According to many sources Barry was given its name by the beginnings
of Christianity within the Vale. In the year 700 A.D. St. Baruc gave
his name to the area, upon seeking a place of seclusion he decided upon
the Holm Islands; where they would return after their six week stay
during Lent, during his return was unfortunate enough to experience a
squall whilst in his humble boat, he thus drowned and his body was
washed up on Barry Island beach. St. Baruc was buried at the highest
place on the Island which became a sacred place, and the destination of
many who came to pay homage. The ruins of the chapel that was dedicated
to him can be found at Friars Road Cadoxton. The church of St. Cadoc
who gave his name to Cadoxton has also survived the ravages of time.
Prior to this Bronze Age burial mounds found at the Cold Knap and
Friars Point laid testament to the people that have lived in the Barry
area throughout ancient times.
Records show that Barry Island was used as a Viking raider’ base
around 1087, Barry later becoming a sub-manor to Penmark, and then
playing host to the invading Normans, who proceeded to reorganise the
areas dividing the Vale of Glamorgan into manors and parishes. By the
12th-13th centuries Barry’ population and culture had developed into a
village with its own port, church and castle, remains of the castle can
be seen on the hill above at the main entrance to Romilly Park. Once
the Black Death struck Barry in the 14th century, it took the
population some three hundred years to recover sufficiently to once
more hold the title of village, essentially a sparsely populated area
with a few scattered farms and much of the land a marsh that a small
river flowed through.
During 1860, when Barry was still a village and Barry Island often
referred to as a huge rabbit warren, the Romilly family purchased much
of the estate; their legacy for many of us being the lovely Romilly
Park, near the Cold Knap. In 1864, Captain Jenner proposed to make
Barry into a Pleasure Resort with an accompanying railway that would
reach from Peterston to Barry and Sully, although despite the Captain'
enthusiasm the proposal failed. However the railway was drafted as the
Barry Bill, it was to run to the Barry Farm at Holton Road and the
island at Friars Point. It was during 1864 that construction of a tidal
harbour of the Barry River that flowed between the island and the
mainland was also proposed. In 1877, whilst similar proposals had been
approved by parliament they failed due to insufficient funding.
In the meantime vessels would take refuge from any harshness of the
Bristol Channel at Barry and although no records were
kept, signs show that occasionally small vessels would enter the
harbour for its main export of limestone, however over the coming years
Barry would change dramatically and grow famous due to its exports. The
demands of the local coal industry on Cardiff Docks was not being met,
with many ships having to wait for a matter of days before they could
dock, it was there that the seeds of Barry Docks were sown.
During 1883, the first Barry Dock Bill was rejected at Parliament.
On the 30th April, 1884, a second Barry Dock Bill was presented, and on
the 25th June, 1884, a preamble of the Barry Dock Bill was passed. On
14th August, 1884, Royal Assent was given authorising the construction
of the dock and on the 14th November, 1884, the first foundations were
created at Casteland Point. It was during this year that the modern
Barry we all know was born, it essentially consisted of three parishes,
Cadoxton, Barry and Merthyr Dyfan, the population of which was a mere
478. In 1889, the first dock basin was opened, which was to be followed
by two additional docks and various port installations. Barry and the
surrounding area soon developed in concert with the Docks, many
buildings were constructed to cater for the families of the Dock
construction workers, from houses to small hospitals, soon went some
way to forming a sizable town.
By 1913, mainly due to its prime location and the railway, Barry had
become the famous for being the largest coal exporting port in the
world, a time when the Docks were crowded with ships and modern ship
repair yards, cold stores and flour mills. In 1939, Barry was made into
a borough, a significant state of independence for a South Wales town.