David Davies statue, Barry

David Davies statue, Barry

Outside the former Barry Dock offices stands a statue of the Victorian engineer, industrialist and philanthropist David Davies. His vision and determination had a major influence on Barry’s development. The statue dates from 2001.

David Davies was born in Llandinam, in what’s now Powys, in 1818. After a few years’ schooling, he helped his father on the farm and later on other farms, often sawing timber. His ingenuity in improving drainage on one farm led to a commission in 1846 to build the foundations and approaches for a new bridge over the river Severn at Llandinam. He then became a successful construction contractor, building many Welsh railways including the Vale of Clwyd and Pembroke & Tenby. In 1865 he said he had made 240km (150 miles) of railway in the previous seven years.

In the 1860s he leased land in the Rhondda Valley to try his hand at coal mining. Legend has it that his initial attempts to find a suitable coal seam failed, after more than a year of digging, but his workers found a seam after volunteering to dig for another week without pay. The venture grew into the Ocean Coal Company, which owned several South Wales pits.

Frustrated by congestion and high tariffs for coal which was shipped through Cardiff docks, Mr Davies took on the mighty Bute estate and eventually won permission to build a new dock at Barry. It opened in 1889, the year before he died. The Barry Dock and Railways Co. also constructed railways to bring coal to Barry from the Valleys.

Mr Davies gave generously to the Methodist cause and encouraged his workers to shun alcohol and attend chapel. He continued to live in Llandinam, where he funded community facilities and Sunday School trips. His generosity also enabled the University of Wales to be established, in Aberystwyth, in 1872. He was elected Liberal MP for Cardigan District of Boroughs in 1874.

Attending the National Eisteddfod of Wales for the first time in 1865, he gave a speech in Welsh in which he criticised people who reviled the language but urged Welsh people to master English because that was the best medium for making money!

Postcode: CF63 4RT    View Location Map