The Facts and Fallacies of St. John's House

A view of St. John's House, c.1935 - photographed by Edward Loveluck

Since my last post about this house, a lot of things have changed. More information has been collected, various feasibility studies have been conducted and funding has been obtained. Yet, historically speaking, I am still unable to answer the question(s) that have been plaguing myself and others before me: Who built this building and why?

St. John's House, or as it's known locally “St. John's Hospice”, is an early 16th-century building situated in the Newcastle area of Bridgend. The house can be found set into the slope on the right side of Newcastle Hill, and is thought to be one of the oldest habitable houses in the district of Bridgend. St. John's House was listed as a Grade II* building in August 1952. - "A particularly important building of exceptional interest and of outstanding importance."

The house takes its name after the Victorian suggestion that it was a hospice of the 'Knights Hospitallers'. These were a group of men that were attached to a hospital in Jerusalem, founded by “Blessed Gerard” during the early part of the 11th century. The patron of these 'Knights Hospitallers' was St John of Jerusalem. This assumption was made because of  two stone tablets that are mentioned in the sources/quotes below.

The two stone plaques that have given the house its name.

An article in the South Wales Echo (3rd July 1896) notes that the Cardiff Naturalist Society took part in a 'field walk' which was led by William Riley, Archaeologist. It describes that they visited the Hospice of Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem at Newcastle, Bridgend.

Walter de Birch notes that “The Hospice of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John still exists at Newcastle, Bridgend. On the front wall is a carved stone bearing their device, a Greek cross and an eagle and monogram.” - History of Margam Abbey (1897)

Writing in The Story of 'St Illtyd’s Church Bridgend' Edward Loveluck shares these notes regarding the house: “The greater portion of the building appears to date from the early 16th century, but much alteration and reconstruction took place during the 19th century. Despite this, the original plan and accommodation can bee readily identified. Many interesting details such as the stone arched doorways, winding staircases ad moulded oak beams of period design remaining in position.

The principal features, however, are the fine stone tablets two in number now fixed in the front wall. These are Quarella stone of contemporary design. The table over the door has the sacred monogram IHC as it's central feature. At the side are interlacing triangles adapted to provide eight points and underneath three fishes interwoven and a lion passant guardant. The tablet set in the recess of the main wall has a boldly designed eagle in the centre with a Maltese cross in the to dexter corner. In the 18th century, these tablets were noted in position on the porch.

A list of St. Illtyd's Church, records that in 1560 Thomas ap Jenkin Philip was resident and keeping hospitality. “

The truth is that there was no known connection between St. John's House and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem until it was purchased from the owner in 1919.

The two stone plaques that have given the house its name. 

So what do we actually know?

Unfortunately, nothing is known about the house before 1791. During this year, a Lease and Release of these dates respectively the Release made between Walter Coffin and Thomas Williams of the first part.  Rees Roberts of the second part and Charles Llewellyn of the third part.

1826: Indenture of mortgage of this date made between the said Charles Llewellyn of the one part and Evan Reece of the other part.

1827:  Lease and release of this date respectively the release made between the said Charles Llewellyn of the one part and Robert Loughor of the other part.

1828: Lease and release of these dates respectively the release made between the said Charles Llewellyn of the one part and the Reverend Thomas Hancorne and William Lewis of the other part.

The census of 1861 tells us that shows us that St. John's House was used as two houses. These were 20 & 22 Newcastle Hill. 

The Lewis family occupied one of the two houses from 1861 up until it was purchased by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1919. Prior to this, the Lewis family lived at 'Olde Bridge Street', Newcastle, Bridgend. 

The 1861 Census showing the Lewis family living at 22 Newcastle Hill.
Two photographs of the inhabitants of St. John's House -
(Quite possibly members of the Lewis family.) 

A view of St. John's House showing the Georgian extension that was demolished in the 1930s.
- Extract from an article with photographs from the Western Mail March 13th, 1936 -

"An old brass bell of unusual design which, according to the National Museum of Wales authorities, is of late Celtic technique, has been discovered during excavations carried out by voluntary workers at the medieval building standing on Newcastle Hill Bridgend, known as the hospice of the Knights of Hospitallers of St. John" 

In 1936, the Georgian extension and room behind it were demolished. During this process, an old brass bell was found. This was discovered was discovered near the circular foundation of apsidal appearance on the east side of the South room.

In a letter received by Mr. Munro on March 9th 1936, the writer writes that the bell was submitted to the National Museum of Wales. This was first done by drawing and then the bell itself was submitted.  

Later in the July of 1936, Edward Loveluck received a letter from a W. Grimes. This letter talks about the National Museum of Wales requesting to have the bell on loan while the 'Hospice' is being restored. The bell was loaned to the National Museum of Wales and has been there ever since. 

A view of St. John's House without the Georgian Extension.  

A view of St. John's House without the Georgian Extension.   

(More information will be added during the coming year - Sources: Edward Loveluck - Dr. Randall - BLHS - Coflein - CADW)


  1. Thoroughly fascinating history uncovered of this house in Bridgend. Be interested to see if future research can take it back to before 1791. #househistory #tracemyhouse



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