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History of Cosmeston

Cosmeston Lakes Country Park has been created from the remnants of the area's chequered past. From Norman times, ownership of Cosmeston has been connected with that of Cardiff castle.


In 1766 when John, the 4th Earl of Bute, married Charlotte Windsor, the lands became the property of the family who, directly or indirectly, would have the greatest influence on them. It was the Bute family who built the road that runs through the country park, the Mile Road, which runs from Cogan Hall farm at the north end of the estate to Swanbridge, which was, at one time, a small port for ships carrying goods across the Bristol Channel to Somerset.


In Cardiff, the 2nd Marquess of Bute constructed huge docks to accommodate the ships that were to transport the coal from the south Wales coal fields to markets worldwide. This demand for coal led to the rapid expansion of towns in south Wales, expansion that needed cement, which was made from the limestone found in places such as Cosmeston.


For over 80 years, most of what is now the country park was a limestone quarry, with four separate holes being dug to remove the stone. 


The Quarrying Years 

The quarries here provided limestone for the large cement works that stood until 1970 on the site of the present Cosmeston housing estate. Ownership of the site for the purpose of extracting the limestone for the production of cement commenced in 1886 to 1892 by W Li Morcom.  In 1892 the land was leased (later purchased) from the Bute Estate and Cement was produced up to 1911 by the South Wales Portland Cement and Lime Company. From 1911 until its closure in 1969 the cement works were owned by BPCM (Blue Circle) The quarry forming the east lake was begun in the 1920s, but was enlarged when the quarry forming the west lake was opened up from the late 1940s.

The quarry had its own railway to take the stone to the nearby cement works. Limestone was transported over to the works using narrow gauge locomotives. The railway crossed the road where the present day park entrance is situated.


The peak year of production at the quarry was 1962, when 175,000 tons of cement were manufactured.

Originally, steam locomotives were used named ‘Marjorie’, ‘Annie’ and Doris named after the owner Walter Cooper’s wife and two daughters. From 1951, newly-built Fowler diesel engines, took over the workload. After the quarry closed one of the engines was decommissioned the other two engines were refurbished and bought by the groundnuts scheme in Africa but were never sent as the groundnut company failed. This resulted in one engine being sold to the Welshpool and Llanfair Light railway and the other sold to the Welsh Highland railway in 1968. Today both engines have been reunited as they were later bought by Whipsnade Safari Park (in 1972 and 1975) who named them 'Victor' and 'Hector'.


Their famous ‘Dragon’ brand of cement was used to produce many of the early paving slabs laid in Penarth. The works finally shut in November 1969. Blue Circle stated it was not possible to upgrade the old plant to increase production any further, nor extend the existing quarries, which were closed in June 1970. The end of production also resulted in the closure of the railway line from the cement works to Penarth and this has now become a popular footpath.


The company vacated the premises in 1970. Today the works have gone, replaced by houses, and the railway line is now just a path. However, there are still some reminders of the quarrying years seen today. On Lavernock Road the factory office building still stands and is now a restaurant and the owner of the Cement works 1892-1911 lived at “The Elms” house with four “Tied Cottages” between the Elms  and the office building also still remaining.

1964 - 1978

Landfill Site

A sad chapter in Cosmeston’s history saw the quarry used for several years as a landfill site for household waste. Permission to tip household rubbish was granted to Penarth Urban District Council in 1964. After quarrying ceased scenes like these were common as the tipping of household rubbish continued until 1978 when the Country Park was developed.


There were four quarry areas at the site; two of these now form the lakes which are the main feature of the Country Park today. The other two sites were used for landfill. The two former landfill sites have been carefully landscaped to form large wildflower meadows and open grassland stretching up to the North end of Cosmeston.


Both the lakes and the meadows found at Cosmeston are divided by the main footpath, Mile Road, that runs through the centre of the Country Park.


Today, little remains to inform the visitor of Cosmeston's chequered recent history. A narrow gauge tipping wagon pulled by the locomotives extracting lime stone from the quarrying years can be spotted in the car park.


In 1966, a government white paper recommended the establishment of publicly accessible country parks close to large towns and cities, and preferably on sites in need of improvement. Cosmeston was ideally suited - despoiled land close to Penarth and Barry and not far from Cardiff, created countryside on the city dweller's doorstep.

The then South Glamorgan County Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Borough Council together restored the land to provide an area of safe and accessible countryside. First opened in 1978, the country park is still being developed and improved. Unlike the town park, with its formal gardens and cultivated flowers, the country park is sensitively-managed countryside which provides a balance between conservation and recreation.


If you have any interesting pictures or information on the history of Cosmeston, the country park staff would love to hear from you.