Saturday, 22 April 2017

Secret Barry Island

After much hard work, many late nights and countless cups of coffee, the authors’ of this blog, Mark and Jonathan Lambert, are to have our first book published with national history publisher Amberley Publishing.  The book is devoted to the past - times of Barry Island, something which in literature has no precedent; we take the reader deep into history through the long distant past of this erstwhile lonely island turned popular tourist destination.  

During the course of many years research into the locality, which began a long time ago in a quiet corner of the library of Cardiff University whilst attempting to write an archaeological dissertation, it became clear that there was not one single publication dedicated alone to the history of Barry Island, although there was certainly scope for such a work – a vision was formed.

Local and national history is a genuine passion for the authors’ and the choice of Barry Island for a first book was a mixture of a need for such a book about this popular location, and given that we are from Barry, there was a personal element to a place that we are both so familiar with. Previous to our book, one could gain snippets of information about the history of Barry Island in various old and out of print publications, but nothing particularly detailed or anything which formed anything close to a cohesive whole. They all seemed to lack something whether it be detail, periods from Barry Island’s past which were omitted, wider scope and context or were written in a dated style. 

Our publisher Amberley Publishing have been very good with us during the whole process and we couldn’t have signed with a better publisher for local history. Amberley constantly worked with the authors’ to help deliver a book which conforms to their expectations, but were also flexible to the authors’ original vision which has remained largely intact. Despite the body of our work remaining largely unaltered, there will always be it seems some form of compromise to be reached. The most notable in our case was the amount of images, the word count and the title. The book was originally called Saints, Smugglers and Sand – the Barry Island Story (very apt we thought). This was something we changed to fit in with the Secret series Amberley publish. Our original cover was also changed for a generic but tasteful cover which all of the books in Amberley Publishing Secret series have.

(The original cover for Saints, Smugglers and Sand – the Barry Island Story)  

We are thankful that during the formative years of the island’s development during the late Nineteenth Century archaeologists' such as John Storrie and John Romilly Allen took an active interest in the extant remains and recorded what they could, or there would be less material for the authors’ to utilise. Incidentally, the authors’ believe it highly likely that there were probably more remains from other periods in time on the island, but were destroyed during the construction of the majority of the housing.

Some readers might be wondering why there is no Butlins or much about the Twentieth Century discussed. Fundamentally the book is about the period of time when Barry Island was literally an island and this history terminates during the late Nineteenth Century. The history post - Edwardian is very well known and we are primarily archaeologists who do not have much interest in holiday camps, Twentieth Century domestic architecture or the Second World War – major themes that, as interesting as they are to many, would be much more suited to a picture history book rather than a primarily text based publication.

The process of dealing with organisations and institutions in regard to obtaining permission to reproduce written material or images was an interesting one. The authors' were surprised just how obliging and helpful the majority of the organisations we approached were. We are grateful to the Cambrian Archaeological Society, the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society and British History Online as well as the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales and Mark Lodwick for their kind permissions to reproduce images and utilise academic articles from within their pages. The Glamorgan Archives were also very helpful and is also a great place for the historian to find material. We are also grateful to individuals such as local historian Tom Clements of Barry who, without his kind permission to reproduce a good number of his fascinating images of old Barry, there would be no Secret Barry Island.

It has all been a journey of discovery for the authors’ and a unique experience; one which will be of benefit as we have more than one more book planned for the future.  Overall the authors' are very pleased with the end product, a work that we feel is very well balanced and takes into account all of the major themes of the past – times of this popular resort.  We hope you enjoy reading about and discovering the history of Barry Island as much as the authors' have enjoyed writing this book.

Available Thursday 15th June 2017 from any major distributer of books as well as direct from Amberley Publishing.

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