A Journey in to Wales’ Industrial History

I went to Barry today to get out and about after having many weeks stuck inside doing my dissertation. It was such a relief to go and explore somewhere, something I have missed doing recently. I came across the old railway track that used to carry coal to the docks. It was interesting to travel through the dock and see these traces of its past, especially as I am working on a project surrounding the coal trade and its connection to Dyffryn House through previous owner John Cory. He was one of the founders and creators of the port of Barry, which became a rival to Cardiff for the export of Welsh coal. John and his brother owned collieries across South Wales and were reputedly the largest private railway wagon owners in the UK. I am aiming to create an installation that gives  a reminder of the this story and the wealth that the house was built on.

The research for this project has made me think back over my time in Cardiff and remember my encounters with Cardiff’s industrial history including the export of coal by train and ship. I have been down to the Bay many times and I enjoy wandering around the ‘Bay Trail’ and noticing the traces of the past such as the old docks, railway carriages and tracks.

During  my first year I did a project involving the Cardiff Docks old headquarters, The Pierhead, which is my favourite building in Cardiff. It was built out of a striking red terracotta from Wrexham in 1897 by architect William Frame as a replacement for the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company which burnt down in 1892. Frame’s mentor was William Burges with whom Frame worked on the rebuilding of Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch until Burges’s death in 1881. The Bute Dock Company was renamed the Cardiff Railway Company in 1897. A coat of arms on the building’s façade bears the company’s motto “wrth ddŵr a thân” (by fire and water) encapsulating the elements creating the steam power which transformed Wales. One of its most striking features is its French-Gothic Renaissance theme, with details such as hexagonal chimneys, carved friezes and gargoyles. It also has a prominent clock tower which has led it to be called ‘The Welsh Big Ben’.

During this project I have revisited this building and the exhibition about the history of the docks. There is also currently an exhibition in the Norwegian church about the redevelopment of the docks which I found interesting in comparing how things have changed through photographs but more importantly the small traces that have been left as a reminded of the past. This is a running theme throughout this project that I aim to reflect in my work and final display.


Passing through the Docks also reminded me of my trip to on the Barry Railway line last summer. I was lucky enough to go on a tour around the railway shed and get told about each locomotive and it’s part in the history of the railway during the tour. Pictures from the trip are below:






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