Cycling in City Road

Nextbike City Road 2018

The appearance of a City of Cardiff bicycle hire rack in City Road inspired me to have visions of the past – velocipedes (boneshakers) and ordinaries (penny farthing bicycles) hurtling up and down Heol y Plwca or Castle Road (as it later became known in the 1870’s), on a road surface that was little more than a dirt track with ruts.  Most of these cyclists would have been members of the middle class and very few of them women.  To ride a Penny Farthing one needed to be fit, active and male and not encumbered by long heavy skirts and layers of petticoats.  The middle aged rode tricycles and quadricycles and from 1881 to 1886 more tricycles were built in the United Kingdom than bicycles.  They were more expensive, perceived as more genteel and were thought to be more suitable for women from middle class families.  With the emergence of the safety bicycle more women began to participate in cycling.  It was seen as part of the struggle for their social independence and critics were concerned by the risqué clothing they wore, such as divided skirts or bloomers.  Cycling was not embraced by the working class until after World War 1 when it was a means of travel to work (to the docks?) and an alternative to public transport.

City ROad Bicycle 2018

Cycling still popular today in the busy City Road.

The earliest known cycle dealers in Castle Road (now City Road) were Wheeler and Company trading at 10 Castle Road in 1889.  By now James Starley’s Rover safety bicycle had evolved to the extent that it had the appearance of a modern bicycle and was no doubt available from Wheelers’ cycle depot, complete with such refinements as Dunlop’s pneumatic tyres (1889) and the Silver King oil cycle lamp produced by Joseph Lucas of Birmingham (1879).  Electric batteries appeared after 1890.

Tandem cycles made their appearance in 1886 and the Cyclists Touring Club announced that ‘ladies, like luggage are wisely consigned to the rear’.  The Kennard Cycle Company followed in 1894 at 20 City Road at least until 1924.  By 1937 they had moved to 195 – 201 Richmond Road where they advertised themselves as agents for Raleigh bicycles.  The Raleigh Bicycle Company of Nottingham had been founded in 1888 and became the largest cycle manufacturer in the United Kingdom.  They probably also sold bicycles manufactured by the Hercules Cycle and Motor Cycle Company, founded in 1910.  The business prospered and by 1935 the company produced 40% of the total output of the United Kingdom, largely due to the adoption of mass production methods.

Worrell Cowbidge Road

Worrell & Co – not in City Road this one but on Cowbridge Road, but the City Road branch may well have looked similar.

By the decade beginning in 1910 there were three cycle dealers including the Worrell brothers who took over the former Wheeler premises at no. 10.  Expansion really came in the 1920’s, when there were 10 outlets in what was by now City Road.  This included a branch of the Halfords Cycle Co. Ltd. founded in Birmingham in 1892.  The City Road branch opened in 1929 at 210 City Road and closed in 1972.  They were of course agents for Raleigh bicycles including the Raleigh Chopper in 1970’s.  The Moulton folding bicycle had been developed in 1960 and the patent rights were sold to Raleigh in 1967.

Halfords was the last recorded cycle shop in City Road.

Halfords City ROad Wales Online

Halfords on City Road just on the left of the picture (Pic: Wales Online)

 

211 City Road in 2017 uncovers an old sign

Refurbishment work on 211 City Road in 2017 temporarily uncovers this old cycle shop sign (Cardiff Now and Then FB page)

 

Malcolm Ranson

16 Oct,2018

The New Roath Mill

There hasn’t been a mill in Roath since 1897 when the last one was demolished.  The new one isn’t very big and looks exactly like the previous one.  That’s because it is a bronze model of the last mill on the site in Roath Mill Gardens.  I say the last one, as there was probably a long line of mills at this location stretching back all the way to the 1100’s.

Roath Mill Sculpture

The new sculpture of Roath Mill by Rubin Eynon

The new bronze sculpture is by Welsh artist Rubin Eynon and is one of the finishing touches added at the end of the work on the Roath Flood Defence scheme.  Look carefully along the river bank close to the new sculpture and you can still see the remains of the last working corn mill on this site.

Roath Mill c 1890

A busy scene outside Roath Mill in around 1890 (Cardiff Libraries)

Roath Mill can hold a fascination for local historians.  There are a number of photographs of the last building and the people that occupied it. There are also quite a few references in historical documents to mills in Roath.  The big question is, can we say with certainty that the mills quoted in earlier references were on the same site?

Roath Tithe map of 1840

The Tithe map of 1840 showing the mill circled in red and the mill pond upsteam from that. Note the stream overflow going around field 266 and down what is now Marlbourough Road, infront of St Margaret’s Church (174) before rejoining the stream.

The history of the mills of Roath are covered in a number of places.   Our own Project Newsletter back in 1985 summarised some of the history.  A much more comprehensive article by Diane Brook can however be found in the journal Morgannwg (Vol 57 pp77-102) published by Glamorgan History Society, available from the society for £5 or can be  viewed at either Glamorgan Archives or Cathays Library.

Roath Mill sculpture from different angles

The article in Morgannwg not only summaries the mill’s history but also describes the geophysical survey and small excavation carried out in 2012 by Cardiff Archaeological Society to look for evidence of earlier mills on the site.  The result of the geophysical survey is that ‘the last mill building was very thoroughly demolished’. Although no firm evidence of earlier mills was found during this work the article concludes that “The known mill site lies approximately at the same location as its twelfth-century predecessor and certainly there was only ever one main corn-mill in Roath”.  A summary of the survey itself is available online.

Roath Mill c 1870

The Mill building in around 1870 (Cardiff Libraries)

The earliest reference to the mill is from Norman times where it is referred to in around 1102 as ‘Molendinum de Raz’ (Roath Mill – Raz being the old name for Roath).  At that time the ownership of the mill was handed over to Tewkesbury Abbey.  You may think that strange but much of the Roath area was owned by Tewkesbury Abbey before the dissolution of the monasteries.

Rubin Eynon Roath Mill Sculpture

The new sculpture in place next to Roath Brook.

The history of mills in Roath becomes somewhat hard to unravel as some references mention Keysham Abbey, another landowner in the Roath area.  There are also references to a ‘fulling mill’.  Fulling is the process of removing oil and grease from cloth.  The later references seem to refer to another mill that may or may not have been on the Roath area.  Nobody said studying local history was straightforward.

Roath Mill - W B Hodkinson - 1878 - Cardiff Libraries

Roath Mill 1878 – Watercolour by W B Hodkinson – (Cardiff Libraries)

Things would have looked very different around here in the days of the last mill.  The three-story mill building and its associated cottages was probably constructed in the seventeen century.  Records show that the building was renovated a number of times in the 1800s.  In 1801 for instance there is record of a new cast iron wheel and shaft being transported to the site.

Rubin Eynon working on Roath Mill

Rubin Eynon working on the sculpture of Roath Mill (Photo: Rubin Eynon website)

The area upstream had a pond, to hold back water to power the mill.  I’m also struck when looking at some old photos of the area how deep the stream’s channel appears.  The rubble from the mill demolished in 1897 would have later been used to infill the area when it was converted into the park as we now know it that that was opened to the public in October 1912.  That probably explains why trying to find evidence of earlier mill buildings was so difficult.

Roath Mill Remains

The remains of Roath Mill as seen in Roath Mill Park in the 1950s/1960s. Westville Road is in the background (Photo: Cardiff Libraries)

For much of the 1800s the Evans family were millers at Roath Mill.  Ownership and residents of the mill are much easier to trace during this period as the records still exist.

So next time you find yourself in the Pen-y-lan area, head for Sandringham Road (CF23 5BL) to visit Roath Mill Gardens, have a look at the bronze model of the last Roath mill, then walk around into the park itself and see if you can see the last remains of the mill along the riverbank.

Roath Brook and remains of Roath Mill

Roath Brook looking east downstream and remains of Roath Mill over the river.