TREDEGAR House and its grounds are what remains of what was once a grand estate that stretched for approximately 53,000 acres – reaching up to Brecon and into Cardiff.

The estate was once owned by the Morgan family, one of the most prominent dynasties in South Wales, who claimed descendancy from the Welsh Princes.

The estate was passed down for centuries, from generation to generation, usually being inherited by the eldest son as per tradition. However, this was occasionally altered dependent on whether the head of the estate had an appropriate heir, or in some cases due to an unexpected death in the family.

South Wales Argus: Tredegar House in Newport, South Wales. Picture: Visit Wales

Tredegar House. Picture: Tom Martin Wales News Service

One of these unexpected events occurred in 1854, when Charles Rodney Morgan, eldest son of Sir Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan and heir to the Tredegar estate, died at the end of January, aged only 26. His death was felt throughout the community and his funeral in February saw many of the local businesses in Newport close as a mark of respect, while his coffin led a procession of servants and estate workers through Tredegar Park.

South Wales Argus: A portrait of Charles Rodney Morgan, Godfrey's older brother. Copyright: Newport Museum and Art Gallery

A portrait of Charles Rodney Morgan, Godfrey's older brother. Copyright: Newport Museum and Art Gallery

However, what the community may not have realised at the time, was that Charles’ death would significantly change the estate, as his younger brother, Godfrey, became heir to the Morgan family fortune.

The Morgans had been very influential in the region for many generations; not only was their land used for coal mines and iron works, they also held parliamentary seats – specifically for Brecon and Monmouth.


Godfrey’s father and grandfather were no different, holding seats in Brecon and Monmouth for several terms.

South Wales Argus: A portrait of Sir Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan, Godfrey's father. Copyright: Newport Museum and Art Gallery

A portrait of Sir Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan, Godfrey's father. Copyright: Newport Museum and Art Gallery 

However, they were not always liked by those who lived in the area. His father fought with troops against workers who protested in Merthyr during the June Uprising, while his grandfather was criticised by John Frost, leader of the Chartist movement, for the treatment of his tenants.

Godfrey, however, marked a sea change for the Morgan family and their reputation in the local area.

South Wales Argus: A photography of Godfrey Morgan, c 1910. Copyright: Newport Museum and Art Gallery.

A photography of Godfrey Morgan in 1910. Copyright: Newport Museum and Art Gallery

Perhaps changed by the tragic scenes he experienced while fighting in Crimea when he was young, when Godfrey inherited the estate in 1875 he soon became known as 'Godfrey the Good'. This was down to his generous public benefaction, that can still be seen in Newport and the surrounding area today.

They included helping to develop Newport’s education, health and recreational facilities by giving the land for the establishment of Belle Vue Park, the Royal Gwent Hospital, the Free Library, the Technical Institute and the Athletic Grounds, as well as financial donations to other philanthropic causes.

His generosity even extended to paying his workers while they were on strike – a gesture almost unheard of at the time.

Godfrey’s goodwill was widely admired, as one Labour leader said "socialism would not flourish in Newport so long as Lord Tredegar was alive", while a reverend from Swansea is quoted to have said "if I would worship anyone else but God, it would be Lord Tredegar" in 1909.

His philanthropy was echoed within his household too, as he allowed his staff to create their own cricket team and provided them with a sports ground.

He even used his own enjoyment of cricket to promote healthy exercise and abstinence from alcohol.

He was also passionate about preserving Welsh culture and sponsored the eisteddfodau – dressing up as Owain Glyndŵr for the National Pageant of Wales in 1909.

Godfrey ran the Tredegar House estate for almost 40 years.

South Wales Argus: Morgan family tree

The Morgan family tree

Dying unmarried, the estate was passed on to his nephew, Courtenay Morgan, the penultimate Lord Tredegar.

Despite the unprecedented nature of Godfrey’s inheritance of the estate, his management of it significantly changed the Morgan family reputation, at least for a time, while the effects of his philanthropy are still evident in Newport and the surrounding area to this day.