Mysteries of medieval chamber to be revealed.
Byline: KATIE BELLIS Reporter email@example.com
IT HAS a fascinating history and has been closed off to the public for years.
Many people would describe the site as a hidden gem.
And now the secret 800-year-old chamber in Neath Abbey and Gatehouse will soon be open to the public.
The undercroft - a recently refurbished chamber - has been inaccessible for several years due to ongoing conservation.
Access to the chamber is normally restricted to the public due to how fragile the site was.
Founded in 1130, the Abbey, which has housed Cistercian monks, boasted Tudor splendour and seen thriving industry over the centuries, has benefited from significant interpretational and structural improvements over the last decade - with critical work on the undercroft just completed.
Heading off the A465 towards the main road, Neath Abbey, can be found just off an industrial estate.
On entering the site, just at the back you will find the secret chamber.
Inside are fascinating artefacts and impressive monastic remains from the Abbey's history.
The space in the undercroft was once used as sleeping space, In medieval times it was once used as an area where the monks would work during the day.
During the Tudor period it was the servants' hall.
Bill Zajac, Cadw historian and expert on Neath Abbey, will be the tour leader when the doors open to the public on Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29.
He said: "The undercroft is filled with some of the finest artefacts in Neath Abbey. It's a large chamber with a beautiful vaulted roof, carried on a series of piers that are running down the centre of the room."
When asked why the undercroft is a hidden gem, Mr Zajac said that so many people don't even know that it is in Neath.
He added: "It's a remarkably unknown site for a lot of people and even people in the immediate area don't know that Neath Abbey is here.
"It's special because it illustrates so many important episodes from the history of Wales, right from it's foundation in 1130 to the industrial revolution of the 18th Century."
Funded and organised by Cadw, more than 200 of Wales's most iconic landmarks and historic attractions will welcome visitors in September as part of the Wales-wide heritage festival, Open Doors.
For more information about the free tours visit cadw.gov.wales
The undercroft is filled with some of the finest artefacts in Neath Abbey BILL ZAJAC, CADW HISTORIAN AND EXPERT ON NEATH ABBEY
<B Neath Abbey and gatehouse
Detailed floor tiles
Pictures: Jonathan Myers <B The 800-year-old undercroft at Neath Abbey