Trail 1 - The Pier Windsor Gardens Plymouth Road Stanwell Road Alexandra Gardens

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The Pier and the Beach1 The Pier the Esplanade and the Kymin
Walk to the end of the Pier (1) which was built in 1894. A wooden pavillion where concert parties played was built here in 1907 but was destroyed by fire on August Bank Holiday 1931. The tide often goes out beyond the Pier as the range between high and low tides in the Bristol Channel is one of the largest in the world. During a fierce gale in May 1947 the 7 000 ton Port Royal Park went broadside into the pier causing damage that took two years to mend.

   Turn to face the seafront. On your extreme left is Lavernock Point the southern limit of Penarth Bay. Rising to about 200 feet on your right is Penarth Head the "garth" that allegedly gave Penarth its name. Around Penarth Head protected from westerly winds lie the mouth of the River Ely and Penarth Dock now developed as a Marina. The expansion of the coal trade led to the rapid development of both town and dock in the second half of the nineteenth century.

To your left near the slipway at the bottom of Cliff Hill is a Victorian building with spiralled pillars and a cast iron verandah balustrade. Now a listed building this has been the Yacht Club since 1883. The EsplanadeThe inshore lifeboat was once housed beneath the Beach Shelter the flat-roofed pavillion nearer to you on your left but now has its own building at the north end of the Esplanade. Next comes Beachcliff the Edwardian terrace (1904) with decorative iron balustrades and a tower at both ends. The lower floors of these terraced buildings are now restaurants with living accommodation above. Almost ahead of you is a block of flats known as Windsor Court built in 1963 on the site of Balcony Villa and Rock Villa. It is deliberately free from the ornamentation the Victorians loved but the recessed balconies give a pattern of light and shade.

Penarth Baths
To the right is another Victorian building which for a century housed the swimming baths but has now been converted into luxury houses. It is built of local blue lias stone with carved bathstone window surrounds and pilasters.

Next to it is the modern development on the site of the 1887 Esplanade Hotel badly damaged by fire in 1977. Until 1905 a ferry went across the mouth of the Taff to Cardiff Docks from a movable landing stage in front of these buildings.

Further to the right is Seabank Flats and in the trees above the multi-storey car park The Kymin an 1870s houses owned by the Town Council with grounds recently landscaped for public use.

As you return to the Esplanade notice the fan designs and border patterns on the Pier's cast iron railing and the Esplanade's original lamp standards between the Pier and the Yacht Club. There was no continuous sea wall in the nineteenth century; the promenade was built in 1883 and widened by twenty feet in 1927.

2 Windsor Gardens

Leave the Pier cross the Esplanade turn left in front of Windsor Court and walk on past the restaurants and Beach Shelter. You can now see the Italian Gardens laid out in 1926 on the site of a building once used for storing bathing machines. Walk up the steps turn right and walk out through the garden wall past the large fig tree climb the metal steps (2) to the flat roof and continue up the flight of concrete steps donated by the Penarth Civic Society into Windsor Gardens. Turn left   continue past the bandstand and cross the path into the continuation of the Gardens laid out in 1884. On your right are the modern houses off Marine Parade built in the gardens of the Victorian residences of coal owners and ship owners and others whose prosperity was linked with Penarth Dock. As you leave Windsor Gardens pass the Lodge where visitors had to pay an admission charge until 1932 when the earl of Plymouth gave the grounds to the public.

3 Flat Holm and Steep Holm

Pause on the pavement of the main road. (3) From the opposite side of Cliff Hill a coastal path continues along the eroding cliffs to Lavernock Point. The two islands in the Channel Flat Holm and Steep Holm both have Viking associations. The nearer Flat Holm is a nature reserve and gull colony. Part of the City and County of Cardiff it has been farmed for at least seven hundred years. The lighthouse was established in 1737. There is a ruined nineteenth-century cholera hospital and a barracks that was used during the last war by coastal defence artillerymen. In May 1897 Marconi achieved his first radio transmission over water when his Morse message "Are you ready?" was transmitted from Flat Holm and  received by an 110-foot mast on the farm at Lavernock Point. A commemorative plaque can be seen there in the front wall of St Lawrence's Church.

4 Portland Close

Continue on the pavement round the corner towards the junction of Marine Parade and Alberta Road. (4) Here you will find a Victorian seat post box and fire hydrant. Over the wall you will see the yellow facing bricks of Portland Close a development that won a Welsh Housing Design Award in 1983. It stands on what was the orchard of a school run by a Miss Bate and a Miss Sumner in their house "St Maeburne" - an anagram of their two surnames. Some time later paving stones were laid across the lawn so that children living in the house could lean over the wall to post letters in the Victorian post box we see today.


5 Plymouth Road
Continue up Alberta Road and cross Plymouth Road into Alberta Place directly ahead. Plymouth Road is named after the family that owns much of the land in Penarth. In about a hundred yards you reach a continuous grassed area which from 1887 until 1968 was the extension of the Cardiff-Penarth Railway to Barry via Lavernock Swanbridge Sully and Cadoxton. (5) There was a halt platform here at Alberta Place. Walk towards the old railway bridge turning right just before it to go down Sully Place.

Coastguard Cottages
6 Tower Hill
Cross Plymouth Road and walk down Tower Hill — between 54 and 56 Plymouth Road. You soon pass on your left Tower House the former Coastguard Station. (6) The terraced cottages below were built for the coastguards. Turn left into Marine Parade at the bottom of Tower Hill turn left again into Holmsdale Place and return to Plymouth Road.

7 Turner House
Turn right and walk up Plymouth Road. The three-storeyed semi-detached houses are not quite on the scale of Marine Parade but they represent the spacious stone-built residences of the well-to-do in the 1880s. Beyond 12 Plymouth Road is Roxburgh Garden Court built on the site of James Pyke Thompson's house "Roxburgh".
Turner House GalleryIn 1888 Thompson built an art gallery on land previously occupied by a the thatched farmhouse of Taylor's Farm. He named it after the painter J.M. Turner and used it to house part of his private art collection which was opened to public view. Turner House Gallery (7) is now part of the National Museum of Wales and is administered and operated by Ffotogallery.
Between Turner House and the Glendale Hotel is a path (known locally as the Dingle) which leads down to the seafront. The adjacent Lansdowne House formerly an hotel is on the site of a farmhouse owned in 1847 by a William Randal. The Lansdowne block was built in 1886 by Frederick Speed of Shepton Mallet who also built the 1904 terrace on the Esplanade.


Continue walking up Plymouth Road. The lane running down the side of the National Westminster Bank once led to the town pound where in 1635 the vicar of Penarth is said to have had a violent confrontation with his parishoners.

8 Rectory Road
The next turning point is Rectory Road. On the corner is Penarth Library (8) opened in 1905 with a gift of 4 000 from the Carnegie Trust. On the opposite side of the the main road (Stanwell Road) is Washington Buildings where once stood Steps Cottage said to be the only nineteenth-century cottage in Penarth to have steps leading to its front door. In 1922 Captain W.H. Bevan converted the then Penarth Tutorial College into an hotel which he named the Washington in the hope of attracting American visitors. In 1936 its tennis courts became a cinema and the present shops were built around the cinema's car park.

9 Return to the Esplanade
Walk to the end of Rectory Road past Penarth Lawn Tennis Club founded in 1884. For the town centre roundabout (the starting point of the Inner Town Trail) turn left into Windsor Terrace. To return to Penarth Pier turn right into Alexandra Park named in 1902 after the wife of King Edward VII. Bear right on the higher path (9) and walk down through the park on any of several paths all leading eventually to the Esplanade where you began your walk.

This town trail was produced by the Penarth Society with the support of Penarth Town Council. The text is based on routes and background material supplied by M.E. Brennan Councillor A.M. Ernest Miss C.M. Neill Class 6 of Evenlode Primary School (1984-5) and Penarth Local History Society in response to a competition organised by Penarth Town Council.

The text was edited by Mavis Linstrum.

Illustrations copyright Diana Mead.

HTML formating by Matthew Griffiths.Modified and updated for the Penarth Society Website by Christopher Wyatt