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A Brief History of Ogmore & Ogmore-by-Sea

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Rivermouth beach car parking area surrounded by common land

Rivermouth beach car parking area surrounded by common land

There were three houses overlooking the Bristol Channel and the Somerset/Devon coast in 1840: Sutton Farm House, Craig-yr-Eos Farm and Sealawn.  Three more buildings were added by 1878: Tusker House, Sealawn Farm and St. Margarets (this last dwelling is shown on maps of 1860 and situated near Sealawn).  By 1918 Sealawn had been renamed Slon (confusingly, Sealawn Farm was also known locally as Slon) and St. Margarets changed to Brig-y-Don.  Slon reverted to its original name of Sealawn in 1958 and later became Sea Lawns Hotel; situated on Slon Lane, it had a pool table, bar, Peppers Restaurant, Gower Suite Function Room, and nine bedrooms, catering for local clientele and visitors for many years until its closure in November, 2005; it was demolished in May, 2012.  Craig-yr-Eos Farm was the site of the home of the 15th century Welsh bard, Iorwerth Fynglwyd.  He was buried in St. Bridget’s Church, St. Brides Major, although it is not known where his tomb is located.  In 1973 the owners of the Craig-yr-Eos hotel & restaurant bought a 100 ft log cabin and sun lounge to cater for large and small functions; it was designed by Bridgend architects Jenkins and Gould and built in Norway then taken apart and re-constructed on site; with no nails and hardly any glue, the structure was held together by joints.  The Craig-yr-Eos was sold and converted into flats at the end of the 20th century.  Brig-y-Don (used by the Red Cross to house evacuees during the Second World War) was also a hotel and restaurant for many years then became a home for the elderly, known as Heritage Coast House, until its closure in 2003; this building was demolished in early 2004 and a block of luxury apartments built on the site which in 2006 won a "Built in Quality" award organised by the Vale Council in the multiple housing/conversion category.  Tusker House was also used as a Red Cross Hospital for soldiers during the First and Second World Wars.

Plaque in recognition of the outstanding beauty of the Southerndown and Ogmore area

Plaque in recognition of the outstanding beauty of the area

Prior to 1920, officially there was no such place as Ogmore-by-Sea* as it was then a part of Southerndown known as Sutton, taking its name from the celebrated Sutton Stone Quarries.  It is claimed that it is the only stone of its kind which can be sawn when taken from the quarry, and which hardens as it weathers.  The old village school in St. Brides Major was one of the last buildings to use this material.  Alfred Davies, sculptor and monumental mason, used the last piece quarried from the bottom of Pant-y-Slade for the First World War memorial stone in St. Bridget’s Church.  Close examination of the font and pulpit reveals numerous small holes that have been artificially filled because of the presence of small shells or fossilization in the Sutton Stone.  A block quarried in the middle 1800s (and which still bore the marks of the original workman’s drill) was found at the old Sawmill at Merthyr Mawr and was used in 1972 to bear a plaque in recognition of the outstanding beauty of the area.  Sutton Stone has been used in the Houses of Parliament at Westminster and the Vatican City in Rome.  Richard and Gwilym Twrch who lived near Ogmore Castle were brought up by a retired monk called Crallo ap Gruffryn.    The brothers became stonemasons and worked on some of the beautiful stone architecture in the Vatican. 

* Some early postcards of the area around Craig-yr-Eos Bay and Rivermouth (circa 1910) can be found marked "Ogmore on Sea" or "Bungalows at Ogmore" and even in the 1960s some depicted Ogmore Castle and the Pelican Inn as being in "Ogmore-by-Sea, Southerndown" possibly because this was the location of the local Post Office, where mail would be sorted.  Ogmore-by-Sea grew rapidly from a handful of buildings in 1840.  

Ogmore* consisted of thatched cottages and farms surrounding Ogmore Castle, an Inn, Watermill, Almshouses and some outlying dwellings.  Ty Maen Farmhouse was built in 1535.  For a year or so until 2005 Ty Maen sold teas and home made cakes; one of the barns housed Mousehouse Antiques; Forest Decking and The Swallows Home & Gardens and Tea Rooms were here too until around 2010.  When permission was granted by Glamorgan County Council to divide the Parish into three Wards, Ogmore was included in the Ogmore-by-Sea boundary.  Though still a small hamlet, it is full of life as there is a hive of activity at its centre attracting residents and visitors alike.

Ogmore Castle

Ogmore Castle

Oliver Cromwell is reputed to have laid siege to the 12th century (circa 1116) Ogmore Castle; if this is so, it was probably at the time of his march on Swansea.  Two Drake Shot of Cromwellian times (circa 1648) have been found – one embedded in the wall of Ogmore Cottage (next to the Pelican Inn) and the other in a tree in the garden.  Madam Patti is believed to have sung to her friends here during a visit while staying at Waterton Hall in Bridgend. 

After the defeat of Charles I at Naseby during the first English Civil War, Royalist uprisings began in Wales and Southern England.  A battle of the second Civil War took place at St. Fagans, Cardiff, and began on the morning of Monday, 8th May, 1648.  Almost 8,000 Royalists led by Major General Rowland Laugharne (originally a Parliamentarian) were routed by around 3,000 Parliamentary men led by Colonel Thomas Horton with the help of Colonel John Okey.  Approximately 4,000 Royalists were disarmed and allowed to return home, some 3,000 were taken prisoner (hundreds were transported to Barbados) and around 200 died.  Casualty figures for the Parliamentarians are unknown.  Thanks were read in all the churches of England and Wales for the victory of the smaller Parliamentarian forces over the much larger Royalist forces. 

A former outpost of the castle was near Castle-upon-Alun Farm in the small village of Castle-upon-Alun.  It would have commanded a good view of the valley towards Ewenny.  Early masonry and two archways dating from the 13th and 15th centuries have been found in a building near the site.

The stepping stones at Ogmore were well known because it was here that Baptists would celebrate their Baptismal Rites.  A large congregation would gather on the grassy bank surrounding the ruins of the castle to witness the service which took place in the waters of the Ewenny River.  Candidates were prepared for the ceremony in Star Cottage, then the minister would wade into the water to the fourth or fifth stone and as they walked towards him he would immerse them.  On 20th July, 2003 an open air baptism took place of a member of Brackla Baptist Church.  A music teacher from Pen-y-fai was baptised by the Pastor, upstream from the stepping stones, following a normal Sunday morning service. 

 Stepping stones across the River Ewenny     Star Cottage, Ogmore Village, circa 1947

Left photo: Stepping stones across the River Ewenny    
Right photo: Star Cottage circa 1947

Star Cottage, a listed building with an unusual feature of a coffin door that was used to avoid the small twisty staircase, was ruined and had its thatched roof destroyed by fire on Friday, 3rd November, 2006.  Re-building and re-thatching took place in 2007 to restore this historic landmark. 

On the south side of the River Ogmore is a modernised private dwelling which at one time was the Portobello Hotel.  Many years ago, when walkers returning home found the tide was in, they would shout to the owner, Mr. Prosser, and he would ferry them across the river in his little flat-bottomed home-made boat for a small fee.  

Both the Portobello and the Pelican Inn sold tokens or checks which you could exchange for refreshments at a later date.  Workers would purchase as many of these as they could afford so that when they were short of money at a later date they would still be able to have a drink.  At one time, it was only possible to buy drinks on a Sunday throughout Wales if you could prove to the innkeeper that you had travelled three miles or more.  One organisation, the Glamorgan Artillery, had their range near the Portobello and after practice on a Sunday morning some of the members would arrive to spend the rest of the day in the hotel as it was the required distance from Bridgend.

On the common at Rivermouth, one of the dwellings used to house the Sutton Café.  There was also a café (known locally as the Marriott because it was built from the wreckage of a ship of that name) situated near to where the lifeguard station is now.  Just past the turning to go down to Rivermouth (on the right travelling from Bridgend) was a petrol filling station and car park, together with a shop, as well as a cafeteria and restaurant, which seated 100, known as Seabank Café.  It was here in 1977 that an event was held to choose a Carnival Queen and a party to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.  Later, this was the site of Pirates Retreat Nightclub before the area was redeveloped for housing. 

Mrs Gaudian's Medina Tea Room was in the Nest (or Tuska) Field, now known as Church Close, situated behind the row of shops.  The Nest Café, located further up the hill on the left, was run by the Bamon family; it was here the Nesta Concert Party was formed in 1920 and led by Tom Bamon until it was disbanded in 1935.  By around 1956 the premises were owned by the Hayward family, who operated a B&B and café, offering board residence and advertised "luncheons teas and late suppers provided for large or small parties in an extensive dining hall" until it was destroyed by fire in 1969.  The green in front of the property (now built upon) was used as a parking place for coach tours and a petrol station was built on the main road at the bottom of Nest Field.  The site was sold to the Harrison family, who ran the filling station until its closure. 

Near Church Close there is a steep road and it was at the top of this that an educational residential centre was situated known as Ogmore Camp.  Many children (and adults) from all over South Wales spent a few days or maybe a week away from home studying a variety of subjects such as mathematics, geography, history, Welsh, dance, sports (e.g. rugby, badminton, football) and music (e.g. brass, woodwind, string, orchestra) etc.  Following changes to local Government and reduced funding Bridgend County Borough Council a lease was granted to a charitable organisation (Ogmore Centre Trust) that was established to try to preserve this valuable facility but it eventually closed in 2007.  The premises and site were then subject to planning applications for housing. 

Hardees Café began as a marquee erected on the sands at Southerndown then a shop was opened in Ogmore-by-Sea (used by the Red Cross during the First World War) then latterly new premises were built comprising of living accommodation and shop, which was converted into all-residential property in the 1990s. 

Ice Cream Parlour, Ogmore-by-Sea, in 2003     Tempus Fugit Mediterranean Tapas Bar, Ogmore-by-Sea, in 2005

Left photo: Ice Cream Parlour, Ogmore-by-Sea, in 2003
Right photo: Tempus Fugit Mediterranean Tapas Bar, Ogmore-by-Sea, in 2005

The businesses housed in the small parade of shops in the centre of Ogmore-by-Sea have changed in line with the needs of the community.  In the 1970s there was a mini supermarket and a grocers.  In the 1990's a garage/storage room was converted to a bakers then a hairdressers.  Another building was a café then an ice cream parlour and for some years until 2009 a Mediterranean Tapas Bar that also specialised in pizzas; this building now houses Franklin's Café


And don't forget to see the Ogmore-by-Sea picture gallery!!

Other History pages: St. Brides Major | Southerndown | Ogmore-by-Sea | Marine | School
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