Chunks of alabaster on the foreshore

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.

A 17th century wall monument at St Brides-Super-Ely Church

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 John Coates Carter altar at Caldey Island is made of Penarth alabaster

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.

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Penarth Daily News email address dmj@newsnet.uk . Penarth Daily News is an independent free on-line fair and balanced news service published by NewsNet Ltd covering the town of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, UK. All our news items are based on the information we receive or discover at the time of publication and are published on the basis that they are accurate to the best of our knowledge and belief at that time. Comments posted on the site by commentators reflect their opinions and are not necessarily shared, endorsed or supported by Penarth Daily News.
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  1. Seth says:

    For goodness sake, take the pictures down quick. The moment the Vale sees these beautiful old artefacts, they’ll be on a mission to destroy them. You watch, it won’t be long before someone slings in “planning permission” to knock this lot down, pleading poverty, with another eye on turning a pound by jacking up the cheap flats.

    • Jonny says:

      Walking past All Saints now, it occurred to me that the installation of a CCTV system would be worth its weight in gold. Not only could they monitor the graffiti lot, it would also record any Vale funny business – like chainsaws arriving on the back of vans to get the trees down, foundations being dug in the square or a wrecking ball swinging at the nave.
      That poor church, with a bit of green around it, must be feeling very vulnerable in the current climate.

      • Simon says:

        What are you talking about? CCTV wouldn’t stop the Vale, nor an electric fence driven by a Speedrite 63000RS charger.

  2. Jackson says:

    For a moment, when I saw that first image of what appeared to be alabaster rubble, I thought the Vale had been smashing up more churches. When are they getting the bulldozers in on St Paul’s?

  3. snoggerdog says:

    i use the word “alabaster” when i hit my thumb with a hammer!

  4. lesley withers says:

    And this is why I love the PDN.

    • Michael Statham says:

      I wonder Lesley if you are a descendant of Henry Withers who, in the 1860’s, quarried alabaster on Penarth beach? Please consider buying the book!

  5. Michael Statham says:

    To obtain a copy please contact jana.horak@museumwales.ac.uk

    But don’t leave it too long, half the print run has already been sold!

    • Martha says:

      It looks a wonderful book, and I imagine it was a tremendous amount of work. Thank you for putting it together. I love things like this and intend buying a copy.

  6. jamie owen says:

    Michael – really enjoyed reading the book. I had no idea about this wonderful story Jamie Owen

  7. Catherine O'Brien. says:

    Your book breathes life into a long forgotten stone used in many buildings throughout Wales and beyond. Penarth should celebrate this history. I bought a copy of the book and enjoyed it.

  8. Roland Lamble says:

    Well worth reading. Nicely presented and well-illustrated. Interesting for the subject matter, but also a reminder of some familiar places worth revisiting. Also some new sights to explore not too far away such as Insole Court in Llandaff.

  9. This is a facinating and very well researched book about Penarth alabaster. I would recommend it to anybody interested in local history or rocks and minerals, especially the many ways this beautiful stone can be used. Well done!

  10. Lovely book, gorgeous illustrations. What you have done on the earlier history of Penarth alabaster is particularly interesting.

  11. Vanessa Cunningham says:

    This book is a treasure and deserves to be widely known. And if you want to see some beautiful examples of Penarth alabaster, watch for the reopening of Insole Court later this year.

  12. John Henry says:

    Mike Statham’s research is impressive. He has discovered evidence of an extensive trade in Penarth’s alabaster with well illustrated examples of its use throughout South Wales and further afield in Norfolk, London and Germany. With little documentary evidence to go on, Mike’s detective work has drawn our attention to a very attractive monumental stone.

  13. dtideyvirginmediacom says:

    This is an excellent piece of local history very well illustrated. There’s even some Victorian melodrama thrown in ! I think it’s very important that the history of local products should be recorded so that they can take their place in the story of the area.

  14. Dave Miles says:

    A very interesting and well researched book. Lets not forget, or overlook our local history gems.

Comments are closed.