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Saturday, 23 March, 2002, 12:31 GMT
Monk's curse hangs over steelworks
The wall stands inside Corus grounds
The wall stands within the Corus grounds
Fears of invoking the wrath of an angry Cistercian monk have prompted south Wales steelworkers to preserve a cursed 800-year-old wall.

An essential job of apprentices at the Corus steel plant in Port Talbot is ensuring a 20ft wall on the site does not fall down in case they invoke a 16th century curse.

Simon Jenkins
Simon Jenkins: "Hedging bets"
According to local tradition, a monk forced to leave Margam Abbey when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries told new owner Sir Rice Mansel that, if this wall was destroyed, everything in the vicinity would fall with it.

None of the successive owners from the Mansels to the Talbots or today's modern steel company have dared let the wall crumble in case the curse comes true.

The monk aimed to prevent Mansel from breaking up the Abbey after the monks were ousted.

Corus spokesman Simon Jenkins said the main reason for keeping the wall standing was to preserve local heritage

However he admitted that nobody was keen to find out what would happen if they challenged the long-standing superstition.

I used to have to pass the wall when I worked nights and it scared the heck out of me

Corus spokesman Simon Jenkins
"It's quite strange to have an 800-year-old wall within a hi-tech steel plant," commented Mr Jenkins.

"We're not superstitious, but we like to hedge our bets."

He added that the curse was attributed locally to the "Red Monk", a ghostly figure in a red habit reportedly seen on a regular basis by workers at the site.

"I remember when I started work 10 years ago being told there was a ghost at the Margam end of the site.

"I used to have to pass the wall when I worked nights and it scared the heck out of me."

Plant centenary

The 20ft long wall, which formed part of the outer edge of the abbey, lies on the eastern end of the three-mile Corus site next to the rolling mill.

Visitors to the plant including school parties can see the wall and hear its history as well as learning about the industrial processes taking place in its shadow.

The plant is currently celebrating its centenary with a special exhibition which traces the history of steel-making in the area.

As well as praying and cursing, the long-exiled monks also took advantage of the area's resources to produce iron.

BBC Wales's Hywel Griffiths
"This wall is part of the old Margam abbey grounds, and would have been built in the early 1200s"
See also:

18 Mar 02 | Business
Corus to quit aluminium market
07 Mar 02 | Business
Corus back among the blue chips
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