On August 8th 1925, Boys’ Village opened up near St. Athan, South Wales. It was a holiday camp designed to provide some much-needed relief for Welsh miners from the intensity of work in the coal mines, and was essentially a small village with it’s own swimming pool, gymnasium, and cricket pitch. The list of facilities goes on.

Since opening in 1925, Boys’ Village has had a storied existence, being used by the military between 1940 and 1946, becoming a youth hostel in 1962, and eventually closing down for good in 1990.

From 1990 to modern-day, the eerie campsite has been mostly known for broken glass, questionable graffiti, and a Funeral for A Friend music video.

Almost a century after opening, and over 30 years since closing it’s doors, Boys’ Village is now being demolished. So I packed a roll of Cinestill 800T into my Canon A-1, and took an early morning trip with a friend to see the village in all it’s horrible, horrible glory, one last time.

Having gotten my first real film camera (a short-lived Canon AE-1) in June 2021, and having made these photos in the August, the Cinestill was only my 5th/6th roll of film.

I made some mistakes when exposing the 800T. I can’t remember now exactly what ISO I shot at, but I had the lab push the film in development to try to compensate for my mistake. While some of the results are a bit colour-shifted and low contrast, I think the red sky and jarring colours work nicely with some of the shots.

The gymnasium is a huge building with a highly punctured corrugated roof. The typical 800T halation (which I personally really like) went a little overboard on the gym roof, lending imminent alien invasion vibes.

The Boys Village church, framed here by the crusty window of a neighbouring hellhouse, is my favourite building in the village. No disrespect, but I find there’s an odd magnitude to a dilapidated place of worship.

There were parts of the site that had already been demolished when we arrived. There was no work happening on that day, but the proverbial ball of destruction was definitely rolling. So I’m glad we got to see Boys’ Village and document it on film before it’s transformed into something likely far less interesting.

I did shoot through a roll of Portra 400 on this trip too, so I might do a follow-up article in a bit. But maybe not – Turns out 400 words is a lot more effort than originally anticipated.

~ Ellis

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  1. Very interesting. In the 1960s I went for a couple of years during the summer to Boverton Youth Camp a similar setup on the coast SW of St Athan. You can still see the buildings and swimming pool on OS maps and Google. Marked as Hafod.

    1. Oh no way, interesting! do you know whether it’s accessible?

      1. I can see it on Google Maps. Ruined huts and the remains of the swimming pool. I read something about it once and that it had been setup to provide holidays for poor families! I came from Cwmbran in a council house in the old village I suppose that counted as poor as my dad worked in the foundry!
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  2. Good effort – writing and film photography are similar in that they reward practice and I think you are off to a flying start. Really important to document these places before they disappear!

    1. Thanks for your kind words Steve – I agree, think I’ll follow up with more like this in the future 🙂