About BarryAbout BarryGeneral


Brief History

HistoryBarry as we now see it only really began to grow with the building of the docks in 1884. However, people had been living in this part of Wales long before that, as Bronze Age burial mounds, found at Cold Knap and Friars Point, prove. In later years the Romans took an interest in the area and at the Knap built what is thought to have been a supply depot for their Bristol Channel fleet, the remains of which can still be seen.It is thought that the name Barry possibly derives from Saint Baruc who was drowned in the Bristol Channel and buried on Barry Island. The ruins of the chapel dedicated to him can be seen on Friars Road. Cadoxton, too, takes its name from an early saint, Sant Cadoc, and it is around the medieval church of Saint Cadoc that the old village grew up. The church still survives, as do some of the older village houses.

Pre-industrial Barry

The early years were troubled ones for Barry, with constant Viking raids making life difficult. Barry Island, for example, was known to be a raiders’ base in 1087. Soon after this date the Normans arrived to divide the lands of the Vale of Glamorgan into manors and parishes. Barry became a sub-manor to Penmark and by the 12th-13th centuries had grown into a village and port with its own church, water mill and castle. Fragments of the latter dating from 13th & 14th centuries can be seen on the hill above Romilly Park.

The Black Death in the 14th century almost finished Barry. It was not until the 17th century that the population recovered sufficiently to be once again termed a village. The port became active again, with local ships trading as far afield as France.

Post-industrial Barry

The 19th Century brought enormous changes to South Wales with the extensive mining of coal and iron in the valleys to the north of the vale. Barry and the coast around it, however, remained rural until well into the second half of that century. The Romilly family bought the estate and was responsible for new building but Barry was still only a village in the 1860s and Barry Island was still referred to as a place that abounded with rabbits! Things, however, were to change dramatically, and Barry and Cadoxton were to develop in leaps and bounds. The ever-growing coal trade was far outstripping the facilities at Cardiff Docks and so a group of colliery owners formed the Barry Railway Company and chose to build the dock at Barry. Work commenced in 1884 and the first dock basin was opened in 1889 to be followed by two other docks and extensive port installations.

The Barry Railway brought coal down from the valleys to the new docks whose trade grew from one million tons in the first year to over nine million tons by 1903. The port was crowded with ships and had flourishing ship repair yards, cold stores, flour mills and an ice factory. By 1913 Barry had become the largest coal exporting port in the world.

Behind the docks rose the terraced houses of Barry, which, with Cadoxton, soon formed a sizeable town. Monumental buildings were raised in this period of growth, including the impressive Docks Offices and the Town Hall (recently refurbished). The railways, which had played a major part in the development of the dock, did a great deal to make Barry Island the popular resort it is today. Excursion trains brought thousands of people from the valleys. From the railway pier, paddleboats plied along the coast and across the Channel. Barry had grown into an important town, and in 1939 it was made a borough, an independence that, although changed at the major reorganisation of 1974 and 1994 is still reflected in the existence of the Town Council today.
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