Known also as Head View, Penarth Head Park was created following Lord Windsor's offer in 1897 to give part of the headland to the town for development as a public open space. Proposals were presented by the Town Surveyor to the Parks Committee on 7th March 1899. Difficulties arose almost immediately when in June 1900 the Parks Committee learned that the Government required the land on Penarth Head to construct a fort. Lord Windsor offered another piece of land, where there was a look-out and signalling station, and in September 1902 the Parks Committee recommended that the Council purchase the signal station house for £50 to add to the land given by Lord Windsor, for which the formal change of ownership took place on September 5th 1902. Revised plans and costs for laying out the open space were agreed by the Parks Committee in November 1902.
The following description of Penarth Head appeared in Mate's Illustrated Penarth published in 1903:
Another of the open spaces is named Head View, and consists of a well laid out plot on the highest point of the Head. To get there, walk from the Church across Clive Road and down a lane between a large house (Upper Cliff) and a flag-staff. From this commanding position one can look down upon the decks of the vessels passing under foot on their way to or from the docks. It also commands a view of the beach and esplanade, and overlooks the residential part of the town, which from this point appears almost as if built within a wood. The view is worth travelling miles to see. A walk leads around and below the Battery and joins Clive Road again.
Conversion of the signalling house into a shelter was discussed, but in June 1905 a design for a new shelter was approved by the Parks Committee, with a recommendation to the Council that it be erected at a cost not exceeding £45. For the summer of 1907 it was decided to provide chairs for the public at Penarth Head and other open spaces, and Mr. Shanley's tender for £3 for the right to do so was accepted at a Council meeting in June 1907. There were concerns about the steep and slippery nature of the path on Penarth Head, and the Surveyor was instructed at a Council meeting in September 1907 to place wooden battens across the asphalt path. In April 1910 the Council approved an application from a Mr. Falconer for permission to sell refreshments in the old signal house.
The presence of the fort and the footpath around it continued to generate correspondence between the Council and the Government in the period leading up to the 1914-1918 war. During the war the military authorities wished to carry out some excavation of the Penarth Head grounds, which involved removal of the shelter. The Council stated that in this case it would expect a new shelter to be erected at the end of the war. Subsequently in November 1919 the Parks Committee called upon the War Office to restore Penarth Head and the surrounding roads to their condition before the ground was taken over. The Council in December 1919 approved this position, and requested the Parks Committee to estimate the cost of reinstating Penarth Head, in order to convey this to the War Office. The Government offered to pay £674 9s. 6d, which in March 1920 the Parks Committee decided to accept. Further correspondence followed when payment was long delayed, with the Council first informing the War Office that the sum required had increased to £800, because the price of materials and labour had risen, and then in April 1921 agreeing to accept £688.
Restoration of Penarth Head Park started in 1922. The Parks Committee decided in May 1922 to place four seats there and create a rockery. A replacement shelter was approved by the Council in June. The Finance Committee, compiling an inventory for insurance purposes in April 1924, recorded the presence of a shelter at Penarth Head valued at £160.
In November 1929 the local Member of Parliament Mr. Peter Freeman raised with the War Office the issue of public access to the land on the cliff near the Fort. He reported to the Council in February 1930 that the Penarth Fort was considered to be redundant and disposal of the property would follow, with the Council being given the opportunity to purchase the land. When the land came up for auction the Council decided that it would not make an offer and the property was bought by a Mr Daniel (or David) Jenkins. In 1935 the Council agreed to an exchange of land with Mr Jenkins and undertook to erect a fence at the new boundary of the park.
This fence was either not erected before the 1939-45 War, or the railings may have been removed to contribute to the war effort. In November 1947 the Parks Committee accepted an estimate of £75 for wrought-iron railings and gates at Penarth Head Open Space.
In the early 1950s the park was reduced slightly in size when the railings forming the eastern boundary were moved inland because of cliff falls. New housing was built to the north and west of the park during the 1950s and 1960s.
Sources of information