The Tragic True Story of Gamekeeper Robert Scott and his killer Joseph Lewis
The Margam Estate in Port Talbot has a history that dates it back over 4,000 years. Set in 850 acres of land there are Bronze and Iron Age relics and evidence of Celtic and Roman occupation. Margam’s Cistercian Abbey was founded by the Earl of Gloucester in the 12th Century, and the remains lie in ruins in the grounds which saw the building of one of the largest Orangeries in the country.
The imposing Tudor style Mansion we see today was built by the Talbot family in 1930. Margam Castle (as it is known) is known in paranormal circles for its haunting, and I can verify this having witnessed an apparition of a grey lady in 2016 myself during an investigation!
One legend dates as far back as the building of the Abbey foundations, where it is said that a young Welshman attempted to use some of the land granted to the abbey for his own gain and instigated by the devil, he set on fire the best barn belonging to the monks which were filled with corn. His sins caused him to go mad, and he ran about the country in a state until he was seized and bound, breaking through his confines however he ran to the gates of the monastery screaming that he was being burned inwardly and he died in agony. Margam was no stranger to scandal in the years that followed either.
It is little known that Margam records showing payments and accounts revealed that the family once paid 1s 2d for the “hanging of a couple of rascals. In 1919 the Butler a Mr. Thomas was fined £5 for not notifying authorities of his arrival from a previous address in Scotland, and in 1898 there was a rape of a 16-year-old girl, by a coachman on the grounds. A stableman by the name of Samuel Baldwin died after mysteriously suffering a horrific cut to the back of his head in 1905.
But by far the most famous ghost is that of Robert Scott, the gamekeeper. Said to be an angry spirit that haunts the central staircase, Scott is said to have been murdered and haunts the castle seeking revenge for his death. His ghost has been seen many times, and it is said that he throws rocks at people too!
But what happened to Scott? Why would he be so angry? In a place that has seen many deaths in its colorful history, one might wonder what it is about Scott that keeps his soul grounded to the earth today?
I did some research, and found some articles in archived Welsh newspapers printed at the time of Robert Scott’s murder and discovered a few intriguing details that might be of interest to those wishing to make a communication with the angry gamekeeper himself.
Newspapers report that Scott’s body was found on Margam mountain early one morning in 1898 after a night on duty watching for poachers. His face had been shot at close range with a shotgun twice and his lower jaw blown away. His head had also been repeatedly battered after being shot. A detailed confession was given by the murderer who was called Joseph Lewis. Lewis claimed to have killed Scott in self-defense. He wrote several letters from his cell in prison, one was to Robert Scott’s parents apologizing for his actions.
“Dear Mrs. Scott, I want to say to you that I sympathize with you in the sorrow that I caused you to be in. What I did was in self-defense. I hope you will try to forgive me. I am praying for him. I have no ill feeling for anyone in the world. Yours Truly Joseph Lewis August 17th, 1898.”
He also wrote a letter to his own parents begging them to come and visit him.
I am very sorry for the trouble I have given, and I beg to thank you for what you have done for me. I am quite a different man to what I was when I came here. About you coming to see me you can do as you wish. I am willing to see you. I am sorry for what I have done, it was done in self-defense. The man was close upon me before I saw him with a big stick in his hand. I told him to stand back, and I rose my gun, and he said “Don’t fire” with that everything was over. Everything passed in less than half a minute. If he didn’t come on, I was willing to give him my name. I had nothing but my gun to defend me. I am sorry for it now, and I have written to the Scott’s. I have nothing more to do but to leave it all in God’s hands. Everybody is kind to me, and I am treated like a gentleman than a prisoner.
Best love to you all JOSEPH LEWIS.”
Sadly, his parents refused to have anything more to do with their son and never visited him in the gaol. They did, however, send a neighbor to visit him on their behalf and there is a report that says Lewis said he was hungry all day and then he broke down and wept like a child.
Lewis’s sanity was questioned at the time because it was claimed he had suffered sunstroke while serving as a soldier in India and been “unhinged” ever since. His parents stated that he often suffered from severe headaches and throat pains with which he had terrible fevers with. These would cause him to become restless so much so that he would pace the room gesticulating and unable to control himself. He also kept a detailed written diary which for a man of his class showed he was remarkably better educated than most. Lewis was condemned to death by hanging for the murder, but his solicitor had lodged an appeal to the Home Secretary for a reprieve claiming he was not in his right mind.
However, the appeal was refused and on August 30th, 1898 Joseph Lewis was hanged at 8 o’clock am observed by a crowd of morbid spectators by executioner Billington.
Joseph Lewis’s story is tinged with sadness for me, I believe he was suffering from either a physical illness or a mental one that today would have been treated before such tragedy took place. But such was the times in which he lived there would have been little sympathy shown anyway.
With all this in mind I wonder why Robert Scott’s ghost haunts the stairs inside Margam Castle
and as for what really happened on that night, that remains a mystery which is only known to him and Joseph Lewis.