A WALK AROUND BARRY ISLAND (Click here for a map)

This non-circular walk starts at the Watchtower, Cold Knap.

The Watchtower and Rocket ShedThe Watchtower at Cold Knap was built in the 1860's. The building has two storeys and was used for many years as a lifeboat station. When built it had double doors and a slipway for launching the lifeboat. The slipway has been removed and the doors bricked up, but traces can be seen under the low arched window. A new set of doors and a small slipway is still used to launch small craft. The bell from the lifeboat St. David (the crew of which were honoured for their rescue of the crew of the "Goeland"), still hangs in the Watchtower, which is used as a water activities headquarters by the 6th Barry Sea Scout Group.

Behind the watchtower is the old rocket shed that was used for the storage of safety equipment.

Cold Knap FarmAt the top of the slope behind the rocket shed is the Cold Knap Farm, with its thatched roof. It is one of the oldest continually occupied buildings in the area, and is shown on a map of Barry drawn in the 1600's.

Walk up the lane towards Cold Knap Way, and in the lane opposite the farmhouse is a small flight of steps leading to Sid Luen's home. Sid was one of Barry's local characters, and a plaque commemorating this is affixed to the wall.

Through the bollards at the top of the lane and along Cold Knap Way will take you past the White House development, which was built on the site of Sir William Graham's house.

Continue along to the Parade. On the right hand corner is "The Moorings", in which Rev. Lomas lived. He built St. Francis-on-the-Hill Church after a disagreement with Church authorities. He also opened work centres during the depression, to give unemployed men a chance to develop skills that would stand them in good stead when the prospects of work picked up.

Walk toward Barry Island and enter Parade Gardens. Inserted into the ground on the right, halfway along the gardens, is an inscribed metal plate, which at one time was fixed to a fountain dedicated to the memory of David and Frances Morgan. Their grateful children gave the fountain to the Council in 1961. The fountain was removed when the sewage discharge pipeline was laid out to sea in the 1990's.

The OstryAt the top of the gardens are the ruins of the Ostry (or as it is now known "The Austry") and the Storehouse. The Storehouse was known as "The Sign of the Ship". In the 1850's the Ship Hotel, complete with a thatched roof was built on the opposite side of the road. The 1890's saw the present day Ship Hotel built, and the demolition of the old thatched roof Ship.

J.C. Meggitt used the Austry as a store for his new business, selling building materials brought to the harbour by small coasting vessels. The building of Barry Docks started in 1884, and the contractor, Mr. Walker, required the site and asked Mr. Meggitt to move from there. In return for this, Mr. Walker bought all his stock.

Opposite the Ship Hotel, on the site of the new housing development, sheds that belonged to the Barry Railway Company once stood.

Walking along the Causeway to the Island, the West Pond was located to the left. This was a continuation of the Old Harbour before the building of the Causeway. On the right where the new car park is located, railway sidings ran alongside the Athletic Club's ground.

At the end of the causeway is Whites Cosy Corner. In the 1920's White Bros. ran the fairground, but were later gazumped by Pat Collins, and opened a small fair on Cosy Corner. The corrugated Building which housed some of the fairground attractions was recently destroyed by fire.

On the opposite side of the road is a reputed Roman Well, now covered in rubble.

Proceeding under the railway bridge, on the right was Dinky Robinson's Ice Cream Factory, and Jim Mitchell's Wembley Café. The latter was named after the piece of ground that was used as a football ground by Island youngsters. This ground was used for many years as a caravan site. There were a number of buildings located there. One was The Old Harbour Club, run by Mr. Morgan, and underneath was the Welsh Crisp Factory, run by Mr. Manconi.

Most of the street names on the Island are the family names of the Earl of Plymouth. The family once owned the entire Island, but unlike Penarth, they did not take full control of its development.

Walk up Plymouth Road towards the Marine Hotel, past the old football ground. This was once very marshy ground (named on old maps as the Leech Pool), and was given to the residents of the Island by the Earl of Plymouth for their use. The residents set about filling the pool and levelling it out, and on completion it was named Maslin Park after Councillor Maslin. Vale of Glamorgan Steam RailwayFurther along the road is the Vale of Glamorgan Railway Company Heritage Centre which, if open, is well worth a visit.

St. Baruch's Court, the block of flats opposite the park on the corner of Archer Road, was built on the site of St. Baruc's Church, which opened in 1909 and was one of the old iron churches of Barry. The congregation now meets in the building at the top of Archer Road, which was the first St. Baruch's Church, and is mentioned in the 1897 street directory.

Bethany Baptist Church, one of few original tin churches left in Barry, built in the late 1890's or early 1900's, is still being used for worship.

Barry Island SchoolAt the junction of Archer Road and Clive Road is Barry Island Schools. The Schools were originally named Clive Road Board Schools for Boys, Girls and Infants and were opened in 1899. They had a filtration system to take the vast amounts of coal dust generated by the tipping of coal on the dock out of the atmosphere.

Turn right and walk along Clive Road, and Ivor Street is the next turning. At the junction with Phyllis Street was a meeting place that most of the residents of the Island remember as "The Warming Stone". This was behind Freddie Whitlow's shop and in the wall of Todd's Bakehouse, and must have been near the ovens.

Phyllis Street is a terraced street with a few houses that were built with three stories to accommodate servants quarters on the top floor. Walk to the end of Phyllis Street to Clive Place and turn right.

In front of you is the Marine Hotel, a shadow of its former self. It was modernised and reduced in size when its clientele got smaller and less staff were needed. It is the second hotel on the Island to be named The Marine. The first was erected in 1850 on the site of the present Friars Point House. It was demolished in 1894, four years after the hotel opened.

Just down the road in Plymouth Road was the Island's Shopping Precinct, which contained the Co-op, Selley's Paper Shop, Grey's Sweet Shop, a Café, Smith's Grocers Shop, and Lewis' & Lewis' the Butchers Shop.

 

Walking back up to Redbrink Crescent, the road leading down to the Docks was named Battery Hill after guns were unloaded at the Docks and pulled up the hill to the Garrison on Nell's Point. The triangular building at the start of the Crescent has had a various uses - as a café, for a great many years as a barbers shop, a betting shop and as a video hire shop.

Next door is the H.Q. of the Barry Island Historical Society with its resident question answerer, Jean Spencer. Further along, Barry Island Conservative Club was opened by Major W. Cope, MP, in the 1920's. It was built by Messrs. Rendell's, Builders for £3,500 and its membership at that time was 250.

Opposite the club was the copper works of Mr. Beech, used for many years after the copper works closed as garage premises. Some of the older houses have the date of their construction (1898), inserted in their façades. Numbers 60 and 62 both have towers, but 60 also has its original stained glass windows.

St Barruc's ChapelPast the entrance to Jackson's Bay and on to Friars Road, turn left, and just a few yards up the road is the ruins of St. Baruch's Chapel. Excavation of the site took place in 1895 by John Storrie, and again by Jeremy K. Knight in 1967/68. Inside the camp is St. Baruch's Well, which was reputed to be a Holy Well. Visitors to the well came to drink the water, which was supposed to have curative powers, in return for which a fragment of cloth was tied to a nearby bush, or a pin was dropped in the well. An early description of the well says that it contained clear spring water which filled when the tide went out, but emptied on the tide coming in. It had a flagstone surround. On the building of the Butlins holiday camp it was capped, and chalets were built over it.

Friars Road at one time led through the camp. Walk up to the roundabout near the new housing development (where the old camp gates stood), and you will find a house with a design reminiscent of the work of Le Coubusier (a Swiss born French architect and town planner). A house of a similar design is adjacent to St. Nicholas Church. The house although surrounded by Victorian houses built about 1910, does not look out of place. Most of these houses still have their ornate cast iron railings on their balconies intact.

St John Methodist ChurchSt. John's Methodist Church (reputed to be built on or near what was known as the British Kitchen) is set back off the road. It was used in the 1st World War as a military hospital, and during the war years nearly 4,000 bed patients and over 3,000 outpatients were treated there. Its superintendent was Mrs. Pardoe, OBE, with Sisters Lucas and Evans in charge of the nursing staff and volunteers, and Drs. Budge and Rees in attendance. The odd job man employed at the hospital was an ex-serviceman named Daddy Dauber, whose duties included being the hospital porter, growing vegetables in the ground around the hospital, and acquiring anything that the nursing staff required.

Breaksea Drive is the next turning, and opposite is the new community centre, which is on the corner of Earl Crescent (formerly Other Road). Halfway up is the Presbyterian Church of Wales, and alongside was the original Barry Island Y.P.A. clubroom.

Back down to Breaksea Drive, and a small bungalow that was built by the Round Table as a holiday home, and opened in 1965 by E. Morgan, the Mayor of Barry. It is now the Red Cross Centre.

Breaksea Drive runs right through an area that was known as "Spion Cop", which was sand dunes. During the 2nd world war it was used as an ammunition storage site by the military. Before the building of the camp, Nell's Point contained a nine hole putting green and tennis courts. A path leading down to the beach was known as "The Dingle", and a small café of the same name was situated there. Around Forrest Drive, covered accommodation for buses bringing visitors to Barry was provided. All this was lost on the building of the camp.

Breaksea Drive changes to Station Approach, and opposite the fairground is Barry Island Station. The station opened for the start of the August Bank Holiday in 1896. As a further incentive for visitors to come to Barry, an extension to the railway line, through a tunnel over 250 yards long, was built to the Barry Pier. This enabled visitors to board paddle steamers that plied in the Channel. Over the years the number of passengers arriving and leaving Barry Island station varied. One Bank Holiday weekend, over 150,000 visitors arrived at Barry Island, and most came by train. Trains were arriving every 10 minutes and by 5 p.m. were leaving at the same rate.

Seen better days!Near the roundabout at the end of the causeway, the Log Flume and part of the fairground entrance was built on St. Peirio's Monastery (Barry Island was once known as Ynys Peirio). Opposite is a row of shops and buildings in Paget Road, some with cast iron canopies. These canopies were built after one of the owners and his family visited Llandudno, where the same style of canopy can still be seen. He and his family liked them so much that on their return to Barry they commissioned their building.

Following Paget Road towards the beach, on the corner is The Merrie Friars, which when built had viewing points in the upstairs restaurant for the use of patrons. It was very popular in the 50's & 60's as a dance hall, and was always used for the St. Patrick's Night Ball organised by the local Catholic Church. Near the end of the building were the first public toilets erected by the Barry Council for visitors, and behind it was a small museum which housed some of the finds made by archaeologists in the area. Upon the opening of the National Museum, it was closed and became the local morgue. The toilets and morgue have since been demolished.

Across New Street an amusement arcade is housed in the former Rowe's Café, where the first night club opened on the Island, The Pelican, was situated. The entrance to the club was through a side door in New Street. Next door is The Olde Pavilion Café, at one time owned by the Winter family, and named after the Pavilion Theatre, which was situated on the sands and where stage shows and performances by Johnny Shields and a Pierrot Troupe were given. All these buildings were built on the site of the first white knuckle ride "The Switchback Railway." Barry Athletic Club car park is built where the ride ended.

Friars Point House gates and Lodge is immediately in front of you, with a path leading to the point. In 1873 J. Romilly Allen excavated some cairns that were situated on the point, and a description of the excavations can be found in Vol. IV of Archaeologia Cambrensis.

Halfway along the point, on the Whitmore Bay side, Treharne's Pier stood, and some of its foundations can still be seen in the rocks. It was built in 1858 by Francis Crawshay, the ironmaster from Merthyr Tydfil, for his yacht, and was used by the Yellow Funnel Fleet to pick up and drop visitors to the Island. It was demolished in 1902 after being declared unsafe by the coroner.

Friars Point HouseBack along the point, two statues of children together with their dogs stood in the grounds in front of Friars Point House. These have, like so many other objects in the town, "Gone Walkies". There is a sloping path leading down to Whitmore Bay, and the old bathing pool, and ladies changing rooms were at the bottom on the seaward side of the slope. The upstairs parts of the ladies changing rooms were converted into the Gwalia Tea-rooms, and the Beach Inspectors hut (that was on stilts), into the Dinky Restaurant.

The lost children's hut was near the Western Shelter, where youngsters (who sometimes claimed that they couldn't find their parents) would stay. After being fed sweets, ice-cream and other goodies provided by the volunteer staff, they would say that they could see their parents, and disappear into the crowd. Some parents used the lost children's hut as a place to leave their youngsters, telling them to explain to the staff that they had lost their parents. This left the parents free to pop off to the pub, knowing that their children would be looked after.

Along the promenade and back up Friars Road, the area which now houses the tourist information centre once housed a wooden hut and the old Police Station. The wooden hut was a first aid post run by the St. John Ambulance Brigade. In some years over 1,000 people would be treated for cuts caused by broken glass left on the sands.

Opposite these buildings was a horse trough for use by the ponies and horses that plied the sands. Further up the road in the gardens was an ornamental fishpond that was lit at night by coloured lights. The empty pond is still there but the lights and fish are long gone.

The Kite ShopThe octagonal building halfway up the gardens has had many uses, including as a pottery, an enquiry desk for the Tourist Board, and used by the local Bus Company. It is now a Kite shop.

Opposite and above the shops is Triassic Towers, an indoor adventure playground for children. This too has had many uses, and has been the Barry Island Rollerdrome skating rink, The Roxy Cinema, has been used for tea dances, as accommodation for troops stationed at Barry Island during the war, and prior to the war, by John's Café to cater for large parties.

The entrance to the fairground and the Dolphin bar is the end of your walk.

© T. CLEMETT 2002


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