The Old Windmill, CadoxtonWhat a difference in the Sully Moors of my childhood and the Sully Moors of today. A trip to Bendricks Beach entailed walking across the Moors using the footpath opposite Laura Street, which joined Hayes Road near Hayes Cottages. A short walk up the road passing the only sign of industry in the area, the Old Windmill near Hayes Farm, through the gate at the end of Bendricks Road and onto the beach.

Since those early days the scene has changed dramatically. Hayes Cottages, a small community where the John, Greenslade, Edgar, Marsh, Grove, Warren, Savoury and the two Jones families lived for many years, has long gone, and the site is now incorporated into the factory complex. The paths across the Moors and the Bendricks have been swallowed up by industrial development. Where once the only noise heard was from cattle and sheep grazing in the nearby fields, it has been replaced by the constant drone of the chemical production plants and the fork trucks being driven around the various plants.

In the First World War a German POW camp had been established nearby. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, building work and development of No. 4 SRD (now the Atlantic Trading Estate) began. On the opposite side of the road the MOD built what became known as the "Boat Stores", later to become warehouses for chemicals produced by British Geon. Small companies are still using some of the buildings. Later in the 40's soldiers from the USA established a camp nearby, G40. On the beach side of the road opposite, a camp was built for coloured American servicemen.

Sully Hospital, which was opened in November 1936 by HRH the Duke of Kent, was the last hospital to be built by the King Edward VII Memorial Trust. Donations towards the cost of building the hospital were given by a number of mine owners (especially Lord Davies of Llandinam, who was chairman of the Sully Hospital Association and president of the Memorial Trust), and the general public. At one time Sully Hospital contained over 300 beds and was used for the treatment of TB and other chest related illnesses. During the war years it was used by the MOD as an emergency medical hospital for wounded servicemen.

The end of the war saw the start of major industrial development on the Sully Moors with the building in 1946 of the Distillers factory, which when completed would employ over 1,000. This figure took most of the unemployed off the labour exchange registers in Barry. Prior to this the largest employers of labour locally was the docks and the council, and many of the jobs on the docks were temporary. A great number of workers who were employed in the dry docks at Barry would have to travel to work in the company's dry docks in Cardiff when work became short. Workmen's trains which left Barry for Clarence Road Station in Cardiff every twenty minutes were basic, with wooden seats, no corridors and always packed to overflowing. The wooden seats were reversible, allowing passengers to face in either direction.

The Distillers Company (DCL), which opened the factory at Barry, was formed in 1877 making Scotch Whisky, and as a by-product, yeast and industrial alcohol. In 1926 it established its first factory at Hull for the production of chemicals. A subsidiary of Distillers, British Resin Products, began producing synthetic resins in 1937, and later the same year it acquired a 50% share in another chemical company, B.X. Plastics. During the war years DCL and associated companies came under government control. In the late 40's a calcium carbide plant was built at Kenfig and run for the Ministry by DCL.

In 1947 British Hydrocarbon Chemical Company, in association with BP Company Ltd. opened a factory at Grangemouth in Scotland. 1946 and 47 saw the start of the development of DCL on a 93-acre site at Barry. The first factory to be opened in 1948 was British Resin Products and was wholly owned by Distillers. This company was formed by the amalgamation of BRP, Tonbridge with F. A. Hughes of Feltham, and Messrs. Radcliffes.

1945 saw the amalgamation of the Goodrich Chemical Company, of the USA, and DCL, which culminated in the building of a factory on the Barry site for the production of PVC. In 1948 its production was 3,000 tons, but by 1956 the annual production had risen to over 27,000 tons. A great deal of the factory's production was used in the manufacture of vinyl for making LP records.

Also in the 40's Distillers joined with Dow Chemicals to form another company on the site, Distrene Ltd., for the production of Styron and Polystyrenes.

1954 saw the building, extending and modernisation of the various plants, and the company announced that there were over 1,700 workers employed on the Barry Site and over 500 employed by the various contractors engaged in these alterations and extensions.

In 1956 another plant, "Hycar", was commissioned to produce an oil resistant synthetic rubber previously manufactured and imported from the USA.

A number of Research and Development laboratories were set up to test materials produced by the various factories on site. These R&D Labs not only tested the raw materials, but also used small batch runs to test the quality and composition of them. Vacuum forming machines were used to test the elasticity of vinyl materials. Christmas time practically every home in Barry had a Father Christmas face displayed somewhere, produced by the labs and painted by its owner. A number of these labs are now part of the Vale Enterprise Park.

Social facilities were provided for personnel employed at the site by the opening of the Plastics Club in Market Street. Later in 1962 the managing director of the company opened the Sully Plastics Sports and Social Club at Swanbridge. The 1960's also saw the Wulff plant opened on the British Geon site to produce acetylene from calcium carbonate. Surplus gas was burned off at the top of the stack, lighting up the area for miles around. At one time the noise from the plant produced so many complaints from nearby residents that an injunction was sought by them to stop all production at the plant until steps were taken to moderate the noise. This, after a number of attempts, the company did, and the injunction was lifted.

Before further extensions to the British Geon Site began, a number of huts that were built during the war had to be demolished. These huts were used to store ammunition and the site was named Barry OSD (Ordnance Supply Depot). At one time the fields alongside were over-run with rabbits, which lived under these huts. Some nights using a long net a good number could be caught. There was no street lighting, and in this field was an old BUDC boundary post made of cast iron, which left a lasting impression if you bumped into it when you had to leave the vicinity quickly. I don't know if it's still there, but it would be near the road in the undergrowth between the entrance to the EVC plant and the river.

Chemical Plants, Cadoxton MoorsIn January 1967 an agreement between BP and Distillers for BP to take over the Barry site was concluded, and by March the same year the transfer of all Distillers owned and part owned chemical and plastics interests at Barry were transferred to BP.

When BP chemicals stopped production the site was sold, and broken up into smaller units which are occupied by the following companies :-

  • European Vinyl Company Ltd,

  • Cabot Carbon,
  • Barry Power Station,
  • Laporte Chemicals,
  • Zeon Chemicals,
  • Borden Chemicals, and
  • Kingspan.

The Dow Chemicals factory, which was sold off on the take-over by BP was originally Distrene. Further along Hayes Road, Vopak, which occupies the Windmill Site, is built on the site of the Naphthalene tank farm and boat stores


© T. CLEMETT 2002

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