What happened to Roath’s War Memorial?

There has been a lot of emphasis this past month remembering the people behind the name’s on the WWI war memorials.

I thought I would try and gather together information about all the memorials in the old parish of Roath.  It’s been an interesting exercise and far from over.  I have visited some, found photographs of others and had commitments from people supply information on others.  I think there are still quite a lot out there that I haven’t yet found or seen photographs for.  I’ve begun to put together a page on the memorials I know about.  Please let me know of any others!

The one big surprise to me was that we once had a stone memorial in Roath.  It stood in front of Roath Road Wesleyan Methodist church on the corner of Newport Road and City Road.  The church was badly damages in  an air raid in WWII but photographs show that the war memorial survived.  But then what happened to it?

Roath Road Wesleyan church and war memorial

The war memorial can be seen in front of the church in this fascinating photograph.

I’ve read recently that war memorial is said to have been taken down round about 1955 and put on a porters trolley “borrowed” from the Infirmary and towed by pick-up van to the Trinity Methodist church on the corner of Piercefield Place and re-erected in it’s forecourt. Does anybody remember it there?  I’d be interested if anyone knows where the memorial ended up.

Roath Road Wesleyan War Memorial

The name of W M Seager, son of the Cardiff shipowner of the same name, can just about be made out half way down the list of names on the right .

On a close up picture of the memorial I can just about make out the name W H Seager.  That would have been William Henry Seager or Willie Seager as he was known.  He was the son of Sir William Seager, Cardiff shipowner.  The Seager family lived close to the church on Newport Road. Sir William commemorated the loss of his son in many ways.  He financed a ward in Cardiff Royal Infirmary.  We also set up the Willie Seager Memorial Trust which had a row of cottages for retired merchant seamen built on the corner of Newport Road and Colchester Avenue.  Those cottages have since gone but new Willie Seager cottages constructed at the eastern end of Westville Road in Pen-y-lan.

Some other war memorials and plaques have fared much better.  The stone memorial outside St Saviour’s in Splott was renovated and looking good.  The Cardiff High School memorial is now on a wall at the ‘new’ Cardiff High school on Cleyn Avenue and students at the school actively researching the names on the memorial and another memorial that includes the name of W M Seager.

The Howard Gardens / Howardian High School war memorial plaque has survived the current demolition of the school and is now safely installed in the new Howardian Primary School.  Only a small fragment of the original Howard Gardens WWI plaque however survived the WWII bombing of the school.

So there you have it.  The list of memorials and photographs I have so far collected are on our War Memorial page (click to open that page and on other links on that page). I hope to add others soon such as the now missing Mackintosh Institute plaque and the nicely restored Vivian Llewellyn memorial in Highfields church.

Roath Road Wesleayan Methodist damaged with scafolding

The bomb damaged  Roath Road Wesleyan Methodist church with scaffolding erected. Evidently it was decided not to repair the church subsequently and demolish the remains. But what happened to the war memorial?

 

Ted Richards – Dec 2018

 

 

The New Roath Mill

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

Roath Mill Sculpture

The new sculpture of Roath Mill by Rubin Eynon

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

Roath Mill c 1890

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

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

Roath Tithe map of 1840

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

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

Roath Mill sculpture from different angles

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

Roath Mill c 1870

The Mill building in around 1870 (Cardiff Libraries)

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

Rubin Eynon Roath Mill Sculpture

The new sculpture in place next to Roath Brook.

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

Roath Mill - W B Hodkinson - 1878 - Cardiff Libraries

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

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

Rubin Eynon working on Roath Mill

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

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

Roath Mill Remains

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

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

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

Roath Brook and remains of Roath Mill

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

 

 

Where to is Roath?

I’m a man who likes to know where he stands.  It wasn’t long after I joined the Roath Local History Society that I started to ask the question ‘Where exactly is Roath?’  Or to use the local vernacular, ‘Where to is Roath?’  It turns out to be a much more complex question than I originally imagined.  The answer to the question varied tremendously and ranged from ‘A large area, bigger than Cardiff itself’ to ‘Roath doesn’t exist any longer’, so I decided to look into it a bit more.

Roath on Council map

Roath on Cardiff Council cycling and walking map – but no boundaries

Back in the twelfth century I get the picture that Cardiff was basically the Castle stuffed full of hungry people who needed feeding, and Roath was their breadbasket…. and their dairy supply and anything else they fancied eating.  The manor house and home farm was believed to be on the site of what is now James Summers Funeral Home on Newport Road.  The mill was in nearby Roath Mill Gardens.

During the twelfth century sometime Roath fragmented into three areas, Roath Tewkesbury, Roath Keynsham and the charmingly named Roath Dogfield. But let’s just look at what those three areas of Roath covered in today’s terms.  Roath Dogfield included most of the town of Cardiff, today’s Roath, parts of Splott, Tremorfa, parts of Cathays, Butetown, Cardiff Bay and portions of Pontcanna, Grangetown, Llanishen and Lisvane.  Roath Keynsham included Pen-y-lan, Cyncoed and significant portions of Pengam, Llanishen, Thornhill and Whitchurch.  The area belonging to Roath Tewkesbury is unclear apart from it including St Margaret’s chapel but looking at it there wasn’t much left of what we now call Cardiff to go around.  You just get the feeling that if there had been a football team in those days it would have been called Roath Rovers rather than Cardiff Town.  It also seems like those guys in Cardiff castle certainly took a lot of feeding.

For anyone keen to grapple yourself with Roath and its early history I can recommend the book written by our vice chairman Jeff Childs, ‘Roath, Splott and Adamsdown – One Thousand Years of History’, as detailed on our publications page.  Alternatively there is a brief history given in The Story of Roath.

Jumping forward some 600 years to the 1700’s and the Parish of Roath has emerged as its own entity and seems to have shrunk.  It encompasses today’s Roath, Penylan as well as Splott, Tremorfa, most of Adamsdown and part of Cathays, and even edges its way into Cyncoed.  The parish boundary of Roath, visible on maps all the way from 1789 up to the 1920  appears not to change.

Copyright: Anne Leaver and Jeff Childs

1840 tithe map of Roath – northern section only (Cardiff Libraries)

So let’s look in a bit more detail where the parish boundary is.  In the west the boundary defined by City Road, Crwys Road and Fairoak Road is easy to pick out.  Going south from City Road the boundary goes down Glossop Road and Meteor Street, cuts across Adamsdown Gardens before picking up Windsor Road and then East Moors Road and straight on into the Bristol Channel.  Overlaying the boundary on a modern map we find that only three quarters of Roath Dock would have been in the parish of Roath whilst Roath Basin would have been outside.

1869 Roath Parish (Map credit: Glamorgan Archives)

Jumping now to the north of the parish we pick the boundary up at the eastern end of Fairoak Road.  The parish boundary cuts north east to Cyncoed Road, up Cyncoed Road for a very short distance before going east, through what was Queen Wood and Well Wood and following Nant Pant-bach brook into the River Rhymney. From then on it’s easy. The parish boundary goes south along the River Rhymney into the Bristol Channel.

The parish of Roath marked on a modern map – well 2003 (Copyright A-Z Map Company)

You’d have thought anyone with an interest in local history would be happy with that.  In a perfect world I would like to push the western boundary just a bit further.  After all what about all that history wrapped up in the Richmond Road and The Parade areas, and how did they manage to get left out of the parish of Roath? Then there is the western part of Adamsdown which includes Howard Gardens etc.  Can’t we argue a case for that too?  And I haven’t mentioned Roath Park Lake yet either which falls outside the parish.  You get the feeling that many places with Roath in the title are not in Roath at all.

So where exactly is the boundary of modern Roath?  Well, if you can tell me where that is you are doing well.  It appears as if I am not the first person to grapple with this slippery question.  Peter Finch in his splendid eloquent way tackles the question in one of his books.  Then there was a project that took a different approach and drew a chalk line around the boundary – theirs included Roath Park Lake.

The Roath boundary as many people would argue it? (Image Credit: The Cashmore Johnson Art Collective Roath Boundary Ramble in 2014)

Surly the Council must know I thought.  Then I discovered that there is no such area as Roath in terms of a council ward any longer, it has been absorbed into Plasnewydd and Pen-y-lan.  In fact looking at the history of the council wards sketched out in the map collection of the Cathays Heritage Library map collection is fascinating.  The Roath boundary seems to change regularly over the years before disappearing entirely.

The 1973-83 council ward boundaries    (Image credit: Cathays Heritage Library)

Current council ward boundaries. What happened to poor Roath? (Image credit: © Andrew Teale)

Fear not folks.  Roath is still here and alive and well.  Pick up a modern Ordnance Survey map, an A-Z and even a Cardiff Council map of cycle routes and alike and Roath/Y Rhath is still there as bold as anything BUT with no boundaries marked.  That’s why I like the old parish map of Roath – I know where I stand with it.  But what is the old map showing me?  Is it the old ecclesiastical parish or the civil parish  of Roath?  Ahhhh – more questions than need an answer!

The name Roath lives on today, here in the form of some street art.

 

Ted Richards