FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All


History of Margam Country Park and the Discovery Centre

Margam Discovery Centre is situated within Margam Park, an 850 acre country estate situated on the narrow coastal plain and southern slopes of Mynydd Margam. The Park covers a remarkably diverse and varied landscape, with evidence of over 4,000 years of continuous habitation and use by man.

One of the major ancient settlements of Glamorgan, Margam’s history can be traced back to pre-historic times, with many Bronze and Iron Age relics having been discovered here, and evidence of Roman and extensive Celtic occupation in the landscape. The deer herd that ranges freely in the Park is thought to have been originally introduced by Roman settlers.

With the founding of a monastery and abbey in the 12th century, Margam became a religious centre of National importance, until its dissolution at the hands of Henry VIII. Following the Dissolution, successive owners built and rebuilt their houses on this site. In the early 19th century the present Margam Castle was built. This Tudor ‘style’ Mansion remained in use as a family residence until the end of the Second World War, when the ensuing quarter of a century of neglect took its toll.

The estate was purchased by the local council and the Park was officially opened to the public in 1977. Following renovations to the castle, a classroom and residential rooms were incorporated and the Field Studies Council used this space to run educational day visits and residential courses for children and adults from Wales and further afield. Residential visits were limited to one school group at a time due the limited space available.

In 2007 a new partnership between FSC and Neath Port Talbot Council enabled funding to be obtained to develop a dedicated building, with much greater capacity, in the eastern area of the park. The new FSC Margam (Margam Discovery Centre), is an award winning state of the art, low carbon footprint building designed by The Welsh School of Architects. Construction took place between autumn 2007 and spring 2009. To maximise efficiency, meet the project programme and minimise environmental impact, 80% of the timber frame building was constructed off site using timber from sustainable UK sources. The prefabricated modules were craned into place and assembled on site enabling the high quality building to have minimum environmental impact. The modules were delivered through April and May 2008, coming together in only two weeks, making this scheme the largest prefabricated modular building in Wales. It has striking features such as glass walls and raised external walkways to give visitors the feeling of being part of the surrounding natural environment. It makes use of solar power, rain water collection, natural light, biomass heating and natural ventilation.