Windsor Road – possibly circa 1895 – One of the photographs of Penarth in a book discovered by a collector in Minneapolis USA

Rare photographs of Penarth, Penarth Pier and Penarth Docks as they looked more than 120 years ago have been sent from a donor in Minneapolis USA  to the Grangetown Local History Society in Cardiff.

The photographs are contained in little-known  book called “101 Views of Cardiff and District” and which was discovered and sent across the Atlantic by J. Zimmerman of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

There is no date given in the book but it’s clear from the image of Windsor Road that the pictures were taken in the pre-automobile era. Only horse-drawn vehicles can be seen.

One of the infamous Doxford-built turret-decked ships being loaded with coal at Penarth Docks – probably bound for India.The design helped reduce freight rates but was unstable in storms.

The image of Penarth Docks shows a ship being loaded with coal from one of the piers in the Inner Basin .

It’s not possible to make out the name of the ship but she appears to be one of the unusual looking Doxford-built turret-decked ships which were  designed to get around the rules on which freight tonnage was calculated on the Suez Canal. The ships were charged lower transit rates than conventional ships  – but suffered considerable stability problems at sea.

The original entrance to Penarth Pier.

The image of Penarth Pier entrance shows the relatively-modest original portal of Penarth Pier – possibly taken shortly after the official opening in 1895 . There are two turnstiles at the entrance.

The Cardiff Times report of the official opening in April 1895 read as follows:-

The Penarth Pier, although having been liberally patronised for some months past as a promenade, was formally opened on Saturday in somewhat unfavourable weather. Notwithstanding this fact, however, a keen interest was manifested in the event. The structure looked gay with colour. decked as it was with a profusion of flags and bunting. There were flags, too, on the sea route from Cardiff to Penarth, whilst the Bonnie Doon and Waverley were both rigged up for the occasion. Shortly after 2 o’clock the former steamer left Cardiff with a goodly number of passengers. On approaching Penarth a salute was fired from the pier. It was replied to from the vessel amidst cheers, followed by the strains of the Cogan Brass Band, whose services had been retained for the occasion. Upon reaching the pier Mr Edwards was the first to step upon the structure. There were no speeches, and after discharging passengers for Penarth, the steamer proceeded for the first time this season to Weston. The operations of the Waverley, which followed, were pretty much in the wake of the Bonnie Doon, and the proceedings terminated. We noticed three of the directorate of the Pier Company present—Messrs Edwards, E. Hancock, jun., and Mr Vellacott.”

The Grangetown history society’s secretary – Ray Noyes – is scanning all the images in the book to retain them for posterity.

The society secretary Zena Mabbs has copied the  Penarth photos to PDN and invites anyone who wants to view the original book to make contact via the web page http://www.grangetownhistory.co.uk.


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  1. Karen Luke says:

    No working clock, no flowers in the roundabout, Chris David pontificating from his caleche. I think I can even see Peter Church and Frank Evans remonstrating with him from the pavement. Nothing changes.

    • Danny Oakentrode says:

      Except, of course, we now have a 75% working clock and a roundabout burgeoning with beautiful wild flowers.
      Either you haven’t been past it for some time or you go there with your eyes closed. However, anything is possible if you can see three of the local opinionated reprobates lurking in a 120-year old photograph.

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