History: The Pump House and Hood Road in Barry

In the early 1990s, like many in the Barry and District we could see that the Barry Docks landscape was to face a revolution of change.

Writing in the Barry and district newspaper back then, I remember facing criticism for a letter I had written about the need to photograph and record buildings, which we would see erased from our landscape.

The criticism claimed everything had been photographed and recorded – but had it? Alas, not everything was put on record, and we have failed future generations when we had the opportunity. So little of our standing structures across the Barry docks landscape now survives.

But we do have more than a few, a select snap shot of our past that does still survive, among this changing revolution of the past few decades.

The ‘Pump House’ as it is now referred to, on Hood Road, is an example of a building put into use, as a classy eatery establishment. Well done on the planners this time for saving this piece of our important history.

When I was a child I remember I used to play among the ruins of the Pump House, and what memories. I have risked life and limb among the old machinery and the broken glass, and viewing a lofty roof that was then in the early 1980s struggling to keep the rain out.

But what was this building originally used for, and what of the name Hood Road?

Hood Road takes its name from a then Rhondda coal pit owner a certain Archibald Hood. Along with another coal pit owner a certain David Davies; and, with other industrialists, they after 1866 sought to find another location along the South Wales coast to export their coal, as opposed to Cardiff.

It was Archibald Hood, alongside one of his other compatriots a certain J. O. Riches, who saw the potential of Barry as a location for a ‘new’ dock by 1876, in fact convincing David Davies, that this was the place.

Archibald Hood had fought tooth and nail, along with J. O. Riches for the Barry Dock Bill of 1884, and their efforts had paid off. However, David Davies seems to receive all the credit, and a statue erected to his memory outside the Dock offices, and not one of Archibald Hood (or J. O. Riches).

However Hood Road, is the name you remember when visiting the Pump House today, or visiting West Quay medical centre, and the hub buildings and other businesses around.

As for the Pump House, it existed as part of the scheme for the construction of Dock number 1, after 1884, and was fully operational by 1900. It was one of three hydraulic Pump houses around the margins of the Barry Dock. This was the last operation Hydraulic Pump houses in Barry, and is reported by one of my researchers Peter Sampson as still operation in 1968.

The Hydraulic houses pumped pressurised water hoses to the Coal tip mole machinery alongside the dock. The hydraulic pressurised operations could be seen as revolutionary by late 1800s standards, as we see the movement of coal out of our ports across Britain rapid and consistently fuelling an ever growing empire.

Many thanks for joining his this week. Can we hope that next weeks adventure within the Barry and District unravels more secrets?

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