How Spicketts became a Barry institution

By GEM Community Correspondent in Local People

GRATEFUL thanks go to local historian Laurie Owens for writing in The GEM of January 26 the article headed ‘Undertaking a new profession in old Barry’.

Laurie referred to the undertakers W Spickett and Son, which was established in 1837. Some additional information may be of interest to GEM readers.

Queen Victoria had just ascended to the throne to begin her 64-year ‘glorious reign’ when Spickett’s started in business at Wesley House, Cadoxton, as jobbing carpenters, wheelwrights and undertakers.

The founders were David Spickett and William Spickett.

The thriving business was moved to a new address at 5 Barry Road, Cadoxton, before settling down at the Court Road premises, which were purpose-built for the undertaking business with a workshop at the rear. That was in 1899.

Over the years, the firm was actively involved in local affairs with both the founder and his son acting as clerks to the parish of Merthyr Dyfan, during the period when Barry grew from three scattered hamlets to a fairly large town and while the docks were being built.

Spicketts, in fact, played their part in the building of Barry Docks, carrying out a large amount of contract work in their role of jobbing carpenters.

Spicketts also provided all the surveyors’ wooden pegs used for marking out the docks, even before the work began, but even at that time the main business of the firm was the funeral work.

Life, of course, was far from easy in those days and wage packets were certainly none too fat. Many families simply couldn’t afford the cost of a hearse and carriages, and the navvies building the docks had a tradition of carrying the coffin in procession through the streets.

At that time, the horse drawn ‘Shellabier’ and horse drawn carriages made light work of ploughing through the ankle deep winter mud of Barry’s unpaved streets, but it was far more gruelling for the funeral bearers and mourners who made the slow journey on foot.

When William Spickett died in 1932, Frederick William Kenneth Hiley Spickett (known as Ken) took over the firm. Ken was married to Doris and they had six children; David, Alison, Pat, Beryl, John and Maryrose. Sadly, John died aged two, and Pat many years later, aged 47.

Ken Spickett died in 1970. David Spickett, the fourth generation, took over the running of W Spickett and Son.

In 1987, when W Spickett and Son had been in business for 150 years, David’s son Andrew joined him and they both ran the business until 2000, when David retired due to ill health.

W Spickett and Sons was bought by Pigeons of Cardiff, and is now known as Vale Funeral Services, run by Lyndsay and Nicola Ellis. DS/JS

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