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History: Marine Hotel and Barry Island

It seems over the years, Barry Island seems to be the shining light of identity for the Barry and District.

However, many times have I been asked this, “Karl-James Langford, was Barry Island ever an island?”

Well, I could ignore the question and reply in a sarcastic way, but one, never does. For when you look at the area today, it is difficult to think of a time when Barry Island was just that an island surrounded by water at hightide.

For after 1884 for all those dams, and bridges built across ‘The Sound’ (the name given for the space between Barry Island and the main land of Barry) , slowly dragged Barry Island to the mainland. The water logged landscape has now been lost within a landscape of housing and other development.

Barry Island until 1850 was nothing more than a place lost in time with a rundown farmhouse, outbuildings and forgotten about sacred wells until things changed. Francis Crawshay purchased Barry Island in 1856; a very eccentric man, who saw that his new home The Marine Hotel, was to accommodate friends visiting him on the Island.

You may add that the image we examine today is of a different structure. The original Marine Hotel of Francis Crawshay building on the start of Friars Point, was eventually renamed Friars Point House, at which point the original name became redundant. However, as Barry Island became a focal point of day trippers, and visits for those building the dock, accommodation was required.

Now, towards the end of the 1800s, the Barry and District saw the construction of a number of Hotels, and 13 of which, after being opened never received the licences for the purpose they were built, such as the Sea View Hotel on Dock View Road, which became the Sea View Labour Club.

One of these new purpose-built hotels; one of which was on Barry Island, however opened in 1893, and adopted the name The Marine Hotel, as it was no longer being used for the grand building Friars Point. The Marine Hotel on the corner of Plymouth Road and Friars Point, was infact a much larger building than you can find today; alas some parts of it were demolished over the past few decades. However, what building still remains; although it is now been converted into flats, is still impressive.

Back in the day, in the late 1800s you entered through a very impressive Portico entrance, with stone details picked out in Portland stone. The rest of the structure utilising locally sourced Red brick. The Marine Hotel was the place to stay on Barry Island, with an array of fine rooms to stay it, after a long summer evening eating icecream on the sands of the Bay, or if you had been visiting the Barry and District on business.

Now when viewing the building facing onto Friars Road, the scroll work surrounding the lettering entrapping the words 1893 MARINE HOTEL. This is an echo of times when we built in a much grander way. Most of the buildings of note were built to last in the late 1800s, in such a way the Marine Hotel was constructed.

One thing of final note is that one local resident told me story that The Marine Hotel was a haunt of Lifeguards and Coastguards from Barry Island. And then ironically inquests were held into deaths caused to drowning, and other reasons at the Marine Hotel also.

Many thanks for joining us this week. More from our enigmatic Barry and District next week.

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