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Penarth is a town and seaside resort in the Vale of Glamorganmarker ( ), Wales ( ) 5.2 miles (8.4 kilometres) south west from the Welsh capital city of Cardiffmarker ( ) and lying on the north shore of the Severn Estuary ( ) at the southern end of Cardiff Baymarker. Penarth is the second largest town in the Vale of Glamorgan, next only to the administrative centre of Barrymarker ( ).

During the Victorian era Penarth was a highly popular holiday destination, promoted nationally as “The Garden by the Sea” and was packed by visitors from the Midlandsmarker and the West Country as well as day trippers from the South Wales valleysmarker mostly arriving by train. Today the town and its traditional seafront continues to be a regular summer holiday destination for predominantly older visitors, but in much lower numbers that were common from Victorian times until the 1960s when cheap overseas package holidays were introduced.

Although the number of holiday visitors has greatly declined, the town retains a substantial retired population, representing over 25% of residents, but Penarth is now predominantly a dormitory town for Cardiff commuters. The town’s population was recorded as 23,245 in the United Kingdom Census 2001 although further growth has taken place since then.

The town retains extensive surviving Victorian and Edwardian architecture in many traditional parts of the town, and house prices are usually significantly higher than similar properties in nearby Cardiff.


Name, insignia and early history

Penarth Civic Insignia and Crest
The Welsh motto Cynghori er Llesiant translates as Counsel for Benefit (or Gain)

Penarth is a Welsh placename and could be a combination of the word: meaning head and meaning bear, hence 'Head of the Bear' or 'Bear’s Head'. This was the accepted translation for several hundred years and is still reflected in the town’s crest which depicts bears. Modern scholars have suggested that the name is shortened from an original “ ”, where garth means cliff, hence 'Head of the cliff' or 'Clifftops'. and the Welsh-English dictionary (The Big Dictionary: Gomer Press) reveals that penardd/penarth eb (feminine noun) means 'promontory'.

The town civic insignia and crest was drawn by a Cardiff architect in the late 1890s from a detailed brief prepared by the Town Board. It features the aforementioned and now somewhat suspect bear's head above a shield supported by two further bears standing. The shield contains a Welsh ' ' to denote that the town is in Wales and a sailing vessel recognising Penarth's long association with sea commerce.

Penarth's medieval walled Sherrif's Pound, an early form of multi-purpose gaol, remained in use until the late 1700s as a place to retain stray sheep, cattle and pigs or to imprison thieves, rustlers and vagabonds. It was located roughly where the car park now stands at the rear of the NatWest Bank in Plymouth Road.

In 1803 Penarth is recorded as having between 800 - of land under cultivation as several farms. In the 1801 census there were just 72 people living in the Manor. Even as late as 1851 Penarth was little more than a small rural farming and fishing village since medieval times with just 24 houses and 105 residents being one of five parishes contained within the Hundred of Dinas Powysmarker, with a combined population of just over 300. Before the pier and dock were built there was a tiny fleet of local sail-powered fishing vessels based on the main town beach that tied up on the seafront quayside.

The manor lands had belonged to St. Augustine's Priory on Penarth Head and later the Cathedral in Bristol, but had been leased to then later acquired by the Earl of Plymouth of St. Fagans Castlemarker. The Plymouth estate office retained control over the planning, building and development of the new town, offering 99-year leases and remaining the ground landlord. All householders in Penarth were tenants of the Plymouth Estates and paying an annual grount rent. The situation would not change until the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 that gave householders the choice of purchasing their freehold or negotiating 999 year extensions on their short leases.

The earliest homes built in the town were streets of terraced houses with busy corner shops and public houses on almost every corner, following the contours of the headland and in the rapidly expanding Cogan area near the docks. Local grey limestone, quarried from what is now Cwrt-y-vil playing fields, gave a particular character to the surviving older buildings of the town. To the south of the town centre, imposing detached villa residences along the cliff tops looked across the Channel to the Somerset coast and the islands of Flat Holmmarker ( ) and Steep Holmmarker, built by wealthy shipping and dock owners from Cardiff who were moving out of the industrialised city for a more genteel and sophisticated lifestyle.

Victorian developments

The pier was built in 1894.
The original pier entrance is shown before the Pavilion Theatre and bars were added

In 1947 the 7,130 ton steamship the SS Port Royal Park, under the flag of the Tavistock Shipping Company collided with the pier causing severe damage that was not repaired for several years
Penarth docks in 1897.
Penarth Pier entrance today.
Between 1907 and 1931 there was a small 'Concert Party theatre' at the far end of the pier until it was destroyed by fire
The contract for the building of Penarth Dock was placed in 1859 and the dock was opened six years later, constructed by a workforce of around 1,200 mostly Irish 'navvies' under the direction of chief engineer Harrison Hayter and implementing the design of renowned architect Sir John Hawkshaw . At the Welsh coal trade's zenith in 1913 ships carried 4,660,648 tons of coal in a single year out of Penarth docks. In 1886 Isambard Kingdom Brunel's , originally a passenger vessel but later converted as a coal trader departed from Penarth Dock on what would become its final voyage. A disastrous fire during the voyage all but destroyed the vessel and she foundered on the Falkland Islandsmarker, where she remained until salvaged and returned to Bristolmarker Docks for restoration in the 1970s.

By 1861 the number of people in the five parishes had increased to 1,898 and to 3,382 by 1871. In 1875 three of the constituent parishes - Penarth, Coganmarker, and Llandoughmarker - were merged together into the Penarth Local Board, giving a population of 6,228 persons by 1881. This figure had doubled by 1891 with the opening of the railway and had increased even further by 1901 to 14,228 persons.

The town of Penarth thus owes its development to the massive expansion of the South Wales coalfield in the 19th century. Its proximity to Cardiff, which was the natural outlet for the industrial valleys of Glamorganmarker, and its natural waterfront meant that Penarth was ideally situated to contribute in meeting the world’s demand for Welsh coal through the construction of the docks.

One feature of Penarth Dock long forgotten today is the tunnel underpass that connected Penarth to Grangetownmarker under the River Elymarker ( ). Not quite wide enough for motor vehicles it was used by commuting pedestrians and cyclists as a short cut to work in Cardiff. The circular tunnel was about half a mile long with an entrance foyer at each end. Lined with cream and green coloured ceramic tiles the route was lit originally by gaslight and later by electricity. Built in 1902 the tunnel remained in use until 1965 when it was closed and the ends bricked up, after a series of violent muggings, repeated vandalism and the cost of maintenance became uneconomical. The tunnel entrance at the Penarth end was located near the lock gates between the outer basin and the number one dock. This historic short cut route was 'almost' replicated and replaced in June 2008 with the opening of a pedestrian and cycle route across the new Cardiff Bay Barragemarker.

The development of the town continued to be rapid and Penarth soon became self sufficient with its own local government, a thriving shopping centre and many new community facilities. What is now the main shopping area of Windsor Road was originally residential housing, but the owners sacrificed their front gardens to build shop extensions although the original house architecture can still be seen above the current shops. Most of the town's fine architectural features owe their origin to the landowners of the time and the results of their vision can be seen by the many grand buildings and parks which make Penarth what it is today. Thanks to the generosity of those far sighted landowners, Penarth earned its wide reputation as "The Garden by the Sea" because of its beautiful parks and open spaces. Furthermore, many of the buildings and features of the town have led to a substantial part of the town being designated as a Conservation Area because of its Victorian/Edwardian architecture. Penarth's town library was donated by the famous Victorian philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. The town's gothic style Police Station and town gaol opened in 1864 opposite the Windsor Arms brewery.

With the arrival of the railway connection to the Welsh valleys in 1878 came the regular influx of day trippers, often hundreds of them at weekends and bank holidays. According to correspondence held in the Glamorgan Record Office the Plymouth Estates Office sought to actively discourage the "rabble from the hills" who came by train to spend brief hours of leisure at the seaside from ruining the ambience of the town. Earl Plymouth's land agent actively disapproved of commercialisations such as fairground rides or donkeys on the beach, that were encouraged by other seaside resorts. He also disapproved of "those persons who swim in the sea either without a bathing costume, or without sufficient modesty to change into one hidden from public view." A permanent air of gentility in the town was the continuing aim of Plymouth Estates.

The developing summer holiday trade was supported by a large number of quality hotels that provided nearly two thousand bedspaces. The biggest and grandest of the hotels were the Esplanade Hotel on the seafront built in 1887, The Marine Hotel at the mouth of the docks, The Royal Hotel at the top of Arcot Street, The Washington Hotel opposite the library and The Glendale and Lansdowne hotels on Plymouth Road. Apart from the major hotels, accommodation was also available at the smaller Dock Hotel, Penarth Hotel, Ship Hotel, Westbourne Hotel, Plymouth Hotel, Windsor Hotel, Railway Hotel and dozens of mariners' lodging houses at the top end of the town. All have now closed with the exception of the Glendale and a handful of small and more recent bed and breakfast establishments.

A Royal Navy minesweeper was named after the town in 1918 and survived the last nine months of the First World War, but only served for twelve months when it was ironically sunk off the Yorkshire coast in 1919, by a mine, probably a British mine. The vessel is remembered on the Royal Navy Memorial at Portsmouthmarker.

At one time Penarth had two grand and decorative cinemas. The first was the Windsor Kinema on Windsor Road, originally converted from a 19th century Territorial Army drill hall and now in use as Monty Smith's garage. The even grander Washington Cinema was built opposite the library in 1936 with a classical 'Art Deco' frontage, on the site of a former hotel and its tennis courts. The Washington closed as a cinema in 1970 and after several years as a busy Bingo Hall is now converted as a coffee house and art gallery, while retaining its original frontage.

Penarth's other distinctive art deco structure was the new General Post Office that was built in Albert Road in 1936. Closed in the 1980s the building is Grade II listed and now converted as an ethnic restaurant, The rear yard, once used to stable horses for the horse-drawn Penarth to Cardiff bus service, is still used by the Post Office for mail and parcel sorting.

Wartime Penarth

Early changes

With its busy commercial docks and the proximity to Cardiff Docksmarker and steelworks it is not surprising that Penarth became a target for Nazi German bombing raids during the Second World War and life in the town during those years is difficult to imagine these days. Road signs were taken down, street lights and house windows were blacked out at night, cars travelled with deflector shields over the headlamps reducing them to a dim glimmer. Road accidents at night were frequent.

Penarth had its own Home Guard detachment manned by those who were too old or unsuited for military service. Volunteers also became Air Raid Wardens (ARPs) or joined the Royal Observer Corps. Even children aged between 14 and 18 were recruited as Fire Guard Messengers, equipped with steel helmets and used as runners, carrying messages through the night raids between the ARPs and the fire service units.[[Image:Wartime buildings on the dock beach.jpg|thumb|right|Temporary wartime buildings on the dock beach, originally used as engineering workshops and US Army offices. Pictured here in the 1990s just before they were demolished.The Grade II listed Marine Building, derelict since the last residents moved out in 1973, can be seen in the background. The building was originally the grand Marine Hotel built by the Taff Vale Railway and their TVR logo can still be seen in the building's wrought iron balcony balustrades.The Penarth lifeboat was based on a yard by the hotel from 1883 to 1905
Photo by Ben Salter
Scrap metals were needed to build tanks and aircraft so hundreds of Penarth homes lost their traditional Victorian iron railings from the front gardens during the war years. Most were never replaced and the ornamental architecture and appearance of the Lower Penarth roads altered almost overnight. Even All Saints' Church in Victoria Square lost its magnificently ornate gates and the railing fence that surrounded the square's green, never to be replaced. Between petrol rationing and limited public transport the streets and roads were almost empty of vehicles, with many children cycling or even walking as far as Cardiff daily to attend school. Schools were full to bursting point, the school rolls bolstered by children evacuated from places like London and Birminghammarker. Most schoolmasters were called up for military service, replaced by previously rare women teachers.


Strict wartime food rationing meant that food had to be found wherever possible. The town’s parks, recreation grounds, open spaces and front gardens of houses were dug up and planted with vegetables. One Penarth resident recalls that behind Westwood College Private Boarding School, in the building that now houses Penarth Conservative Club, there was a large kitchen garden containing many vegetables and blackcurrant bushes. Children could harvest the fruit and vegetables free of charge as long as they provided the school with half of the pickings. The seafront and pier were packed daily with people trying to improve their diet by landing fresh fish.

There was a non profit 'British Restaurant' at the top end of the Windsor Arcade in the town centre and run by the urban district council, where families made homeless by the bombing or any occasional visitor could buy a simple but wholesome three course meal for ninepence (approx 4p in today's money, but £2.50 when adjusted for inflation to 2009).

Military developments

Many Penarth Yacht Club members volunteered for the Dunkirk evacuation and sailed their yachts and motor boats around the coast and across the English Channelmarker to France. Several never returned, having been killed by mines and enemy action during the many crossings.

In 1941 the Bristol Channelmarker, which seems almost deserted these days, was packed solid with almost coast to coast merchant shipping. Freighters were constantly arriving, unloading or departing from the docks. Atlantic convoys made up with hundreds of vessels regularly formed up in the area between Cardiff, Barry Islandmarker and Flat Holmmarker before setting off for America, or de-grouping on their return. Royal Naval warships based in the channel ports were constantly cruising up and down searching for enemy submarines. Penarth was filled with anti-aircraft batteries, searchlight batteries and the sky overhead was full of barrage balloons and patrolling aircraft. The defending Spitfires and Hurricanes were based at RAF Fairwood Commonmarker in Swansea, RAF Colernemarker, RAF Filtonmarker, RAF Pembreymarker and RAF Pengam Moors (later called Tremorfa Heliport in Cardiff Bay). The Glamorganshire Golf Club in Lower Penarth was the site of an experimental rocket battery that regularly scared residents during practice firings. Lavernock Point was the location of Lavernock Fortmarker, with its heavy naval guns, anti aircraft and searchlight batteries and the town’s Royal Observer Corps observation post, that sounded the air raid sirens nightly in the town. Gunner Neil Reid, a 17 year old gunner in 1940 with the Royal Artillery at the Lavernock Fort Battery, would later be posted to the Far East where he was captured by the Japanese. Reid was a prisoner of war in Nagasaki at the time that the second atomic bomb was dropped just four miles (6.4 kilometers) from where he was working on a beach. He survived the blast and told his story to the BBC in 2004.

At the outbreak of the war over 350 soldiers of the Royal Artillery were stationed on Flat Holm, which was armed with four 4.5 inch guns and associated searchlights to be used for anti-aircraft and close defence, together with two Bofors guns. A GL (Gun Laying) MkII radar station was also placed in the centre of the island. The structures formed part of the Fixed Defences, Severn scheme and protected the Atlantic shipping convoy de-grouping zones. In 1943 there was a Battalion of American Seabees, the US Construction Corps, living on a merchant vessel tied up in Penarth docks, while they built a large number of Quonset huts for the rapid temporary expansions of Llandough Hospital and Sully Hospital.

Air raids

Entrance to a wartime public air raid shelter in Lower Penarth
The air raids started in 1941 and continued almost constantly for the next four years. The Luftwaffe bomber pilots flew up the Bristol Channel, following the River Severn as a guide to the industrial Midlands. Many raids however were specifically targeted at Cardiff and Penarth. At the time it was felt by residents that the town was bombed more thoroughly than the Docks, which escaped fairly lightly by comparison. Local resident during the war, Michael Page, a schoolboy at the time remembers:

The sky would be full of noise, the crash of anti aircraft gunfire, the wooshing roar of rockets from the Penarth golf course, the whistle of falling bombs followed by rumbling explosions, the clattering rain of incendiaries, the smashing of broken glass, the fire-engine bells, lights in the sky, smoke and flames and the smell of burning.
For a youngster, it was all rather exciting and always disappointing that we should be led away to some dark place of shelter, just as things were getting interesting.
Landing craft and tanks at Omaha beach during the D Day landings, many of which had departed from Penarth
A typical 'village' of prefabricated Quonset huts during the war.
The quickly erected buildings were used as hospital overflow wards, army accommodation barracks, offices, storerooms and even churches
Eighty-six year old Rose Glenn remembers:

I served as a gun layer in Lower Penarth (Lavernock Fort) back in 1944 as part of the defence forces for the town, living it up in some Nissen huts a few hundred yards below the gun sites.
The term 'gun layer' was a bit of a misnomer as in truth I was part of a close-knit team of radar operators who tracked enemy aircraft and held them in the radar beam till our radar-controlled guns could be brought to bear upon the incoming aircraft.
Our OC was a Major Gover and we became known as 'Gover's Ladies'.
I have lots of memories of the posting there.
In those days it was frowned upon for women to do a man's job but eventually common sense prevailed and we became an accepted and valuable asset to the defence force.

One night in 1942 All Saints' Church was hit by a stick of incendiary bombs and was totally gutted by fire with only the outer walls left standing. The church was rebuilt after the war and reopened in 1955. On the same night a house on the corner of the lane near Cwrt-y-Vil Road, opposite All Saints' Church, was hit by a massive bomb. The house was badly damaged and collapsed two weeks later but was never rebuilt. Albert Road School was also hit by a stick of incendiaries and badly damaged by fire, although it was quickly patched up and in use again within the week. A man living in Archer Road wondered why the morning was still so dark when he drew back his bedroom curtains. His window was being obstructed by a large landmine suspended from a parachute that had snagged his chimney. St Paul's Methodist Church overlooking the docks was totally destroyed by bombs and after rebuilding is today used as a boxing gymnasium. Dozens of ordinary homes were struck by bombs, sometimes whole terraces, including houses in Salop Street, Arcot Street, Albert Road and Queens Road.

Operation Overlord

In 1944 Penarth dock and the dock beach as far as the Penarth Headland was full of invasion barges that departed for the "Operation Overlord" D-Day landings. Many of the Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships were loaded with American Sherman tanks and their US Army crews that had been billeted in Penarth after training, housed in a vast village of Quonset or Nissen huts that had been built in 'Neale's Wood', now the Northcliffe Estate next to the present-day Headlands Nursing Home.

British Commando units trained on the Penarth cliffs in preparation for scaling the Normandy cliff faces. Several of the invasion barges were not used and lay rotting on the dock beach well into the 1950s used as playthings by local children.


Thousands of incendiary and explosive bombs were dropped on Penarth during the war and as late as the 1970s unexploded devices were still being found in the silt and sand on the beaches between Penarth and Cardiff. It is highly likely that there are still many out there buried deep in the mud.

The bonfire night riots

Between 1964 and 1968 Penarth gained infamy across Wales as the scene of riots on the beach and seafront, between rival gangs of Mods and Rockers, that took place annually on 5 November (Bonfire Night). Following the much publicised similar riots at south coast seaside resorts like Brightonmarker, Margatemarker, Bournemouthmarker, Clactonmarker and Hastingsmarker during the summer of 1964 the culture spread to Penarth during the autumn. The youth of the town were polarised between the two lifestyles.
Aerial view of Penarth seafront in 2006
The event in 1964 was sparsely attended with only a few hundred mostly local participants and the general mood was almost light hearted. However, by 1965 motorcycle and scooter gangs arrived from all over Wales and the West Country, some even travelling from the West Midlands to take part. The rioters were matched by ever increasing numbers of police, who had been caught unawares the previous year, many now being bussed in from police forces all over the Principality, equipped with protective helmets and early riot shields.

Homes and restaurants in the town centre and along the beach front boarded up their windows in preparation and the fire brigade located their appliances in standby positions. The town started filling with gangs from the early afternoon and the riots kicked off soon after dusk with swirling charges, skirmishes and fights all over the beach and esplanade. Hand-launched bangers, roman candles and even small rockets were used as makeshift artillery in addition to the many fist fights. Dozens of rioters were injured and many others arrested for public order offences before the hostilities petered out around 10pm. Newspaper and TV media turned up in force to report on the proceedings.

The Penarth riots peaked in 1967 when over a thousand rioters turned up for the 5 November event but the following year numbers dropped off noticeably, aided by atrocious squally weather. In 1969 the police contingent remained on their coaches when it was obvious that there would be no riot that year. The short lived 'Mod and Rocker' lifestyles and fashions were coming to an end all over the country.

The town today

The Penarth Marina development.
Pictured are vessels tied up in what was the outer basin of Penarth docks
The coal trade from Penarth docks eventually petered out during the 1950s and up until 1965 the basins were used by the Royal Navy to mothball dozens of destroyers and frigates from the no longer needed wartime fleet of warships, until they were sold to foreign nations or broken up. By 1967, after barely a hundred years of commercial operations, the docks lay unused and derelict, and much of it was used for landfill. The largest basin, No 2 dock at the Cogan end, is now completely filled in, grassed over and surrounded by roadways.

In 1987 the new Penarth Marinamarker village opened on the disused docks site. The No 1 dock and outer basin were re-excavated or dredged out to provide some 350 yacht berths, surrounded by extensive modern waterside homes and several marine engineering yards. The original dock office and Excise House is now in use as a popular restaurant, with only the Grade II listed Marine Hotel remaining derelict and boarded up awaiting suitable redevelopment plans. The Penarth Marina development was one of the key catalysts to the similar later redevelopment of the Cardiff Bay area.

Penarth is one of the most affluent areas in the Vale of Glamorgan and property prices continue to remain high. Marine Parade or 'Millionaires' row', with its grand, substantial Victorian houses or modern designer villas with views across the Bristol Channelmarker, is considered to be the finest street in Penarth, although several larger properties are now split as apartments or adapted as residential care homes. Houses in Penarth vary from imposing three storey red brick Victorian houses found on both Plymouth and Westbourne Roads to compact stone terraces in Coganmarker and upper Penarth. Many of the Plymouth Road, Westbourne Road, Victoria Road and Archer Road houses, originally large family homes with servants' quarters on the top floors, have now been adapted for multi-occupancy as flats and apartments. Penarth Marinamarker in direct contrast features trendy modern townhouses, apartments and designer penthouse.

In 1930 the General Post Office (GPO), later British Telecom (BT), had built its main telephone engineers' college on the corner of Forrest Road and Westbourne Road where engineers from all over the UK attended basic and advanced residential courses lasting up to eight weeks. The college closed in the 1980s and stood empty for many years before being demolished for a new development of residential housing.

In 1965 the combined Cardiff Universities built the multi-storey International House on Plymouth Road near the end of Cliff Parade to provide Halls of Residence for up to 300 overseas students attending University College, Cardiff and the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology. Abandoned in the late 1990s, after just 30 years in its original use, International House is now converted as a specialist residential care home.

In March 2008 several scenes for the Doctor Who episode "The Stolen Earth" were filmed in and around Penarth streets.


Town Council

A local rail network map from 1914
Penarth is split into four electoral wards. Plymouth, Stanwell, Cornerswell and St. Augustines. The first three are named after the key spine roads, whilst the latter is named after the landmark church situate on Penarth Head. Plymouth ward and Stanwell ward are traditional locations for professional families staking a claim in Penarth's Stanwell School. Cornerswell ward contains both the Cogan community and the Poet's Estate where residents live on roads named after Wordsworth, Milton, Tennyson and Chaucer. The St Augustine's ward does not serve a natural 'community' but extends from the Marina development, over the Penarth Head area through the town centre and old Penarth as far as the junction of Stanwell and Cornerswell Roads. The wards of Cornerswell, Plymouth and St Augustine's are represented by Conservatives, many long standing councillors.

The "Father" of the Town Council, (the longest serving of the 16 councillors representing the town), and Deputy Leader of the Council is Co. Cllr. Anthony M. Ernest of the Plymouth Ward.Cllr Gwyn Roberts of the Labour Party is the sole party member representing St Augustine's ward in the 5 member ward. The ward of Stanwell is represented by Penarth Fairtrade Forum Chairperson Mark Wilson and Janice Birch of the Labour Party and Cllr John Ferris of the Conservatives.

The current Mayor of Penarth is a Conservative Councillor who represents Cornerswell Ward, Cllr John Forbes Fraser and he is also Leader of Penarth Town Council.

Vale of Glamorgan Council

Penarth is made up of four electoral wards. St Augustine's ward is represented by Conservative Cllrs Sophie Williams and Paul Church. For Plymouth Ward, they are Conservative Cllrs Maureen Kelly-Owen and Cllr Clive Williams. For Cornerswell Ward it is Conservative Cllrs Dorothy Turner and John Fraser. Cllrs Mark Wilson and Janice Birch are the two remaining Labour Party councillors representing the Stanwell Ward.


Cardiff South and Penarth is currently represented by Alun Michael JP MP a member of the Labour & Co-operative Party (UK). He has been member of parliament since 1987, replacing Jim Callaghan.

Assembly for Wales

Lorraine Barrett represents Cardiff South and Penarth in the National Assembly for Wales (Labour & Co-operative Party). First elected in 1999 Barrett has been re-elected twice, in 2003 and 2007.

There are four Regional Assembly Members also representing the area: David Melding AM (Conservative), Andrew RT Davies AM (Conservative), Leanne Wood AM (Plaid) and Chris Franks AM (Plaid).

European parliament

The MEPs for the area are Jill Evans (Plaid Cymru), Eluned Morgan (Labour) Jonathan Evans (Conservative) and (Vaughan Gethin) (Labour).


Sea shore

Penarth lies 5.2 miles (8.4 km) south west of Cardiff by road and has a road infrastructure that has been much improved in recent years, together with a traditional rail link. The Cardiff Bay Barragemarker between Penarth Head and Grangetown was completed in 1999 and came into operation shortly afterwards. The impounding of the River Taffmarker and River Elymarker has created 2 km² or of freshwater lake in the Cardiff Bay. The promised pedestrian and cyclist short cut to Cardiff across the barrage finally opened to the public on Friday 27 June 2008, after numerous postponements.

An imaginary line drawn between Lavernock Pointmarker, just two miles (3 km) south west of Penarth and Sand Point, Somersetmarker marks the lower limit of the Severn Estuary and the start of the Bristol Channel, hence Penarth is technically deemed to be in the Severn Estuary and not on the Bristol Channel. Because of the extreme tidal range there are very strong currents or rips close inshore, with speeds that exceed 7 knot (13 km/h), for several hours at each tide. The rise and fall of the tides at Penarth are the second highest recorded anywhere in the world and on occasions when certain moon phases coincide with the spring and autumn equinoxes the sea level can overspill the esplanade wall and flood the roadway, particularly if in conjunction with a high wind.


The general underlying sub-strata below the land and fields surrounding Penarth is of a limestone that was laid down under a prehistoric warm sea and subsequently ground down by ice age glaciers approximately 18,000 years ago. This produced the rich, brown and dry soil that provided an ideal growing medium for cereal crops during the medieval farming history of the area. The abundance of limestone was exploited for nearly a hundred years at the Cosmeston quarry that fed the Snocem cement factory in Lower Penarth until it closed down in 1970 and the quarry was converted into Cosmeston Lake at the new country park.


Strata formation - Cliffs near Penarth
The town is located at the top of cliffs that have a distinctive strata rock formation that is world known and referred to as the Penarth Group of rocks or Penarth coeval strata wherever it appears in Britain. The Penarth cliffs are made of interspersed layers of limestone and alabaster, both of which are dry and crumbly rocks. The Penarth cliffs contain the largest known outcrop of naturally occurring Pink Alabaster anywhere in the world but, although decorative and highly prized by local gardeners to crown their rockeries, it is considered to be much inferior to the harder and hand-carvable whiter alabasters found elsewhere.

The main problem associated with the dry and crumbly nature of the limestone and alabaster rocks, that make up the cliffs that border Penarth, is the continuing and relentless erosion by the sea. Rockfalls are frequent and walkers using the beach should not walk too close to the base of the cliffs. The cliff has retreated many tens of metres even in living memory, with the area around Penarth Head remaining most at threat and several structures once on the clifftop already having been smashed on the beach below. A reinforced concrete and iron staircase that once led from Penarth Head to the beach, built by the war department just before the First World War, was already destroyed by advancing erosion as long ago as the early 1950s.


The latest demographic figures date from the United Kingdom Census 2001. They are now seven years out of date and this should be taken into account. The 2001 data shows:

Population: 23,245
Male: 11,031
Female: 12,214
Average age: 42
Retired: 5,904
Immigrants: 2,814
Degree educated 7,457
Living in households: 22,805
Living in communal establishments: 440
Students away from home: 339


Town centre roundabout and clock
There are little in the way of major employers or substantial industry in the town with the majority of employed residents commuting to the commercial and industrial base of nearby Cardiff.

After a recent reversing of the trend to fill the town's shopping area solely with charity shops, Penarth now features a growing collection of boutique stores together with traditional butchers, bakers and greengrocers, bookshops, estate agents and smaller department stores. Shoppers are finally being lured back to the town centre, but although local politicians of all parties have been keen to claim the credit for this, it is more likely to be due to the application of local traders and a general civic pride.

Penarth consequently has a town centre which serves the local community with a wide-range of goods and services. For a relatively small town, the central town area consists of a high-quality selection of food retailers ranging from quality local butchers to several long-standing ethnic food outlets. A local delicatessen owner, Mrs Sian Fox, won the 2008 Vale businesswoman of the year award.

The town centre also serves Penarth's many retired residents with a variety of high quality cafes and coffee houses. These cafes offer a wide range of organic and fair trade coffees, contributing to Penarth being established as a fair trade town after an initiative by previous mayor Councillor Mark Wilson and the Town Council. The town also has many good quality restaurants featuring either English cuisine or Indian cuisine curry.

The Penarth Chamber of Trade has recently been successfully re-launched and the town centre is now looking more prosperous than it has done for a long time. However, despite town centre improvements, the past thirty years has seen many attractive and imposing seafront Victorian hotels and houses demolished in favour of bland 1960s and 1970s style apartment blocks. The theatre and bars on the town's pier were allowed to fall into neglect and disrepair, although the pier itself remains open to the public.

Many of the town's residents and prominent developers have voiced frustration and anger at the apparent neglect of the seafront area and steer much criticism for this at the Conservative-controlled Vale of Glamorgan local authority, for not doing enough to secure the future development of the esplanade as a continuing asset to the town. In August 2008 long awaited plans for the development of the Pier's derelict pavilion were made public. The £2 million Lottery-funded scheme was planned to include a 98-seat cinema and theatre, a cafe and gallery, bar and a large multi-purpose area that will retain the Victorian vaulted ceiling and the Vale of Glamorgan council allocated a starter contribution of £800,000 to enable the initial Lottery Fund application to proceed, an application that was unexpectedly declined due to shortage of available funds. In the autumn of 2008 a Penarth Town Centre Task and Finish Group was formed and the chair, Councillor Mark Wilson, expressed determination to consult with many interested groups, including the Penarth Society, in order to look for a positive way ahead for the town. In November 2009 the National Lottery Heritage Fund granted a £99,000 interim award to permit further planning to proceed. The project now has two years to progress to a full application.

Landmarks and attractions

Cosmeston Lake view
Cosmeston Lakes Country Parkmarker has been a popular attraction, throughout the years since it was developed in 1970. Apart from the lake and a wide range of water fowl there are acres of pleasant walks in woodlands and on the heath.

Cosmeston Medieval Villagemarker is open daily and features historical re-enactments during the summer weekends and on bank holidays. The reconstruction of the historical village has been described as the best of its kind in Britain.

Turner House Art Gallery is located at the top end of Plymouth Road and is the current exhibition space for Ffotogallery the national photography development agency for Wales. It features regular exhibitions of photography, video and new media art. The gallery was opened in 1888 by local resident, James Pyke Thompson, originally to house his personal art collection. There is also a small art gallery located at the Washington Buildings, a tastefully converted 1930s art deco cinema. Although the back of the Washington Cinema which used to be a Hyper-value store is now a Tesco Express, with a possibility that Subway and Domino's Pizza may join them.

Alexandra Gardens is the town's main Victorian Park, opened in 1902, with colourful flowerbeds, leafy glades, an ornamental fishpond, ornate bandstand and the town's Cenotaph memorial to the fallen of two world wars. The park leads from the town down to the seafront, almost connecting up with the Windsor Gardens park that runs above and parallel to the esplanade.

The Paget Rooms hosts dances, occasional pop concerts and plays by local dramatic societies. The 1970s superstar Tom Jones played one of his final UK concerts at the Paget Rooms before moving to America. Top Welsh band Man once recorded a live album at the Paget Rooms, using the famous Decca mobile studio that also recorded The Rolling Stones and today pristine copies of the limited edition vinyl pressing, named (incorrectly) , now change hands for substantial sums of money. Man recently announced that they are planning to return for a further concert at the Paget Rooms during 2009, for the first time in 37 years.
Penarth Yacht Club
The beach front promenade remains a popular draw for visitors and tourists with its Victorian Italian Garden that displays many unusual palm trees and exotic plants. The surviving element of the original Victorian pier is a summer staging point for the various pleasure steamers, that ply their trade from time to time in the Bristol Channel and the pier is used as a popular winter sea fishing venue. There is also the historic Penarth Yacht Club, built in 1883, stood next to the new RNLI lifeboat station and its associated shop, together with a wide range of popular cafes and restaurants available on the seafront. The seafront remains unspoiled and uncommercialised with none of the garish and noisy amusement arcades that plague most of the other traditional Victorian holiday resort frontages. The town's swimming pool and baths built in the late 1800s was closed in the 1980s and, after a short reincarnation as a bar and bistro, has recently been tastefully converted into luxury flats while retaining its Victorian exterior.
The Italian Gardens
The clifftop walks to the bays of Lavernock, St Mary's Well and Swanbridgemarker with their beaches and the historic hut where Marconi first transmitted radio messages over open seamarker remain popular with residents and visitors alike. The old trackbed of the railway that once connected Penarth to Cadoxtonmarker and Barry Island and was closed by the Beeching Axe is now a rural greenway and cycle track from the Archer Road rail bridge as far as the Fort Road bridge in Lavernock. The remaining main section of the Lavernock Fortmarker gun battery has been listed as an Ancient Monument. The Lavernock Point Nature Reserve is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales.

The town has mounted the two week long Penarth Holiday Festival each July since 1966 that features special events and celebrations all over the town. These have included pop concerts, yacht regattas and power boat races, donkey derbies, parades, fairs and fetes in the parks, tea dances, stage shows, art exhibitions and spectacular firework displays. In 1970 the festival was closed with an air display by the Red Arrowsmarker above the clifftops and sea front.


Secondary schools

St Cyres Comprehensive Schoolmarker, formerly St Cyres Secondary Modern School has employed a keen focus on its Welsh Baccalaureate programme, where it has led the way in delivering this new qualification, associated to the International Baccalaureate programme. Currently spread over two sites with years seven to nine located in both Penarth and nearby Dinas Powys, and years ten to thirteen on just Penarth, the bigger of the two sites. St Cyres is hoping to see building work commence in 2010 - 2011 on its brand new campus that will see all of its 1,479 pupils together on a single site, subject to capital funds being provided. The main feeders schools for St Cyres are Llandough Primary, Fairfield County Primary, Cogan Primary and all the primary schools in Dinas Powys. In the autumn of 2008 St Cyres became the first fairtrade secondary school in Penarth.
Stanwell School
Stanwell Schoolmarker, formerly Penarth County Grammar School, is a co-educational comprehensive school for 11-18 year olds. The school has been subject to a substantial investment of several million pounds in new buildings, facilities and equipment in the last decade. Specialist teaching accommodation has been provided for Science (featuring eleven modern laboratories), drama, music, media studies, P.E. (including sports halls), Information Technology, Art and Design Technology. The school currently has approximately 1,600 pupils including a thriving sixth form. The main feeder schools for Stanwell are Albert Road, Victoria , Evenlode and Sully Primary School.

Westbourne Schoolmarker is a small coeducational independent day school, nursery and prep school for children between the ages of 3 and 18 located on the corner of Stanwell Road and Hickman Road. There are currently 162 pupils on roll. The school is housed within two buildings, approximately half a mile apart. The first houses the nursery and infants, the other the prep school and senior school. With 24 permanent staff and 2 teaching assistants the class sizes remain small, varying from a maximum of 17 down to as low as 9 in some subjects. Westbourne School opened its new 6th form in the Autumn term of 2008 and major building works are still currently in progress. The school introduced the speciality of the Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate Organisation. The academic results are consistently excellent with 100% passes at GCSEs in 2007 and Westbourne School is nationally recognised as a high achieving school. The school is now owned by the Montague Place Group of Independent Schools.

Junior and nursery provision

Primary schools include Cogan County Primary, Ysgol Pen-y-garth (Welsh medium), St Joseph's Roman Catholic Primary and Nursery School, Fairfield County Primarymarker, Victoria Primary, Albert Road Primary, Evenlode Primary and Llandough Primary School.

Religious sites

Local church sites are:

  • St Augustine's Church is just off Church Place on Penarth Headland. The Penarth parish church of Saint Augustine stands on the headland site of a much earlier church probably dating from 1240. The original church was demolished and the new church built in 1866 at a cost of £10,000 financed by the Countess Plymouth. At the request of the admiralty a saddle-back tower was kept in the new design. Designed by the famous Victorian architect William Butterfield it is described as one of his best polychromatic churches. The churchyard cross is medieval and dates from the original church, but is much weathered and most of the detailed decoration has vanished.

  • St Peter's Church also known as Old Cogan Church Church in Wales is located off Sully Road and is generally believed to be built on the site of a former Saxon church. "The present structure is one of the earliest ecclesiastical buildings surviving in the Vale of Glamorgan and the Diocese of Llandaff. There is a reference to it in 1180 so it was probably constructed just before that of thin lias limestone slabs, a local stone, in a herringbone pattern more typical of earlier Saxon times."

  • All Saints Church in Wales is located in Victoria Square. Built by the Earl of Plymouth in 1892, on a greenfield site previously used as the town's cricket and rugby field and donated by wealthy Penarth butcher David Cornwall, the church is now surrounded by a square of later housing although the original grassed area has been retained and landscaped with trees. Destroyed by a German air raid in 1943, the church was rebuilt and reopened in 1955.

  • St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church is on Wordsworth Avenue. The church relocated from an earlier premises in the triangle opposite the old Royal Hotel, where Arcot Street meets Queens Road. The original church and school was built by Bishop Hedley in 1873.
Trinity Methodist Church, Penarth
  • Trinity Methodist Church is in Woodland Place. The present church, built 1901 in a Gothic style, has the only spire left in the town and was designed by Henry Budgen. The congregation had met since 1890 in a corrugated iron building on the site known as 'Playter's Church' built in the 1880s. In 1896 a schoolroom had been built alongside the iron church. Trinity was damaged several times by bombing during World War II, and its stained glass windows were removed for safe keeping to the Coed Ely Coal Pit, Gilfach Gochmarker. In 1970 a day centre for the elderly was established and in 1986 a radical remodelling of the original school accommodation provided meeting rooms, a thriving youth club, kitchens and toilets.

Sports and recreation

Penarth Cricket Club was founded in 1851 and plays in the South Wales Premier League. They originally played their home matches at the site where the Masonic Hall now stands on Stanwell Road. The club have now played at their current site at The Athletic Ground on Lavernock Road since 1924 when the site was gifted to the town by the Earl of Plymouth and shares the facilities with Penarth Rugby Club, Penarth Hockey Club, and in recent years, Penarth Lacrosse Club. The cricket club operates 4 regular league sides on a Saturday. The first XI currently plays in the South Wales Premier League. A number of current and former players have played for Glamorgan CCC, and Wales MC, and there have been many players who have gained junior representative honours.
The once-renowned Penarth Rugby Football Club is based at The Athletic Ground, Lavernock Road, Penarth, where it played Wales' and the West Country's premier clubs until the creation of the Welsh League system in the early 1990s. It has had somewhat of a renaissance in recent years, and in season 2006-07 won promotion to Division 3 South-East of the Welsh National Leagues by finishing runner-up in Division 4 South-East. Penarth RFC used to host the world-famous Barbarians Football Club each Easter Good Friday, until 1986. This fixture was the start of the "Baa-Baas" annual South Wales tour from the team’s spiritual home of Penarth, which also encompassed playing Cardiff on the Saturday, Swansea on Easter Monday and Newport on the Tuesday. On the Thursday before Good Friday, the Barbarian rugby squad would be allowed free use of the Glamorganshire Golf Club, when they would play a match amongst themselves using only two golf clubs. On Easter Sunday, the Golf Club held its annual tournament for club members for a trophy titled the Barbarian Cup. The grand (but now demolished) Esplanade Hotel, formerly located on the seafront at Penarth would host the gala party for the trip. Penarth has a second and more recent rugby union club Old Penarthians RFC, originally formed out of 'old boys' from Penarth County Grammar Schoolmarker, but no longer applying that restrictive membership criteria.

Penarth currently has two football clubs. The longest established is Cogan Coronation AFC, known locally as the 'Coro' that was founded in 1960, playing their home games at the Penarth Leisure Centre recreation fields. The senior team currently features in the South Wales F.A. Senior League 1st Division and their best season was 2000/2001 when they finished the year in second position. The club fielded eighteen teams at various age groups in the 2007/2008 season. Cogan Coronation players Mark Eley, Liam Beddard and goalkeeper Stewart Owadally have been selected to represent the Football Association of Wales on a number of occasions.

Penarth Town AFC was founded only a handful of years ago and currently plays in Division 2 of the Vale of Glamorgan Senior Football League.

The picturesque Glamorganshire Golf Clubmarker is located in Lower Penarth and is considered to be one of the finest golf courses in the Principality. The course was established in 1890 and, in 1898, the club was the testing ground of Dr Frank Stableford’s revolutionary new Stableford golf scoring system still used all over the world today.

Penarth has two tennis clubs. Windsor Lawn Tennis Club is situated in Larkwood Avenue in a residential area. It has 7 hardcourts and a grass court area. Penarth Lawn Tennis Club in Rectory Road is the oldest tennis club in Wales (established 1884) and has 3 hard courts plus grass court area. Both clubs compete regularly in the Tennis Wales South Doubles Leagues and have junior representation in the National Junior Club League and Vale of Glamorgan Mini Tennis Club League.

Cogan Leisure Centre is a modern leisure centre sports venue that provides the town with a full range of sporting facilities including a leisure pool and extensive playing fields. The new Cardiff Sports Village is just under two miles (3 km) from the town centre.

Cardiff Morris perform traditional dances from Wales and England and feature several members from the town. They meet and rehearse weekly throughout the year, alternating between The Anchor in Taffs Well and the Windsor Arms public house in Penarth. In recent years several younger members of both sexes have joined the traditional dance side who have performed all over the UK. Of particular interest are their renditions of genuine Welsh morris dance as collected by Margaretta Thomas in the village of Nantgarw in Taff Vale, the key dance being (The Snow Mare)

Penarth Amateur Boxing Club meets and trains in the old St Paul's Mission church on Arcot Street

Penarth Bowls Club is located on Albert Crescent at a bowling green built on what was once a deep limestone quarry.

Public services and facilities

Penarth railway stationmarker serves the town and is the terminus of the Penarth branch of the Vale of Glamorgan Line from Cardiff. It is on an extension of the line originally built by the Taff Vale Railway in 1865 to serve the newly-created docks. All services on this line are operated by Arriva Trains Wales as part of the Valley Lines portion of the National Rail network. Dingle Road stationmarker is also close to the town centre. The Barry branch of the Vale of Glamorgan line passes through Cogan railway stationmarker, near Cogan Leisure Centre.

Penarth is linked to west Somersetmarker and North Devonmarker seaside resorts such as Mineheadmarker, Ilfracombemarker and Lundy Islandmarker by the Paddle Steamer Waverley and , which have sailed from Penarth pier for over 150 years. Devon's tourist trade in the 19th century was expanded when the paddle steamers spent weekends cruising the Bristol Channel taking the South Wales tourists on cheap excursions from Penarth to places such as Lynmouthmarker, Ilfracombe, Bidefordmarker and Clovellymarker. The traditional summer daily service to Weston-super-maremarker ceased in 1994 when Weston's Birnbeck Piermarker was damaged in a storm, declared unsafe and closed to visitors.

The Cardiff Waterbus operates a passenger water taxi service daily between 10.30 am and 5.00 pm, sailing from the Penarth end of the Bay Barrage and the Mermaid Quay on Cardiff's waterfront with seven crossings at hourly intervals. The first boat leaves Penarth at 10.30 am and the last boat back departs Cardiff at 5.00 pm.

Twin towns

Penarth is twinned with:
  • Saint-Pol-de-Léon Brittany, France The town's twinning committee remains apparently inactive and no cultural exchanges or joint civic events appear to have taken place since 2003. The current chair of Penarth's twinning committee is Cllr Clive Williams. In Penarth marina there is an address named after the twinned town, "Plas St. Pol De Leon".

Notable people

People that have been born, lived in or associated with Penarth have included politicians such as Alun Michael MP and John Smith MP, three recipients of the Victoria Cross including Dambuster's leader Guy Gibson and sports stars like Colin Jackson and Dame "Tanni" Grey-Thompson.

Penarth has also been fruitful in literature and the performing arts and included such people as novelist Eric Linklater, actor Colin McCormack, composer Joseph Parry and chart star Shakin' Stevens.

See also


  1. Census Data
  2. Name derivation
  3. Penarth medieval records
  4. Port Royal Park photo
  5. Penarth Historical Data
  6. Penarth past and present
  7. Carnegie
  8. HMS Penarth
  9. RN Memorials
  10. Gunner Reid
  11. WW2 People's War
  12. Flat Holm Coastal and Anti-Aircraft Defences
  13. Michael Page memories of wartime
  14. Mod and Rocker riots
  15. Penarth Marina website
  16. Tide information
  17. East Glamorgan geography
  18. Penarth Group coeval rocks
  19. Penarth cliff erosion
  20. Census Info
  21. Penarth Fair Trade
  22. Cosmeston Medieval Village
  23. Ffotogallery
  24. RNLI Penarth
  25. Montague Place website
  26. Westbourne School website
  27. accessed 29-11-2009
  28. Penarth Cricket Club
  29. Old Penarthians
  30. Stableford history
  31. Penarth Lawn Tennis Club
  32. Cardiff Morris Men
  33. Twinning record

External links

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