St Johns House

History of the house

The full history of the building, the owners and occupiers, and the uses has only partially been researched. Some details of owners and occupiers from the late 18th Century onwards are known from leases.

The building has been known as ‘Church House’, ‘Monckley House’, and as the ‘Hospice’. There is a local tradition that the building was connected with the Knight’s Hospitallers, but there is no evidence for the Medieval Order of St John of Jerusalem owning property in the parish of Newcastle.

It is possible that the hearth passage house as described and recorded by Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales was adapted from an earlier smaller building, and the core of that building is represented by the thicker walls which each have an inter-mural stair with small cut-through stone lights. These surround the smaller of the service rooms, which with its apsidal end hints at an ecclesiastical use. If so, then it is possible that building was originally a small wayside chapel caring for the spiritual and temporal needs of pilgrims on their way to St David’s. There are strong traditions for Bridgend having a number of stopping places for pilgrims, in part reflected by the names of several public houses (e.g. The Angel and The Lamb and Flag, both now gone) in the vicinity of Newcastle Hill.

If correct, then the re-building of the structure into the hearth passage house would represent a change of use and possibly owner. A locus for this might be the acquisition of the Parish of Newcastle by the Cistercian monks at Margam Abbey, who acquired the rights to the parish from Tewkesbury but were required to provide a suitable dwelling for the priest. Alternatively, the building may have been used as a small hospital, or more likely was taken over by a secular agency, perhaps a local merchant. What can be reasonably certain is that whoever built the core of the structure that we see today had both status and means.

The enlargement of the hearth-passage house (widening of the porch and room above together with a possible cellar below) in the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century may reflect a further change of ownership.

We know (from transcriptions on a later lease) that by the end of the eighteenth century that the building was owned by Walter Coffin. The Coffins were a major landowner in Bridgend, their wealth derived from a productive tannery. They were also connected by marriage to the Price family of Llangeinnor, who included the famous humanist Richard Price and his nephew William Morgan one of the founding fathers of actuarial practice.

In the nineteenth century, the house was leased to various parties and the property was subdivided with two extended families living in either half each with an extension built to the rear of which only the northernmost now survives.

In 1919, the then owner Abraham Lewis sold the building to the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Owen Phillips, Baron Kylsant, a colourful character, claimed to have purchased the freehold for the Priory. He had connections with Slebech, Pembrokeshire, a former Commandery of the Knight’s Hospitaller. In the late twentieth century, the building was acquired by the present owners.

Timeline of the house

Circa 1511

Sample of wood from beams have been identified, by dendrology, as having been felled in 1511/12. The green oak would have been used to build the house soon after felling.

After 1540

The original porch is extended upwards and sideways to give two extra rooms.


Walter Coffin, a local businessman, has the lease of the house

Sometime after this date the house was divided into two properties, numbers 20 and 22 Newcastle Hill.


The census and the tithe map of 1842 show the whole property as consisting of four tenaments occupied by David Jenkins, School Master and his wife; Richard Thomas, a Sheriff’s Officer and his family; Rees Jenkins, a Tailor and his family and, we think, Evan Lewis, a relation of the Lewis family who later occupied number 22.

1851 to 1919

David Lewis, his wife Mary and his 7 children occupy number 22. Over this period the parents died and all of the children except Abraham and his elder sister, Margaret, moved away.

1919, 3rd November

Abraham Lewis sold numbers 20 and 22 Newcastle Hill to the Trustees of the Order of St John. The order, known to us as St John’s Ambulance, built an ambulance hall at the back. They held their meetings in the property and ran first aid courses.


The Georgian Shop front to the right of the porch was demolished and, in the course of the work a handbell, thought to date from the 17th or 18th century was found in a drain.


House given Listed Building Status.


The caretaker's cottage attached to the right hand side of the house was demolished.


The Order of St John sold the house to a firm of architects who sold off the Ambulance Hall and obtained planning permission to convert the house back into two dwellings. After the failure of the building firm the property stood empty for a number of years.


The St John’s House Trust (Bridgend) a registered charity,was formed to open the house to the public with the consent of the owners.


The Trust raised sufficient funds to buy the house from the owners on behalf of the community at large.