Over 50 years ago in Port Talbot there stood a beautiful village that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Cotswolds. There were cottages, churches and a school that made up the tight-knit community of Groes.
But in 1976 residents were forced to move out while demolition crews moved in to make way for the M4. ITV’s history show Vanished Wales, which reveals the lost landmarks of Wales and is hosted by Adeola Dewis, has explored the village’s past.
Speaking on episode one of the show, which aired on Friday, May 13, historian and poet Lynne Rees said: “It came to being in the 1830s. It was commissioned by Christopher Rice Mansel (CRM) Talbot who had inherited the Margam Estate. The architects who were working on his gothic castle designed and built Groes village for him.
“Talbot’s architects were the architects of the day and the design of Goes village was really pretty. It wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Cotswolds with that really lovely golden honey coloured stone.”
Former resident, Ian Humphreys, has fond memories growing up in the village. He told Adeola: “I wish it was still there. If I ever won the lottery, I’d build that house somewhere. I loved it there. I used to camp on the front lawn. I can remember my grandmother walking out coming down with a torch asking: ‘Are you alright? Do you want to come in the house?’. It was fantastic I loved it there.
“There was nothing about being worried about locking your front door. There were about 20 houses and I could go down to number one, walk in…Everyone helped each other, it was just a great community. An amazing place to be, I sorely miss it.”
He added: “When I pass away, my ashes are going to be spread on the hill right behind where Groes was. I was born there and I’ll die there.”
Another resident strongly opposed to the demolition was Romeo Meli. He protested by camping on the A48 with his bed and TV. Speaking on the show, his daughter Francesca Meli said: “He took his bed and his chair and his TV. It was his home, it was our home. He chose that place to live, both of my parents chose that place to live…and nobody wants to be forced to move out of their home. But in 1976, the family were inevitably forced out of their home.”
The only part of the village to be saved was the Beulah Calvinist Methodist Chapel, which was first built in 1838 in Groes village, before being dismantled and rebuilt in 1976 in Tollgate Park in Margam. Adeola visited the chapel and said: “It’s a precious connection with the past. A reminder of a village lost in time.” You can get more TV news by signing up to our WalesOnline newsletter here.
You can find the first episode of Vanished Wales on ITV Hub.