Dunraven Bay, Southerndown

Dunraven Bay, Southerndown

This bay, commonly referred to as Southerndown beach, is a popular place for seeking fossils in loose rocks. The cliffs along the Heritage Coast were formed from the Carboniferous period (350 million years ago) to the Liassic period (180 million years ago).

The promontory south of the bay is named Trwyn y Witch, probably because of its nose-like shape (trwyn means ‘nose’). The name combines Welsh and English (the Welsh for 'witch' is gwrach), reflecting the Vale of Glamorgan’s long bilingual history. Other local mixed names include Ysgubor y Warren and Tŷ'r Green. For information about the name Dunraven, see the Footnotes.

In the 19th century locals knew the bay as Sea Mouth, sometimes shortened to S’Mouth. Imagine the promontory as the jaw! Pieces of shipwrecks and human bodies often washed ashore here. According to local legend, Walter Vaughan of Dunraven Castle took part in shipwrecking here in the 16th century – stealing cargo from ships after using false lights to lure them onto the rocks.

The mutilated bodies of a man and woman were found here in consecutive weeks in October 1841. It was thought that both had perished with the sinking of a trow (a vessel unique to the Bristol Channel region) named Sisters; the woman was probably the captain’s wife and the man, aged about 18, possibly a passenger.

In 1891 an empty American boat, 6.5 metres long (21ft), beached in the bay. Four years earlier, part of a sailing ship, thought to be an Italian barque, came ashore here still containing a chronometer clock (navigation device), a flag, clothes and bedding.

Many people have drowned in the bay over the centuries, including local resident Eva Ace, aged 60. Her body was found on 27 April 1916, fully clothed except for her boots, stockings and hat. It appeared that she slipped while paddling in the sea, knocked herself out and drowned.

Less than a month later the body of chauffeur Ivor Dean was found here. He had apparently fallen into the sea while waiting to drive a group of seaside visitors back to Cardiff. The coroner praised Margaret Harry, a young woman from Blaengarw, for her courage in wading through seawater up to her armpits to recover the body.

With thanks to Richard Morgan, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, for place-name information

Postcode: CF32 0RP    View Location Map

Dunraven Bay on Visit the Vale website – Vale of Glamorgan Council

Footnotes: Dunraven place-name

Dunraven is first recorded c.1270 as Donrevyn. Most later English historical sources refer to it as Dunraven and similar spellings. The name was once thought to be Scandinavian, given by the Vikings; Tusker Rock and the Sker are examples of such names along this coast. However, the name could be English, perhaps Hraefn's hill, given by Anglo-Norman invaders who conquered the Vale of Glamorgan in the 12th century.

The word order, however, is Celtic and Dunraven may have displaced an unrecorded Welsh form. The current Welsh name Dwnrhefn does not seem to be recorded until the 16th century. Antiquarians such as Edward Williams, better known by his bardic name Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826), who lived in nearby Flemingston (Trefflemin) and his contemporaries thought Dunraven contains the Welsh word din (‘fort') and derived from Dindryfan, which they mistranslated as 'the circular fortress', 'the triangular fortress' or 'fort of (a man called) Tryfan'.