A Plaid Cymru councillor has asked the Vale Council to correct and replace a ‘misleading’ street name on Barry Waterfront with the Welsh language version originally agreed.
Black Lives Matter activists had raised concerns that Ffordd Penrhyn on Barry Waterfront referred to an 18th-century slave-owner, and that they would stage a protest outside the Vale of Glamorgan Council offices.
But the Vale of Glamorgan said it was the Welsh word for ‘peninsula’. A 2017 consultation by the Vale Council suggested Peninsular Way and Ffordd Y Penrhyn as options.
But researching the original consultation, Cllr Ian Johnson pointed out that the completed street sign has missed out the ‘Y’, giving some people the impression that it was named after a person rather than a geographical term.
Ian Johnson, who represents the northern part of Barry Waterfront, said: “Huge effort has gone into making Barry Waterfront a welcoming and successful new community, and names for the area were chosen to celebrate Barry’s history and local geography.
“When consulting on the new street names in 2017, the Vale Council included the suggestions ‘Pensinsular Way’ in English and ‘Ffordd Y Penrhyn’ in Welsh, so their intention was quite clear.
“Unfortunately, the ‘Y’ has been missed out in the sign-writing, so it reads like a person’s name, like neighbouring streets Heol Tapscott, named after the Barry Town, Arsenal and Wales international footballer, and Heol Livesey, a film actor.
“To end the confusion, I have written to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Managing Director recommending that they should replace the sign to become ‘Ffordd Y Penrhyn’, with the spelling in line with their original intention in the consultation.
“Hopefully we can move on from this and focus our energies on important matters such as rebuilding Barry’s economy after the Coronavirus crisis.”
Speaking to WalesOnline, black rights activist Hillary Brown said she was astonished no one at the Vale of Glamorgan Council made the connection when the street name was chosen.
“I was driving last week on the new estate and was absolutely horrified to see one of the streets is named Fford Penrhyn. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“I contacted the builders Persimmon and they said the local authority chose street names. When I contacted the council they said the name means headland or peninsular in Welsh. But that’s unacceptable and I want it changed.
“Even if it is a genuine error it’s a name that celebrates a slave master. It’s offensive to the people who live in Barry, in Jamaica and everyone.
“We will be holding a protest outside the council offices and want the name changed.”
But Cllr Neil Moore, Leader of Vale of Glamorgan Council, said: “The street in question was not named after an individual, but rather includes the Welsh translation for peninsular or headland, reflecting its location near the coast. It is also a Cornish name for headland. The name does not refer to any historical figure.
“A process to review all statues and commemorations, including street names, public buildings and plaques in the Vale of Glamorgan is under way. It is vital those on public land are representative of local people’s values and those of a modern, inclusive Council.
“We will be working with our communities and appropriate organisations to investigate links to slavery and any other behaviour or practice not befitting our ethos. The Council will be considering the contents of the review in due course.
“This is a further example of the Council’s determination to tackle prejudice in all its forms. As an organisation, we remain absolutely committed to the principle of equality regardless of race, age, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.”
Wales and slavery
Many Welsh families participated in the slave trade and despite it being prohibited in 1807 the money they made often financed projects which contributed to Wales’ industrial revolution in the 19th century.
By 1805 Richard Pennant owned nearly 1000 enslaved people across his four plantations in Jamaica. The money made was used to renovate Penrhyn Castle and invested in the Penrhyn Quarry, at one point the largest slate quarry in the world, near Bethesda.
He was also an anti-abolition campaigner and from 1788 chaired a special sub-committee to organise opposition to abolition.
Other prominent Welshmen in the slave trade included Sir Henry Morgan, the privateer, who became governor of Jamaica and purchased sugar plantations there.