The historic Arts and Crafts style mansion “Highlands” with its tourelle tower as it was (above)  – and as it is today

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.

The site of Highlands and its lush lawns

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 entire mansion has now been reduced to stones and scrap timber

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 original stained-glass art-deco front door of Highlands as it was last week and – on the right – as it is  today lying amongst a heap of demolition rubble

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.

The distinctive silhouette of The Highlands was a familiar sight to motorists approaching Penarth . On Wednesday morning its familiar silhouette was missing from the skyline above the “Gateway to Penarth”. It had been flattened overnight.


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.

The legendary Captain David Potato Jones who attempted to break Franco’s blockade in the Spanish Civil War in the Claude Angel tramp steamer Marie Llewelyn

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.]



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  1. Christopher David says:

    More destruction of historical Penarth. The VoG council have a lot to answer for and where were the feckless PTC when needed?

  2. Pat Salthouse says:

    Shameful and disgusting

  3. Modom says:

    Heart breaking, to see the front door and other parts smashed up.
    Such destruction shows little interest in the value of those parts that are re-usable.
    Reclamation people would have been more than happy to hand over some money for the more interesting parts, but no, they have no interest in at least saving some parts of this house.

    • Christopher David says:

      Spot on. Dreadful behaviour all round.

    • They have t got the brains for that peanuts. Developers will make millions probably cheap tacky houses. It makes my blood boil that all our history is going via these greedy grasping council. They don’t care can only see £££££ that’s their interest. Disgusting and should be ashamed.

  4. Susan Baker says:

    Bloody shameful and a tradegy…such a beautiful landmark that was a beacon to many approaching Penarth…I’ve been told that the Labour council passed this ..greed and cold cash no doubt…well I’ve always voted Labour…but I can tell you I will never again and I know a lot people feel the same…Should be absolutely ashamed of yourselves!!!

  5. Alan Peters says:

    How was this building not listed? A beautiful structure knocked down all in the name of “greed”

    • That should have been listed with its age, but hey you get 8 detached houses and 3 terrace blocks in place. I’m sure they think the residents will be grateful for that generous gesture by the council who approved all this and the building company who’s going to be doing the building. Let’s face it none give a crap about the people, the house, it’s location and the impact of extra cars on the road and the ugly replacement blot in the landscape.
      I’m sure the council expect you all to be grateful.probably for that they will increase your council tax. 🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬

  6. Lesley Monger says:

    As I’ve said before poor Penarth losing it’s historic buildings and character. ‘They’ won’t be happy until Penarth looks the same as everywhere else. It’s all about money!

  7. Lesley it is about money, I live in a rural area to and it’s been turned into a mini town by hundreds of poor quality housing. Kids screeching at night and holiday times, cars it’s worse now than when Before the bypass went it. What a joke, a bypass is the red light for big developers to move in and rape the villages. Oh and become seriously rich in the process.

  8. Adam Crozier says:

    It has caused a lot of problems within extended the Berni family in South Wales, the vendor living in Switzerland, its stated sale price is much under market value.

    • Frank Evans says:

      Living in Switzerland.
      Our hearts bleed♥️

      • Sandra Cancelliere says:

        I knew the family that owned this house and they are good people, I don’t know the circumstances of the sale but I’m sorry if it’s caused any rift between the family, the father/husband died quite young and they must have had some difficult times.

  9. Frank Evans says:

    Greedy developers. Let me guess it will replaced by a similar house or crammed will luxury apartments 😥

  10. Viv says:

    It really annoys me to see beautiful buildings destroyed without much thought. I agree that these iconic, historical buildings will never be replaced with , like for like. Shameful.

  11. Mary Edwards says:

    What vandalism! Penarth does not appear to value its uniqueness as a Victorian gem. And to destroy it at night suggests that there was discomfort in an action that had to be concealed under the cover of darkness. Another example of local council philistinism.

  12. Minisotta says:

    If you all care so much about Penarth then why vote and retain a labour led council who have allowed and backed this and other similar historic demolition clearance for developers.
    I have no problem with individuals or companies making money and when they choose to carry out clearance is up to them this project has been discussed and debated tirelessly by the labour council and now you have the result, good luck to the developers.

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