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History: Sewage gas stink pipe by Miskin Street

In all my years examining the history and Archaeology of the Barry and District, I cannot deny that there are monuments out there, that I and many other residents have walked past year after year and not realised that the structures were there.

On preparing material for this column, while walking back from St. Nicholas Church with my friend Kylie, she suddenly looked up while walking up towards Park Crescent along St. Nicholas Road, and asked me: “What is that Karl?”

I looked up towards the heavens and on the corner of Miskin Street and St. Nicholas Road, Barry, was this huge – I would estimate up to 15 metres in

height – cast iron rusted pipe with flecks of old green paint. As I was a little bit shocked to see this ‘monument’ I couldn’t stop asking myself the question: “Why hadn’t I noticed it in the 46 years I had lived in the Westend of Barry, playing here as a child etc?”

I made a video for my YouTube channel entitled: ‘Sewage Gas stink pipe’. In doing so, events transpired and a chap pulled up in his van, enquiring what we were doing – he too stated that in all the years he had lived in Barry he had not seen this pipe sticking high into the heavens.

The floral in relief flowers at the ‘vent pipe’ base; with signs of a white paint covering, shows that these structures were not just meant to be utilitarian with a purpose, but ornamental also. It is made in cast iron, and constructed out of several bolted together sections.

Kylie managed to work out what this, ‘pipe’ was, it is a sewage vent pipe for releasing noxious gases. Further to this research; thanks also to Richard Enos the re-landscaping and the rebuilding in the Barry and District, required a sewage system across the ‘new town’. This sewage system in the late 1800s and early 1900s required the building of a brick and terracotta underground pipeline, with tall vent pipes that would send the methane and various sewage gases high up into the air.

These vent pipes also known as stink pipes, stench pipes, noxious pipes, and numerous other names started to dominate the skyline of Britain. The drain waste vent system, saw a certain Joseph Webb patent in 1895, a ‘sewage gas lamp’, which would burn off the methane gas, and light the streets of our urban landscape. Some in Britain are apparently still burning off this gas, to light our streets.

Now the question is did the ‘stink pipe’ at the top of Miskin Street ever burn off the gas, and act as a street light? We don’t really know that there was a lamp light on top of the vent at Miskin Street.

The Cadoxton gas vent pipe at the top of Bridge Street, and corner of Church Road (opposite Cadoxton School), certainly saw the gas being burnt off and used as a street lamp, this was built in the 1890s.

The vent pipe at Miskin Street was not a light? We would however like to think; and it makes sense, that the ‘stench pipe’ at Miskin Street may have burnt off the sewage and methane gas. Methane gas is lighter than air, but the sewage gasses having been heavier than air would have simply fall back down to the ground. The complex sewage gas mixture having been mixed with methane it makes sense that it was once burnt off at the top of the pipe at Miskin Street, so that no noxious gases would be smelled by residents.

Another example of a stink pipe, very similar to the one at Miskin Street, can be found alongside the main Road in Park Crescent; also standing as an ‘elephant in the room’, which no-one seems to notice. Other examples of ‘stink’ pipes did once exist in Barry, one at the bottom of Regent Street (corner with Holton Road), and a further one in Cadoxton near Victoria Park, and burning off the gases at times.

Are there other examples somewhere hidden in the Barry and District still? Please write to the newspaper and let us know.

Many thanks for joining us this week for another Barry and District history adventure.

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