing. According to the 1873 return of owners of land, the Earl of Jersey owned an estimated 7,110 acres of land in Wales (all in Glamorgan), with an estimated rental of £36,928. He was also a 'great landowner' (owing more than 3,000 acres with a rental of more than £3,000) in respect of property outside Wales. The Briton ferry estate was initially an area of quiet rural uplands, rivers and deserted mudflats, but during the nineteenth century the industrialisation of the Swansea and Neath valleys and the advent of the railway from London to west Wales made the area highly attractive to companies who wished to take advantage of the improved transport system and the raw materials. Factories such as the Albion Steel Works, the English Crown Spelter Works and the Baglan Bay Tinplate Works sprang up on low-lying ground towards the sea and new terraces were built to house the factory workers. In 1840 an area of about 750 acres of land in Cwmavon was leased for 99 years to John Vigurs and subsequently passed to Wright, Butler & Co. Ltd, then to Baldwins Ltd. The terraces of houses built on this land were sublet for the remainder of the term of this lease in 1897 and 1898. When the lease terminated in the 1930s many of the houses were declared unfit for habitation and were either improved or demolished. As the railway initially attracted businesses, so the businesses in their turn created the need for more railways. The Rhondda & Swansea Bay Railway and the South Wales Mineral Railway both leased and bought land from the Briton Ferry Estate and the Great Western Railway Company continued to rebuild and expand their lines in the area. In the 1850s the newly formed Briton Ferry Floating Dock Company set the wheels in motion to build the Briton Ferry Docks, purchasing land from the Earl of Jersey. The company later went bankrupt and was taken over as a going concern by the Great Western Railway. In 1951 portions of the estate were sold to the Principality Property Co., Estateways Builders, John Oliver Watkins, the City & Provincial Housing Association and Gwalia Land & Property Developments Ltd.
Scope and content: Briton Ferry estate papers including title deeds, 1679-1954; rentals, 1823-1960; accounts, 1822-1937; lease books, 1813-1853; register of sales, 1915-1951; correspondence, 1769-1866, 1891-1952; wills and related papers, 1783-1837; legal papers, 1851-1895; estate plans and surveys, 1776-1913; other plans, 1899-1951, and tithe papers. A large proportion of the papers relate to industrial developments, and include papers relating to the Briton Ferry Floating Dock, 1805-1930, including plans; Neath Harbour, 1782-1886; Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway Company, 1890-1908, including plans; the Cwmavon Building Estate, 1897-1931, including underleases; and papers relating to Neath Harbour Acts, 1874-1886.
ACCESS AND USE
System of arrangement: Arranged into the following: deeds (listed in vol.I); deeds and estate papers (listed in vol.II); deeds (listed in vol.III); Cwmavon Building estate underleases and estate papers (listed in vol.IV) estate papers (listed in vol.V).
Conditions governing access: No restrictions
Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright regulations apply.
Finding aids: Hard copies of the catalogue are available at West Glamorgan Archive Service and the National Register of Archives
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information: Information not available
Accruals: Accruals are not expected
Immediate source of acquisition: It is the policy of the West Glamorgan Archive Service to withhold the names of depositors.
Related units of description: Further papers relating to the Briton Ferry estate are National Library of Wales, Briton Ferry Estate Records; West Glamorgan Archive Service: D/D Gn, Neath MSS Collection 25; and London Metropolitan Archives: LMA/4195.
Note: Title supplied from contents of fonds.
Archivist's note: Compiled by Mair James for the HMC/NLW Family and Estates project. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: West Glamorgan Archive Service, Schedule of the Briton Ferry Estate Papers; Clark, G. T., Limbus Patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae (London, 1886), Complete Peerage (London, 8 vols, 1887-98), vol. VIII; James, Brian, 'The Great Landowners of Wales in 1873', National Library of Wales Journal, XIV (1965-66); Collis, Kim, The West Glamorgan Archive Service: A Guide to the Collections (West Glamorgan Archive Service, 1998).
Rules or conventions: This description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) Second Edition; AACR2 and LCSH
Date(s) of description: February 2002