The Mackintosh of Mackintosh comes to Cardiff and Alf and Ella get hitched.

On the 14th April 1880, Alfred Donald Mackintosh (b.1851) of Moy Hall near Inverness, 28th Chief of the Clan Mackintosh and 29th Chief of the Clan Chattan married Harriet Diana Arabella Mary Richards (b.1857) of Cottrell, St Nicholas.  Alfred’s vast estates in the Scottish Highlands covered 124,000 acres, though much of it was moorland with the result that his rent roll, together with the economic potential of the land was considerably less than that which accrued from his wife’s property in Glamorgan even before the Plasnewydd estate was developed.

The Richards pedigree begins with William Richards, a late 17th century Alderman of Cardiff.  In the 18th century the family prospered becoming lawyers, clergymen and administrators and were the most substantial family resident in or near Cardiff. Harriet’s father Edward Priest Richards (1831-1856) was the third son of John Matthews Richards (1803-1843).  He was named after his great-uncle Edward Priest Richards (1792-1867) who for 40 years was the chief agent of the Marquis of Bute’s estates in Glamorgan and while contributing to the Bute fortune, doubtless did not neglect to increase his own.  He also accumulated almost every public office in the county of Glamorgan and the borough of Cardiff and in doing so established a powerful and intricate network of local control.

Plasnewydd, now called the Mackintosh Sports and Social Club

On the 5th February 1856, Edward Priest Richards the younger married Harriet Georgina Tyler of Cottrell, St Nicholas, 6 miles west of Cardiff.  According to an eye witness Edward was short sighted, wore an eyeglass and walked with short steps and a curious little hop.  He died during the first year of the marriage, when after having attended a ploughing match dinner, he and his horse were involved in a fatal collision with a cart load of manure in Heol y Plwca (now City Road).

The death of Edward Priest Richards in 1856 on City Road (than Plwcca Lane)

At the time of her husband’s death, Harriet was pregnant and their daughter Harriet Diana Arabella Mary Richards was born at Cottrell House, St Nicholas in June 1857, where she continued to live as a young girl.  The St Nicholas Poor Rate Records for 1879 and 1880 show that Cottrell was owned by Gwinnett Tyler, a naval lieutenant, but occupied by his niece, the 22-year-old Harriet Richards.  George William Tyler, a nephew of Gwinnett Tyler, inherited Cottrell in 1886 but did not live there.  He too had entered the Navy in 1866 as a naval cadet and after 20 years service retired, and sold Cottrell to his cousin Harriet.  She could afford it as in 1867 she had inherited the fortune of Edward Priest Richards the elder, who had died that year.  She was now a very wealthy young woman.

Harriet married Alfred in 1880 having signed a comprehensive “Ante-nuptial contract of marriage” the day before.  Arranged marriages were not unknown between the wealthy and there are in the Mackintosh papers, in the National Archives of Scotland, documents which relate to arrangements made for the care of Harriet Diana Arabella Mary Richards from between 1862 and 1874, as well as a copy of the contract of marriage.  The resulting situation seems to have been that Alfred owned the Scottish estates and Harriet the Glamorgan estates. This arrangement seems to have anticipated the Married Woman’s Property Act,1882.

Alfred’s father and grandfather had been fur traders at Detroit in the USA, though the family seat was at Moy Hall, near Inverness.  Alfred was born at Moy and was educated at Brighton, Sussex and Cheltenham College.  He then enrolled at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and in 1870 was commissioned in the Highland Light Infantry.  The death of his brother in 1876, with no male heir, caused Alfred to become the 28th Chief of the Clan Mackintosh.  He resigned from the regular army, but became a Captain in the militia battalion of his local regiment, the Cameron Highlanders.

Moy Hall, Inverness-shire

Alfred and Harriet divided their time between Mayfair, Moy and Cottrell.  For the first six years of their married life, they lived at Cottrell but did not own it. Their main preoccupation at Cottrell was hunting, while at Moy it was fishing and shooting.  The Glamorgan Hunt was not large, as many were in the 1880s and in 1882 they attended a meet at Llanishen (then described as a rural hamlet) and also supported local steeplechases and point-to-point races.  The Hunt Ball was the social event of the year. Alfred and Ella (Harriet’s pet name) would have danced waltzes and performed the Lancers to tunes from The Mikado and Ruddigore.  Polkas listed on the dance card were Buffalo Bill, Bugle Call and Hanky Panky!  Even more energetic were the gallops Post Horn and John Peel.

Both took their role as landowners seriously.  Each Christmas they gave joints of beef and bags of coal to the poorer people.  The schoolchildren of St Nicholas and Bonvilston were treated to a Christmas Party every year.  This would include tea and cake, a bag of sugared almonds, dips in the bran tub and a march around the Christmas tree, after which everyone was given a present.  They gave the Bonvilston Reading Room to the village as a social centre and also donated a cricket pavilion.  Finally they organised a Boy Scout troop, paying for the uniforms and equipment and providing an old cottage in which to meet.

A census taken in April 1881 lists their daughter Violet, then 8 weeks old, who was sadly to die 2 years later.  Puis Henn the butler is still there as he had been 10 years previously.  Maria Jones, age 73, is still the housekeeper but one new face is Hugh Fraser, the Mackintosh piper.  There are 15 other staff, including 2 nurses.

Lady Harriet Diana Arabella Mary Mackintosh of Mackintosh in 1905

The Queen’s grandfather, George V was a friend of Alfred, staying at Moy Hall on a number of occasions. The Mackintosh held several public positions, ranging from Lord Lieutenant of Invernesshire to President of the Highland Agriculture Society.  He was also President of the Cardiff Caledonian Society.  During the 1930s, Harriet continued with her charitable and social work and was particularly involved with the St John’s Ambulance Brigade.

Alfred died on the 14th November 1938 and was buried in the family vault at Petty near Moy, his piper playing the Mackintosh Lament.  He had no direct heir, his son Angus Alexander (b.1885), a Captain in the Royal Horse Guards had died of pneumonia in Canada in 1918.  He had been on the military staff of the British Ambassador in Washington.  Harriet survived him by two years, living alone at Cottrell, in increasing poor health.  She died in March 1941 and was buried at Petty Church.  In 1942 the Cotrell estate was sold.

Angus Alexander Mackintosh and headstone at Arlington Cemetery


This Roath Local History Society ‘Occasional Paper’ was researched and written in 2009.  Refs: Cottrell – Cottrell Park, St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan – John Richards (1999).  A Short History of the Mackintosh Estate, Roath.  Jeff Childs (2005)

Allotments in Roath

Personal Reminiscence by Margaret Reeves

Another of our ‘Occasional Papers’ from 2008 supplemented by some photographs and maps – not necessarily of the places referenced in the article.  For some reason historic photos of allotments are tricky to find.

I can claim family connections with many of the former allotment sites in Roath.  Each allotment had a tool shed at one end with a water butt and, at the other end, a compost heap.  We grew the serious root vegetables like potatoes and carrots at the compost end, then runner beans, sometimes peas, then the quick-growing salad crops like lettuce and radish. At the shed end were soft fruits, strawberries and blackcurrant bushes.  Between the salads and the soft fruit was a scrubby patch of grass – I think the intention was that eventually the whole plot would be cultivated but we never kept a plot that long! Meanwhile, if the ground and vegetation were dry enough, we sometimes had a bonfire on the middle patch and we children tried cooking jacket potatoes in the ashes (they always came out burned on the outside and raw in the middle).

Allotment at a the back of Railway Street in Splott – (photo credit – Anita Walsh)

I have a dim memory of visiting an allotment off Ty Gwyn Rd or Ty Draw Road in the early 1940s; I think it belonged to my great-uncle, Jesse Tanner.  My aunt, Joan Tremlett, also remembers this allotment in the 1920s, she says it was near the Convent of the Good Shepherd and her mother (my grandmother) also had a plot there.  This was probably the site of my great-grandfather’s market garden, shown in the Street Directories for the 1920s between the Convent and Penylan Road.

The earliest allotment I definitely remember was a plot my mother had on Roath Park Recreation Ground.  The allotments stretched from the stream at the Alder Road end to beyond the junction of Ninian Road and Penywaun Place.  My grandmother and my great-uncle David (Dai) Edwards also had plots on the Rec.

I started Roath Park Girls’ School in 1946 and used to join my mother on the allotment after school.  As well as the runner beans, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, blackcurrants and strawberries, I remember a very large marrow grown on a raised bed which my vegetarian aunts stuffed and roasted.  We must have had this plot during the War because most of the allotment holders were elderly men like Uncle Dai who, although very willing to give Mum advice, never offered help with the digging.

I remember this plot very clearly (there’s a photo on Commanet to prove it!) but plans in Glamorgan Record Office for 1936 and 1947 show the Recreation Ground without allotments – perhaps they were an Official Secret!

I’m not sure when the Rec allotments were closed and turned back into playing fields but one summer great humps of red clay were dumped on the playing field side of the boundary fence (we used to climb over them on the way home from school, rather than using the diagonal path from the allotment fence at the Ninian Road end to the bridge near the Ty Draw/Penylan Road junction).  I suppose this soil was eventually spread to level the height of the allotments and playing field.

The maze of allotments around where Colchester Avenue now is. Newport Road and the tram depot is the bottom right. Waterloo Road and Waterloo Gardens is the bottom left.

When I started Lady Margaret’s High School in 1949 we could see allotments all around the back and one side of the school, on land which later became the Howardian School building and playing fields. Uncle Jesse had a large plot there and sub-let half of it to my parents. The allotments did not extend right to Colchester Avenue and Barons Court Rd; there was rough ground overgrown with blackberry bushes and a tall dead white tree.  Among the brambles there was also a large concrete circle with hooks set into the ground where a barrage balloon had been moored during the War.

Colchester Avenue allotments post-WWII

Shortly after I started Lady Margaret’s, we moved from Amesbury Road to Connaught Road and the allotment was not so easy to reach.  At some time in the 1950s, my parents rented another plot off Albany Rd at the end of the white-washed wall of Roath Court, where Timbers Square now stands. This was a smaller site surrounded by elder bushes. I don’t remember much about what we grew there, but during a couple of summers we picked the elderflowers to make “champagne”. I don’t know the dimensions of the plots but I have the impression that the one on Colchester Avenue was considerably larger than either the Rec. or Timbers Square.

Colchester Avenue Allotments (pic credit: Colchester Avenue Allotment Community)

As well as the fork, rake, spade etc our shed usually held folded deckchairs. There wasn’t room for much else.  I remember one heavy shower of rain on the Rec when three of us, my mother, myself aged about 7 and my brother in a pushchair, tried to shelter from a heavy shower in the shed, all sticking out at knees and elbows.

Colchester Avenue Allotments (pic credit: Colchester Avenue Allotment Community)

So far as I know, there are no allotments left in Roath now, the nearest being the site off Clodien Avenue (visible from Allensbank Road and Eastern Avenue) and there are sites on either side of the Lake, one near the junction of Highfields Road with Lake Road West, the other off Lady Mary Road near its junction with Lake Road East.  Unless there may be plots lurking in an odd corner somewhere, waiting to make a comeback.

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

Memories of Growing up in Wellfield Road and Albany Road

The article below was written in 2008 by one of our members, the late Cathie Mabbitt (née O’Connor). It is supplemented by pictures featuring some of the shops mentioned in her reminiscences.

I was born in 1930. We lived behind the off-licence in Wellfield Road (Ed: No15 now occupied by Troy Meza Bar).  I always say that’s why I enjoy a drink.  Our front door was the gate leading into the lane.  Next door was Day’s Ice Cream shop and, further down, the Penylan Bakery where my brother was sent on a Saturday evening for 6 pennyworth (2½ new pence) of cream cakes and I was allowed to lick the cream off the paper bag when he came back.  It was Louis, who lived there, who let me ride his tricycle to Roath Park School when I was 4.

No 15 Wellfield Road was Continental Wine and Spirits in 1972, to the right of Thayers

When I was 5-6 we moved to the flat behind Singer’s Sewing Machine shop in Albany Road, next door to the Misses Bowen’s Wool shop.  Next door to them was the Post Office, then I think five private houses before a few more shops, including Mr Roberts the Jewellers in whose porch we would shelter while waiting for a tramcar. The other side of us was the Music Shop, with usually a grand piano in the window. Opposite us was Percy Thomas the Florist, Cadogan’s the Photographer, A G Meek who are still there, a good Ironmonger’s and The Cabin Sweetshop.  Further up was  “the Direct Grocers, where my Grandfather would sit smoking a pipe until he was served.  The Welcome Newsagents, a Sweet Shop, then Woolworth’s – still in the same place now.  Littlewoods was on the comer of Diana Street.  On the opposite corner to Woolworth’s was either Hopkin Morgan the Bakers or Lipton’s the Grocers.  At the top of the road, taking up the entire block apart from [Hopson’s] the Tobacconists,  was Collins the Drapers, where you went to the department you wanted, sat on a seat at the counter and, when you had made your purchase, your money was sent in a little capsule on a wire across the store to the cashier and your change winged back the same way.  There were lots more shops in Albany Road but these are the ones I remember.

60 Albany Road (Rediffusion) in 1980, Telefusion at No.62 and the Post Office at No.64

In Albany Road we had a porch and a large front door, a wide hall leading into a large living-room with a big pantry in the corner with a large cold slab for keeping everything cool and fresh.  Then a kitchen-scullery and outside a toilet and out-house, where you could light a fire to boil the wash and a large mangle which I don’t think I ever liked using.  We had quite a good sized back garden with a good piece of grass on one side where I could play and, on the other side, vegetables and flowers.  My Irish Grandfather, who lived with us, grew tomatoes.  My brother would be sent out with bucket and spade to collect the droppings from the dray horses and dairy horses.  My Grandfather would water it down and always seemed to be feeding his tomato plants with it as my Mother would be getting the tea, with the kitchen door wide open.  We had a side entrance opening on to Albany Road.  During the day, it was never locked so it was not unusual for my Mother to arrive home to find half-a-dozen of my brother’s friends in the kitchen having tea and biscuits.

1964 Albany Road. Chain Library was at No.84, corner of Alfred Street.

When I was 7, I was sent to St Peter’s School and made friends with Mary from Angus Street and Evelyn from Treharris Street.  We are still friends now.  Summer evenings were spent either in the street, playing all the street games, or else at the ‘Rec’ (Recreation Park) paddling in the stream or climbing down ditches.  We could spend hours over there with a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of pop, quite safe with just an occasional lecture on not to talk to strange men.

Albany Road in 1959 – extract from the Cardiff Directory. Left is south side of the Albany Road, right is the north side

My parents were credit traders, that is they sold clothes, men’s, ladies’ and children’s clothes and household goods.  Customers paid weekly for them.  My Mother had started the business and then, just before I was born, my Father lost his job so started working with her.  They were out every day and in the evenings the customers would come to the house to choose clothes.  Our big front room upstairs was the stockroom and, while waiting their turn, they would sit in the living room having a cup of tea.  It was a struggle for my parents.  Years later, my Mother told me that sometimes, to pay an urgent bill, they would borrow coppers from my money box (I was always the saver in the family) replacing it when they could.  My brother had 6d (six pence) a week pocket money, I had 4d.  Out of his, he bought my Mother a 2d bar of chocolate and I bought her a penny bar.  The other 3d was spent on a pennyworth of sweets and 2d to go to the Globe Cinema on Saturday morning.

The Globe

I was almost 9 when war was declared.  I remember the day for we all listened to Mr Chamberlain’s speech on the radio. We had the radio two years before in time for [King George VI’s] Coronation.  After his speech, I played ball quietly in the garden, wondering what it meant.  At first, life carried on as normal with black-out material lining the curtains and the street lights going out, being taught to use a gas mask and carrying it over my shoulder everywhere.  My parents sold gas mask cases and black-out material.

We had a large cellar. The coal would be delivered through the manhole in the front but then my Mother would sweep it into a tidy pile and the rest of the floor and steps were washed. (Years later, when the Rent Act altered and the new landlord gave us notice to go, all the new small houses in Roath Court Road had been sold but one came back on the market.  There were several people wanting it but the estate agent, remembering our house and how clean the cellar was, thought my Mother deserved it! But I’m going ahead of myself).  When the bombing got heavier, a single bed was put down in the cellar for me to sleep, with chairs for the others.  A neighbour in the top flat above the music shop would come in most nights, waiting for the sirens to go. The Misses Bowen had a Morrison Air Raid Shelter which they used as a dining table, with cushions and blankets underneath.  The houses, I think, had Anderson Shelters.

A.G.Meek before they relocated. Site now occupied by Sainsbury’s

Albany Road and Angus Street had the first bombs in Cardiff.  Most people think it was Canton and Neville Street, but no – it was us.  My Mother was in hospital, she had been in the Infirmary but was now in the [William Nichols Convalescent Home] in  St Mellons so my aunt with her baby daughter had come from Ebbw Vale to look after us.  The sirens had gone but we weren’t paying much attention when there was a huge BANG! and my Grandfather came rushing from the outside toilet with his trousers half-down and there was a crashing of glass as the greenhouse windows  broke.  The bomb had hit the Antique Shop just past Mr Roberts the Jewellers.  They  were Canadian friends of my aunt and their eldest daughter was buried under the rubble and killed.  I think they all went back to Canada ‘til the end of the War In Angus Street, it was two houses and a boy a bit older than me with big dark eyes, very shy, was also killed.

A.G.Meek on corner of Albany Road and Angus Street following the bombing in September 1940

Next morning, my friend called for me as usual for school but when we came home at lunchtime the barricades were up because sightseers had come in dozens to see what had happened.  I remember going up to the policeman to ask to go through the barriers because we lived there and the crowd looking at us with awe.

As the raids increased, Littlewoods had a big fire and St Martin’s Church also went up in smoke. I remember watching both.  Because sleep was disturbed we started school later, first 10 am and then 11 am and home at 12 for dinner!

The tramcars started at 4 am, I think they were later on Sundays.  We were so used to them, it didn’t disturb us but our visitors always woke up.  My brother had a dog, Bubble, part Airedale, who would get on a tramcar in Albany Road, change in town to the one for Pier Head and get off in Louden Square to see my Grandfather who was the park keeper there.  Then he would make the journey in reverse.  I can remember being on the tram with him.

My Mother didn’t like shopping so, before the War, though we had two grocers within a hundred yards, a man used to call every week to take her grocery order. That was how he earned his living. What we needed otherwise, my Grandfather, my brother or myself would get it.  It was this man who advised my Mother to  buy an extra bag of sugar and tea and other dried foods each week, in order to have a  Store in hand when the War came.  My Mother was careful, so we always seemed to have enough and some to share.  One customer was a Slaughterman, so often my Mother arrived home with sweetbreads for my Father’s tea, which I shared.  My uncle worked for Armours the Meat Importers, so he always gave us the turkey for Christmas.

Albany Road looking east. Albany Road School can be seen on the right. The Wellfield Road junction is just beyond the church on the left.

I never liked margarine and never ate it.  When ice cream stopped, we used to buy the cones and imagine the ice cream. When sweets were rationed, I’m sure I must have had my parents’ allocation. I would go to friends in Llandaff every week and come home with eggs and fruit from their vegetable garden.  We must have had a big cheese ration, at one time our favourite tea was our own tomatoes fried with melted cheese on top.  It didn’t look very interesting but it tasted delicious. When I learned to cook, I made marzipan. with soya flour and toffee with condensed milk.  My friend’s father worked on the Docks and one day he came home with a banana, one banana which she took to school and the nuns raffled it for charity!

More photos and links to Albany Road articles on our Albany Road page.


No.60 Albany Road is in the news at the moment as it is currently occupied by squatters protesting against landlords.

60 Albany Road – Oct 2020 – Pic Credit: Google Streetview

Tony Dell – Howardian pupil who played in the Ashes – for Australia

Tony Dell only played one Ashes match, but it was certainly a memorable one.  It was the 1970-71 series in Australia.  Dell played in the seventh and final game of the series and was present at the crease when Australia lost the game and England won the Ashes.  The game was memorable for all sorts of reasons.  It was Ian Chappell’s first game as Australia Captain.  It was the game England captain Ray Illingworth led his team off the ground, without permission from the umpires, following crowd trouble.  And it was the only time England have completed a test series in Australia undefeated.

So what was an ex-Howardian pupil doing playing for Australia?  Well, it’s an interesting and traumatic story that has only recently been told in full in a book about Tony’s life; And Bring the Darkness Home written with the journalist Greg Milam.

Tony Dell was born Anthony H Ross Dell on 6 Aug 1945 in New Milton, Hampshire to Alfred H R Dell and Barbara Dell née Panrucker. He was born on the same day as the bombing of Hiroshima. As such, Wikipedia states his parents gave him the middle name “Hiroshima”, with the initial “H” listed on his birth certificate.  Tony’s father joined the Royal Navy in 1934 and after leaving the navy took up a job with Hoover, initially as a travelling salesman.  After Hampshire the Dell family lived in Hemel Hempstead before moving to Cardiff.  Tony’s father was still working for Hoover and involved with the production factory at Merthyr Tydfil.

They lived here in the 1950s at 52 Llanedeyrn Road. Details of Tony’s time in Cardiff was made aware to me by Graham Barrett who interviewed Tony as part of his Once Upon A Time In The Ashes podcast series. Tony tells how on moving to Wales he attended Howardian High School in Pen-y-lan and started playing rugby.  He was in the Scouts and during the 1958 Empire Games ran errands on his bike delivering reports from the swimming and boxing back to the Games headquarters. His father was a keen rugby supporter and member of Cardiff Rugby Club and a friend of Cliff Morgan who visited their house on a number of occasions.  I don’t know if Tony ever played in any of the Howardian rugby of cricket teams.

In 1959 Tony and the family moved to Australia where his father had been given the responsibility of opening a Hoover factory. In his interview Tony says he was 12 at the time but was probably 15.  This oversight probably stems from Tony having  gone through most of his life understating his age by a couple years, an error that has only recently been corrected in the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

 In Australia he lived in Brisbane and started playing cricket for his school and later commenced a club cricket career.  However, he found himself called up to serve in Vietnam in 1967.  He served a ten month duty principally as a radio operator in the field.

Tony Dell serving in Vietnam

On returning from Vietnam he took up cricket again.  As a fast-medium left-arm bowler he played for Queensland and after just a handful of games was quickly selected to play for Australia.  He, like many of the Vietnam vets, didn’t talk about his war experiences.  Most people had no idea he’d even served in Vietnam.  He played just twice for Australia, once in the famous 1971 Ashes game where he took five wickets in a new-ball partnership with Dennis Lillee and then in 1973 against New Zealand before he walked away from cricket.  He is the only Australian Vietnam Vet to have played cricket for Australia.

He married and had three children. After returning from Vietnam, as well as playing cricket, he threw himself into his job in advertising and became a workaholic.  His life would however be forever tarred by the Vietnam War.  He suffered bad dreams, night sweats and his behaviour at times was belligerent. He was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but it went undiagnosed for some 40 years. His life fell apart.  He became separated from his family and at one time was living in his mother’s garage. 

A chance meeting with another Vietnam Vet saved him. He was invited along to some meetings, diagnosed with PTSD and got the pension he was entitled to. In 2010 he started his charity StandTall4PTS which aims to help other Vietnam Veterans who had no idea why their lives had turned sour after they came home.  

Jonathan Agnew interviewing Tony Dell on Test Match Special in 2018

I can’t recall Tony’s test appearance in the Ashes ever being mentioned at Howardian.  I wonder if anyone made the connection at the time or if any pictures of Tony playing in Howardian junior teams survive?

I am indebted Graham Barrett for making me aware of this Cardiff connection.

Charles Oswald Williams – Magician

Charles Oswald Williams initially grew up in Llanelly (it became Llanelli, after 1960),  born on 26th September 1864. When of age, Charles followed his father into the then successful tin industry in Llanelly.

Charles Oswald Williams magician portrait

However, around 1889 he moved to Cardiff and married Elizabeth Jane Bate. Living at 7, Stephenson Street and working as a Collector and Canvasser. In 1901 he lived at 10, Beauchamp Street and was a listed as a dealer in watches, musical instruments and homeware.

An enthusiastic, amateur conjurer, Williams corresponded regularly to all the burgeoning magic magazines with ideas, letters and magic effects.

From 1900 onwards he began a regular exchange of letters with Professor Louis Hoffmann, who was considered to be one of the greatest authorities, of his day, on the theory and practice of magic as entertainment.

Williams contributed to many seminal magic books; Hoffman’s ‘Later Magic’, Charles Lang Neil’s ‘The Modern Conjurer’ and many others.

Charles Oswald - Conjuror and Ventiloquist programme - picture of CO- Glamorgan Archives

(Picture credit: Glamorgan Archives)

Now living at 107, Stacey Road, Williams was known internationally and nationally as an inventive and skilled magician. Encouraged by Hoffmann he became a professional magician in 1903, working under the name of Charles Oswald. In 1904 he was on the front cover of the American based ’The Sphinx’ magazine as magician of the month.

On Tuesday, April 10th 1906 at Maskelyne’s Theatre of Mystery in St George’s Hall, London, Williams appeared as one of the performers to appear in the newly formed Magic Circle’s first show, or as they called it, ‘The First Grand Seance’. He opened his act by speaking in Welsh! He was amongst one the first magicians to be a member of the Magic Circles ‘Inner’circle.

Charles Oswald - Conjuror and Ventiloquist programme inside - pic- Glamorgan Archives

Charles Oswald programme (Picture credit: Glamorgan Archives)

In 1913 he started as a magic dealer and was the UK representative for the renowned Thayer Magic Co. of the U.S.

Many famous magicians of the day, when in Cardiff visited Williams. Whenever Chung Ling Soo was appearing in Cardiff his first port of call was always the Williams house, on a number of occasions he tried to persuade C.O. to go into business with him and open a magic depot in London, but always the careful businessman, Williams was doubtful about the continued prosperity of the conjuring industry. Besides he already had a thriving and successful business and he looked upon magic as a hobby. Eventually, Soo convinced Williams to start selling tricks. In addition, any magician Soo met he used to tell them that if you are going anywhere near Cardiff then go and see Charlie Williams, where they would see more new effects than all the London depots put together. As a result of this, ‘Afton House’ 107, Stacey Road, Cardiff would soon become known to conjurers all over the world.

During WW1 he performed charity shows for wounded soldiers, arranging concert parties and on occasions persuading his famous visitors to accompany him to the King Edward VII Hospital (now Cardiff Royal Infirmary) to entertain the soldiers on the wards.

Charles Oswald Williams died on the 30th January 1924. He had eight children.

Steve Sanders

Charles Oswald Williams has been added to our ‘People of Roath’ page and given a red plaque.

Infirmary Plaque – Thomas Williams – a colourful story involving bigamy and a brothel

I was asked recently by a friend if I knew anything about Thomas Williams whose name appears on a plaque at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary.  I didn’t, but offered to take a look.

I first had a look to see if there was any information readily available regarding the plaque. There is reference to it in a 2010 Wales Online article describing the future refurbishment of the Infirmary and how the plaque will be saved, but that was all I found.

Thomas Williams - Cardiff Royal Infirmary Plaque

To understand the background of the plaque you have to realise that hospitals in those days were built and maintained with a lot of public donations.  The newspapers are littered with fundraising events and lists of people who donated sizable sums of money for its construction.  This was way before PFIs and long before the NHS.

This plaque is different from others in the Infirmary that name famous Cardiff dignitaries.  This plaque names Thomas A Williams, of 72 Alfred Street, who donated his estate of £404-6-4 to the hospital that was then called King Edward VII Hospital.  It seems Thomas wasn’t like the others. He wasn’t a wealthy Cardiff ship owner or industrialist. He was simply a generous working man.

To be honest at that stage I was expecting one of two things; either that I couldn’t find anything given that Thomas Williams is a fairly common name or to find that Thomas was simply what was evident on the plaque, a generous working man, with no family to pass his money onto.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to uncover the interesting story I did.


I’ll take you through it in the order I discovered things just so I can share the surprises.  It’s also fair to state that although I am fairly confident of my discoveries I am by no means certain and am open to being disproved.

From a genealogical investigation point of view things initially looked like they should be easy.  I had a name, date of death and an address.  I used FreeBMD to see if I could find his age when he died.  Given he died on Jul 30th 1919 his death should have been registered in Quarter 3 of 1919.  Ahh, no Thomas A Williams death in Q3 in Cardiff or anywhere in the country nor in Q4 for that matter – strange.  There is just one Thomas Williams whose death was registered in Cardiff in Q3 and he was 78 years old.

Another approach needed.  He wasn’t living at 72 Alfred Street in the 1911 Census nor did he appear there in the 1914 Cardiff Directory.  My first breakthrough came when I found a probate record.  Thomas Williams (note the lack of middle initial) of 72 Alfred Street died on 30 Jul 1919 at King Edward VII Hospital leaving £545-7-11 in his estate with Robert Evan Salmon, Congregational Minister appointed as Executor of the Will.

Thomas Williams, 72 Alfred Street, 1919 probate record

Probate record for Thomas Williams

Robert Salmon lived on Morlais Street and was the minister at Roath Park Congregational Church (now Tabernacle) on Pen-y-wain Road.  We don’t know if Thomas left instructions with Rev Salmon on how his estate should be split or whether Rev Salmon made the decisions himself (a copy of the Will has now been ordered).

I took a punt at this stage and ordered the death certificate of Thomas Williams who died in Cardiff aged 78 in Q3 1919.  In the meantime I continued my research.

My next breakthrough came when I found a newspaper article from Aug 1919 detailing the death in Cardiff of Thomas Williams.  It was full of interesting facts for a family historian.  It stated his parent’s names, his place of birth (Laleston, near Bridgend), his occupation – he used to work for Taff Vale railway, his places of residence – Cowbridge, Sunnyside – Bridgend and then Cardiff, the fact he was a widower etc.  It describes a lovely man:-  “Mr Williams was one of the old school, affectionately remembered as one whose social qualities and kindly disposition seemed to make life sweeter, and to brighten the lives of men”.

Thomas Williams Laleston

Armed with the leads in the newspaper article I returned to searching the census records.

I quickly found him in the 1911 Census, living in Sunnyside, Bridgend with his niece Sarah James.  He is described as 70, a widower, a ‘retired engine driver loco’, and born in Laleston.

His entry in the 1901 Census was also easy to find.  He was living in East Village, Cowbridge, aged 59, a railway engine driver, born in Laleston, and spoke both English and Welsh.  He lived there with his wife Sarah, aged 40, born in Barnstaple, Devon.

In the 1891 Census he and Sarah were living in Taff Street, Cowbridge.  Thomas, aged 49, is described again as an engine driver and Sarah, aged 30, has her place of birth as Langtree, Devon.

The first surprise came when I went back another ten years and searched the 1881 Census.  Here I found Thomas Williams, aged 39, railway engine driver, born Laleston, living in Guilford Street, Cardiff. He is married not to Sarah but to Mary Williams, aged 42, born Guilford, Pembs.  Also living in the house is a daughter Mary A Williams, aged 18, born Aberdare.

So it seems our Thomas Williams had been married twice and had a daughter and possibly other decedents. Now I’m beginning to ask questions like why he didn’t leave his estate to the family.

Searching the 1871 Census for Thomas Williams, born in Laleston around 1841, yielded nothing.  I think I have found him on the 1861 Census, living in Alice Street, Canton, a 19 years old, working as a railway brakeman, born Laleston, boarding with some engine firemen. In 1851 I have found him at home, aged 9, in Laleston living with his parents, William Williams, a collier from Newton and Elizabeth Williams from Laleston.  I found his baptism record, on 27th Feb 1842 in Laleston with his father William then described as a labourer.

The missing 1871 census is still troubling me so I tried a few other angles.  I now know he is an engine driver and was married to Mary so I go back to searching the newspapers and found something I certainly wasn’t expecting.

On 23 Dec 1893 Mary Williams had summoned Thomas Williams, an engine driver from Cowbridge, to court to make a case that he should pay her maintenance. The defence however seems to be preparing to make the case that her marriage to Thomas Williams we bigamous but we never quite get to hearing all the evidence as Mary Williams is the worse for wear.

Thomas Williams - Cardiff Infirmary plaque - bigamy case - Dec 23 1893

The newspaper description of Mary Williams:

…… The Complainant, a person who might fittingly be described as fair, fat and forty, then entered the box.  She wore a bibulous look, and proceeded to give her evidence with incoherency of speech which betokened an association with the contents of certain glass ware. She had only reached the preliminary stage of her testimony, stating that she lived at 29 Stoughton Street, Saltmead, when the Stipendiary interposed, and suggested that the woman had been drinking.

Complainant: (with an air of injured innocence), I beg your pardon Sir, I beg your pardon,  I was put in prison for three weeks under false imprisonment, so I dare say gentlemen you will allow me to speak, and if you don’t I shall report you. I’ll offer you up what ……..

Given the state of Mary Williams the case was adjourned.  In another newspaper report she claimed to have been suffering from influenza.  The Western Mail also reported the case.

Cardiff Infirmary Plaque - Thomas Williams - story of bigamy and a brothel

A week later, Mary Williams is back in court, this time perfectly sober.  In the course of the proceeding we hear how Mary Williams had earlier been convicted of owning a brothel.  The representatives of Thomas Williams argued that her third marriage to him is unlawful as her first husband Daniel Phillips is still alive.  She claims he is dead and even when Daniel Phillips is called she denies knowing him, “I should never know him if I was to meet him in the street”.  Daniel Phillips is sworn in and testifies that Mary Williams and he were indeed married.  Case dismissed.

Thomas Williams - Cardiff Infirmary - Bigamy case -South Wales Daily News 30 Dec

The newspaper reports of the case give some further clues as to the life of Thomas Williams as well as more questions.  There are a surprising number of cases involving a Mary Williams in Cardiff being convicted of keeping a brothel. The one referred to in the court case was quite possibly from Aug 1893 and involved 54 Diamond Street.

Mary Williams - 1893 - Brothel keeping

Given the case was in Dec 1893 and we found Thomas Williams married in Cowbridge in 1891 we are also left wondering whether his own marriage was bigamous.  Did his wife even know of the court cases in 1893 I wonder.

We know from the newspaper reports that Mary’s second husband was Robert Skyrme (at last – a less common surname to make searching easier!). He died in 1875 and his probate states he was living at 3 Guilford Street. This confirms that we seem to have the correct Thomas Williams from Laleston who was living there in 1881.  It also helps us find the marriage of Thomas Williams to Mary Skyrme in Cardiff in 1876.  So we know they were together for at least five years as evidenced by the 1881 Census.  We now also know that Mary A Williams, the daughter of Mary Williams is not the daughter of Thomas Williams but the daughter of her first husband Daniel Phillips.

There is another newspaper report of Thomas Williams, an engine driver for Taff Vale Railway, who lived in Cowbridge, helping break a strike in 1902.  Was this the same man I wonder?  The paper states that this Thomas Williams was commonly called ‘Robin’, could be Robbie, short for Anthony, that middle initial incorrectly included on the plaque – I wonder.

When the death certificate did arrive it substantiated the assumptions I had made.  Thomas Williams of 72 Alfred Street had died of bladder cancer aged 78 and was a retired railway worker.  I have now ordered his Will.  It will be interesting to see what that reveals.

Thomas Williams Death Certificate - Cardiff - 30 July 1919 - King Edward VII Hospital

Thomas Williams Death Certificate – Cardiff – 30 July 1919 – King Edward VII Hospital

It looks like we have found out quite a bit about the life of Thomas Williams, but by no means all I suspect.

January 2022 update: I have now received a copy of the Will of Thomas Williams.  It is interesting in that it seems he was renting a room at 72 Alfred Street whilst at the same time owning 19 Llantwit Street, Cathays.  That information nicely ties the story together for in the 1993 court case featuring the bigamous Mary Williams, she claimed to have been living at 19 Llantwit Street.

In the details of the Will it specified his Estate should be divided as follows:

  • £20 to his landlady Miss Gray
  • £20 to the Roath Park Congregational Church, Penywain Road
  • £20 to the Brecon Congregational Memorial College, Brecon
  • His Gold Chronometer Lever Watch to Reverend Robert Evan Salmon
  • All the rest to the Cardiff Infirmary

I have also now also visited Laleston and attempted to find his grave in the churchyard there but without any luck.

Penylan Club

Hidden away in the back lanes off Marlborough Road is the Penylan Club, or to give it it’s official name ‘The Penylan Bowling and Cardiff Bridge Club’. 

We’ve kindly been given permission to reproduce the booklet ‘The Penylan Club Centenary Year 2009‘ which contains the fascinating history of the club itself and an interesting insight into the social history of the era.  The article below uses some extracts from that booklet, supplemented with press cuttings and photos:- 

The most important date in the history of our Club was Tuesday 3rd December 1907.  For it was on this date that an eminent local resident, Mr Thomas Mackenzie of 77, Connaught Road, circulated an invitation which read as follows:

“Proposed New Bowling Green For Roath”

Dear Sir, 

You are invited to attend a meeting in connection with the above in the Hall, Wesleyan Church, Albany Road on Thursday December 5th at 8.00pm.  As business of importance will be transacted you are particularly requested to attend. 

Yours Truly


A further meeting was held at ‘The Creamery’, Wellfield Road on Dec 31st 1907.  A site for a bowling green had been offered by the Estate Agent acting on behalf of The Right Honourable The Lord Tredegar VC.  The original site offered was deemed to be too expensive to develop.  Further discussions with the Tredegar Estate were sought . The next meeting held at ‘The Creamery’ on Jan 8th 1908 considered an alternative site which had been offered and terms agreed.

At the first General Meeting of the Club in 1908 a vote on the naming of the club took place.  “The Marlborough Bowling Club” and “The Sandringham Bowling Club” were defeated.  The name “The Penylan Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club” was adopted.

The Penylan Club was opened on May 1st 1909 by Lord Tredegar. His speech was hailed as humorous by the Western Mail:

Their first President was Lord Tredegar, the man who owned most of the land in Pen-y-lan and had survived the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

An early picture of the Penylan Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club with Lord Tredegar sat in the centre.

In 1912 the Western Mail reported a Penylan defeat by St Fagans, who were “helped” by the efforts of the Rt Hon The Earl of Plymouth and Lord Windsor (The St Fagans selectors were clearly not overawed by rank as both their Lordships played at third.)

These Penylan bowlers had the week before been hailed as heroes when the Western Mail of the 15th May 1912 reported:

“Some bowlers playing on the Penylan green on Tuesday evening observed flames in the neighbourhood of the Roath Laundry (on the other side of Blenheim Road to Marlborough Road school).  They stopped play immediately and ran to the fire.  Climbing a wall, they discovered that a big pile of clothes hampers were alight against the wall, and at once toppled them over. Police Constable Harold Breese arrived, and the flames were put out soon after the appearance of the tender from central station’.

1912. Less than two years after the Penylan Club opened they were already hosting international fixtures.

In 1913 Club fees were increased to £1. 5s. 0d for Gents for Bowls and Tennis and £1.5s. 0d for Ladies for Tennis.

The War cast heavy shadow over the club and for the 1917 season all membership fees were waived  ‘in view of the endurance of the war’.  All revenues from Whist Drives etc, were donated to the local Military Hospitals.  The club purchased packets of cigarettes which were sent to members serving in the forces.  Bath chairs were purchased and distributed to all local Military Hospitals.  Proposals to relay the green and the painting of the premises were deferred.   On the brighter side bowling teas were to be introduced.  These could be provided under the food regulations at a charge of 6d per head.

In June 1918 the Penylan members took ownership of the club, albeit on a leasehold basis, the lease being held by the Tredegar Estate.  The Croquet lawn was voted out of existence but the bowls and tennis sections of the club had a waiting list.

1921 – The Penylan Bowlers were reported a bit taken aback by the New Zealanders

In May 1926 the old clubhouse was broken into and, Mr H.Hayes, the son of a member, was badly mauled and had his personal effects damaged, in trying to arrest the intruder.  The Club compensated Mr Hayes in the sum of 5 Guineas and paid his medical bills.  The behaviour of the Police in not having Mr Hayes medically treated was reported to the Club President, Alderman A. J. Howell who would take the matter up with the Watch Committee (Police Authority).

A map from the first half of the 20th Century (exact date unknown). Note the smaller size of the pavilion then. The Penylan Laundry is marked to the west.

The lease was purchased from the Tredegar Estate and this enabled plans to go ahead for the building of a new larger pavilion.  The Official Opening of the new Club House took place on 30th Jun 1936 and was carried out by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Alderman G. Fred Evans. 

In Oct 1936, 20 members of the Tennis Section forced the calling of a Special General Meeting on the proposal that “The courts be opened for Sunday play”.  The meeting accepted the proposal by 44 votes to 28.  At the following Management Meeting seven resignations, including that of the Lord Mayor, were received on account of the decision to allow Sunday tennis. [These resignations were subsequently withdrawn, but clearly what was seen as a breaking of the fourth commandment brought about a furious reaction.]

The years leading up to 1939 were uneventful and it is only then that the “National Crisis” which became the second World War enters the records of minutes.  The ladies tennis room was requisitioned by the Government for use as an Air Raid Wardens room and despite the new “black-out” regulations it was decided the Winter social activities should continue.

The heating of the Club would be affected by the introduction of coke rationing with the Club requesting extra rations because of the Air Raid Wardens use of the premises.

For the 1940 season all members serving in His Majesty’s forces would be granted free membership.

The Special General Meeting of 05 Oct  resulted in agreement that all members subscribe to a “War Levy” to replace loss of income from Whist Drives etc, which could no longer be held.  The levy, payable before Dec 1940 amounted to Bowlers £1.1s.0d; Social £1.1s.0d; Tennis (men) 10s 6d and Tennis (ladies) 5s.0d.

It was at this meeting that the gentlemen’s dress code on the green was emphasised – no member be allowed to play without blazer and waistcoat.

In 1942 the Lord Mayor, writing on behalf of the Anglo-Soviet Friendship Council asking for donations to raise £1500.0s.0d for an X-Ray machine for Russia. Those present at the Committee meeting immediately contributed £8.8s.0d and a fund was opened.  A month later the fund stood at £27.10s.7d.

During annual tournament week in 1950 an occasional License for the sale of alcohol was applied for.  The refreshments to be served from a marquee erected at one end of tennis court number 3.  Discussion began on the suitability of the Club obtaining a full License.  It was agreed that Wm Hancock & Co., Ltd., would operate the occasional License with the Club receiving 6% of the bar profits during tournament week.

On 8 Nov 1950 a Special General Meeting with 124 Members in attendance voted by 78 to 34 votes that the Club should obtain a full License for the sale of beer, wine and spirits.

Disaster struck in 1962 when the Groundsman treated the green with weed killer instead of fertiliser.  Most of the Private Clubs in South Wales offered the use of their greens during the recovery period.

September 1962

The sum of £105. 0s.0d. was dropped in the lane by the person doing the Club’s banking.  The money was found by three small boys from Tremorfa who returned it and received £15. 0s.0d. for their honesty.

Gaming machines had been installed and were bringing in additional income. After the annual License fee of £75 had been paid a large surplus was being accumulated from the fruit machines.

The next major improvement occurred in 1973 when the Trustees authorised expenditure of up to £4,000 which would allow the Management Committee to pursue plans for a major extension of the Club lounge.  This would entail including the outside veranda area into the lounge area.  Initial plans were drawn up.

In Sep 1989 initial discussions were began with one of Wales’ premier Bridge Clubs with a view to amalgamation.  At a Special General Meeting held on 20 Dec 1989 it was decided that the long standing Badminton section would in future play at a venue away from the Club.   A motion that “Cardiff Bridge Club be incorporated into the Club and become a new section of the Club” was carried.

In 1995 a Ladies Bowling Section was formed and has since prospered.

View from the air when the tennis courts were still in place.

The August 1998 Minutes record that at this mid Season point the Tennis Section Membership numbered 13 full Members and 13 Junior Members.  Grave concern was being expressed about the viable future of the Section.  By the following Season the Tennis Section which had played a large and important role in the life of Penylan had ceased to exist.

A new category of Membership was devised and there was a large response from local residents who joined as non-voting Associate Members.

Scenes from the 2009 Centenary celebrations

The Monkstone Pétanque Club joined the Penylan Club family about ten years ago and now lease and area of land within the premises.

Monkstone Petanque Club

The Penylan Club see themselves as a community asset and currently has a membership of 442.  New members are always welcome to apply for membership and the necessary forms are available from the club bar.

And to finish with here’s a story from the Western Mail in 1926 reporting the elected captain heading for Australia. It looks like the typesetter on the Western Mail nightshift was being a bit mischievous!


The Penylan Club has now been added to our webpage looking at the history of pubs and clubs in the area.

Owain Arwel Hughes

Renowned conductor and passionate about championing Welsh music

Owain Arwel Hughes CBE

The conductor Owain Arwel Hughes is the son of composer Arwel Hughes. He was brought up in 1 Colchester Avenue, Pen-y-lan, Cardiff and would have been born here in 1942 had it not been for the wartime air raids which meant he ended up been born in his Aunt’s house in Ton Pentre, Rhondda.  He is unusual for the time in being a Welsh-speaker from Cardiff but that is explained by his parents being Welsh speaking and him spending so much of his school holidays with his relatives in Rhosllanerchrugog, near Wrexham.

Owain Arwel Hughes with his sister and brother in the back garden of 1 Colchester Avenue

Owain Arwel Hughes with his sister and brother in the back garden of 1 Colchester Avenue in 1946

He had a strong chapel upbringing, attending Tabernacle Welsh-speaking chapel in the Hayes in Cardiff City Centre from an early age.  It had strong discipline with children being required to learn and recite biblical passages from a young age.  It also however gave youngsters attending the youth club responsibility from a young age.

Owain attended Marlborough Road Primary School and loved sport from an early age including playing baseball on the Rec.  He passed the eleven-plus but rather than attend Cardiff High School which taught lessons on a Saturday morning, he persuaded his parents to allow him to go to Hawardian High School which freed up his Saturday mornings for playing sport.

In 1985 Owain paid a return visit to Howardian with the broadcaster David Parry-Jones.  The footage itself is of historical interest as not only does it show scenes from the school that no longer exists but also of a conversation with Howardian stalwart Tom Foster, Latin and drama teacher and cricket fanatic.

Howardian High School and Owain Arwel Hughes

Owain doing an Assembly Reading in his school days, Mr Tom Foster, Owain and David Parry-Jones in 1985 at Howardian.

Owain was part of a cricket team nurtured by Tom Foster that got all the way to the cup-final and played at the Glamorgan Cricket ground, then at the Arms Park.

HOwardian Male Voice CHoir

Howardian High School league and cup-winning side of 1955 with Owain as captain.

It’s perhaps surprising that Owain succeeded in music at all given the fact that the Howardian music master left and was not replaced.  Owain recalls complaining to the Head about the lack of a choir to which the Head retorted that perhaps Owain should go off and form one himself – which he duly did. So Owain’s conducting career was catalysed by the lack of a music master at Howardian, but it wasn’t a musical career that Owain set off to attain.   He left school with every intention of entering the Christian Ministry by initially reading Philosophy at Cardiff University before intending to onto the South Wales Baptist College in Richmond Road.

He started his philosophy degree at Cardiff but didn’t by any means ignore his musical callings.  In his second year he got to lead the male voice choir in the inter-college Eisteddfod competition, a choir that included a fledgling politician Neil Kinnock with whom he has remained friends.  Owain redirected his degree studies towards music and from there his career as a conductor was formed. Whilst in college his met his future wife Jean and proposed to her on the steps of his parent’s home at 1 Colchester Avenue.

1 Colchester Avenue, Penylan, Cardiff, childhood home of Owain Arwel Hughes

1 Colchester Avenue, Penylan, Cardiff, childhood home of Owain Arwel Hughes and where he proposed to his future wife Jean.

After graduating in Cardiff Owain was offered a place at the Royal College of Music in London to study conducting where Sir Adrian Boult was his mentor.  But he wasn’t just a passive student.  Owain highlighted the lack of opportunities for those composing orchestral pieces to hear them played so duly formed an orchestra of his own at the college. As well as conducting Owain played the piano, trombone and percussion instruments.

Before Owain became a professional conductor the Welsh Arts Council gave him a bursary to experience the everyday business and functions of a conductor.  Owain chose to shadow the recently deceased Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink from whom he learnt a lot.

In London he immersed himself in Welsh life, attending a Welsh chapel, being a keen supporter of London Welsh Rugby Club and a member of the London Welsh Association for Welsh exiles living in London.

He married at the Welsh-speaking Tabernacle chapel in the centre of Cardiff though tells an interesting tale how it almost didn’t happen as he mislaid the paperwork.   Making ends meet was difficult for the young couple.  When his wife gave up teaching when pregnant Owain took a job as a taxi driver.

Soon however his career began to take off.  He gained appointments with the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra, the BBC Studio Strings and the Halle Orchestra. This led to further appointments with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.  Over the years he has had international appointments too with orchestras in Cape Town, Newfoundland and Aalborg in Denmark.

In the 1980s he hosted a BBC series The Much Loved Music Show.

His father Arwel Hughes was particularly known for his choral music, and this facility was passed to Owain, whose stint as conductor of the world-famous Huddersfield Choral Society in the 1980s confirmed him as a major talent in the field of large-scale choral works. He has continued to excel in this area both in the concert hall and the recording studio.

He maintains strong links with Wales and in his time has was proud to be musical director of the National Youth Orchestra for Wales and  driving force behind the creation and success of The Welsh Proms.  His dedication to championing Welsh musical talent is typified by him establishing in 2005 Camerata Wales, a freelance orchestra of the highest international standard for Wales.

Rehearsing for the Welsh Proms 1987 Max Boyce, Nerys Hughes, Neil Kinnock, Owain Arwel Hughes and Cliff Morgan

Rehearsing for the Welsh Proms 1987 Max Boyce, Nerys Hughes, Neil Kinnock, Owain Arwel Hughes and Cliff Morgan

He and Jean went on to have two children together, Geraint and Lisa.  Tragedy struck in 2016 when Lisa, a head teacher in South London, died of an aggressive form of breast cancer. He dedicated the 2017 Welsh Proms to her.

Let’s not just talk about Owain Arwel Hughes in the past.  He is still very much a professional conductor including working with orchestras in Wales.

His contribution to musical life has been recognised by an OBE in 2004 and a CBE in the 2009 New Year honours list.

References and pic credits:

His autobiography,  Owain Arwel Hughes: My Life in Music, was published in 2012  by University of Wales Press.

The Owain Arwel Hughes website.

Red Plaque

A virtual red plaque for Owain Arwel Hughes has now been added to our People of Roath page. 

16a Stacey Road – but what was this building?

If you are ever stuck for a topic to start a discussion with a group of people from Roath just show them this picture and ask them what the building used to be used for.  You’ll get lots of different answers, and many will be right, but not all. Some will say it was a church.  Well, it almost was, but not quite.

Using newspaper archives and other mentions of the hall the following history has been pieced together:

1873: A prospectus for Roath Public Hall issued.

~1881: Construction of Roath Public Hall

1883: First press records of events and concerts

1894: Purchased by Roath Congregational Church.

1898: Roath Public Library

1912-15: Roath Electric Theatre (silent movies)

1916 to ~1940: Stacey Hall

1940-45: Military barracks (Home Defence)  depot

1950: Star Ballroom & Stacey Labour Hall

1959 to ~1889: BBC Studios

~1990 to ~2000: Yamaha School of Music

~ 2000 to present day – vacant

Smashing image of the building from 2006 by Roath Park Mark on Flickr

The first mention of Roath Public Hall appears in the newspapers of January 1875 announcing the setting up of the Roath Public Hall Company. The prospectus states the intention to construct  hall in Stacey Road able to accommodate 600 plus a reading room. The justification being that Roath’s population has expanded to 12,000 and there was nowhere to hold concerts or lectures. Two thousand shares would be issued at £2 each. Top of the list of the Trustees was John Cory, the wealthy Cardiff ship-owner, coal exporter and philanthropist. Yes, that’s right, the man with a statue outside the museum that was unusually erected when he was still alive.  He was living in Roath Road (Newport Road) at the time but went on to purchase Duffryn House, St Nicholas.

In 1879 the papers report that Roath Public Hall has not materialised and the only evidence of it was a brass plaque outside the residence of the secretary to the company.  The article pointedly explains that the Catholics have meanwhile constructed a Guild Hall in Roath.

By 1883 however Roath Public Hall has evidently been constructed and opened and records of events begin to appear including:

April: A fundraising concert for a new Baptist chapel.

August: A German and Oriental concert, reported as being poorly attended.

October: A talk entitled ‘Escaped Nun’ delivered by a Edith O’Gorman Auffray recounting her days as a nun in USA before she ‘escaped’ and converted to Protestantism.

In September the same year a new music licence was granted to the hall, it having been demonstrated that 400 people could be evacuated in three and a half minutes.

From here on mentions of Roath Public Hall in the newspapers are frequent and they give an interesting insight into social history and history of the building over time.  Here’s a few examples, supplemented with information from other sources:  

1886: A fundraising concert for a new organ at St Margaret’s church.

1887: Cardiff Liberal Association hold a talk entitled ‘Ireland: Past, Present and Future’.

1888: Cardiff Jewish Literary and Musical Institute hold a series of soirees.

1888: Cardiff Liberal Association: ‘Coercion versus Conciliation’ or ‘England’s duty towards Ireland’.

1888: A meeting of the Cardiff Free Library and Museum Committee discussed an experiment of a branch reading room at Roath Public Hall. (this wasn’t to materialise for another ten years).  In the mentime a reading room was opened at Clifton Street Methodist church.

1894: Building sold to Roath Congregational chapel that had until now been meeting in a temporary building on Roath Road (Newport Road). The church met in the building behind Roath Public Hall and submitted plans to convert the hall into a church. It is believed at this change of use never took place.

1897: Dance classes being held at the hall.

1898:  Roath Branch Library opens in the hall.  Said to be a lot better lighted and ventilated than the previous location and able to accommodate a lot more readers.  The move however is only temporary as the corporation has purchased a site at Four Elms on Newport Road and the new library constructed and opened in Oct 1901.

Map of around 1900 with the building labelled as the Free Library and the Congregational Church at the rear facing Broadway.

1899: An evening in which ‘a series of tableaux vivants of exceptionally high merit’ were part.

1909: Cookery lessons being delivered.

1909: Plans submitted for an outdoor washhouse

1911: Plans submitted for a ‘Cinema Box’

1912: listed as ‘Stacey Road Kinema’

1913: listed as ‘Roath Electric Cinema’

1915: For sale – ‘Roath Public Hall, together with the Chapel at the rear. The hall has two floors with excellent headroom, the upper floor recently having been used as a cinema …..’

1918: A series of entertainments held for soldiers at Stacey Hall headquarters of the R.D.C. at Cardiff.

1918: An interesting cutting reading: Outside Stacey Hall in Cardiff is to be seen what is probably the oldest trophy in Cardiff. It is composed of the Turkish, Sardinian, French and English flags in a row with the word Peace underneath. The trophy was made in Manchester and was first displayed at the end of the Crimean War. 

1920: Members of the Gwaelodygarth Welsh Dramatic Society gave a performance of  ‘Asgre Lan’.

1921: Cardiff University College Dramatic Society gave a performance of ‘Arms and the Man’ in aid of the college war memorial.

1928: Mr E.Roy Calvert, Secretary of the National League for Abolition of the Death Penalty gave a talk ‘Why Capital Punishment Must Go’. (It was another 40 years before it was abolished)

1929: Four hundred people turn up for the payment of Christmas relief, a top-up to the standard weekly payments to the people of Roath and Plasnewydd wards in need of support. The extra 1s 6d came as a surprise to many recipients.

1940-45: Military barracks (Home Defence)  depot

1947: Well appointed Cardiff Ballroom tenancy advertised. ‘Perfect maple floor, 60ft x 30ft’. Applications to the Secretary, Stacey Hall.

In the late 1940s it was Star Ballroom, upstairs, large sprung dance floor with mirrors and seating around the perimeter. Rock ‘n’ Roll dances there from 1956 onwards.

1956: Beginners Ballroom dance class every Friday night.

1950s: Recollections from people of Whist Drives with 30 plus tables, four players per table.

1950s: Local Labour party offices and Labour League of Youth meetings.   

1959: James Callaghan MP, future Prime Minister, holds constituency meetings.

1959: BBC opens new Stacey Road studio.  The arrival of television prompted the BBC to purchase a ten acre site at Llandaff in 1952 to house all its operations in the city, but construction of the new headquarters was delayed due to the cost of the project, so in 1955 the Broadway Methodist Chapel in Roath – followed in 1959 by premises in nearby Stacey Road – were taken over to accommodate the fledgling television service.  Stacey Road studios were headquarters of the news broadcasting services.

BBC Stacey Road Studio

1966: Wales Today and the Welsh language news programme Heddiw were broadcast from Stacey Road at the time of the Aberfan Disaster.  

BBC News Studio at Stacey Road in 1966

1968: Forty Welsh Language demonstrators occupy the Stacey Road news studios.

1974: BBC cease broadcasting  Wales Today from Stacey Road.

1990: BBC Film operations stayed at Stacey Road studios till 1990.

1990s: Yamaha School of Music – exact dates of occupancy uncertain.  Anyone remember going there?

~ 2000 to present day – vacant

Interior shot from one of the sales brochures. In need of renovation?

Please feel free to share your memories of the building, provide more accurate dates, additional information or highlight any errors. Photographs would be particularly welcome.