Site of 'black marble' quarries, Bull Cliff, Barry

Site of 'black marble' quarries, Bull Cliff, Barry

Photo of paving stones at CosmestonSome of the stone quarried in this area was polished to form a decorative ‘black marble’.

At the base of the sea cliffs known as the Bull Cliff there are dark grey/black beds of Blue Liassic strata which contain numerous fossils of small oysters and other bivalves. These strata were quarried for building stone at various locations in Glamorgan over a long period. The Romans used the stone, as evidenced by the 3rd-century building whose remains can be seen at The Knap. The stone there presumably came from Barry harbour.

Splitting the stone horizontally along the fossil oysters produces a ‘knobbly’ flagstone, ideal for flooring. Examples can be seen at the 13th-century Cosmeston Medieval Village and in local churches (see upper photo).

The polished stone, not a true marble, was used for ledger stones (gravestones set into church floors). There are wall memorials of the polished stone in local churches, including the one pictured below at St Cadoc’s Church in Cadoxton.

Photo of black marble memorial in Cadoxton churchAfter a journey through the area in 1780, local stonemason Edward Williams remarked on “a very pleasant little vale, through which runs a river that falls to the sea at Bullcliff … On the seashore by the mouth of this river is found great quantities of good black marble.” He is best known as Iolo Morgannwg, founder of the Gorsedd of Bards and a forger of antiquarian documents!

In one of his notebooks of 1789 he noted a well-polished ledger of Bull Cliff black marble in the parish church of St Andrews Major. The ledger bore the remarkable inscription: “Here lyeth the body of John Gibbon James buried the 14 of August 1601 and Margaret Mathew his wife buried the 8 of January a.n.do 1631 he aged 99 she aged 124.” It appears that this stone was moved or covered over in later restorations, as it can no longer be seen.

With thanks to Michael Statham, of the Welsh Stone Forum

Postcode: CF62 6QP    View Location Map