The Island was purchased in 1856 by Francis Crawshay. He was an Ironmonger from Merthyr. Francis built the Marine Hotel, which was renamed Friars Point House at a later date. He also made arrangements for visitors to be brought to the Island by boat from the Ship Inn, (It was known as the Storehouse at this time).
The island was later purchased by J.P Treharne. J.P Treharne enlarged the Marine Hotel and built a pier at Friars Point. Houses started being built on the island after the Jenner family established the Barry Building Company.
In 1876, twelve thousand visitors came to the island.
In 1877, the island was then sold to the Windsor Estate. Information taken from census reports and maps shows that much of the housing that was built on the Island, had been constructed by 1900. There were workers houses right through to villas that overlooked Jacksons Bay and the Bristol Channel. A new Marine Hotel was built on Plymouth Road, and a small shopping area known as the triangle was built.
The railway to the Island was completed in 1896, and the seaside resort began to grow. There were visitors to Whitmore Bay even before the railway and trains took people there.. Steam boats used to drop off day trippers. In 1891 strict by laws banned mixed bathing, so bathing machines were used.
Harbour Road or the Causeway was completed in 1897. This meant that access to the island was no longer just across the docks.
In 1897, the Switchback Railway was opened.
In 1899, the railway was extended to the Pier Head via a tunnel, which enabled the growth of the pleasure steamer trade.
The Barry Railway company fully supported the development of Barry, and encouraged the growth of the holiday resort at Barry Island. P and A Campbell first ran steamers from the pier built beside the dock, but later the Barry Railway Company bought their own fleet to run. The steamers Gwalia and Devonia were there first in1905, and they were followed by the steamer Westonia and Barry in 1907.
The Barry Railway Boat Services struggled financially and closed in 1910. The steamers were sold to other companies.
The Gwalia was bought by the Furness Railway company and then to Tuckers Red Funnel Fleet. She was renamed the Brighton Queen, but sadly was lost at Dunkirk in 1940. The Devonia was sold to P&A Campbell and was also sunk in 1940 in the Dunkirk evacuations. Westonia was sold to P&A Campbell and then to Portugal. In 1929 she was scrapped.
The Windsor estate sold land at Paget Road to Barry Urban District Council. The land was purchased to allow cloakrooms and toilets to be built. Between the years 1903-1905, a Half Penny Promenade was built along the embankment between Paget Road and Nell’s Point. A tidal bathing pool was also built at Friars Point. This can still be seen today. Bathing houses were built for women above this pool, and for men at Nell’s Point.
Construction of the sea wall and promenade began in 1922. The aim was to provide modern seaside attractions at both Barry Island and Cold Knap. Public gardens were planted between the promenade and Friars Road.
The White brothers opened the fairground in 1924. Pat Collins took over the site in 1930. The Whites family then opened Cosy Corner just across from the fairground. The Merrie Friars Café and all the buildings on the Esplanade, including the shops, flats and dancehall were built between 1925 and 1928.
By 1929, the number of visitors coming to the Island was growing. Great Western Railway enlarged the station and Barry Urban District Council built a charabanc shelter at Nells Point. A miniature golf course and tennis courts were also built.
In 1934, four hundred thousand people came to Barry Island in August Bank Holiday week! By now the fairground had the Scenic Railway, which was a large structure made of wood. Unfortunately, it was badly damaged in 1973 by a huge storm, and had to be demolished. Parts of the Scenic Railway were built into the Wacky Goldmine and the Log Flume. These rides remained at the fairground until 2015 when it was taken over by new owners.
Barry Island Pleasure Park Advert – youtube
The Guinness Clock
In the summer of 1951, the whole of Britain took part in what was known as the Festival of Britain. The Guinness Clock was built in Battersea and was sent to various seaside locations around the UK. Barry Island was one of the seaside resorts that it visited.
The clock was 25ft high and featured well known characters from Guinness adverts. This included a sealion, an ostrich, a pelican, bear, lion and many others. The most famous animal was the toucan who remained a part of Guinness adverts until 1982. The Guinness clock also had characters from Alice in Wonderland in its adverts. This was at a time where advertising beer on children’s books would have been acceptable.
Barry Island – Now
Barry island is still an incredibly popular place to visit and there is plenty for visitors to do. The fairground is open throughout the spring and summer months. Visitors can visit the Quasar Laser Gun Centre and the Glamorgan Wartime History Museum which has a World War 1 Trench and an Anderson Shelter.
A perfect day can be had, sitting on the grass at the Promenade, looking out over the beach, eating a cone of chips!!