10 Myths and Legends of the Vale of Glamorgan
Tales of piracy, shipwrecks and hauntings in the Vale of Glamorgan
1. The Wreckers' Tale
This tragic story is rumoured to have happened in coastal towns all over Wales, including the Vale. An old man and his wife would set false lights, lure ships onto the rocks, and steal their goods.
The tale tells of one night of heavy weather, when as usual, on hearing a sailing ship was beating in from the west, the pair set their lights and went to bed. The following morning they headed down to the coast and saw that the ship and most of her crew died on the rocks that night. The old man could see a man, half dead, rolling in the waves.
The old man took a rock and smashed the sailor over the head, to ensure there were no survivors. But when he turned over the body to search the man’s pockets, he found his much-loved and only son, a boy who had gone to sea several years before.
A mysterious clue as to the identity of a person who has been haunting a vale public house has come to light during renovation work.
Built in 1383 as a grange for a local monastery, the Plough and Harrow in Monknash, was once used for storage but also as a mortuary for the bodies of sailors lured to the hazardous coast by the infamous ‘Wreckers of Wick’. Staff members and owners have said one of the ghosts, called Amy, whose footsteps have often been heard on the landing, was once a girl who had died at a young age near the building. When the building underwent renovations, the words 'AMY'S PLAYROOM' appeared on one of the doors, and despite changes over the years, the words have stayed.
3. The Haunted Field
The Tinkinswood burial chamber in St Nicholas was constructed nearly 6000 years ago, during the ‘New Stone Age’ in Europe and held 50 bodies inside.
There are many legends surrounding the area, including the tale that anyone who spends a night at this site on the evenings preceding May Day, St John's Day (23rd June), or Midwinter Day would die, go raving mad, or become a poet.
Another harrowing tale alleges that the boulders to the south of the monument, is said to be women turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath:
4. Cap Coch
In the late 1700s, a pub called New Inn in Ogmore, was a popular spot for anyone wishing to cross the nearby river. The New Inn was owned by ‘Cap Coch’, a name given to him by locals, as he was always seen wearing his red cap. However, no one knew that we really the leader of a gang of smugglers and outlaws, who often raided and stole from travellers on the local roads. Travellers staying at the New Inn were often at risk of being robbed, or even murdered.
The bodies of victims who paid the ultimate price, would on occasion wash up in the River, but Cap Coch was never suspected… Nobody knew about his criminal past until the early 1900s when the New Inn was demolished. A cave was discovered beneath the kitchen, and contained containing the treasure that he and his gang had stolen.
5. Saint Illtuds
Saint Illtud is known to many as the monk who re-founded the St Illtud Church in Llantwit Major, in 508 A.D. But according to legend, Saint Illtud was a skilled warrior before becoming a monk…
It is believed that he fought alongside the legendary King Arthur in defending Britain against the Saxons, who invaded from Germany during the Middle Ages.
6. The Night Hawk at Sully Island
Located between, Penarth and Barry, Sully Island can now be reached on foot at low tide, and is a popular walk on a sunny day. However, it is rumoured that in the 13th century, the island was home to a Norman pirate, Alfredo De Marisco, known to locals as ‘The Night Hawk’.
The island was involved in the local smuggling trade, and there is evidence the island was visited by Romans and Vikings.
7. Blue Anchor
The popular Blue Anchor is named after the ‘marl’ that coated the anchor of ships and vessels at Aberthaw port.
Built in 1380, it is one of the oldest pubs in the Vale, and as well as enjoying a night of food and drink at the pub, visitors in the know, can search for the remains of a secret tunnel, which was one used to transport contraband between Aberthaw Bay and the pub.
8. White Lady at Ogmore Castle
The White Lady of Ogmore Castle is a familiar name to many, but her story isn’t…
The tale tells of a man who was woken in the middle of the night, to see the spirit of a white lady hovering above him, motioning him to follow her.
The lady led him to the ruins of Ogmore Castle, and told him to lift one specific stone. He lifted one and found a cauldron full of gold coins. The White Lady told him to take half for himself and to leave the rest where he found them. The man was thrilled to be given this chance, so he took the coins and left the rest, as told, and the white lady disappeared.
The news of this man’s mysterious new wealth was the talk of the town, and yet he never revealed his secret. Despite his luxurious new lifestyle, he often thought of the coins he left behind, so one night he crept back to the castle, and found the stone and the rest of the coins.
No sooner had he begun to fill his pockets, a cold chill ran down his spine and the White Lady re appeared. 'Foolish Man', she said. 'You have all you could ever need, and yet you still want more. From this night forth your fortunes shall be reversed.' And then was gone.
Afraid of the white lady’s warning, the man replaced the coins and ran home.
However, in the following weeks, the man fell ill and despite spending his money on the best doctors around, his condition worsened.
Much to his dismay, he revealed the source of his wealth and confessed his foolish second trip to recover the rest of the gold, but took the secret of the cauldron’s exact location to his grave. His confession led to many people searching the area, in hope they would find the gold, but no one ever has.
9. Dunraven ‘Wreckers’
Another version of the famous wreckers tales of the Vale. This one tells of criminal gangs who would wreck and loot sailing ships.
The leader of the Dunraven Wreckers was a man with an iron hook in place of an arm, known as ‘Mat of the Iron Hand’. He and his gang were ruthless and ensured no one survived, so no one would know who the wreckers really were…
Mat sent word to Walter Vaughan of Dunraven Castle that a galleon was heading up the channel; it would be perfect conditions for a wrecking. Rumor had it that it was filled to the brim with tobacco, brandy and gold.
Not long after dawn, Mat of the Iron hand and some of the men lugged vats of Brandy and cases of tobacco towards the great house. Walter interrupted his breakfast to assess the loot. Matt had a broad grin on his face. He held out a bloodstained sack to Vaughan, “a special gift for you,” he said.
Vaughan took the bag, expecting some rare jewels to be within. Instead he found a severed hand. Upon its little finger a gold ring bearing the seal of Dunraven – his son’s ring.
Read the full tale on the Vale Ambassadors Facebook page.
10. Lady in White
Known to many as the lady in white, Lady de Clare was the daughter of the Lord of Glamorgan.
In the 1140s, Lady de Clare married Sir Jasper Berkerolles, of West Orchard. However, in 1148, Sir Berkerolles went to the Holy Land to fight in the Second Crusade. On his return several years later, he accused Lady de Clare of adultery with Sir Gilbert D'Umfreville, of East Orchard Castle.
The Lady denied the claims, but her husband would not believe her, and to punish her, he buried her up to her neck by the side of the old road, near Batslayes Farm, for everyone to see.
He forbade anyone to try and give her food and drink, but the Lady’s sister begged him to see her, and promised not to take anything with her.
The sister made visits early every morning, when the dew was heavy on the grass and walked up to the sister so that she could suck the hem of her white gown. This helped the lady to stay alive for 10 days.
It wasn’t until after her death, that Sir Berkerolles discovered he had been wrong and went mad.
In 1909, Marie Trevelyan, from Llantwit Major, wrote that many women, who woke early enough in the mornings, said they saw the ghost of a lady in a white dress, walking around one spot in a field, without knowing the harrowing tale.
Resources: White Lady St Athan / White Lady Ogmore / Cap Coch / Haunted Field / Night Hawk / Saint Illtud / Dunravern Wreckers