18 May 2020

Cardiff : an assortment of benches


We’ve all been discouraged from sitting on benches during the lockdown but, when this pandemic is finally over (or at least controlled to the point where we are able to resume some semblance of normal life), these lovely benches will be there for the good folks of Cardiff and its visitors to rest their weary legs while out walking.


The aptly named Ship in a bottle bench was installed at the top of the meadow overlooking Cardiff Bay Wetland Reserve in 2004. This bottle bench is the work of artist Melissa Gibbs who, according to her profile on London’s Artist Quarter website, is ‘a professional artist and art tutor living and working in London’. Gibbs makes ‘sculpture and installations for public and private commissions and exhibitions’.


World-renowned author Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff in 1916 so it’s probably not surprising that Cardiff likes to celebrate its famous son in diverse ways in various locations around the city. Cardiff Bay already had Roald Dahl Plas (Square) when, in August 2016, as part of the Roald Dahl centenary celebrations, a 10-metre-long crocodile sculpture became the latest addition to the Dahl memorabilia.

The Croc in the Dock sculpture, located near the Sails on the Barrage, was based on the character in the book The Enormous Crocodile. It is supposed to be a bench but it’s really too low for comfort so it’s become a fun sculpture for kids to clamber on. 

And that is probably why there is now an actual bench right next to the crocodile. Appropriately enough, the bench is shaped like a book, the back of the bench is painted with the book's front cover illustration, and it too is named The Enormous Crocodile.


If you choose to walk from Cardiff Bay back in to the city along the Taff Trail, then you might rest your sore feet awhile (but not during lockdown) with a seat on one of four similar wrought-iron benches positioned alongside the River Taff. I haven’t been able to uncover any information about their creator but I quite like the paddle steamer and lighthouse that have been incorporated into the design.



10 May 2020

Under my feet : utility cover plates

During my lockdown exercise walks, as I seek to avoid other people’s germs wafting in my face, I’ve been spending a little more time than usual looking down and, in the process, especially during urban walks, I’ve been taking more notice of these ...


Now, I’m not entirely sure what to call them: utility cover plates? manhole covers (though not all are man-sized)? utility access points? inspection chamber covers? drain covers? drainage grates? 


I see many of those I have photographed have the word ‘ductile’ on their surfaces so has the industry that manufactures these cover plates adopted this word to identify their products? If so, it has done this in error as ductile is an adjective describing the pliability of metal. Perhaps they have conflated the two words ‘duct' and 'tile’?


I suppose these plates can actually have a variety of names, depending on their functions and whether they relate to storm water or other water drainage, sewers, electricity, gas or telecommunications. I have lumped together a wide variety of those I have found in this blog but, if I were to attempt a more detailed examination, I would need to separate them out in to their respective functions. I’m not sure I’m quite that motivated by these items but I am very impressed with some of their designs.


If you’re interested in learning more about these covers, Wikipedia has an interesting article


08 April 2020

Clocks : Penarth


It’s time for more time pieces, this time my local clocks here in Penarth, south Wales.

Town Clock
First up is our official Town Clock. Located in the centre of a busy roundabout at the junction of Penarth’s main street and four other roads, this four-faced clock was designed to coordinate with the Victorian architecture for which Penarth is well known (the town rose to fame as a seaside escape for busy Cardiffians during the Victorian era). 

The clock, manufactured by renowned clockmakers J. B. Joyce & Co of Shropshire, was presented to Penarth by the local Rotary Club to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their local presence in 1987.

However, the current clock is not that clock. After ticking away for 20 years or so, the original clock started to lose time, showed different times on its different faces, and developed a degree of unreliability that locals found irksome. 

Apparently, the local water company stepped up to fund the purchase of a replacement town clock, which looks exactly the same as the old one and which was installed on Sunday 4 November 2018.


But what became of the old clock? Well, imagine my surprise when, just a couple of days after I had read the details of this replacement, my daily walk took me past Penarth Cemetery and there, plonked on the tarmac next to the old chapel buildings, was the clock. I have no idea what its long-term fate will be but the cemetery chapel is due to be renovated shortly so perhaps the old clock is being incorporated in that renovation in some manner.

Old Town Clock on the left, new on the right

Pier Pavilion clock
This is another tale of clocks being replaced. The original round Art Deco clock on the front of Penarth’s pier pavilion was presented to the District Council, in 1929, by a Mrs Esther Harris, partly in memory of her husband Hyman, who had long run a pawnbroker’s business in the town, and also in memory of her son Stewart, known as Solly, who was a casualty of the First World War. Private Stewart Ernest Harris, 8th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, was killed at Ypres on 26 August 1915, aged just 22.


The new, square clock was installed when the pier pavilion was refurbished in 2013, thanks to the generosity of locals Paul and Geraldine Twamley. This clock, which also has a pleasing Art Deco look, in keeping with the design of the pavilion, was made by Smith of Derby, clockmakers to the nation since 1856.

Public Library clock  
Penarth’s Public Library is a handsome building, built mainly of Pennant stone with Bath stone dressings, and it boasts the striking addition of a clock tower.


According to an article in The Cardiff Times, Saturday 17 September 1904, which was reporting the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone for the new public library (on 10 September), the District Council had ‘already voted a sum of money to provide a handsome tower clock in the tower, and Mr Robert Forrest has also generously expressed his intention of providing the necessary bell and striking apparatus.’ When the library opened on 30 August 1905, The Cardiff Times again reported the event (on 2 September 1905), including confirmation that Mr Robert Forrest had indeed ‘generously contributed £100 towards the cost of the clock in the tower.’

If you’re particularly fascinated by this clock, you can watch a very short video of it on YouTube, including its chiming of the hour. Prior to moving to Penarth, I looked at buying a flat in an old building opposite Penarth Library. The flat was nice, if small, and had a peep-of-the-sea view but I’m now very glad I didn’t buy it because I think the sound of the library clock striking not only every hour of every day, but also every quarter hour, might well have become very annoying.

05 April 2020

Llandough : the Irbic cross


In my last post, about St Dochdwy’s Church in Llandough, I mentioned that I had found something particularly stunning in the churchyard and this is it, the so-called Irbic cross.


Made of Sutton stone, an Early Jurassic limestone found only in south Wales, the cross has a width of about 0.7 metres (2 feet 3 inches) and stands approximately 3 metres (a fraction under 10 feet) tall, though it is missing its top portion, the cross head, so would originally have been taller. The church website describes it as ‘consisting of an uppermost square shaft, with bold roll mouldings at the four corners, supported on a pedestal resembling a column, with the capital and base each formed from a separate stone.’  


This incredible structure is thought to date from the 10th or 11th century. Its precise origins are not known but there has, of course, been much speculation. The name ‘Irbic cross’ comes from an inscription, IRBICI, on the front face of the cross. These letters apparently mean ‘the stone of Irbic’ but who was this Irbic?

In his 1982 book Mysterious Wales, Chris Barber writes:

Llandough, near Cardiff, was once an important centre of Christian influence when St Dochau established a monastic community here, known as Bangor Dochau, in the fifth century. He was also known as Cyngar and was the son of Geraint. His brothers were Iestyn, Selyf, Caw and Cadwy. Their grandfather was Erbin and it was probably to his memory that this splendid cross of Irbic was erected.

Other sources I have located tell a similar story. Certainly, this Erbin (or Erbic) must have been a particularly important and noteworthy person to have earned such an impressive monument to his memory.



As well as the inscription, the cross is covered in fine decoration, as you can see in these photos. The base has a carving of a man on horseback on its front face and human heads on each side, and the shafts are covered with intricate, interlacing Celtic patterns.


The St Dochdwy’s Church website proudly boasts that the Irbic cross ‘is unique in design, being quite different from that of any other cross in Britain’. It is certainly a very fine ancient monument, and is well worth a visit if you happen to be in this vicinity.



03 April 2020

Llandough : St Dochdwy's Church


I noticed this church long before I got around to visiting it. That’s because its location, high on a hill overlooking the city of Cardiff, means its distinctive tower is visible from quite a distance, and it was my curiosity about that tower which prompted my visit.


The tower, and its church, St Dochdwy's, are in Llandough, a small hamlet that has been a holy place for a very long time – the clue is in its name: in Welsh, Llan is church and dough is from dochau, as in Saint Dochau/Dochdwy. The St Dochdwy's Church website dates the earliest Christian worship here to the 5th and 6th centuries, and notes that the ‘first permanent church building was erected in the 12th century’.

I was even more impressed with this tower when a bat came flying out of that side window, in broad daylight!

Amazingly, that first building continued in use until the 19th century when not one, but two new churches were built on the site. The first was built around 1820 but, just 40 years later, was found to be too small for the congregation so was deconstructed, moved and rebuilt, stone by stone, in the nearby village of Leckwith. The present church, with its notable saddle-back bell tower, was consecrated in 1866. David Jones of Penarth was in charge of construction, and its design was executed by Samuel Charles Fripp, an architect from Bristol.


I haven’t been inside St Dochdwy's, as, like so many churches these days, it is locked when not in use, but I did enjoy a good wander around the outside of the building and explored the graveyard that surrounds it. In the entry for the church on the Coflein website (Coflein is the online database for the National Monuments Record of Wales), the exterior of the building is described as having ‘snecked rubble facings with slate roofs and freestone dressings.’ (If you’re not familiar with the term ‘snecked rubble’, as I wasn’t, it means masonry that has a mixture of squared stones of different sizes, as you can see in the photo above.)


As I have a fondness for ornate ironwork door hinges, I was quite taken with the examples on the main entrance door. And, during my circuit of the building, I discovered the narrowest church door I’ve ever seen – I’m not sure what its purpose would have been but it would certainly have encouraged any who needed to use it to stay lean.

To be honest, I found the church building rather underwhelming compared to its impressive tower, but there is one item in the churchyard which is particularly stunning and which warrants a blog post all of its own. That will follow very soon.




30 March 2020

Cardiff : the Thompson’s Park stones


If you go down to Thompson’s Park today (only as part of your exercise walk, of course), you might be puzzled, as I was, by the many strange stones poking up amongst the grass and wildflowers on the park’s verdant slopes. I had hoped to return to get photos of the many other stones to be found around the park, but the corona virus lockdown means I can no longer access this park, so the stones pictured here are just a taster of what can be found with a little searching.


The land that is now known as Thompson’s Park was once owned by Charles Thompson, a senior partner in the well known Cardiff milling company, Spillers, and Thompson’s house, Preswylfa, once adjoined the park on the eastern side (the house was demolished in the late 1990s and the site is now occupied by a modern housing development).  


The land adjoining Preswylfa was then known as Sir David’s Field (in Welsh, Cae Syr Dafydd), and Thompson opened up this property to the public in 1891. Later, in 1912, he gifted the park to Cardiff City Council, and the stones we see today relate to that transfer of land from Thompson to the Council.


The stones, all of which have Roman numerals inscribed on their sides, were boundary markers. Originally, there were 17 such stones but only 10 are now visible, and one of those has been turned on its side, so its number can no longer be read.


When I last visited Thompson’s Park, in February, I only found four stones but it was a cold day with intermittent hail showers so I didn’t explore far. During my subsequent research to uncover the story behind the stones, I discovered the excellent information on the Cardiff Parks website, which also includes a map of the locations of the additional stones. When I am finally able to return to this lovely Cardiff park, I will try to find all the other stones and will add their photos to this post.

04 March 2020

Cardiff : St Mary’s Church


Even in the short time I have been in Wales – not yet five years, I have seen massive change in Cardiff and not, in my opinion, for the better. Rather than valuing the city’s history with projects that conserve and restore life to the heritage buildings, the city council seems intent on letting developers swamp Cardiff’s lovely old buildings with tall and ugly tower blocks. And don’t even get me started on the (surely now) outdated trend of façadism – there are at least two such construction projects underway in the central city as I write this – such lazy architectural design!

The reason for today’s rant is that I almost missed seeing what remains of St Mary’s Church because of yet another inner city construction project. The church itself is long gone – and I do mean long – due to the severe damage it suffered in the Great Flood of 1607, the church was abandoned in 1701. But the ghost of the church remains as an outline of pale stones on the side of the building that now stands where it once stood.

John Speed's 1610 map of Cardiff, Wikimedia Commons;
St Mary's is at bottom right
St Mary’s began life as a Benedictine priory way back in 1107, but its riverside location (prior to the River Taff being diverted in 1850) meant it was always susceptible to flooding and, apparently, bodies were frequently washed out of its graveyard.

In 1878, the site of St Mary’s was used for the construction of a theatre, the NewTheatre Royal, but that once grand building has seen many subsequent reincarnations, even for a time being a cinema showing pornographic films – I can’t imagine what the Benedictines would have thought of that. The building is currently a Wetherspoon’s pub, the Prince of Wales.    

I don’t know how visible the outline of St Mary’s will be once the current construction project, part of the Central Square development, is finished but, if the wide expanses of bland concrete underfoot and the wind-tunnel-creating skyscrapers overhead are anything to go by, I doubt the developers would have even considered a nod to Cardiff’s historic past, so I’m glad I managed to pay homage to the old St Mary’s Church before it disappears.

23 February 2020

Penarth : hinges


I’ve been known to admire a hinge or two. In fact, I have a rather impressive collection of photos of hinges, but not just any hinges – these are the ironwork masterpieces found on doors, mostly church doors, but also the doors of elegant public buildings, large manor houses, castles even. I’ve recently been trawling around the public buildings in Penarth – mostly churches, or former churches now converted to apartments – and have found these divine examples of the blacksmiths’ art. 

St Augustine’s Church: These are three of the doors into St Augustine’s Church – there are a couple of others, less imposing. Completed in 1866, St Augustine’s is a Grade I listed building, so you would expect its doors, its hinges to be grand, and they don’t disappoint.



 
Holy Nativity Church: The front door of this late-nineteenth church is sheltered within a porch, which is not accessible due to a locked full-height gate, so I nabbed this plain hinge from the back door – still interesting.


Plassey Street Gospel Hall: This Plymouth Brethren Chapel was built in the Arts and Crafts style in 1877. Perhaps that’s why the ends of these hinges look floral.


St Joseph’s Catholic Church: The current St Joseph’s, completed in 1915, is not the first of that name in Penarth – a combined school and chapel were completed in 1877, but that earlier building is currently a construction site. The hinges on this later building are magnificent.


Trinity Methodist Church: Several doors give access to the church, though these, perhaps the oldest, are the only ones with nice ironwork. Opened in 1901, this Victorian Gothic church replaced an earlier iron church. Once again, we have superb examples of the blacksmiths' art.


Stanwell Road Baptist Church: The church itself has a very impressive frontage with two large doors, but neither has ironwork hinges. However, around the corner, the church hall does have hinged doors, though the hinges are quite modest.


As has frequently happened since church attendance began to decline, some Penarth churches have been deconsecrated and converted into living accommodation. One is currently in the middle of that process, though only its façade has been retained and it is not currently visible.


Albert Road Methodist Church is still housed in a small area at the back of the former church building but its door is nondescript. The original church’s doors now open into large, exclusive apartments.



19 February 2020

Cardiff : more drinking fountains


Historic drinking fountains are one of my many fascinations and I’ve blogged previously about others I’ve found in Cardiff (October 2016), a couple in Penarth (March 2017), one in a park in Barry (May 2019) and a couple of chance discoveries in London (November 2019). Here are a couple more I’ve found in Cardiff.


Thompson’s Park
The Cardiff Parks website notes that the drinking fountain in Thompson’s Park

was shown on Ordnance Survey maps from 1901 until the 1950s, immediately to the west of the path running west of the miniature lake. It was moved between 1950 and 1980 to its present position, near the Romilly Road entrance, and it is not operational. The inscription states that it was presented by Mr C. Thompson.


I have not been able to discover precisely when this drinking fountain was first commissioned, though the need for such public watering places was recognised in the mid 1850s and Mr Charles Thompson, the man who gifted both this fountain and the park itself to the people of Cardiff, was present at one of the first meetings to discuss the need for drinking fountains. This report on the monthly meeting of the Cardiff Board of Health was filed in The Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian Glamorgan Monmouth and Brecon Gazette, 4 December 1858:

DRINKING FOUNTAINS.
The Mayor said he had received a letter from a gentleman, named Lewis, suggesting water fountains in the town. He brought this subject forward six months ago, but it was then thought to be premature. Mr. R. Williams said, Mr. C. Thompson was very anxious to do something in the matter, and he asked him to second any proposition which the Mayor might bring before the board. The Mayor was of opinion that the Surveyor should recommend the trial of two or three places where fountains might be put up at the expense of the town, private parties supplying the water.
Mr. Batchelor: Mr. Thompson had been in correspondence with Mr. Melby, of Liverpool, and had asked Mr. Paul to produce some designs. That gentleman had produced the two designs which were on the table, and were accompanied by the following:— The material proposed to be used throughout is the very hard and clean limestone from the Pennant quarries near Bristol. The arch above in design No. 1 to be of red and white bricks. In both cases the stone would be inserted in an existing wall, or incorporated with a new wall in course of erection; and the whole would thus be solid and firm, and not liable to displacement by rough usage. Design No. 2 would be applicable only to a thick wall—such as the Castle wall, but design No. 1 could be inserted in a brick wall nine inches only in thickness.
The character of the design is unique, and free from objections, which may be justly taken to a protruding head or spout for the flow of water. In either design it is intended to arrange the drips so that nothing larger than a small can or jug may be used in obtaining water.
The general idea is taken from the accompanying paper published by Mr. Melly on the drinking fountains recently erected in Liverpool and the suggestions there given as to supply and overflow are equally applicable here. The estimated cost of one complete fountain according to design No. 1 is £7 10s. Design No. 2 would cost about £9.
The Mayor moved that the surveyor be requested to name three places as best fitted for the purpose, and then advertise for the tenders, provided the water be supplied. Mr. Reece hoped that the Board would be more liberal than that. He thought that a public body should not only find the fountains but the water. Mr. Batchelor moved that the surveyor report upon the most eligible spots, and the number required for the entire town, and put himself in communication with the Water Works Company, to ascertain the cost per annum at which they will supply the fountains. A very small stream would be required. The motion was carried.

It would appear that the Thompson’s Park drinking fountain was not one of the initial three suggested by the Mayor at that 1858 meeting. Indeed, it may have been another 35 years before it was installed, as I discovered from a report in the South Wales Echo, 10 August 1893

CARDIFF WATERWORKS COMMITTEE
... A letter was read from Mr C. Thompson, Penhill Close, near Llandaff, asking that the water might be laid on to Cae Syr Dafydd [St David’s Field was the original name for Thompson’s Park]. The water would be required for watering the flowers and grass, as well as the supply of a small fountain.— The committee granted the application subject to such restrictions as would be required by the engineer.


Corner of Llandaff and Romilly Roads
I thought the Thompson’s Park fountain was looking a little sad and neglected but that was nothing compared to the remains of another drinking fountain, just along the road, on the corner of Llandaff and Romilly Roads. This fountain is perhaps 25 years older, having been officially inaugurated in April 1877.

Here’s the report from the South Wales Daily News, 17 April 1877

OPENING OF DRINKING FOUNTAIN AT CANTON.
Yesterday the fountain erected at the junction of the Llandaff-road and Romilly-crescent was opened for public use by Alderman Joseph Elliott, Mayor of Cardiff. Among those present were the Rev Mr Saulez, rector of Canton, Mrs Saulez, and other ladies; Mr T. V. Yorath, Mr G. F. Webb, Mr Benjamin Wright, Mr Alex. Melville, Mr G. Salmon, Mr J. A. B. Williams, Mr Geo. Robinson, the architect; and Mr F. S. Lock, the builder. The proceedings commenced by the Rev Mr Saulez offering up an appropriate prayer, followed by the reading of a psalm and the singing of a hymn by the Canton school children. The Mayor, after a few pertinent remarks, declared the fountain opened. Mr G. F. Webb, Mr B. Wright, and Mr A. Melville severally expressed their satisfaction in the event, and the proceedings concluded by a vote of thanks to the Mayor, and a benediction from the Rev J. W. Saulez. The fountain was prettily decorated with flowers.

It’s wonderful to see that this drinking fountain has been preserved from demolition but how much nicer it would be to see it respected and valued as an important part of Cardiff’s heritage.

13 February 2020

Under my feet : walk markers


I’ve been looking down again, and this time I’ve been seeing the markers that are set in city pavements to guide people through various walking routes. I saw the first of these when I was in London last October, which alerted me to keep an eye out for others. I’ve since found two more and I’m sure there will be others in my future.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk
I spotted this walk marker just outside the boundary fence of Buckingham Palace, one of ‘three palaces and two mansions which figured in the life of the Princess’ (the others being Kensington Palace, St James’s Palace, Clarence House and Spencer House), according to the information about the walk on the Royal Parks website.

The website explains that ‘The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk is a seven-mile-long walk, charted by 90 plaques set in the ground, that takes you within sight of famous buildings and locations associated with the Princess during her life.’ To be honest, the concept doesn’t particularly appeal to me, though I do like the idea that the walk takes you through ‘four of the eight Royal Parks ... St James's Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens’ and, if you were a tourist short on time to explore London, the walk is a nice mix of splendid architecture and refreshing green spaces.

The website also explains that ‘The plaques are the work of sculptor Alec Peever. They have a rose emblem at the centre and are etched in aluminium, which appears like a precious metal. The rose is heraldic in design, and while symbolising the Princess's enduring image, also symbolises Britain's traditions and heritage.’




2005 Cardiff Centenary Walk
Despite having pounded many a pavement in my four and a half years in south Wales (especially in Cardiff), I hadn’t noticed any of these walk markers until a few days ago (though I have seen/visited/walked past all the sites on the walk’s route).

The walk, covering an impressive 41 landmarks and sites of historic interest, was established 15 years ago in recognition of Cardiff’s 100 years as a city. 

Despite that long list of places to see, the walk is only 2.2 miles (3.6 kilometres) long, so it’s easily do-able for any visitor to the Welsh capital.

You can download a route map and a guide book from the Outdoor Cardiff website here.



Wales Coastal Path
You would expect the signage for a coastal path walk to be on wooden posts along the route, marking junctions perhaps or pointing the way forward – and it usually is – but, where that coastal path passes through built-up areas, markers can sometimes be found set into the concrete under your feet. Such is the case here in south Wales, in towns and cities like Penarth and Cardiff, where the markers can be found along the promenade and the barrage respectively.

I’ve only walked an infinitesimal part of the 870-mile-long Wales Coastal path and have no ambition to walk all of it, even if I had the time, energy and money – judging by the route through Cardiff, some sections are pretty dire – but the true coastal sections, which make up the majority of this trail, take in some spectacular, breath-taking scenery that rivals anything you might enjoy and experience anywhere in the world. You can see what I mean and check out the full details on the dedicated website here

09 February 2020

Penarth : the old public baths

On a wet and blustery winter’s day, the idea of a swim in the sea doesn’t appeal much but how about a swim in a pool filled with heated sea water? If you had visited the south Wales seaside town of Penarth from the late nineteenth through to the mid-twentieth century, you could have indulged in just such a luxury.


The concept of public swimming baths was much discussed in Penarth in the 1870s, and took its first step to become a reality in October 1881 when the local Board of Health made the decision to proceed. Initial ideas for an open-air pool developed into something much more grand so that, when the Public Baths were opened to the public in 1884, the extensive facilities were housed within the rather magnificent building shown below.


The Western Mail of 21 July 1884 takes up the story:

The new Bath-house at Penarth, which boldly rears its front on the, as yet, unfinished esplanade and commands an uninterrupted view of the sea, forms one of the many works of improvement which have been carried out in that thriving town within the past few years. The history of the structure is worth telling.
About two years and a half ago the agent of the Windsor Estate (Mr. Robert Forrest), who ever since his appointment has manifested a laudable anxiety to make a popular watering-place of Penarth, turned his attention to the task of providing sea-water baths for the town, “dipping” in the open sea being decidedly unpopular in consequence of the roughness of the beach and the muddiness of the water. He began by instructing the Atkin’s Water Softening and Purifying Company to experiment as to the possibility of clearing the Channel water of mud without, at the same time, taking away its saline property. The experiments, which were carried out at the sole expense of Lord Windsor, proved entirely successful.

Sketch, Western Mail, 21 July 1884

About this time the Penarth Local Board, being moved thereto by Mr. T. R. Thompson, one of its members, took the matter up in the interests of the public and resolved to construct a bath. With this object they obtained from Lord Windsor a lease of a piece of land on the corner of Bridgman-road, fronting the beach and running some distance up the hill behind. Designs for a swimming bath 50 feet long were then prepared and the board applied to the Local Government Board for permission to borrow the money necessary to carry out the work. Mr. J. Thornhill Harrison, a Government inspector, was thereupon sent to Penarth to hold an inquiry into the matter. The project was opposed by some of the ratepayers, but the inspector decided to report in its favour, and at the same time to recommend the addition of a second swimming bath.
This recommendation led to a re-consideration of the whole scheme, and the board subsequently instructed Mr. H. C. Harris, A.I.B.A., their surveyor, and Mr. Harry Snell, the architect and surveyor to the Windsor Estate, to prepare a joint design for a first and second class swimming baths – Lord Windsor having generously consented to defray the cost of the former – and a number of slipper baths. From these plans the baths were built by Mr. John Jones, of Arcot-street, Penarth, who has carried out his contract on the most efficient and satisfactory manner. The total cost has been £7,500, the amount paid by Lord Windsor being about £3,000.

The article continues with a description of the exterior of the building, which, unfortunately, now lacks some of its distinguishing features:

The exterior is designed in the Renaissance style, the elevation being decidedly handsome. The structure is composed of blue lias stone, with Bath stone and white brick dressings. From the south-west corner rises a rather imposing octagonal tower, surmounted by a cupola. This tower is in reality nothing more than a glorified chimney stack, for its sole use is to carry away the smoke ascending from the boiler fires. The architects are to be congratulated on the success of their expedient for preserving the ornate appearance of the building, which would have been sadly marred by such an unsightly object as an ordinary chimney stack.
The upper stage of the masonry portion of the tower is enriched by sgraffito work, an effective kind of decoration, of which this is said to be the only example in South Wales. The subject of the design in each of the eight panels is the same – a boy driving a pair of dolphins – but the details are varied in every instance. The sgraffito work was executed by Mr. H. Wormleighton, of Lower Cathedral-road, Cardiff, who also sculpted an elaborate nautical design on the tympanum over the large front window.


Sadly, the boys and dolphins have now disappeared from their panels, though the nautical design on the main front tympanum still exists and is quite splendid. There are also sculptural designs in the tympanums over the side entrance to the building and above two front windows, though these have all been much eroded by the weather in the 125-plus years since they were carved.




Now for the Western Mail’s description of the interior of the building:

After mounting the flight of broad stone steps which leads up to the entrance the visitor finds himself standing in a lobby, and before him a pair of swinging doors with stained-glass panels, made by Messrs. Bell, of College Green, Bristol. Passing through these doors he enters the hall. The ticket-office will then be directly in front of him, while the first-class slipper and swimming baths will be on his right hand and the second-class baths on his left. The roof of this hall and the woodwork of the ticket-office, as well as the partitions and doors of the slipper baths, which stand on either side, are of varnished pitch pine. There are three hot and cold water (or slipper) baths of the first-class, fitted with lavatories and other conveniences, and four of the second class. All these baths are made of Stourbridge ware, and can be kept scrupulously clean without any trouble. The basement underneath the entrance-hall contains the engine and boiler room, the well containing the pumps and a chamber for washing and drying towels. The manager’s residence is on the south side of the building.

Sketch, Western Mail, 21 July 1884

Unfortunately, I have not been inside the building so have no personal photographs to share but there is a delightful series of watercolours by artist Mary Traynor in the collection of Glamorgan Archives, some of which you can view in a blog on their website

The plug was finally pulled on Penarth’s old Public Baths in the 1980s when a modern leisure centre, with swimming pool, was built in neighbouring Cogan. For a few years, the old baths became a pub and restaurant, the nattily named ‘Inn at the Deep End’ but, when that closed, the building fell gradually into disrepair until it was converted into four separate apartments sometime in the early 21st century. Fortunately, many of the original interior features were retained during the conversion, as you can see in the gallery of images that accompanies this WalesOnline article from March 2013.