History of Porthcawl

Porthcawl is located on the southern coast of Wales, twenty-five miles from Cardiff, on the western edge of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. The city as it exists today began its life in the nineteenth century as a coal port; however, other cities eclipsed its importance in this industry by the 1880s.

The old town is now hidden among the dunes of Kenfig Burrows along with Kenfig Castle, northeast of Porthcawl, an early twelfth century castle built here by the Normans. The castle was frequently place under attack by the Welsh. Through the thirteenth century, Kenfig was gradually engulfed by the dunes and fell to ruins, which can still be seen today. These dunes were once considered part of the largest dune system in Europe.

 

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Just a few miles from Porthcawl, is the village of Newton, which also dates back to the twelfth century and includes Saint John the Baptist Church, established over eight hundred years ago by the Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The church was originally built as a fortress and overlooks the Newton village green. The well serving the church was once reputed to have healing properties. Portions of the classic movie Lawrence of Arabia were filmed in the nearby sand dunes.

Near the entrance of the harbour, the Jennings Building is an impressive building constructed between 1830 and 1832 for use as a warehouse. It is now the local Skating Centre. The building is widely considered one of the few surviving dock buildings from this era southern Wales.

The Porthcawl Pier is the home a lighthouse that was originally constructed in 1866 and remains in use with some modification to this day. The city is also a port of call for the historic ship, the PS Waverley, the last ocean-going paddle steamer in existence. The Waverly is among the most photographed ships in the world. In recent years, the ship has suffered many minor accidents, but remains in use.

Porthcawl's promenade was constricted in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. The promenade follows the seafront and eventually joins the eastern promenade. The promenade underwent much needed renovation in 1996 and remains a popular place to visit. Some local hotels date back to the 1880s when Porthcawl began to earn its reputation as a seaside resort, catering to miners and their families in particular. The city continues to attract large numbers of holiday visitors, who come to enjoy the resorts, beaches, and other entertainment available in Porthcawl and vicinity.

Seven major beaches surround the Porthcawl area, including remote Sker Beach, where a plaque can be found commemorating the tragic shipwreck involving the SS Santampa, wrecked in dangerous maritime conditions, and the doomed rescue attempt made by the the Mumbles RNLI lifeboat on April 23, 1947. Forty-seven people died on both ships. Portions of the wreckage remain visible at low tide with pieces continuing to wash ashore when the tide is very low.

A more recent disaster still looms large in the city. The incident, known as the Porthcawl Mid-air Collision, occurred on February 11, 2009 when two Royal Air Force training planes collided, killing two young teenage cadets and their instructors. The accident was caused by visibility issues with the air crafts, which operated without use of collision-prevention equipment.

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