I’ve always wondered about this ruin. It sits on the cliffs of Penarth Head and must have spectacular views over the port of Cardiff and Cardiff Bay, but looks to be sited in an incredibly precarious location, especially as the Penarth Head cliffs seem to be constantly crumbling.
So what was it? Well, it used to be a summerhouse-cum-billiard room for a mansion sited further up the cliff. The mansion was, rather appropriately, called Northcliff and, according to one of several articles about this location on the Penarth News website, ‘It was originally the home of one of the Batchelor brothers who had a shipbuilding business in Cardiff Docks.’ The Batchelor brother was John Batchelor, a renowned but controversial figure in 19th-century Cardiff (you can read more about him here).
The location of John Batchelor’s former home is also attracting controversy in the 21st century. The original mansion was demolished in the 1960s and replaced with a rather ugly development of flats, as shown in the photo above. And late last year, Northcliff Lodge, a five-bedroom annex to the mansion, was also demolished and is once again being replaced with a controversial construction of ugly box-like apartments, much to the disgust of many local people and despite strenuous efforts to halt the development in the planning stages. It’s such a shame that so little value is placed on the history and heritage of Penarth ... and don’t even get me started on the horrendous environmental impact of the new development!
As to that billiard room with the incredible views ... well, it’s at risk of falling down the cliff at any moment but no one seems particularly bothered about that. There was a serious rock fall in the area in May 2013, which prompted the Cardiff Harbour Authority to erect some mesh-fencing to keep the public back from the bottom of the cliff. But the fencing is flimsy and the path is still within a couple of metres of the cliff bottom – if the structure above did fall while anyone was walking past, I doubt they’d live to tell the tale. Until it does fall, only the birds get to enjoy the billiard room with the million-dollar views.