The Society

Roath Local History Society was founded in 1978, by the late Alec Keir and a group of enthusiastic local historians.

Our main unit of study was the ancient parish of Roath and the researching and recording of its history.  Today, the object of the Society is to promote, encourage and maintain an active interest in, and research into, the local history on any area or subject, but with particular reference to the Ecclesiastical Parish of Roath.

Honorary Life President: Jeff Childs

The Officers of the Society are:

  • Chair:  Gareth Brown
  • Vice-Chair: Vacant
  • Honorary Secretary:  Vacant
  • Treasurer:  Michael Foster
  • Programme & Events Organiser:  Elizabeth Morgan
  • Membership Secretary: Lyn Smith
  • Research Organiser:  Carole Underwood
  • Website Manager: Ted Richards

Additional Committee Members:  Carol Ball, Alan Knight, Jenni Phillips, Jon Roberts, Penny Roberts, Peter Jones, Stuart Swinburne, Myfanwy Roberts, Martyn Swain.

The main functions of the R.L.H.S. are:

Winter Lecture Programme

A series of lectures by prominent speakers, on the second Thursday of the month, from September to May (see Programme)

Summer Field Trips

A series of outside visits to places of interest in and around our area once a week in June and into July.

Research and Investigations

Members conduct research into specific aspects of our local history, that personally interest them; with the help and support of a Members Forum, convened by Carole Underwood.

Members and visitors are invited to join in these activities, covering a wide range of topics on aspects of local history.

Why not bring a friend?

Constitution and Policies:

R.L.H.S. Constitution

R.L.H.S. Privacy Policy

R.L.H.S. Safeguarding Policy

A Short History of Roath Local History Society

Alec Kier

Alec Keir

Roath Local History Society (RLHS) was founded in November 1978 in Albany Road Junior School, by Alec Keir, a local  historian, his work colleague, Gerry Penfold and a small group of enthusiasts.  Its mission statement was ‘To investigate, research and record the history of the ecclesiastical parish of Roath’.

From the outset the Society declared that it should be project-based and quickly engaged in  several projects. These were based on primary source material which in those days was relatively inexpensive to obtain. The results of the research were subsequently edited by Alec Keir and produced in printed form styled ‘Project Newsletters’, which ran to six volumes (1984-1989) before enthusiasm waned.   The  newsletters, which were initially published monthly, then quarterly, contain a valuable collection of historical studies into the history of the parish of Roath.  A complete set of the newsletters are held in the RLHS Resource Centre and are available for members to borrow.  Copies are also available for consultation at the Cathays Branch and Heritage Library. The Project Newsletters have now been digitised and are also available to read via our website.

Early members of the Society included Jeff Childs, Margaret Reeves (a Roath author in her own right), Judith Hunt and Martin Sheldon.

An early feature of the Society’s  development was  the holding of a programme of autumn and winter lectures , the first speaker being Mr Barry Davies (the Society’s first Hon Life Member) who gave a talk entitled ‘The Gentry Families of Roath’. Within a year or so, organised  summer field trips were also introduced to places of local historical interest,  a format still being followed today.

New members subsequently came to the fore  particularly as a result of a series of talks Alec and Jeff Childs ran between 1981 and 1985 on ‘The History of Roath, Splott and Adamsdown’, held under the aegis of (the then) University College Cardiff’s department of extra mural studies.  These too were held in Albany Road Junior School, the first year’s intake numbering thirty-five.   Peter Gillard was one of those who attended and subsequently joined the Society, serving magnificently during most of that that time as Hon Secretary before becoming  Chairman.  He now has the title of Hon Life Member.  Malcolm Ranson can do better, he has at various times been Secretary, Chairman and Hon Treasurer though is naturally modest about his achievements.  He too is also now a Hon Life Member. He has also authored several important ‘Occasional Papers’ such as one focusing on City Road and which is a product of detailed research.  The prize for longest service in a single post no doubt goes to Judith Hunt who was treasurer for an astonishing 27 years.

RLHS was a small society, with limited membership and little money. This was all to change when Jeff Childs researched and published his first book, Roath, Splott and Adamsdown, (Chalford, 1995).   This not only provided valuable historical photographic and narrative information but an unaccustomed increase in income which resulted in more effective marketing of the Society to a wider audience and increasing membership. Some years later (2012), Jeff  researched, edited and published a second book, Roath, Splott and Adamsdown: One thousand Years of History, which  is an extensive and detailed study of the area, from  its Norman origins to the present day.

Meeting locations:  As well as Albany Road Junior School  the Society has also held meetings at Howardian High School before making the Mackintosh Sports Club its longstanding home.  Formerly known as the Mackintosh Institute, the ‘Mack’ is a building with strong historical and architectural significance in Roath.  In 2018, however, the numbers of people attending the lectures had increased significantly and had outgrown the Mackintosh’s facilities so much so that the Society moved to holding its meetings at St Andrew’s URC church hall.  The 2021-22 lecture series sees another change with meetings now being held at St Edward’s church.

Lecture Series: The Society has about eight lectures a year. Names of all the lecturers and the titles of their talks in the Society’s first couple of decades are given in the Society’s minute books. Among the speakers, particularly in the early years, have been: Diane Brook, Phil Carradice, Barry Davies, Brian Davies, Peter Finch, Madeleine Gray, Matthew Griffiths, Brian James, John Kenyon, Philip Riden, Martin Wright, Peter Webster and Huw Williams.

Summer Visits: Similarly, the   details of these also appear in the minute books and in more recent publicity material.  In the early years (and which it still does) the Society visited places of historical interest in the locality including its many churches and chapels such as St Margaret’s Church and the now demolished Salvation Army’s Splott Bridge Citadel (formerly the Mount Hermon Primitive Methodist Church).  The ‘Splott Walk’ (incorporating part of Adamsdown) was a regular undertaking when there was much more of ‘old’ Splott to be seen as were walks to Pen-y-lan and Cardiff city and civic centres. Further afield, particularly in its early phase again, the Society visited historical parts of Roath’s adjoining and nearby parishes such as Llanedeyrn (including Cefn Mably Hospital), Lisvane, Rumney, Llanishen and Whitchurch as well as Michaelston-y-Fedw and the Wentlooge parishes of Marshfield, Peterstone and St Bride’s. We have also ventured to Aberdare, Llantrisant, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Treherbert (usually in conjunction with a local history society contact in such areas) and always seek to visit one of the so-called ‘grander’ properties of south-east Wales such as Fonmon Castle or Tredegar House or, in some cases towns or centres, such as Tewkesbury. To celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2018 the Society had an outing and luncheon at Craig-y-Nos in the Swansea valley, former home of opera singer Adelina Patti.

The Modern times: Recent years has also seen a change in the administration. Gareth Brown is Chair,  Peter Jones manages our finances and Geraint Denison-Kurg is Honorary Secretary. Elizabeth Morgan co-ordinates our Winter and Summer Programmes as well as being Membership Secretary.   Ted Richards manages the website, which is in itself a now valuable historical resource. Most of all the success we are experiencing as a society is due to the membership, whose loyal support makes it all worthwhile.

In 2020 Jeff Childs stood down from the Committee after many years service in various posts including Chairman and Secretary.  Jeff’s sound knowledge of local history, research capabilities and authoring have played a huge role in the success and longevity of the Society.  In honour of these efforts Jeff Childs was elected Honorary Life President in September 2021.

We are now returning to our roots with the setting up of the Research Forum, co-ordinated initially by Malcolm Ranson and now taken over by Carole Underwood.  This provides members with opportunities for group or individual research.

Archived Material:

A list of material deposited with Glamorgan Archived covering the period 1978 to approximately 1995.

Pictures of our Activities:

In January 2023 Dr David Jenkins presented 'Master Mariner, Ship Owner & Philanthropist: the life of Sir William Reardon Smith 1856 - 1935'.

In January 2023 Dr David Jenkins presented ‘Master Mariner, Ship Owner & Philanthropist: the life of Sir William Reardon Smith 1856 – 1935’.

Summer Programme 2019

Masonic Hall, Cardiff

2019: A visit to the Masonic Hall, Cardiff. Built in 1863 as a Methodist Church, the premises were originally, jointly bought by three Masonic Lodges in 1893 and after further fundraising and refurbishment, opened to Freemasonry in 1895. Gradually, from 1918, adjoining cottages were acquired resulting in the complex we see today, that is fully used by many Lodges. Beautiful, original features such as the sweeping staircase and rotunda have been retained, augmented by high quality wood panelling and decoration throughout, with masonic regalia and memorabilia adorning walls and cabinets.

Robert Fitzhamon grave

2019: We went to Tewkesbury Abbey to see this guy, William Fitzhamon, and ask him what he was playing at marching into Wales, defeating our Welsh prince and establishing a Norman castle in the middle of Cardiff.  He didn’t have a lot to say for himself – he’s been dead 900 years.  Being a second cousin of William the Conqueror he probably thought he could do what he liked, but that’s no excuse.  So what’s it got to do with Roath?  Well, having built a castle you suddenly find everyones a bit peckish.  That’s where Roath comes in.  It becomes the breadbasket of Cardiff, rearing the animals, growing the crops, and milling the flour at Roath Mill, all so that William Fitzhamon and his followers could be supplied with sandwiches.  And where does Tewkesbury come into it?  Well, it was Fitzhamon’s HQ.  He was Baron of Gloucester as well as lord of Glamorgan.  William Fitzhamon founded Tewkesbury Abbey in 1102, though didn’t live to see it finished but they did have the decency to bury him in a prime spot, next to the altar. Towards the end of the 12th century Roath, which covered a much larger area of Cardiff than it does today, was divided up and a large part of it gifted to Twekesbury Abbey and hence called Roath Tewkesbury.   It may still be called that today had it not been for the Dissolution of the Monasteries in around 1540 when the land reverted to Henry VIII.  Over time it got sold off to people like the Butes, Mackintoshs and the Tredegars, who in turn gave bits away or sold it on again to builders so we can have the Cardiff we all know and love today.

On a less flippant note, here are some notes on the connection between Roath and Tewkesbury Abbey

Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay

2019: A visit to the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay where our own Alan Knight introduced us to the history of the building itself, Cardiff Docks, the Scott expedition and a whole lot more.

Maindy Barracks Visit June 2019

2019: A long anticipated visit to Maindy Barracks.  Among the interesting things we learnt was that the clock was donated to the Regiment by a member of the Mackintosh family. The goat mascot didn’t come out to see us but we did see where his predecessors were buried.

Cardiff Masonic Temple

Our third visit, to the Cardiff Masonic Temple or Hall, was really well attended. We were made very welcome by Mr. Naunton Liles and his masonic colleague, who were both immaculately turned out, in dark suits, highly polished shoes and a red rose in their lapels.

Built in 1863 as a Methodist Church, the premises were originally, jointly bought by three Masonic Lodges in 1893 and after further fundraising and refurbishment, opened to Freemasonry in 1895. Gradually, from 1918, adjoining cottages were acquired resulting in the complex we see today, that is fully used by many Lodges. Beautiful, original features such as the sweeping staircase and rotunda have been retained, augmented by high quality wood panelling and decoration throughout, with masonic regalia and memorabilia adorning walls and cabinets.

Naunton was very open to questions and discussion, explaining the Masons reputation for secrecy started in 1930’s, when it was thought expedient to keep a low profile. Freemasonry has been an entirely male province, for most of its history. Nowadays there is also an exclusively female lodge, albeit comprised largely of the female relatives of their male Masonic counterparts – mixed meetings are never held. All meetings culminate with a hearty dinner, with toasts being drunk, firstly to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, then the Grand Master, the Duke of Kent, followed by toasts to the presiding Master and important guests.

Cardiff Reform Synagogue


Merthyr Tydfil


Merthyr 2

Roath Mill Beavers talk

2019:  Ted Richards gives a talk to the local Beavers on the history of Roath Mill   (photo: from 25th Cardiff Scout Group Facebook page)

2018: Ted Richards looking intently at the 3-D scale replica of the Medieval Newport Ship

2018: Malcolm Ranson, Research Convenor and Elizabeth Morgan, Honorary Secretary, with R.L.H.S. Exhibition at Insole Court Heritage Day.

2018: The Grade 1 Listed Adelina Patti Theatre, Craig y Nos Castle, where R.L.H.S. celebrated it’s 40th. Anniversary with a History Tour and Luncheon.

2017 December Meeting with Festive 40th Anniversary of the Roath Local History Society Feast


Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenafon. R.L.H.S. Members waiting to be taken to the coal face.


The Gallery of the Senedd


The Senedd Chamber