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1883 a Bill for the construction of docks and railways on Barry Island was submitted to Parliament and passed by it, but rejected by the House of Lords. The purpose of the docks was to provide a means of export for coal from South Wales. The scheme was promoted by the industrialist and coal owner David Davies.
1884 an Act was obtained; the first sod was cut in November by Lord Windsor. Mr. John Wolfe Barry, C.B., M. Inst. C. E ., was the engineer of the works.
Starting in 1885, the Barry Dock and Railways company constructed 7 miles of track from Cardiff, and the construction of railways of about 26 miles in length from the docks to the Rhondda Valley. Additionally, access was created to junctions with the existing and authorised railways to all the other great mineral-producing districts of South Wales.
1889 The dock work was completed in July, 1889.
The Barry Dock and Railways company persuaded P. and A. Campbell to run steamers from a pier built alongside the dock across the Bristol Channel, but later put their own fleet on the station. Although the "Red Funnel" fleet as it became known gained a great measure of popularity, the company was dogged by legal disputes with its main competitors, P. and A. Campbell, legislation restricting their freedom to develop services and the legacy of the high cost of its three magnificent new steamers
1891 Company name altered to Barry Railway Company.
1896 Further docks were constructed - the East Dock and the Lady Windsor deep dock adjoining the entrance basin.
By 1898 the Barry Commercial Graving Dock (belonging to the Barry Railway Company) was situated on the west side of the Lady Windsor deep sea lock; another graving dock was located at the north-east corner of Dock No. 1; this belonged to the Barry Graving Dock and Engineering Co.
A small part of the dock is still used by ships. It might be thought that some artefacts relevant to coal-handling would have been saved, as reminders of Barry's prominent role as an exporter of coal. It appears the only survival is the former No. 1 Dock hydraulic pumphouse building, without any of its equipment. It is named The Pumphouse and used by various business, including cafes and gym, but with no information on display to explain its former role or context.
A rare example of a large sliding (retractable) bridge survives, uncared for (2019). Photo above. See Barry Docks: Bridges