Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A bizarre personality

Last week's visit to Tredegar House included an excellent guided tour around the upper half of the house, set in the 1930s, when Evan Morgan, 4th Baron, 2nd Viscount Tredegar lived at the house.

He was a noted eccentric, though I feel that term hardly does him justice.  At the time, I wondered how much of his behaviour was pure eccentricity, how much assumed in order to shock people (and delight himself) and how much was down to his mother, the former Lady Katherine Carnegie, who could best be described as . . . unbalanced.  She seemed fascinated by birds, and imagined herself to be a Kingfisher.  Guests at Tredegar House were given birds' nests which she had made herself.  Her obsession must have totally overwhelmed her in the end as she had a gigantic person-sized nest built, complete with eggs, and she would spend time in her nest, brooding her eggs . . .  It is hard to imagine that both nurture and nature had not  influenced her son. Her daughter, Gwyneth, was described as "Bohemian" and was found dead in the Thames in 1925, aged just 29.  I believe there were murmourings of drug-taking linked to her name.

Evan Morgan's house parties were the talk of the town.  Distinguished guests such as Aldous Huxley, artist Augustus John, George Bernard Shaw, H G Wells, and Nancy Cunard enjoyed his hospitality.  They all seemed to believe in Homeopathy and I am sure there were other beliefs linking them, beside several being noted for their Bohemian behaviour.  Nancy Cunard set a trend by appearing in her collection of African bangles which were at first considered shocking and then highly fashionable - the "barbaric look".

Evan was a homosexual, although he married twice, for convenience, and each wife a society beauty.  I should imagine each party "did their own thing" and pretty well led separate lives.

What they (or indeed the house guests!) thought of Evan's parties, with animals from his private zoo being allowed loose in the house (imagine opening your door to find a Baboon reclining on your bed!),  his famous party pieces - Blue Boy the macaw being trained to climb up inside his trouser leg and appear from his open flies - and snakes and reptiles roaming the house is unrecorded.  I dare say enough cocktails would numb your responses!

Perhaps his close friendship and association with occultist Aleister Crowley is the most shocking aspect of Evan Morgan's life.  He became adept at black magic himself, and on one occasion, when he had been court marshalled for sharing war secrets with some Girl Guides, of all people, he asked Crowley to help him set a curse on his arresting Officer . . . who did indeed end up ill in hospital.

He also became a Catholic, serving as Chamberlain to the Pope for 15 years.   The strangest thing happened as I was admiring the Elizabethan wedding feast which had been laid out in the Dining Room, it suddenly came into my mind to ask if the family were Catholics!

As I said, how much of Evan's behaviour was for show and how much was his real character is hard to say.  He wrote very poor poetry and considered himself an artist (but his work was not widely admired or praised).  Virginia Woolf seemed to have his number, and summed him up as an immense show-off.  This blog gives much better detail than I have time to write.

I will say though, that the room I expected to have an atmosphere - his bedroom, where he often slept with a bed full of rabbits (as you do!) and where he carried out his necromancy - had a very pleasant atmosphere.  But there was another room where I stayed in the doorway and wondered at the ability of various folk inside to stand right beside two pillars which had been accoutrements to Morgan's special black magic altar and which gave me a VERY unpleasant feeling indeed.  (And I felt this before anything was said).

Apparently the house is very haunted - do a check and I am sure you will find several sites dealing with all the spectral inhabitants of the house.

There will be another post dealing with the "lesser" rooms of the house - the domestic ones - which I found fascinating.


  1. Fascinating stuff, what a gripping read and what a strange character

  2. i am enjoying your narrative; thanks for such intimate details.

  3. how interesting, I enjoyed reading this.

  4. I was prompted to look up a bit about his associates. I would say 'bizarre' or 'eccentric' were tolerant adjectives--I think I'd have found this group scary/unwholesome---but then I'm happily unsophisticated.

  5. He definitely doesn't sound the type that I'd appreciate an invitation to a country house weekend from! Odd that you should sense a pleasant atmosphere in his bedroom - maybe that was the real man rather than the public persona.

  6. I would have liked to have met him - because I am a good judge of character and could have, I like to think, have summed him up before he'd even spoken a word. But he doesn't sound an iota the sort of person I get on with. The black arts bit puts the heebie jeebies on me - I was repelled by the atmosphere emanating from the particular room I mentioned. I think I might have found him too silly for words as that skit with the parrot was so schoolboyish. . . Perhaps he wasn't really confident inside, and it was all mirrors and shadows with him - trying to impress. It sounded like Virginia Woolf thought that's what he was doing, setting the stage for him blethering on about what he DID know about . . . Perhaps I misjudge, being 80 years too late on the scene. . .

  7. Evan was always a bit of an enigma. He had so many different facets to his personality. Friends would speak of a man of great charm and immense generosity, yet at the same time admit that he was "utterly unpredictable." There was something of the wild animal about Evan: "caged, perhaps, but never really tamed." He could be eccentric to the point of madness.

    He was WAY ahead of his time when it came to Animal Rights. As soon as he became Viscount Tredegar, he presented a bill to the House of Lords for the banning of those indiscriminate, and cruel, 'gin traps' that littered parts of the countryside back then. His bill was narrowly defeated, but when it eventually passed in the 1950s, the Daily Mirror gave much of the credit for it to Evan. Birds and animals always found a friend in Evan Morgan.

    He was indeed an accomplished occultist. The vast majority of his rituals and magical practises took place, not in his bedroom, but in his vast Magick Room, which was almost certainly situated in the cavernous Receiving Cellar. Research into Evan's occult past and networks has been rather alarming to say the least.

    He truly was a unique individual.

  8. Just posted this pic of Evan Morgan on my facebook page, along with a pic of my son, Evan Morgan Adams Faeth, whom I named that before discovering the info on Tredgar House, and our cousin, Evan Morgan..... We are Morgan descendants in the US, descended from the Morgan line of Tredegar house....if you have a chance to look at it, the family resemblence is eeerie......
    Ellen Faeth

  9. strangely enough, my family is descended from an illegitimate child of the tredegar morgans, and my family looks like jwmorgan, or at least the nose of the person impersonating that man... and i have a cousin who looks exactly like Evan morgan, the spitting image. i suspect that the black magic that was done included mind control, and some sort of horcrux type magical receptacle for human souls. that is, evan tried to channel or funnel his soul into his descendants, the products of moon child rituals. i myself feel that i am familir with the soul of evans sister, gwynneth, and that she was his mind controlled slave, who died after evan tried to impregnate her with his own child.