Vanished Wales: Penllergare - The mansion that led the world of photography before being blown up

Just off junction 47 of the busy M4 motorway, there’s a hidden gem that will take your breath away.

Spanning 250 acres, Penllergare Valley Woods boasts a rich and remarkable history.

It was once the grand estate of John Dillwyn Llewelyn, a wealthy industrialist who thought big. In the mid 19th century he became a pioneering photographer, scientist and avid astronomer. 

In the 1850s, he constructed an observatory on his huge estate, a building which still stands to this day.

The estate and its achievements were inspired by its founder, John Dillwyn Llewelyn. Credit: Penllegare Trust

It was equipped with state-of-the-art telescopes to explore the mysteries of the night sky, and it inspired Llewelyn’s daughter, Thereza, to become one of the world's first female astronomers.

Between them, Thereza and her father took one of the earliest ever photographs of the moon. Their trailblazing work in lunar photography was revolutionary for the time.

After the death of John Dillwyn Llewelyn, the mansion and grounds were passed to other family members. By the 1920s, the family had moved away from Penllergare and relocated to mid Wales.

In 1961, the vast mansion was deliberately and dramatically blown up as part of an army training exercise.

Over time, the sprawling estate became neglected and vandalised. 

Today the Estate's observatory stands at the centre of a housing estate.

In 2000, an army of volunteers formed the Penllergare Trust - a not for profit organisation whose aim is to protect, restore and conserve the cultural landscape of Penllergare. 

Today, it's a Victorian paradise in the shadow of a motorway; an oasis of nature where history was made.

Watch Vanished Wales on ITV Cymru Wales at 7pm on Friday, February 9, and catch up afterwards on ITVX.