Windsor Gardens was designed by the Windsor Estate agent Robert Forrest and architect Henry Snell, as a cliff-top park whose boundaries were the gardens of the private houses in Bridgeman Road and Marine Parade. Residents of those houses were granted private entry gates for an annual charge of half a guinea, while the entrance fee for everyone else was one penny per visit. The first (northerly) part of Windsor Gardens was formally opened on 3rd June 1881 and ended at a dingle (wooded valley). A puzzle gate was provided there for visitors to leave the Gardens, but not to enter. At the time of opening, a brick-built lodge was reported to be in the course of construction at the Bridgeman Road entrance. At the centre of the Gardens was a bandstand.
In 1884-85 there was an extension southwards, with an ornate wooden bridge to cross the dingle and enter the southerly part of the Gardens. A second entrance and lodge were sited at the southern end where there were also two cannon pointing seawards. The following description of Windsor Gardens appeared in Mate's Illustrated Penarth published in 1903:
The Windsor Gardens extend along the edge of the cliff, and are about half a mile in length. A broad walk runs along the centre, and is flanked on both sides by winding walks and flower beds. The entrance at either end is by a turnstile connected with a pretty lodge, and the charge is one penny or by season ticket obtainable at the Windsor Estate Office. The latter entitles to the use of the Gardens on Sunday, when they are closed to day visitors. Although so near the sea the plants and shrubs thrive well, and many that are usually considered delicate grow luxuriantly. Shrubberies, flower beds, velvet lawns, excite admiration, and here and there are cozy nooks, and bird's-eye views of the varied panorama on the beach below. Midway the walks converge, and, by an ornamental bridge, pass over a deep gully and are continued to the top of the Cliff Road. Near this end of the Garden are placed two of the Russian cannon taken in the Crimean War. There is a fine band stand, or shelter, and occasionally al fresco concerts are given, and sometimes of an evening the Gardens are gaily illuminated.
In the 1920s Windsor Gardens experienced a drop in visitor numbers, possibly because of the existence of Alexandra Park for which public access was free. Approaches were made by the Town Council to the Windsor Estate with a view to acquiring Windsor Gardens. The Earl of Plymouth (as Lord Windsor had become in 1905) was willing to give the park to the Council as part of a package for the Council to buy other land on the seafront. An agreement was announced in December 1930, by which the Council would receive Windsor Gardens, its lodges and bandstand as a gift, but with conditions which included the continued use of the private gates into the park.
On taking over Windsor Gardens the Council decided that the bridge, the bandstand and both lodges were in need of refurbishment, and it was necessary to carry out extensive trimming of the shrubs and hedges so that the sea view was not obstructed. Windsor Gardens was closed for the first half of 1931 while this work was carried out. It appears to have been reopened to the public in late June 1931 and was officially re-opened as a public park on 30th April 1932 by the Earl of Plymouth. In 1938 Windsor Gardens covered 4 acres.
There were steps leading down from Windsor Gardens to the Esplanade Shelter. These were presumably of metal construction, as during the Second World War it was decided to offer them to the Ministry of Works and Buildings for salvage as a free gift. Other than this, Windsor Gardens was little affected by the War, and its iron railings escaped requisition. In the summer of 1944 concerts were held in the southern part of Windsor Gardens on eight occasions during the "Holidays at Home" period promoted by the Ministry of Information, with a charge being made for admission during the time of the entertainments.
In the late 1940s there was a temporary coastguard lookout hut in Windsor Gardens. The regular lookout station was on the Pier, which was closed for repairs following gales in May 1947 and not re-opened until 1950.
The present day Windsor Gardens retains the original bandstand. The original railings are also still present and on several of the uprights in the southern part of the Gardens can be seen "D. Evans Landaff 1885". Recently the Vale of Glamorgan Council has renovated and incorporated into Windsor Gardens the area above the Beachcliff retaining wall.
Sources of information