Human figures have suddenly appeared in the first floor windows of the boarded-up Headlands building in Penarth

For the first time in many years figures have appeared again in the previously boarded-up windows of the 150-year-old Penarth Hotel, the massive grey stone building which subsequently became a children’s home.

The “faces” are window-sized photographs installed across the first floor of the building by the charity the National Children’s Home (NCH) as the charity’s tribute  – commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War in November 1918  .

The figures include Mrs Gladys Gibbs – who donated the building to NCH, her late husband who was killed in WW1 and children who were brought up in what was then an orphanage and seafaring school

Although the hotel building itself is no longer in use, the hotel grounds are the location of Headlands School which continues to be run by NCH (Action for Children).

The huge hotel had originally been opened by the Taff Vale Railway Company in 1869 failed to  prosper and closed during the Great War.

Major Gibbs DSO and his widow Mrs Gladys Gibbs (nee Morel) who acquired the building for use as an orphanage in memory of her late husband. It was originally known as the Gibbs Home.

A post WW1 photograph  of a young inmate has been installed in the window of the former Gibbs Home. Here he would have been prepared for seafaring career after the loss of his father in the Great War

An enlarged photo panel shows young sailors at the Gibbs Home preparing for a life at sea. The life-ring on the wall bears the uncompromising message “Fear God Honour the King”

Life in the navy involved iron discipline, a head for heights and a grasp of semaphore signalling

The building was then bought by Mrs  Gladys Gibbs (nee Morel – of the Morel Shipping Company). Mrs Gibbs acquired the hotel in memory of her late husband Major J A Gibbs D.S.O., Welsh Regiment, who had been killed on September 20th, 1917, at the age of thirty-seven, during the attack on the Menin Road.

Mrs Gibbs then presented the building and its 5 acres of grounds to the trustees of the National Children’s Home as a memorial to her late husband,  for use as an orphanage – a living memorial to the generation which bore the brunt of the greatest conflict in human history.

Mrs Gibbs said the home should be “used for the education and training of boys for the sea and engineering trades, preference being given to the needy sons of men who have fallen in the Welsh Regiment.” 


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  1. Lesley Monger says:

    In all the time I have lived in Penarth for many years I have never seen any activity
    It’s a wonderful sight but what is happening to this poor building when modern flats are being built in the area and this beautiful building could have been renovated!

  2. Philip Rapier says:

    A sad story about an honorable brave man and his wife..
    Lest we forget.
    Today is the anniversary of the needless slaughter of 1342 British -Empire- and German Soldiers on the 31 Oct 18
    The politicians of the era mass murderers to the bitter November end such as Liberal PM War Criminal David Lloyd George and the Kaiser are not being held to account by the current sanitised version of their crimes being shown on TV and taught in Schools.
    The list below covers the Welsh Infrantry alone- there were sadly many more fallen heroes killed on this day in the Corps’and other Regiments
    Private ‘35236’ DAVIES Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘74068’ EDWARD DUGAY Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘75504’ DUTFIELD Welsh Regiment
    Company Serjeant Major ‘2102’ RICHARD FORD Welsh Regiment
    Serjeant ‘53548’ HINTON Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘75294’ JAMES Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘64465’ DAVID GOMER JOHN Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘55752’ LEA Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘19382’ GEORGE MANN Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘60542’ STANSFIELD Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘56932’ TOMS Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘24783’ WATKINS Welsh Regiment
    Private ‘316080’ JOHN MILLWATER Monmouthshire Regiment
    Private ‘265528’ SIMS Monmouthshire Regiment
    Private ‘62048’ TOOKEY Monmouthshire Regiment
    Private ‘203529’ BELLIS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘73050’ WALTER BRADBURY Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Second Lieutenant GEORGE HAROLD CHARLES Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Lance Corporal ‘63665’ CHARLES THOMAS CRANMER Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘241043’ DARBEY Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘23915’ DANIEL DRISCOLL Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘200664’ JAMES EDWARDS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Lieutenant JOHN IVON JONES EDWARDS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Serjeant ‘31910’ FRED FODEN Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘69416’ RICHARD GRIFFITHS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Serjeant ‘70239’ JOHN GRIFFITHS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘54524’ FRED HARRISON Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘91173’ JOHNSON Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘69314’ JONES Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘242689’ WALTER WILLIAM LUND Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘345741’ WILLIAM DYER MORGAN Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘345574’ EDWARD MORRIS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Lieutenant MORRIS JONES Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Lance Corporal ‘268254’ OWEN Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Second Lieutenant HOWEL DILWYN ROBERTS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘69319’ DAVID ROBERTS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Lance Corporal ‘19964’ EVAN DAVID ROWLANDS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘267001’ SMITH Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Corporal ‘345777’ WATSON Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘290792’ WATTS Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘54370’ WHITTAKER Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Private ‘39248’ THOMAS EVANS South Wales Borderers
    Serjeant ‘6/17106’ FELLOWS South Wales Borderers
    Private ‘267850’ LEONARD JONES South Wales Borderers
    Private ‘45588’ MATTHEW HENRY MORGAN South Wales Borderers
    Private ‘67044’ WILLIAM TELFORD McCARTNEY South Wales Borderers
    Private ‘8988’ CLIFFORD GEORGE TURNER South Wales Borderers
    Private ‘21738’ WILLIAMS South Wales Borderers

    ( Thanks to Fallen Heroes Website)

  3. Frank Evans says:

    Far better to use the money spent to prepare the UK for the future rather than continuously looking back to the past.

  4. Lesley Monger says:

    I agree. I am from Derbyshire originally and my great uncle died at Gallipoli in WW1 and two of my other uncles died at Dday and the Gothic line in WW2. What a waste they were all 20 years old!

  5. Phil Dawson says:

    What a wonderful remembrance of both the cataclysmic times of 100+ years ago and the marvellous philanthropy of Mrs Gibbs – we could do with more like her today. Well done to the NCH for actioning this tribute.

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