A new DVD movie called “The Garden by the Sea – A Story of Penarth” is reported to have received an enthusiastic reception at its weekend ‘world premier’ held at the AGM of the Friends of St Peter’s Church at Old Cogan .
The movie is said to comprise specially shot film in and around Penarth during last summer which is woven together with rare high-quality amateur movie footage of the town in by-gone days.
Released on DVD, the Penarth documentary has been shot and produced by Anthony Hontoir of Downwood Film Productions of Porthcawl. The executive producer is Jayne Thomas Parker . The production is unusual for being entirely a self-financed ; Penarth Town Council had been invited to make a contribution towards its costs – but declined.
When the film was being shot last summer Mr Hontoir put out an appeal via PDN to any local residents who might happen to have old movie footage of Penarth if they would allow him to use it in the production. Within 24 hours of the PDN item appearing on the internet, Mr Hontoir received a phone call from former Penarthian – and PDN reader – James Barnett who now lives in France.
Mr Barnett said he had a stock of vintage black-and-white films shot in the 1930s by his grandmother Esme Leon , one of the ship-owning Leon family who lived in “Dingleside” Park Road .
In September Mr Barnett paid a visit back to his home town and brought with him 100 rolls of movies shot in Penarth by his mum in the 1930s for Mr Hontoir . The highlights and “gems” of this original material have now been incorporated in the final film production.
Mr Hontoior says the huge German airship the “Graf Zeppelin” flew over the Leon house in 1932. The archive material included a shot of two of the Leon family’s merchant vessels in Penarth Dock and Mrs Leon’s busy camera was also turning at the wedding of James’s parents at All Saints Church before it was bombed by the Luftwaffe in WW2.
Mr Hontoir, who’s been in film production for 28 years, says ” I have made a great effort to produce something that explores the town in a way that local people feel is interesting, informative and enjoyable.” His company Downwood Films has produced a number of local history films starting with Porthcawl and then broadening out to include Bridgend, Port Talbot, Maesteg, Pyle and Kenfig Hill. He’s also made special productions on the Restoration of Sker House (2004) and Ghosts of Glamorgan (2012).
The idea of doing a film on Penarth came about because Stanwell Road newsagent Richard Snell – who stocks a considerable range of local history books – also happens to sell Downwood’s other local DVDs. Mr Hontoir says that Penarth Library’s Chief Librarian Marcus Payne also provided him with a lot of assistance in gathering research material and the noted local historian Alan Thorne was also “enormously helpful” .
The ‘world premier’ of the DVD “The Garden by the Sea – A Story of Penarth” was held at the weekend at the AGM of the Friends of St Peter’s at Old Cogan where it is said to have received a round of applause from an enthusiastic audience.
The £9.95 DVD is now on sale at A.B. Snell & Son in Stanwell Road, Umpa Lumpa sweetshop in the Windsor Arcade, Griffin Books in Windsor Road and may also be stocked later in other outlets .