Without warning on Tuesday night, neighbours living on Old Barry Road, Cogan were alarmed to hear the earth shake and the loud rumble of a huge building collapsing.
According to local residents at 19:00 hours that night a demolition crew began work – in the dark – on demolishing Penarth’s most spectacular historic mansion, The Highlands – which once overlooked the “Gateway to Penarth”, the River Ely and Penarth Marina.
Neighbours said they received no advance notice of the night-time demolition work and that young children had been alarmed by the sounds of stone walls being brought crashing to the ground – along with the famous tourelle tower with its distinctive conical roof which was a local landmark .
At sunrise the next morning it became evident that the classic Arts and Crafts era mansion Highlands – which once dominated the skyline above Cogan had disappeared.
The mansion was being demolished to make way for a development of 8 detached houses and a block of 3 terraced houses to be constructed in the capacious grounds .
A “new access road” and new pedestrian footpaths are to be built to connect the site with the Old Barry Road. The entire project will take 18 months to complete.
The named principal contractors, JRS Homes Creigiau Ltd, had originally released a schedule of the intended demolition and development scheme on behalf of their clients – a firm called Highlands Penarth Ltd.
Building work was declared as being scheduled from Monday to Friday from 07:30 to 18:30 and Saturday mornings from 08:30 to 14:30….but no one mentioned a night-time demolition. It was declared that “demolition dust” would be controlled by use of water damping.
However it now transpires that JRS Homes is no longer associated with the project and the surprise demolition was actually undertaken by a different company.
PDN BACKGROUND NOTE:
Highlands was once the home of the Angel family which owned Claude Angel, Sons & Co , a notable local shipping firm which played a part in the Spanish Civil War.
In April 1937 General Franco had stopped all ships entering ports in Northern Spain. Any merchant vessel which tried to break the blockade risked being attacked, bombed, and sunk by Franco’s forces – backed by the Germans and the French.
Claude Angel and fellow ship-owners took the risk of breaking the blockade to feed – and arm – the starving population. One of Angel’s ships – the “Marie Llewelyn” commanded by Captain “Potato Jones” – became famous for her attempt to break the blockade with a cargo of guns hidden beneath a consignment of potatoes but was turned back.
Of the 27 British ships sunk by Franco, Claude Angel lost 3 – SS “Dellwyn” bombed and sunk at Gandia July 27, 1938, “Yorkbrook” and “Miocene’ which were both sunk in two successive days – January 23/24th 1939 at Barcelona. In the event – despite newspaper accounts to the contrary – it wasn’t Captain “Potato” Jones who broke the blockade, but a Penarth skipper Captain Owen Roberts in the Porthcawl-owned cargo steamer “Seven Seas Spray“. He successfully delivered 400 tons of food and provisions to Bilbao.
In more recent years The Highlands was the home of the Berni family who owned a chain of popular restaurants and a thriving ice-cream business.]