Old Docks Offices In Barry
If you’ve travelled along Ffordd y Mileniwm from Palmerston to the Barry Waterfront, you will have passed by one of the most iconic buildings in the area. This imposing building looks out over Barry Island – but at one time it faced the busy Barry Docks and housed the Docks Offices.
At the end of the nineteenth century a group of industrialists got together under the leadership of David Davies of Llandinam and with financial investment from John Cory of Tŷ’r Dyffryn, amongst others, to develop new docks in Barry for the exporting of the coal mined in their mines in the Rhondda Valley. The Chief Engineer of the docks project was John Wolfe Barry – who had also been involved in the construction of Tower Bridge in London. Interestingly, one of the other engineers who worked on the docks project was Henry Marc Brunel – the son of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The headquarters of the Barry Docks and Railway Company was built between 1897 and 1900, designed by architect Arthur E. Bell after the style of Christopher Wren. It cost £59,000 to build and an imposing bronze statue of David Davies stands in front of it today. The statue is the work of Alfred Gilbert, the man who designed the statue of Eros in London. A copy of the David Davies statue stands beside the A470 in his home village of Llandinam in mid Wales.
This building exhibits many interesting and unusual features. It is one of a number of buildings which are found all over the world called ‘calendar buildings’. Other examples are Avon Tyrrell House in Hampshire, Cairness House in Aberdeenshire, Adare Manor near Limerick, Schloss Eggenberg in Graz in Austria and so on. The features seen in such buildings are a reflection of various numbers in a calendar.
In our building in Barry there are 4 floors (4 seasons in a year), 52 marble fireplaces (52 weeks in a year),
12 panels in the porch (12 months in a year), 2 circular windows – one on each side of the porch representing the Sun and the Moon, 7 lights behind the traceried fanlight window (7 days in a week), 365 windows (365 days in a year) and a staircase made of Portland stone, which consists of 31 stairs (31 days in most months).
In 1984 much of the building was destroyed by fire, but fortunately, it was rebuilt and today can be seen in its former glory. It now houses the offices of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
Ann M. Jones