The Story of Small Things

From the top of Penarth Heights you can see down into Penarth Marina and out across the water to Cardiff. The area directly below the Heights used to be called Penarth Docks. Class Chestnut researched the rich and varied history of these Docks and all the people who lived and worked there from when they were built in 1865 to the present day. In small groups, they chose three objects from a selection and were asked to imagine that these objects had been found in the Docks, and to invent strange and wonderful journeys that these objects might have taken across the decades to end up there.

These are their stories. Use the slider to travel through time and roll over a photo to read a description.

1865

1865

One day in 1865 Darren Davies was trying to find a job working in the tunnels that connected Penarth Docks to Cardiff Docks. He got hired, and they gave him a key to open the gate for people to get through such as cyclists and walkers.

One day he got up to open the gates then he walked half way into the tunnel and he found an odd little box. Then he came back out and looked inside it. There he found a musical instrument called a 'Rolmonica' and a compass. He put the things in his pocket.

He went home, but on the way he dropped the compass and the protective glass case smashed. Three young boys ran past and knocked into Darren as he bent down to pick up the compass, making the key and the Rolmonica fall from his pocket and straight into the docks.

Darren walked home peacefully and the next day he went back to the docks but realised he'd forgotten to pick up the compass. He checked his pockets and the Rolmonica and key also weren't there either, but he was too late to get them as the tide had already washed them away and the compass was buried too deep in the sand.

1886

1886 - 2012

This is a tale about the tragic lives of Harry and Paula Lewis. They did have a lovely life running a General Store in Penarth Docks and one day they even went on the SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, when it was docked there in 1886.

In fact they were rather well off. On their life-changing trip to America, Harry was running up and down the deck when tragically he dropped his beloved finger puppet, Mr Hippo. He had loved this toy ever since he had got it on his first birthday five years ago. It went over the edge. Harry loved his toy so much he leapt over the edge to rescue him. Thankfully his Mother got the life guard in the nick of time.

I found the object washed up in Penarth Docks, so unfortunately Harry didn't get to it.

Once Harry and Paula got back, a bigger, cheaper store opened and they were soon out of business. They were forced into the Workhouse, where they tragically died. In Paula's will she wanted the key to the shop to be thrown off the end of Penarth pier. That's where I found it. On the rusty key was an address. I went to the shop, unlocked it, and on the shelf was a crumbled, chipped plate, which the lifeguard had given to Harry when they saved him.

1895

1895 - 1940

In 1915 a very wealthy couple got married. Their names were Mary and John. Mary had a beautiful, elegant ring with lime green and cloudy green gems in it. John had nearly the same ring, but the gems were different shapes. These rings showed that they'd never be parted.

In 1939 John had to go to World War II to fight for his country. He and Mary said their goodbyes, hoping it would not last forever. Every day after John left Mary would go down to Penarth Docks from where John had set off on his lonely journey and would look out into the distance.

A couple of months later on a chilly September afternoon she saw a tiny, brown medicine bottle drifting towards her on the shallow shore. She walked over to it excitedly, now seeing there was a little brown note inside of it.

The note read: My dear beloved Mary, I am missing you and cannot wait to see you. Love John.x

Mary was so emotional she cried for hours. She knew that John was still alive and safe, but on the other hand she just wanted her husband back with her. She was so happy he'd written when he had, because a few weeks later John died a horrible death in Dunkirk on the beach. He and lots of others died the attack. When the news got back to Mary she was heartbroken and depressed for weeks. She had to go to Dunkirk to visit where John had died to still be in his heart.

She went to the bomb-site, it was like a shipwreck – everything was broken, dark and miserable. The bodies of the dead soldiers were being stored nearby, and Mary saw one who looked like John. She knelt down beside him and in the corner of her eye she saw bright and colourful flowers, which were a symbol to Mary of John starting a new and happy life up in heaven. Mary was calm and happy now she took John with her back to Penarth to have a memorial service by the sea, as it was one of John's favourite places to watch everything go by.

John was buried in a coffin in the sea, and the service, for the first ever time, Mary took off her ring and threw it gently into the sea the flowers, so that her and John could be in each other's hearts forever.

1913

1913 - 2012

I was walking on the beach when I came across a long but small rusted coat hanger.

I picked it up and found that engraved on the back was faint, cursive writing saying Penarth Sailors Rest ,1913. House Keeper.

I'd heard of that place from a project we'd done at school.

I wanted to find out more, so I decided to go to the Penarth Sailors Rest Museum, and I took the coat hanger with me to show them. In return they showed me a silver candlestick that had the same thing engraved on it on its side. They said it was from the marriage of the last House Keeper of the Penarth Sailors Rest.

Then I asked them why it was demolished and they said it was due to the fall of the coal trade and lack of customers.

After that they showed me the relic from the last ships crew who stayed there. It was a broken mitten from a Danish sailor who had left it there.

1914

1914 - 1941

Emily was a servant girl. One night Emily was busy making the family she worked for a clay pot. After she gave her boss the pot she heard terrible news. WWI had started and they were asking for extra men to fight. Emilys Dad agreed to this and set off to Germany with the rest of the troops. While Emilys Dad was gone Emily looked after the cottage.

After four years in the war Emilys Dad returned home with a special medal for being brave. He soon got work in the Docks and was glad the war was over so he could spend time with his daughter and wife.

Before Emilys Dad died he gave her his special bravery medal. He said to her to keep it as a good luck charm and help guide her through her life.

Just before WWII started Emilys boss gave her a wooden, patterned box, which Emily kept her good luck medal in.

During WWII Emilys house got bombed, but luckily they were in an air raid shelter. Firemen checked to see if anyone was beneath the rubble, but all they found was the medal and the lovely patterned box. The firemen gave the objects back to Emily, and Emily smiled with joy.

1914

1914 - 1919

I'm George Summers and I'm a Naval Officer and I worked on board HMS Victory during the Great War. We had been out at sea patrolling the Welsh coast for 4 months and hadn't encountered any enemy ships. On the horizon I saw a ship. We don't know if it's friendly, so we stayed cautious. The ship is got nearer, suddenly BANG! The ship had fired at us!

"Load the cannons!" shouted the commanding officer. "Fire!" The cannons fired. The officer standing next to me pulled out a gun and took a shot at the commanding officer. I jumped in front of the bullet and it hit me in the back. Everything went black.

Two hours later I woke up in the ship's medical room with a writhing pain in my back. I was later told that the traitor had been shot by a firing squad and that I would have to take painkillers for the rest of my life.

Two weeks later I went to see the Commanding Officer who presented me with an expensive pocket watch and as thank you for saving his life. I always kept it in my pocket along with my medicine.

When the war ended I was given a medal for my service which I always wore proudly.

Five years on I went sailing in Penarth Docks when suddenly the hull of the boat hit something hard and the boat capsized. I was trapped underneath the boat and it sank, along with me, into the mud flats below.

1915

1915 - 1940

One day Lucy was very bored, so she got out her 'Things To Make And Do' book and went to the page 'How to find a fossil'. She nagged her Mum to go and help her find a fossil on the beach. Eventually she gave in and they went to the beach. After two hours of looking Lucy finally came across a brown spiral fossil.

Just a few day's later Lucy's brother Gary was called off to go to war, so Lucy gave Gary her fossil for good luck. While Gary was at war he won a bravery medal for saving a soldier's life.

On the way back from the war, Gary was boasting and showing off on the boat about his medal all day. His friends had had enough of Gary showing off about his medal so that night they cut it off his uniform and threw it into the sea. He next day he woke up to find his medal had gone.

Gary searched the whole boat and asked his friends, but he couldn't find it anywhere! He was really upset and didn't talk to anyone all day.

The next day they arrived and as Gary got off the boat he saw something shining in the water. He walked over to the shining thing curiously, he picked it up, and it was his medal. He was so happy and he thought it must be all to do with his lucky fossil!

1919

1919 - 1939 - 1959

There was once a man called Bob. He was a soldier in WW1. He was coming from his boat which was docked at Penarth Docks, but when he got to his car the medal he had won which was on his clothes ripped through the ribbon it hung from, and slipped into the docks.

His son, called Bill, worked for G.W.R (Great Western Railways) and he had just finished his shift and was in his way to meet his Dad in the park, but when he was out of the dock he realised he had lost his whistle.

His daughter, called Bronwen, just finished knitting club and went for a play with her friends. So they put their knitting stuff beside the Dock, but when they came back Bronwen's friend accidentally knocked her stuff into the water.

1930

1930 - 1955

In 1930 in Penarth Docks they had a grand opening for a new Navy transporter boat with a luxury white wooden floor and red walls, and a chest with metal handles.

The first time it set sail it was with a new pilot on board called J.N. Damon.

The ship went out to London for the pilots to get ready for World War II. J.N. Damon had just received his dog tags. Then they set out to bomb Germany. J.N. Damon was the only Survivor from the 20 pilots that were on board with him.

Years later, in 1955 J.N. Damon was teaching 20 year old men to fly, but before he started teaching he went for a test flight because he hasn't flown for five years. But went horribly, he crashed in the sail of the very boat he first went out to sea on in Penarth Docks. He went straight into the white floorboards and hit the chest. The handle of the chest went flying and his dog tag came off. Unfortunately J.N. Damon died as the boat set on fire and it sank.

1934

1934 - 1939 - 1941

One day a young boy and his father went for a walk by Penarth Docks. The boy found a mussel shell, but his father told him to chuck it back into the water. But the boy didn't, because he didn't want to and because he thought it had lovely colours on it.

Five years later when the boy was much older they went back to Penarth Docks and the boy's father found a cup that had lovely handles on the sides. He knew that he was going to join the Royal Air Force soon, so he took the cup so he could use it on his travels.

The boy's father joined the Royal Air Force and he got a lovely badge as part of his uniform. It had on a picture of someone on a plane with loads of bright colours.

Two years later the father's plane crashed into Penarth Docks, but the boy didn't know his father had died. However a friend of the boy's father found the cup next to the wreck of the plane and know who it belonged to. The friend thought that the boy would want it, so he gave it to him. He boy was so sad that his Father had died but was so glad that he had something special to remember him by.

1939

1939 - 1945

This is a tale about a family who travelled the world - The Travellers.

One day The Travellers decided they would like to visit their friends in Japan, so the Mother, the Father and their daughter set sail from Penarth Docks. A few weeks later they arrived at the coast of Japan. They stayed at the friend's house for two weeks and did various activities. Just before they left their friend gave them a small, handmade, Japanese cup. They also told the family that earlier that morning a message had come from them that World War II had broken out. The family of travellers sailed to Egypt to hide from the bombings. For many days they struggled with the heat of Egypt.

For the first 3 years they lived happily with the Father's new job as a Archaeologist. One day he found the tomb of a Pharaoh and found a small, golden disc. Soon he received a letter telling him to go to War. When the boat came to pick him up he gave the small disc to his wife and the Japanese cup to his daughter.

During the first few months after the Father had been gone his daughter began to feel very lonely. The Mother noticed this and made her a little woollen mouse toy to comfort her. After 2 further years the war ended and the whole family of travellers returned home to Penarth. As the daughter was walking down the decking with the mouse, the cup and the disc she slipped, but the Father caught her. The 3 precious items fell into the water, but that didn't matter to them - because the family of travellers were together again.

1940

1940 - 2012

One bright morning Sally and Sam went out with their Mother and Father for a walk along the Docks at Penarth. They went to sit on the stones when Sally felt something digging into her back. She pulled a hair clip and a dress pattern from behind her.

The clip was a beautiful grey-ish silver colour, with a pattern on the top of a flower, leaves and a butterfly. The gems on the clip were a golden-yellow colour, whereas those on the butterfly were an orange-brown colour.

Then Sally looked at the dress pattern kit. It was an envelope with tracing paper inside. The envelope was ripped and torn in the corners and it was creased on the front and back. Sally and Sam decided to put the objects in their bag so they could take them home and research them.

Later on that day Sam and his Father went fishing in the Docks. Sam threw his bait into the water and waited for a response. After two minutes he felt a little tug on his rod. He pulled it out of the water and there on the end was a little key. Attached to the key was a little note. It said "Dear my Darling Elizabeth, I miss you so much. War is so hard when you and Elisa are not with me. This key is my lucky charm and it will keep you safe when the bombs are going off. I have also sent you a dress-making kit, to keep you busy in the hours you are not working. I have sent Elisa a beautiful little clip made by Tiffany the jewellers, and it is a one-off, made in 1865. So tell her to keep it safe. I have to go now. Charlie xxx"

When Sally and Sam got home they found out that the letter was dated from 1940, when the World War II was going on. Sally and Sam were upset by the whole story but were happy because true love always finds a way through.

1940

1940 - 1945

One day Lucy was very bored, so she got out her 'Things To Make And Do' book and went to the page 'How to find a fossil'. She nagged her Mum to go and help her find a fossil on the beach. Eventually she gave in and they went to the beach. After two hours of looking Lucy finally came across a brown spiral fossil.

Just a few day's later Lucy's brother Gary was called off to go to war, so Lucy gave Gary her fossil for good luck. While Gary was at war he won a bravery medal for saving a soldier's life.

On the way back from the war, Gary was boasting and showing off on the boat about his medal all day. His friends had had enough of Gary showing off about his medal so that night they cut it off his uniform and threw it into the sea. He next day he woke up to find his medal had gone.

Gary searched the whole boat and asked his friends, but he couldn't find it anywhere! He was really upset and didn't talk to anyone all day.

The next day they arrived and as Gary got off the boat he saw something shining in the water. He walked over to the shining thing curiously, he picked it up, and it was his medal. He was so happy and he thought it must be all to do with his lucky fossil!

1948

1948 - 1968

Once, long ago, there lived a man called Johnny Smith. He was a very rich man who lived on a boat. He always carried around a leather case on his belt. It was empty but he had it just in case he found something that he would want to keep.

One day he was walking on a beach, which he had stopped off at whilst his boat was docked at Penarth, when he found a replacement stylus for a record player and thought it might come in handy, so he placed it into his leather pouch. When he got back to his ship and reached for his leather pouch he realised he had left in in Penarth, but he had already left port and couldn't turn back now!

Twenty years later a man came to the beach in Penarth that Johnny had lost his possessions on. The man came with a book called 'The Observer's Book of Sea and Seashore' because he wanted to identify some creatures and rocks, when he came across Johnny's leather pouch and stylus.