The history of the pink-and-white coloured rock – found on the foreshore from Lavernock to Penarth – has been recounted in a newly-published book “Penarth Alabaster”.
The book – by Michael Statham – traces the origins of the material and its use, in earlier times, as a raw-material for making plaster, for garden ornaments and for sculptural features – notably in more than 50 churches.
Several churches in the Vale of Glamorgan contain 17th century wall monuments made of ‘Penarth alabaster’ and the book illustrates several examples, such as the one in the church at St Brides-Super-Ely Church built in 1658.
There’s evidence of “Penarth alabaster” being extracted for building material along the coast “from Sillie to the Holmes” and Penarth”as as early 1635
It’s also to be seen in he 19th century St Margaret’s Church in Roath, Cardiff where it was used by the architect John Prichard and in St Catharine’s Church in Baglan, Port Talbot.
The noted local architect John Coates Carter, who designed some of Penarth’s best-known buildings, also used Penarth alabaster to build an altar in St David’s Church on Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire in the 1920s.
The piece de resistance in Penarth alabaster however is in the hallway of a house built in Mayfair by Penarth’s Lord Windsor – which is now the official residence of the Brazilian ambassador. Curiously no Penarth alabaster has yet been located in any churches in Penarth itself – and the use of the material died-out in the 19th century.
Michael Statham’s book “Penarth Alabaster” (published by the Welsh Stone Forum and the National Museum if Wales) has taken 5 years to research and write and costs £9.90.