Splott Memories

Bob David has kindly allowed us to share these memories of his growing up in Splott.  I hope it evokes some childhood memories of yours too. The memories have been supplemented with some pictures supplied by Bob and some extra ones. Thank you for sharing Bob.  

I was born in Moorland Road Splott in 1946 and have so many memories.

Splott was a great place to grow up in, people didn’t have much money but there was a great community atmosphere.

When I was young Splott was separated from Roath and Adamsdown by the mainline Railway line, Constellation Street and Pearl Street were in Roath. It was said that in order to enter Splott you had to either cross over or go under one of 5 bridges, either over-Windsor Road Bridge, The Black Bridge, Splott Bridge, Beresford Road Bridge or under—South Park Road or north Park Road Bridges from Tremorfa.

I had Uncles and Aunts all over Splott in Moorland Road, Splott Road, Eyre Street and Bridgend Street.  My Great Grandfather Joseph Hill first moved to Splott in the 1890s. Kelly’s directory has him his wife and 8 children living in Habershon Street in 1896. By 1901 he was living in Walker Road and by 1916 he and his wife had moved to South Park Road.

Moorland Road in 1963

The 1901 Census shows my great grandfather was a yard foreman in the Tharsis Copper Works, about three quarters of a mile from where he lived at the bottom of Lewis Road, between Lewis Road and Portmanmoor Road, Splott.

My Grandmother’s house in Moorland Road backed out onto the lanes between Moorland Road and Courtney Road. The lane door and back kitchen door were never bolted except at night. To get in through the front door all you had to do was reach through the letter box and pull a chain. The lane was our playground During the 1950s. The favourite Street games for Boys was either Cowboys and Indians or British and Germans.  In Cowboys and Indians we all had Cowboy hats and Cowboy holsters with cap guns. We made bows and arrows out of bamboo canes bought in Rolfe’s on Splott Road the bows would be carefully bent and strung with string. We’d chose the straightest canes for arrows. Every mother would warn her children that if they weren’t careful when they fired their arrows they’d have someone’s eye out. We had Sheriff’s stars pinned on our jumpers sometimes with small photo of our faces in the middle. We’d pretend to be Lash Larue or Kit Carson. We’d read comics like Six Gun Heroes. Everyone wanted to be a goodie, no one wanted to be a baddie.

Lane behind Moorland Road

When we wanted a drink of water, we just went into our houses via the lane door. The Lane was our play park. We’d play football and cricket in the lane and run races around the garage in the middle. In the Summer people left their front doors and backdoors open to let the breeze blow through the house.

I remember in the 1950s most men rode their bikes to work. The biggest employers in Cardiff were the two steel works, Guest Keen Iron and Steel and Guest Keen Castle works.  Most of the men in Splott either worked on the docks or in one of the steelworks.  I remember all the workers cycling passed our house in Moorland Road before and after shift changes. I also remember the double decker buses driving past the house full of workers.

East Moors Steel Works (picture credit – John Stennett)

I remember all the steel workers bikes piled up against the wall of the Grosvenor pub when the 6-2 shift in the steelworks came out. None of them were locked. We used to get paid a 1d to mind them, though when the owners came out after a few pints we’d often get a 3d or if we were lucky a 6d.

Penny for the Guy outside the Grosvenor pub

I remember the red glow in the sky when they were tipping the slag ladles over the foreshore and the occasional thump when a ladle was tipped into the sea on a high tide and the slag inside had crusted over and burst in contact with the water.

Dumping of slag (photo not Cardiff in this instance)

I remember the sulphur smell from the coke ovens on Lewis Road if the wind was blowing from the west.

I remember the mournful blast from the fog horn on the Flat Holme on a foggy night and I used to imagine the ships out at sea finding their way through the fog.

You could get all your shopping done in Splott Road or Carlilse Street or in the dozens of small corner shops too many to mention. There were also quite a few house shops where someone had turned their front room into a small shop mostly just selling cigarettes, sweets or pop.

Carlisle Street

Some Shops I remember from the 1950s though I could go on and on

  • Setchfields later Probert’s, corner of Coveny St and Moorland Square
  • Barret and Puzey, Habershon Street
  • Dandos the Newsagents, Habershon Street
  • Orsolinis, Carlisle Street,
  • O’sheas Carlisle Street
  • The Ray Café, Carlilse Street
  • Audrey’s Café, Carlilse Street
  • The Three Swifts stores in Carlilse Street
  • Gazzi’s Chip shop, Carlilse Street
  • Janet’s Pantry in Carlilse Street (great pasties)
  • Davis the Chemist, Carlilse Street
  • Kent’s the Barbers, Carlilse Street
  • The Newsbox, Carlisle Street
  • Hunts the DIY shop, Carlisle Street, now Larcombe’s the undertakers
  • Taylors the Chemist, Splott Road
  • The Bon Marche Splott Road which at Christmas used to have a luck dip barrel outside
  • Jack Caravias’s Chip shop in Carlilse street
  • Manley’s the Newsagents on the corner of Janet Street and Walker Road
  • Browns show repairers opposite Setchfields on Coveny Street

There were two Co-ops on Splott Road, the Co-op Green grocers on the corner of Habershon Street and Splott Road and the Co-op Grocers on the corner of Railway Street and Splott Road. Tuckers Electrical on Splott bridge where in the 1950s I bought my Dinky toys.

I remember Pengellys Toy shop on Splott Road, a really great toy shop. It was a toy shop and a barbers. The toy shop was run by the wife, a French woman called Cherie. Her husband ran the barbershop behind the toy shop. It was only a small toyshop but it was an Aladdin’s cave. I used to spend hours stood outside looking in the window especially at Christmas. I used to go there to buy toy soldiers. You could buy them singly at 6d (2½p) each.  On the run up to bonfire night there was a large glass cabinet on the counter full of fireworks. You could choose what fireworks you wanted: 1d bangers, 3d cannons, rockets, Catherine wheels, hopping jinni’s, Roman Candles, Mount Vesuvius’s, Rainbow Fountains.

Splott Road in the 1970s

A few days before Christmas each year I’d go up to Carlisle Street with my uncle. We’d go to Watkins the grocers and off license where he would buy the Christmas booze, Emva Cream Sherry, QC wine, some flagons of beer and some spirits, usually whisky and maybe rum and brandy, and a bottle of Advocaat. We’d then go to Ollins the greengrocers and buy some tangerines and nuts, before walking back to 168 Moorland Road.

Every Saturday morning I’d go to the kid’s matinee in Splott Cinema.  I’d cheer when the cowboys came on and boo when the Indians came on. All the good cowboys wore white hats and all the baddies wore black hats. The last film every week was always a serial and ended with to be continued-to tempt you back the following week.

Splott Cinema after it had been converted to a bingo hall.

In those days when you went to the cinema (we called them the pictures) you’d often go in half way through a film and then watch through the films until you got to the bit you came in and then out you’d go. There was always two films and Pathe news and I don’t remember any adverts in the 1950s.

Splott Cinema interior

My Grandmother used to love going to Splott Cinema on Saturday afternoons and often she would take me.  I remember walking up Splott Road on a sunny warm Saturday afternoon in the mid 1950s on the way to see a film in the Splott Cinema with my grandmother. The shops all had their sun blinds pulled out sheltering the stock in the windows from the hot sun.

I remember floating lollypop sticks and matchsticks down the gutter on rainy days. I remember playing marbles or ‘alleys’ as we called them in those same gutters. The gutters always seemed cleaner in those days, and they probably were because people came along with hand carts and swept them.h I remember my Father used to come home with ball bearings for me to play with. We called them bombers or bomberinos.

I remember when there were roadwork’s in Moorland Road in the mid 1950s. I remember there was a night watchman sat in a little hut with a bright brazier in front of it.  I remember seeing himsat there warming his hands when my Uncle Sam walked me home. He’d walk me up to Moorland Road Square then watch me run home from there.  I’d wave from the front gate of my house and then he’d walk back home.  I remember it made me feel extra secure when I went to bed thinking that there was a night watchman outside all night.

I remember when I was young in the early mid 1950s, the salt and vinegar man coming up Moorland Road pushing a hand cart upon which he had large blocks of salt and a barrel of malt vinegar.  He’d cut chunks off the salt using a hacksaw and would break the lumps up with a hammer. If you wanted vinegar, he’d fill a bottle you took out to him with malt vinegar from the barrel. My Grandmother kept the salt in an earthenware pot in the pantry. In those days we had salt not like today where you have table salt and cooking salt, we had just salt.

I also remember a one man band man in Moorland Road. He had a drum on his back, cymbals on the inside of his knees, a mouth organ on a frame in front of his mouth and was playing a banjo. As a child I thought he was amazing. All the kids would follow him as he paraded down the street. The kids would ask their parents etc for money which they put in a cup around his neck. I only saw him the once but the memory has stayed with me ever since.

I remember the huge bonfire that the kids used to build on November 5th on the bomb site on the corner of Bridgend Street and Swansea Street.

I also remember bonfires being built over Splott park.

I also remember when people would set fire to the rubbish in the railway arches on Swansea Street.

Bonfire night was always a busy night for the fire brigade.

As a child I spent 90% of my home time playing outdoors, either over Splott Park, the Tide Fields or Pengam Airport, playing in the aircraft that were used for fire practice including a Halifax bomber and a spitfire.

Actual photo of the Halifax in Pengam Airport

As my house in Moorland Road backed out onto the railway line I used to hop over the railings and cross the railway tracks to get to Splott Park which was pretty dangerous as in the 1950s the railway was really busy. We also used to put pennies on the track so they’d be squashed flat by a passing train.

Splott Park

I remember lying in bed at night listening to the trains as they rumbled passed. If they were shunting, I’d hear the railwaymen talking and see the glow from the engine’s firebox.

Although I was born and lived in Splott, I went to Metal Street/St Germans school but every Wednesday afternoon we went to Splott Park to either play baseball in the summer or football in the winter.

St German’s School, Adamsdown, Cardiff. Top left: Metal Street National School c.1890. Top Rt: lesson in baking c.1940. Bot Left: The old school being converted into housing. Bot Rt: St German’s Court.

I broke my leg on the ocean wave/witches’ hat in Splott Park play area in 1955. The park keeper was an old chap called Gussy.  I was taken to the park keeper’s hut (which is still there) to wait for an ambulance to take me to the CRI.

The water in Splott pool was always freezing. I used to love the open-air paddling pool in the summer.

The embankment on the Splott Park side of the railway lines was an adventure playground. We used to hang rope swings from the trees and swing out over the railings. I remember one day when the rope broke and a boy was impaled through the thigh on the railings. He was ok after it had healed but had a wicked scar.

I remember doing penny for the guy on Splott Road in front of St Saviours church right next to the bus stop.

I was in the 78th cubs and scouts. The cubs met in St Saviours church hall and the scouts in St Francis church hall.

Although I didn’t go to Splott School in the day I did go to night school there in 1960/61.  I remember the smell from the public toilets situated just under the windows in the summer. We also used to go there for woodwork from St Germans school.

There used to be a scrap yard in Portmanmoor Road Lane call Cannes.  I remember once my mates and I found an old spring bed base near the vicarage on Courtenay Road. We dragged it down to Canne’s yard and got 6d for it. Cannes had a shop on Portmanmoor Road where I used to buy my air rifle pellets

3 thoughts on “Splott Memories

  1. These are the memories I love to hear.Confirms my family’s beliefs of where Splott began!
    Many of the memories eg the salt and vinegar man, racing lolly sticks down gutters are the same as mine in Roath in the fifties and sixties. We also called marbles ,alleys but ball bearings were known as bompers!
    My mother used to go collecting money for payments for items bought from a catalogue through the streets of Splott when I was a baby , pushing me in a pram. She lived just around the corner from Metal Street school from the age of 10 till she married. Her youngest brother went to that school and Adamsdown School these days is on the site where the family lived in System Street

  2. I enjoyed very much the preceding article which described life in and memories of Splott.
    Although I was not born there, nor did I live there I worked there on two occasions and have other recollections of Splott.
    Firstly in the summer of 1969 during my school holidays I worked in the coke ovens, which was an eye opener. In those days there was no H&S executive, they would have had a field day on that site had there been one.
    Secondly, in 1971 I drove a lorry for the Salvation Army which was based in the Mission Hall in Portmanmoor Road.
    At the end of 1968 I started going out with my first “steady girlfriend” called Christine who lived in Habershon Street. Over the years I have had business which has taken me through and to Splott.
    Not the least of which reason was to help my father in law to move stock in and out of his shop
    which was in Carlisle Street. Situated two or three doors down from Jack Caravias’s
    fish shop was his tobacconist, confectioner’s shop called N.H.Smith’s. Although it was closed
    in the mid eighties I’m sure many people would still remember it now. My wife was not born in Splott but she lived there for the first five years of her life. Though she has no specific memories of that time, she does remember the shop front as she lived across from it.
    I have many memories of playing football on Splott Park and snooker in the clubs of Splott.
    Although my involvement with and memories of Splott are nowhere near as in depth as other
    writers here I shall always hold fond memories of my time spent there.
    Regards.

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