The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Sully

Sully History

Sully (Sili) is a place where the countryside meets the sea located between Penarth and Barry on the south Wales coastline. I grew up in the village of Sully, living on a housing estate between Cog Road and South Road built as part of the housing expansion of the 1980s/90s. A mix of farmers fields and housing estate with warrens of ‘Gully Ways’ made for a life of exploring and adventure especially during the seemingly endless sunny summer days. Long walks with friends and playing out until it got dark were a feature of living in this small village. The local village school (Sully Primary School) still sits next to the pebble beach which was the place to go as we moved into teenage years.

Sully Island from Swanbridge ©heritagehiker

The village grew from the Medieval Period onwards but little remains from this time. Sully really began to expand during the 19th century it was connected eastwards to Penarth and Cardiff and westwards to Barry and the South Wales Valleys by an extension of the Taff Vale Railway line (1890). Sully station was once on Cog Road opposite the Sully Inn and there is still a row of Railway workers cottages nearby. Like many other rural branch lines it closed in the late 1960s following a major reduction in railway infrastructure following the Beeching Report in 1965. The old railway line and station buildings have mostly been sold into private ownership and built on. The section between Lavernock and Penarth remains, and you can walk along the rural greenway and cycle track (See Penarth Blog).

Sully Hospital

In more ‘modern times’ Sully became known for the local hospital. Sully Hospital was built in the 1930s and started life as a Tuberculosis hospital but soon became a general chest and heart hospital. Whilst attending the creche there in my infant years, it was just still a heart and chest hospital. In 1993 it became a psychiatric hospital, the hospital closed in 2001 and has since been converted into private flats. The structure is a grade II listed building due to it’s beautiful Art Deco form. The site is now private, but it can be viewed by walking along the coastal path between Sully and an area called The ‘Bendrick’s’ on route to Barry.

Modern Industrial Area ©heritagehiker

Local people will also remember the large BP site set between Sully and Barry built in the 1950s. Zeon bought the site from BP Chemicals in 1989 but closed operations there in 2015. The site is now office blocks for a company called Hexion. It was also home to Dow Corning (one of the biggest silicone manufacturing sites in the world) who took it over from ICI. In the 1960s BP opened a sports and social club with playing fields on the east side of the village. This still remains and is home to a very popular car boot sale in the summer months. It is now known simply as Sully Sports and Social Club.

Sully Prehistory to Medieval Period

Evidence of prehistoric activity covers the area and comes in the form of flint scatters, a possible Bronze Age burial mound and an Iron Age defensive fort.

Aside from the scattering of Roman pottery and a possible occupation site, two major Roman coin hoards show that the land here was definitely used, lived and worked on during the Roman period. Sully Hoard I   and Sully Hoard II A & B were found over 1 hundred years apart which shows a time long ago that it was deemed necessary to hide your wealth. Why the coin hoards were buried is unknown. Experts suggest a perceived national threat, local unrest, gifts as offerings or potential theft as likely possibilities.

History of Sully Castle

Sully Castle was a small medieval castle gifted to the noble Norman family of Baron Reginald de Sully. He was awarded the Manor and the castle around 1093 by Sir Robert Fitzhamon the conqueror of Glamorgan . It forms a scattering of castles across the Vale of Glamorgan that started their life during the Norman period. It was originally built in earth and wood on a site of previous Roman occupation. Only Roman pottery was found but no structural remains during excavation. The castle is believed to have fallen out of use during the 14th century. What little remains were left by the 18th century had been incorporated into a domestic dwelling and no standing remains indicate a site.

St John the Baptist Church

St John the Baptist Church, Sully ©heritagehiker

The present Church is built on foundations which date 1093 from the time of The Norman Conquest and Reginald de Sully. When Reginald built his castle, he also built a church as a place of worship for himself and his retainers. The church was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It has a cross in the churchyard of uncertain date

Cross base at St John the Baptist Church, Sully ©heritagehiker

Click here for access times and directions

Sully Island

Is a site of special scientific interest with evidence of prehistoric occupation. It is located just off the coastline between Sully Bay and Swanbridge Bay. Growing up there were tales of it being used by smugglers and pirates looking to hide hidden treasure. It is noted as a former haven for the feared Medieval pirate Alfredo de Marisco, known as ‘The Nighthawk’,

Island Crossing Traffic Light System – Swanbridge ©heritagehiker

You can walk over an exposed causeway during low tide. There is a traffic light system in operation that gives you the green light and further safety instructions (including timings). The tide turns quickly here and many a day tripper has been caught out and stranded on the Island in need of rescue. The best way to enjoy the crossing is with a stop off at The Captain’s Wife located by the traffic light station.

Captain’s Wife, Swanbridge ©heritagehiker

The Captain’s Wife is a pub steeped in local history and legend. Located in a former fishing hamlet harbour called ‘Swanbridge’ it is formed from a row of fishermen’s houses. Local legend claims that tunnels from the shore once linked to nearby Sully House. These were used by smugglers to take goods to Sully House, a house owned by a sea captain. When the sea captain’s wife died, her body was kept in a box that was mistaken for treasure and stolen. It is said that both the Captain and his wife still haunt the site.

Visiting Cosmeston Country Park

Cosmeston Country Park is located between Sully and Penarth. It is a site that mixes history, heritage and nature and is well worth a visit. With car parking (charges apply) this old disused quarry site makes for a lovely day out. It has everything you need from toilets to café/visitor centre and picnic spots across the expanse of a country park. With lots of walking trails and even a children’s playpark to keep everyone entertained. It is easy to spend a full sunny day here but note it can get busy during the summer months.

With all the wonderful natural wildlife and trails it is easy to miss the reconstructed medieval village. The village is set on the footings of a former Medieval village that fell foul to the Black Death plague of the 1340s.

Entry charges apply. A dog friendly walking route takes you past the edge of the village boundaries.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council and others have produced a document highlighting some of Sully’s historical buildings of interest. Click here for the link to document.

For articles relating to areas near Sully see Barry, Dinas Powys and Penarth

4 thoughts on “The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Sully”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Upcoming Events

Book your space on these upcoming events

Get Involved with Heritage Hiker

Learn how you can get involved with Heritage Hiker today!