BARRY TOWN HALL & LIBRARY

In 1903 a competition was held for the design of a new block of offices for the Barry Urban District Council. The assessor for the competition was Mr T.E. Collcutt, FRIBA, President of the Royal Institute of Architects.

In November 1906 the Council decided to proceed with Phase I of the construction of the Town Hall. The building contract was awarded to Mr D.W. Davies of Cardiff for the sum of £7,488.

The provision of the clock was not part of the contract, and this was awarded to Messrs Niehus Brothers of Bristol, for the sum of £329/10s which included the Westminster Chimes and Bell, which struck the hours and quarters.

Carvings and sculptures that adorn the buildings were designed and executed by Mr T.A. Jones of Cardiff, who was also responsible for the statues of what were once a pair of imposing lions at the main entrance.

The supervising architects for the building were Messrs C.E. Hutchinson, ARIBA, and E. Harding Payne, ARIBA, of John Street, Bedford Row, London, with Mr W.H. Sydenham acting as Clerk of Works.

Prior to the building of the offices, it was decided that the houses that fronted the building would be demolished after the completion of the building, and prior to the official opening.

The building was completed in 1908, and the official opening took place on the 22nd April. Mr W.J. Williams, Chairman of the Council, performed the opening ceremony, assisted by Mr D. Morgan, Chairman of the Public Works Committee, who presided.

The Barry Boys School String Band conducted by Mr. W. M. Williams provided music for the occasion.

Construction of Phase II of the Town Hall was never started.

After completion of the Town Hall, the houses in Holton Road that fronted it were demolished, and the land used as an open space which became known as the "Town Hall Square".

In June 1910 a proposal was made that its name be changed to King Edward Square. After the meeting was reminded that the proclamation ceremony of the ascent to the throne of King George V had been held there in May of the same year, it was proposed that the name of the monarch be omitted, and the area be known as "King Square".

Over the years the Square was used for many events. On 31st July 1918, the first contingent of American troops to land in Britain arrived in Barry, and marched to the Square to an official reception. A year later on 19th July a crowd of over 10,000 assembled there for "Peace Day" celebrations to celebrate the end of the First World War.

From then until the celebrations at the end of the Second World War it was the focal point of the Town.

The Square was used as a saluting base for parades by local organisations and the RAF Freedom of the Town March Past. The Evangelical Churches used it to hold their outdoor services. Every Christmas saw the Town Hall illuminated and the erection of the Town's Christmas Tree, and later the celebration of New Year.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the Council wanted to shift the focal point of the Town away from the Square, and installed lights and a Christmas Tree outside the Civic Offices, and built a fountain and flower beds which covered most of the King Square area. Failure to maintain these constructions and the total lack of interest shown by the Council resulted in one of the worst eyesores ever to be foisted on Barry.

King Square, Town Hall and Fountains

The first lending library, which opened in 1890, was in 144 Holton Road, later moving further down the road to a three-storey house on the Square. The ground floor was fitted out as a reading room, the lending library was on the second floor, and the caretaker's rooms on the top floor.

In 1903 the Council appealed to the Andrew Carnegie Trust for a grant to enable a public library for the Town to be built. The application was successful, and a grant of £8,000 was awarded for its construction. The lessee of the Maes-y-Cwm Quarry, Mr Thomas, was asked to surrender his lease from the Barry Dock Town Land Company and the Wenvoe Castle Estate. This he did, on condition that the former quarry would not be used for business purposes, and the council on acquiring the site, later filled in the quarry enabling the building of Central Park and the library.

The Earl of Plymouth opened the library on 1st March 1906.

After over a century on the Square, 2001 saw the library being moved to the Leisure Centre. Hopefully it will move back on the refurbishment of the Town Hall and Library buildings.

 

© T. CLEMETT 2000


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