Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Mansel Ghost Story from Wales

NOTE: Thanks to Roger Mansel. This story is from his late brother's website at:

There are a number of other Mansel references on this site, for those interested in the history of the Mansel family in Wales.


There is a legend attached to the bridge over the River Gwendraeth Fawr, near Kidwelly, which is worth while noting; not for the story itself, which is one of the ordinary or extraordinary romances so common in Wales; but on account of certain allusions to the Mansel family.

The legend recounts how that Nest, the beautiful daughter of one Elvidir Dhu, then in possession of Kidwelly Castle, fell in love with a young Norman knight. After the customary complications with rival lovers and so forth, the young man, meeting the lady at this bridge, was ambushed by a hired ruffian, transfixed with a long arrow, and hurled into the stream before the eyes of his sweetheart, who thereupon promptly threw herself after him. All this is quite in accordance with legendary precedent, as is also the allegation that her white spirit afterwards haunted the bridge and upon being approached, "vanished, with a piercing scream, into the dark waters of the river." The bridge, according to Mr. A. G. Bradley's "Highways and Byways of South Wales", is to this day known as "The Bridge of the White Spirit."

The interest of the tale, with regard to this present work, lies in the name and residence of the young Norman knight. Mr. Bradley, in the course of his narration, says: "Now at Margam, still a noted country house in Gower, there then lived one of the Mansel family, Sir Walter, young, handsome, and gallant, like all the gilded youth of those days. He had conceived an affection for the fair Nest, etc.

Margam is not, of course, in Gower, and Kidwelly is some five-and-thirty miles distant from it but the allegation that a certain Sir Walter Mansel dwelt at Margam in the twelfth century, for this is a legend of crusading times, and that there was then existing, not long after the foundation of Margam Abbey, a "country house" there, is interesting. The story may, of course, be an entire invention, the name of Mansel being subsequently introduced as a compliment to the family but on the other hand, it points to the possible existence of this Sir Walter, somewhere about the period at which the name of Mansel first appears in a Welsh charter, or a little later. It thus tends to confirm the theory already evolved from other sources, that the Mansels settled in Wales during the latter half of the twelfth century, or possibly at an earlier date.

-Adapted from *History of the Family of Maunsell (Mansell, Mansel)* by Edward Phillips Statham. London: Kegan Paul Trench & Co. Ltd. 1917

[Maunsell was our original family name in England; Munsell and Munselle are variations.]