Barry Island, Wales, UK

Barry Island, Wales, UK

Barry Island (Welsh: Ynys y Barri) is a district, peninsula and seaside resort, forming part of the town of Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. It is named after the 6th century Saint Baruc. Barry’s stretch of coast, on the Bristol Channel (Welsh: Môr Hafren), has the world’s second highest tidal range, of 15 metres (49 ft). Second only to Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada.

The peninsula was an island until the 1880s when it was linked to the mainland as the town of Barry expanded. This was partly due to the opening of Barry Dock by the Barry Railway Company. Established by David Davies, the docks now link up the gap which used to form Barry Island.

Although the Barry Island used to be home to a Butlins Holiday Camp, it is now known more for its beach and Barry Island Pleasure Park.

The area’s railway station serves as one of the termini on the Vale of Glamorgan Line and connects to Cardiff (Welsh: ”Caerdydd”), about 9 miles (14 km) north north east of Barry, in 33 minutes.


Prehistoric Origins

The area around Barry Island shows extensive evidence of modern human occupation. Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age microlith flint tools have been found at Friars Point on Barry Island and near Wenvoe, and Neolithic or New Stone Age polished stone axe-heads were discovered in St. Andrews Major. As the area was heavily wooded and movement would have been restricted, it is likely that people also came to what was to become Wales by boat, apparently from the Iberian Peninsula. They cleared the forests to establish pasture and to cultivate the land. These neolithic colonists, who integrated with the indigenous people, gradually changed from being hunter-gatherers to settled farmers. They built the long barrows at St Lythans and Tinkinswood, which date to around 6,000 BP, only 3 miles (4.8 km) and 4 miles (6.4 km) to the north of Barry Island, respectively.

New Cultures

In common with the people living all over Great Britain, over the following centuries the people living around what is now known as Barry assimilated new immigrants and exchanged ideas of the Bronze Age and Iron Age Celtic cultures. Together with the approximate areas now known as Brecknockshire, Monmouthshire and the rest of Glamorgan, Barry Island was settled by a Celtic British tribe called the Silures. There have been five Bronze Age burial mounds, or cairns, recorded on Friars Point.

Although the Roman occupation left no physical impression on Barry Island, there were Romano British settlements nearby – in Barry and Llandough. These people embraced the Roman religion of Christianity and dedicated a chapel to St Baruc, a disciple of Saint Cadoc. Having forgotten to bring St Cadoc”s reading matter with him, on a journey from the island of Flat Holm, St Baruc was sent back and he drowned in the Bristol Channel on the return journey. He was buried on Barry Island and the ruins of the chapel that was dedicated to him can still be seen in Friars Road. His feast day is on 27 September.

The Vikings launched raids in the area and Barry Island was known to be a raider base in 1087.

Gerallt Cymro, (c.1146 – c.1223)

The famous Norman/Welsh chronicler Gerallt Cymro (c.1146 – c.1223), described the origin of his family name in his ”The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales” (also known as ”The Journey through Wales”). Gerallt Cymro, also known as French: Gerald de Barri, Latin: Giraldus Cambrensis and English: Gerald of Wales, wrote “Not far from Caerdyf (sic) is a small island situated near the shore of the Severn, called Barri, from St. Baroc, who formerly lived there, and whose remains are deposited in a chapel overgrown with ivy, having been transferred to a coffin. From hence a noble family, of the maritime parts of South Wales, who owned this island and the adjoining estates, received the name of de Barri.” Going on to describe the island”s well, he wrote: “It is remarkable that, in a rock near the entrance of the island, there is a small cavity, to which, if the ear is applied, a noise is heard like that of smiths at work, the blowing of bellows, strokes of hammers, grinding of tools, and roaring of furnaces ; and it might easily be imagined that such noises, which are continued at the ebb and flow of the tides, were occasioned by the influx of the sea under the cavities of the rocks.” The 1908, Everyman edition contains a brief description of Barry Island by the Benedictine monk, Hugh Paulinus de Cressy (c.1605-1674): “Barri Island is situated on the coast of Glamorganshire; and, according to Cressy, took its name from St. Baruc, the hermit, who resided, and was buried there. The Barrys in Ireland, as well as the family of Giraldus, who were lords of it, are said to have derived their names from this island. John Leland, in speaking of this island, says, ” The passage into Barrey isle at ful se is a flite shot over, as much as the Tamise is above the bridge. At low water, there is a broken causey to go over, or els over the shalow streamelet of Barrey-brook on the sands. The isle is about a mile in cumpace, and hath very good corne, grasse, and sum wood; the ferme of it worth aio a yere. There ys no dwelling in the isle, but there is in the middle of it a fair little chapel of St. Barrok, where much pilgrimage was usid.” Ernest Rhys, the Editor, adds in 1908: “The “fair little chapel ” has disappeared, and “Barry Island” is now, since the construction of the great dock, connected with the mainland, it is covered with houses, and its estimated capital value is now £250,000.”

Modern Times

Until 1896, when a rail link was completed from the mainland via a 250 yard long pier structure, the only access to Barry Island had been either by foot across the sand and mud at low tide, or when the tide was in, by Yellow Funnel Line paddle steamer. Over 150,000 visitors were recorded arriving one August Bank Holiday weekend, mostly by train. Further tourist attractions were developed on the island, and by 1934 the number of visitors to the fairground during the August Bank Holiday week was over 400,000.

The ashes of Fred West, British serial killer, were scattered on Barry Island after his body had been cremated on 29th of March, 1995.

British champion rollerblader and Barry native Rich Taylor died after a skating accident in a Barry street on the 2nd August 2004.

On July 25, 2008, Radio 1 featured Barry Island in one of their summer events, broadcasting a special edition of The Scott Mills Show live from the island as part of the show’s regular “Barryoke” theme, with songs such as ”Smooth Barry”, a twist on the song ”Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson with a tour of Barry Island.

The Pleasure Park Now Has On Official Radio Station Based Within The Grounds Called Taff Air Radio.

Butlins Holiday Camp

Billy Butlin’s inspiration for his holiday empire came from a (less than happy) holiday to Barry Island in his youth, when he’d been locked out of his B&B all day by his landlady. He finally decided to build, what was to become, the last and smallest of the Butlins Holiday Camps at Barry Island in 1965.

Film and Barry Island

Between Butlins” closure and Majestic”s reopening the camp was used as for filming scenes in the “Shangri-La” holiday camp from the Doctor Who serial Delta and the Bannermen.

The island was also used for location shooting for Doctor Who, in the 2005 series episodes “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”, standing in for a bomb site in 1941 London.

The BBC television series Gavin & Stacey, is partly set in Barry.

The Island also served as the setting for “Pleasure Park”, on ITV Wales as part of the It”s My Shout short film series.

Leave a Reply