Glan-y-Mor, The Knap, Barry

The History of Glan-y-Mor

Probably the oldest photo of Glan-y-Mor

The decision to build Glan-y-Mor (meaning 'Beachway') was made in 1931, to provide a holiday and conference centre in South Wales for the working classes.

The Welsh Town Planning Trust offered a 999 year lease for the site to the YMCA for a small rent. A bequest was also made by some trustees of the Trust, who were also patrons of the Welsh YMCA, this further reducing the rent due from the YMCA, so the actual amount became nominal. When the site was secured preliminary plans were prepared for the building. It was to have a frontage of 158 feet with short wings of 40 feet at each end of the rear. The ground floor was to include a rest room, a large lounge to seat 150 people, an entrance hall, kitchen, dining room, staff room, stores and toilets. The first and second floors would contain 52 bedrooms. The estimated cost was £6,500.

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The construction work was postponed for two years so that a building fund could be opened and so that the site could be levelled, this being done by the voluntary labour of unemployed miners from Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire. Two huts were built for the labourers from a £450 grant – the huts were also used for their holidays for three years.  One hut acted as a dormitory and the other as a dining room and social centre.

A little bit of artistic licence here, perhaps

During the summers of 1931 - 1933, the site was levelled and prepared for the construction. The fall of ground along the front of the building necessitated excavations to a depth of five feet for foundations. The top soil was only 15 inches deep, underneath was solid rock which was excavated with a wedge and sledgehammer. The rock and soil was wheel-barrowed away to the lower end of the site to level the ground. It was hard work.  Two plots near the sea frontage also had to be levelled for tennis courts and a garden.

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The first event in the building of Glan-y-Mor, on a wet Sunday morning, was the snipping of a barbed wire fence, to create an entrance to the site from the approach road.  Building began in the autumn of 1932. Work included the erection of the main sections comprising the rest room, lounge, dining hall and kitchens together with thirty-five completed bedrooms and space and partitions for a further seven.

The total cost of these first sections was £7,300, including equipment and furnishings; over £3,000 had been secured by donated income. Later a mortgage of approximately £3,000 was taken up, being liquidated in two or three years.

Glan-y-Mor was formally opened on 22nd July, 1933. The Countess of Plymouth performed the opening ceremony, giving an opening speech on "The Youth of Today". About twenty of the unemployed labourers were invited, and they were also offered a free week's holiday there.

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In the first year Glan-y-Mor could cater for 130 guests. It was advertised as open from Easter until October. Facilities included a putting green, tennis courts and photographic darkroom, with concessions available to residents for boating and swimming at the Knap Pool and Boating Lake. Many requests for accommodation for holidays and conferences were received, ensuring a successful future for Glan-y-Mor, and all available bedrooms were booked for the rest of the season. The Glan-y-Mor project had become a reality.

Note that the West wing was not yet completed

During the following winter, seventeen unfinished bedrooms were completed making a total of fifty-two for the next season. New paths and flower beds were laid. A building squad was formed for the extra work, and future projects, and this squad functioned for another twenty-four years.

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In the meantime, business at Glan-y-Mor increased. In 1935 a scheme was developed by the Glan-y-Mor Committee to extend the building, the extension to include a large new dining-hall and thirty new bedrooms, together with two huts already in existence in the grounds.

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In the third year of its activities, many organisations held conferences and courses. In the same year over 2,000 people from all parts of England and Wales visited Glan-y-Mor for holiday purposes. These included senior citizens, young men at a camp training school, and teachers and members of the school staff.

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A further small extension at Glan-y-Mor linked up at right angles with the northern end of the hall known as ‘The Children's’ Dining Hall’; it comprised a billiard room on the ground floor and several bedrooms on the first and second floors. According to Kita Williams (Gimblett), there was a staff living quarters there. It was accessed through a door at the end of the 'blue' corridor, around rooms 71-80. There was a flight of steps going to the ground floor, and they came out in the corridor a little way up from the room where the washing machines were, and just before the steps that led to the snooker room.  There was a small kitchen, and living room and 6 bedrooms. There was also an upper floor here.  Kita cannot recall anyone actually living there.

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Glan-y-Mor was firmly established in 1938/39. Requests for conference accommodation increased whilst holiday applications reached saturation point at peak periods.

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The situation changed dramatically when war war broke out and the entire building was requisitioned for military purposes in September 1939. The rent agreed with the War Office was £750 per annum.

The Forces stationed at Glan-y-Mor occupied all available accommodation; the rest room became an officers' mess, the lounge was used for a similar purpose by the soldiers. The dining room was used as an office; however the nailed boots caused extensive damage to the teak block flooring.

Half-way through the war, a German bomb fell on the front of the roof where it forms a right angle with the roof of the kitchen. A soldier was slightly wounded. The damage was very limited and was quickly repaired at a cost of £450. The military vacated Glan-y-Mor on 11th March 1946 and it reopened for holiday purposes on 22nd July 1946. In May 1947 the War Department forwarded a cheque for £1,705. 6s 1d to cover reinstatement costs.

Holiday Centre or Hall of Residence... or both?

Originally all the heating and hot water had been provided by coal fired boilers in the cellar under the kitchen. The coal was dropped down a manhole just outside the kitchen door, and the boilers were gravity fed. Cooking was also done via this coal-fired system. The central heating system was reconstructed during the following winter at an approximate cost of £3,500. The Glan-y-Mor credit balance at that time amounted to £6,618, accrued mostly from the war-time letting.

The committee responsible for the management of Glan-y-Mor made the first use of post-war labour for further extensions. This included a large conference hall to accommodate three hundred people, a Warden's flat and new bedrooms. Starting from a gable end previously erected opposite the kitchen, the new section followed the building line of the frontage of the main building towards the approach road from the lake, following the bend in the road for about 100 ft.

To provide access for vehicles delivering goods to the kitchen, a gap was bridged in the rear wall, sufficiently strong to carry three erected bedrooms and a five foot corridor, linking the corridor of the main building with that of the proposed extension. The conference hall was sited on the first 60ft of the ground floor extension. The Warden' s flat took up all the ground floor of the new wing. The remainder of the two floors provided bedrooms.

The work was undertaken in two parts; a year for each. A licence for building the first section was issued by the Ministry in January 1951 and valued at £5,000, together with appropriate certificates for rationed materials, including timber and steel. The work included the completion of the conference hall and bedrooms as far as the stairway leading from the side entrance to the corridor on the first floor. The work was completed according to schedule and the accommodation became available in the early months of 1952.

The Ministry delivered the licence and certificates for timber and steel for the second section of the work on the 11th October, 1951, the estimated cost being £4,750. It included the warden's quarters and ten bedrooms on the floor above it. This accommodation was also completed in time for the 1952-53 season. By 1953, therefore, Glan-y-Mor had become a comprehensive holiday centre, including a rest room, lounge to seat 150 people, two dining halls, one seating 120 persons and the other 150 persons, a billiards and table tennis room, a magnificent conference hall and 128 bedrooms, together with the necessary ancillary accommodation.

The small west wing remained the only incomplete section of this massive structure. The wing comprised a spacious rest room, with a flat concrete roof, ready to take two small additional floors to complete the structural work as originally planned; it yielded eleven new bedrooms. These were on two floors, each containing five and six bedrooms respectively. The wing was named "The John Bruce Wing" and a plaque was displayed in the entrance lobby bearing the date 'Easter 1963'.

Dan Rees, the resident secretary then resigned due to poor health. He had been ably assisted by Cledwyn Gimblett, the assistant chef, over a long period - Mr Gimblett had joined the staff at Glan-y-Mor in 1937, four years after it had been opened. In order to widen his experience in YMCA management, Mr Gimblett had transferred a year or so before to the leadership of the YMCA Forces Centre at Tycroes, Anglesey. Whilst at Glan-y-Mor he had obtained considerable experience of the various responsibilities of management at Glan-y-Mor, and he was invited to succeed Mr Rees.

Mrs Rose Gimblett had joined the dining room staff as a young girl in 1933.  She had given unbroken and excellent service and continued to work alongside Mr Gimblett in his new role.

In 1969 UWIST took Glan-y-Mor over on contract from the YMCA for term-time use. However by 1979 UWIST decided that Glan-y-Mor was no longer suitable and it is believed that they had an option to purchase the old Halls for Barry Technical College on the Barry Road. As UWIST no longer needed Glan-y-mor, the YMCA felt that it would not be able to pay its way as a conference and holiday centre, and so they decided to sell it. Also, Cledwyn Gimblett  was due to retire that September, so they would have had to find a new secretary to take on an old building in a market that was declining. Glan-y-Mor no longer had any useful purpose.

Sad, or what?

So when Mr Gimblett retired in August 1979, the YMCA sold the building and land to the property developers Provincial Properties (Wales) Ltd. The building was gradually dismantled, and eventually demolished in 1980. A lane at the northwest end of the site has been named Glan-y-Mor.

Sources

THE HISTORY OF THE YMCA IN WALES 1852 – 1972. William Jones Pate, O.B.E., O.St,J., M.A. (Cantab) . Published by The Welsh National Council of YMCAs.

Download the book in PDF format (1.06 Mb)

A Third-century Maritime Establishment at Cold Knap, Barry, South Glamorgan. Edith Evans, G. Dowell & H. J. Thomas. Britannia.Vol XVI, 1985.

Colin Gimblett

Gaynor Gimblett (now Gaynor Clifford)

Kita Gimblett (now Kita Williams)

Tom Clemett's History of Barry

Neil Maylan, Glamorgan-Gwent Archaelogical Trust