The question I’m most often asked when I’m giving talks on local history is “Where does the name Splott come from?”
The name always seems to cause amusement especially to non-Cardiffians. Whether it was in the old music-hall or a local pantomime, a comedian had only to mention Splott on the stage of one of the Cardiff theatres to cause the audience to roll in the aisles with laughter. Years ago I remember one comic whose parody of a B.B.C. weather forecast always started with “An anti-cyclone is centred over Splott and is moving eastward….”. It was always good for a laugh.
It was not that the place itself or the people who lived there (heaven forbid!) were ever thought of as funny. No, it was just that the name itself seemed to tickle some people’s sense of humour and perhaps still does. It may be that certain sub-conscious alliterative connotations, like “splosh, spit, split” are responsible for evoking amusement.
Perhaps because I was so familiar with the name, if not the place, during my childhood in Cardiff I cannot say that I have ever thought of it as particularly humorous.
There was some correspondence in the South Wales Echo during the early part of 1986 about the derivation of the name. It would be nice to think that the name “Splott” had some exciting or romantic origin – that it was derived from some delightful piece of folk-lore that we could pass down to our children and grand-children. If this were so, everybody would, of course, know and remember the derivation and nobody would need to ask questions at meetings or write to the Echo. Alas, the truth can often be unromantic, unexciting and banal.
One possibility, though I’m afraid, not generally accepted by scholars is that it is a shortened version of “God’s plot”. In apparent support of this explanation it can be said that one of the earliest local records – the ancient Book of Llandaff – refers to a plot of land being given by the local Welsh prince in pre-Norman days to the Bishop of Llandaff. The description of the donated land does seem to fit the parcel of land which later became known as Splott. We know for certain that from early medieval times Splott was a detached portion of the manor of Llandaff. The Bishop’s estate at Splott was bought by a William Bawdripp of Penmark Place who had previously been a leasehold tenant, at a time in the 17th century when the Church was in an impoverished state. Shortly before 1600 the property came to be divided into two farms, later known as Upper Splott (the site of the Great Eastern Hotel) and Lower Splott ( the site of St. Saviour’s vicarage). The fact that it was an episcopal estate does, on the face of it, seem to add weight to those who argue that the name comes from “God’s plot”. On the other hand, it is difficult to explain how the deity came to be disappear from the place-name and even more difficult to account for the fact that the name “Splott” in any of its variant spellings does not make an appearance until the 14th century.
An alternative explanation is that the name originates from the Welsh word “Ysblad” – meaning a firm piece of land surrounded by marshes. To me, this suggestion is not at all convincing. Even if such a Welsh word ever existed, there is no reason to believe that the English word “Splott” is derived from it. Amongst many documents and maps I have examined I have yet to come across “Ysblad”. Bill Barrett (S.Wales Echo 7 May 1986) argues that from “Ysblad” came “Splatle” then “Ye Splotte” according to old map-makers. What old map-makers are these, I wonder? The Tredegar Rental of Splott of 1777 gives all the field names in Welsh, including “Gwain y Splot isha.” No mention here of Ysblad. And “Splatle” sounds like a variation of “Spital” – a different estate.
According to the most respected authority on local place-names, Professor Gwynedd 0.Pierce, in his book “Place-names of the Dinas Powys Hundred”, splott was found occurring as a field name across the Bristol Channel in Devon and was in use as a dialect word in South-West dialect. “Splotts” was found as a place-name in Wenvoe and “The Splottes” in Penmark. (Interesting that the Bawdrip family came from across the Bristol Channel and held both Penmark and Splott). Professor Pierce shows “splott” to be an Old English word for ‘a plot of land, a small patch of ground’.
I am sorry to be so mundane but it does begin to look as if “Splott” merely means “plot”. And there’s nothing hilariously funny about that!
Forty Years in Splott
The history of Splott is neatly summarised in the following essay by Mr J.M.Cleary on “Forty Years in Splott” which is reproduced from “The Illtydian”, Summer 1964, by kind permission of the author. It appeared in our Roath Local History Society Project Newsletter Vol 1 No 9. It has been supplemented with photos of places mentioned in the essay.
It is recorded that a group of Norwegian geographers were taken to see the tide-fields at the mouth of the Rhymney river, and fell into ecstasies over the rich grazing afforded to cattle by the grass that flourished upon the estuarine mud. This, they said, is the stuff. If only we could have something like it instead of our unproductive fiords….Six or seven centuries ago the same feelings were aroused in the breasts of land-hungry settlers from the further shore of the Bristol Channel. They built sea-walls; they reclaimed the salt-marshes; they enclosed the fields which they had drained, and called them “plots”. Hence the name Splott, which occurs in several other places in the Vale of Glamorgan. It has not altered appreciably since its first occurrence:
- 1393 Splot
- 1540 Splot
- 1568 Splattye
- 1586 the Splote
- 1604 Splott
- 1615 the Splott
- 1658 the Splott
To the autochthonous members of the Cardiff community, as well as to those others – ‘os assimilados’, as the Portuguese would say – of whom I am proud to be one, it is a name of some charm. On allochthonous ears it falls less endearingly, and at least one former headmaster of St. Illtyd‘s was said to have nightmares at the possibility of his college ever becoming known as Splott High School; but what’s in a name ?
So might have spoken the family who were variously known as de Baggetrippe, Baudrub, Bawdryp and Bawdrip, owners of the Splott for three centuries. From their native village, Bawdrip, which stands on a ridge overlooking the Somerset levels that stretch away to Bridgewater, they came to Penmark in the Vale of Glamorgan about the fourteenth century, in time for Thomas de Bawdripp to witness the eleventh charter of the borough of Cardiff. In Henry VIII’s reign William Bawdrippe had a town house in High Street, and John Leland noted that “Splot, a maner place longging to Baudrem, lyith fram the mouth of Remny on the shore”.
William Bawdrip, whose clandestine marriage to Margaret Mathew of Radyr was considered in a previous issue (The Illtydian.XXII.3.1950 and reproduced in Project Newsletter Vol.1. No.8) acquired church lands in Splott “late pertayning to the church of St. Mary”. His son built “a fair house” there about 1596. This house still stands; I was born in it: by which time it had become the Great Eastern Hotel in Metal Street. Its former name, “the upper Splott”, was forgotten within the last half-century.
The “lower Splott” was the vicarage of St. Saviour’s Church, St Illtyd’s next-door-neighbour, upon whose open space former headmasters, in expansive mood, cast acquisitive glances as they planned to cope with ever-growing numbers of pupils. This period in Splott’s story was well summed up in John Graber’s sensitive poem, published in this magazine (i.e. The Illtydian) in 1938:
Whine of the wind over mudflats and sand. Shrill with the scream of the seagull ‘s turmoil, Grey channel mists of November rolling, Stagnance of summer on salt-soaked soil Desolate, sad the cattle-bell tolling; Frosty the dykes and ice-bound the winter land. Here through the centuries men broke the furrow, Tended the cattle with harsh sea-grass Now the wild meadows bear for tomorrow Asphalt and bricks on the ancient morass.
In the year of Oliver Cromwell’s death the last of the Bawdrips died there on her curtained feather bed in the dining room, and left Splott to her nephew Anthony Mathew. A generation later he was buried with his ancestors in the nave of Llandaff Cathedral.
My grandfather recalled the sight of cornfields where Constellation Street now runs, a hundred and fifty years after that. Splott manor’s thirty four acres, then, were still arable and pasture a century ago, but by 1880 the invasion of industry and industrial housing began. The Roath Dock to the south, and the Great Western Railway main line to the north, were the effective limits of the new Splott. The old manor-house had come to be regarded as in Roath, though the Splottlands Hotel shows that the old agricultural Splott extended up to Newport Road.
The new Splott was laid out in a rigid gridiron pattern of streets based upon the main line of the railway, which cut its inhabitants off from the north as effectively as any American railway track ever segregated a township’s communities in the land of the free. Newtown; Grangetown; Canton; Roath; Splott; fifty years ago these were separate entities, and, when St. Illtyd’s College came to Splott, that tradition was very much alive and my contemporaries placed each other according to parochial loyalties, and kept their friendships accordingly.
As the tramcar carried us down Splott Road we passed at each corner the monuments of Victorian religion: the Salvation Army; the Baptists; the Church in Wales; the Methodists. These were in the main street: a little off centre were St. Ainon and Jerusalem, Bethlehem and St. Alban’s-in-the- Moors. They stand at this day; many of them, alas, less frequented than formerly: a monument to the piety of the nineteenth century.
The construction of new docks and the erection of the great Dowlais works had brought together thousands of inhabitants who were overwhelmingly and unashamedly working-class, and St. Alban’s became and has remained a unified parish untouched by those social stratifications which exist elsewhere. The Rosminian fathers built a school-cum-chapel in 1891; on the rest of the plot my grandfather had his bootmaker’s shop and also grew vegetables on the spot where one of his many great-grandsons, a pupil of St. Illtyd’s now says mass. The concentration of Catholic families in the neighbourhood of the church is still a marked feature of local life; St. Illtyd’s has helped to nourish the vocations of many boys who were baptised there. An article on “The Old Illtydian in English Literature” in a former issue of this magazine (i.e. The Illtydian) mentioned only too briefly as is the case here – the tribute paid to “St.Urban’s-on-the-Moors” by W.B.Ready in one of his books of short stories published in the U.S.A. St.Illtyd’s, then, was founded in a parish with a flourishing Catholic life, and the connection with St.Alban’s church has always been maintained to their mutual benefit. The De La Salle Brothers were themselves domiciled in Splott Road for same years and made many friends among the local people; at one time or another several of the lay staff lived in Splott, notably those dedicated teachers, the late Clement McCormick and Mr M.Fennell.
At the time of the air raids on Cardiff the destruction wrought on the school buildings was made somewhat more bearable by the reflection that, had the bomb struck anywhere else in that crowded locality, our friends and neighbours would inevitably have been killed. The shock hastened the end of Gilbert Brown who had -assiduously – and incomparably before or since – looked after the college buildings.
In the early years there were sometimes fears that St.Illtyd‘s, Cardiff’s second Catholic Grammar school for boys – would go the way of the first, St.Joseph’s, which for twenty years struggled on in the . buildings now occupied by De La Salle School, before closing at the. beginning of this century.
Time was to show that St.Illtyd’s problems were to be caused not by scarcity but by overflow; as those of us who strove, a few years ago, to cope with grammar-school work in classes of over forty will not easily forget. Growth and a higher standard of grammar-school building are sending St.Illtyd’s pupils away from Splott to Llanrumney (a nonsense-place-name, if ever there was one, to replace our noble monosyllable), but their memory will remain attached to the building which Mr.Ellis planned for Brother Gilbert, the master builder. Few visitors to the school ever see it as it should be seen. And not only visitors, but pupils, too.
How many of you, who have had the patience to read this essay thus far, come to St.Illtyd’s by way of Splott Road, from which it is invisible, or by Courtenay Road, where it seems to crouch under the dominating presence of the Dowlais gasometer? Those who enter from University Place get a view of the buildings erected at the turn of the century to house an interesting experiment in adult education, the University Settlement, whose history cannot be told here. The best – the outstanding – approach is by way of Farmville Road, from which, topping a slight but commanding rise, Ellis’s monumental facade appears to the greatest advantage. Were I planning the last days in the present buildings – and I am deeply grateful that I am not – I would be tempted to march the school up this road as a grand gesture of farewell. Above them the boys would see St. Patrick and St.De La Salle; still higher the star, “signum fidei’; and the cross “fidei coticula’; and surrounding these the old motto of the crusading Stradlings of St Donat’s – “Duw a digon’. If this is to be St. Illtyd’s memorial in its local habitation for the last forty years, who would require more?
History of Splott through time
In an article entitled “40 years in Splott” reproduced from the “Illtydian” in Project Newsletter Vol.1. p.90, Mr J.M. Cleary told us about:
the land hungry settlers from the further shores of the Bristol Channel. They built sea walls; they reclaimed salt marshes; they enclosed the fields which they had drained, and called them “plots”. Hence the name “Splott”.
Of the earliest history of Splott, or “The Splott”, as it is sometimes called, we know little except that it was a detached portion of the episcopal manor of Llandaff. Several manors were constituted out of Kibbor; they were Roath Dogfield, Roath Keynsham, Roath Tewkesbury, Llystalybont, the Margam Abbey manor of ‘Kibbor and Cardiff’, and the manors of Splott and Spittal. (C.R.II.8.)
Despite frequently encountered references to Splott as a manor, it is doubtful whether it was large enough ever to have held full manorial status in the conventional sense. Perhaps it was a “sub-manor”, a “reputed manor” or a “seignory”; but to discuss the technicalities of such legal forms of tenure would be outside the ambit of these notes and would add nothing to our knowledge of the history of the place.
William Rees in his History of Cardiff (2nd Ed.) p.45 states:
He [the Bishop of Llandaff] also owned the small detached estate to the east of the town of Cardiff at Splott which continued to form part of the Bishop’s property throughout the mediaeval period. This may possibly be identified with the vill of Tref Eliau in Senghenydd which is recorded with boundaries in the Book of Llandaf as originally a gift by Meurig, king of Morgannwg, to Joseph, Bishop of Llandaff (1022-46), its location on the sea coast pointing to a site at or near Splott.
1392. In the Account of Roger Panter, the surveyor for Tewkesbury Abbey (C.R.I. 156) occurs one of the earliest references to the Splott, showing that the Abbey was at that time drawing tithes from sheaves of corn.
And for £4.6s.8d. of tithes of the sheaves of three crofts by the wall of Kerdif and within the sea wall as far as the Splott, sold to John Cook this year.
1440. The Splott is mentioned as bounding certain lands of Isabel, Countess of Warwick.
c.1540. About this time John Leland the antiquary was writing his Itinerary, in which the portion relating to Glamorgan is reproduced in the reprint edition by Stewart Williams, 1972. Leland refers to the commote of Kibbor as “Kibworth” in the following extract (p.125). Splott is mentioned as paying suit to the Bishop’s Court at Llandaff:-
Kibworth goith by the Shore from the Mouth of Remny to the Mouth of Tawe a 2. Miles and more. Splot a Maner Place longging to Baudrem, lyith from the Mouth of Remny on the Shore, and is taken as Land holden of the Bisshop of Landaf and resortith to the Bisshopes Court. So it is in the Commote of Kibworth, but not of the Court of it.
“Baudrem” is one of the spelling variations of “Bawdripp”. The Bawdrip family has been the subject of notes in earlier numbers of Project Newletters. (Vol.1.p.17,59,60,76,90 and Pedigree Chart No.1.p.66). It was about this time that Splott was acquired by William Bawdrip.
1550. Minister’s Accounts: “Lands and tenements belonging to the parish church of Saint Mary in the town of Cardiff: … Certain parcels of land and pasture at Splot. William Bawdrib.” – (C.R.1.257)
1568. Close Roll. 9 Eliz. Part 25. Indenture between Rt Hon. William Earl of Pembroke, Lord Harbate of Cardiff and Lord Steward ete. etc. and William Bawdripp of Penmerke. For £100 – Bargain and Sale selling to Earl of Pembroke various parcels – “all of which closes are parcel of the Manor of Splattye within the said parish of Rothe ” – (C.R.IV.81)
1575. William Bawdripp’s will is dated 28 May in this year.
1586. He (i.e.William Bawdripp) was seised of the Manor of Odyn’s Fee in the parish of Penmark and the moiety of “the Splote” by Cardiff, which descended unto Thomas Bawdripp as son and eir.(P.R.O. Exchequer Depositions by Commission, 28 Eliz. East 15. Glam. Thomas Bawdrip v. William Basset & others) – C.R.I.401.
1578. Rice Merrick considered Splott worthy of mention :-
Within it (i.e.Roath) is the Splott, parcel holden of the lord of Llandaff, the freehold of Thomas Bawdrip.
– (Morganiae Archaiographia. Ed: Brian Ll. James. S.Wales Record Society. Vol.1.1983.p.86)
1596. Rice Lewis in his “Breviat” (in which incidentally he places Cardiff Castle within the Manor of Roath) gives a short genealogy of the Bawdrips. Referring to William Bawdripppe he writes:-
The Splott wherein this gent. hath builded a faire house neere Cardif and doeth nowe make the same his cheefe dwellingehouse but there is as I take it he hath noe Lo[rdship]: but holdeth the same in Soccage under the Buishope of Landaphe for the tyme beinge.
1609. R.O.Patent Roll.7 Jac.I. Part 21. (Latin). Grant to Ward and Morgan. Lands etc. at Whomanby, Cocks Tower, Splot etc. in Cardiff, late parcel of the possessions of some Charity.- C.R.I.481. (J.H.Mathews found the above entry in the P.R.O. Catalogue but did not find the grant on the Roll indicated).
1615 Pat. Roll 12 Jac.I. Part 9. No.2025 (Latin):
– – – And all those arable and pasture lands containing three acres, at the Splott in the county of Glamorgan, in the tenure of William Baudripp at a rent of 4s.
1615 Sir Edward Lewis of the Van purchased Splott from Sir William Bawdripp. He had married Blanch Morgan of Machen c.1584 and died 22 January 1623 and was buried at Machen. His wife , Blanch, was the eldest daughter of Thomas Morgan of Machen who was the brother of Sir W. Morgan of Tredegar. – Genealogies of Glamorgan – G.T.Clark.
1626. William Bawdrip of Splott, esquire, who was then Member of Parliament, sold Penmark and Splott (or part of it) to Sir Edward Lewis of the Van.
1638. Sir Edward Lewis of the Van died seised of the Lordship of Splott, described as being in the parishes of St. Mary (Cardiff) and Roath.
1658. Katherine Bawdripp died. She was the widow of William Bawdripp referred to above (1626). She bequeathed “the lease of the demise of Wm, Lewis,Esq., unto Anthony Mathew, gent., of a house and 34 acres in the parishes of Roath and St Mary’s. Residue to her niece, Grace Avan.” (Project Newsletter No.1.p.60).
1696. 13 June. Anthony Mathew of Splott made his will.- (C.R.III.134).
1701. Edward Mathew of Roath, Splott and Whitchurch died. See Project Newsletter Vol.1. p.60. (Some Gentry Families of Roath – J.Barry Davies).
“No doubt the lease of Splott from Lewis of the Van expired with the death of Anthony and Edward Mathew, thus extinguishing the last Bawdripp link with Roath.”
1717. The Popish Register relating to the County of Glamorgan gives the names of “Popish Recusants Convict and Papists who have registered their estates” and refers to:-
Cheife Rent payable to the lord of the Manor of Landaffe [inter alia] .. Mr Morgan of Tredegar for ye Splott 4s.
The entry refers to George Mathew junior who owned Llandaff Castle and Manor. – (C.R.III.188)
1732. June 25. William the son of Thomas David of lower Splott was baptised. – Roath P.R.
1740. The Llandaff Survey of this year mentions a chief rent of 4s.0d. as payable in respect of Splott Farm in Roath.- C.R.II.23.
1751-2. Quarter Sessions Records (G.R.O.). The Hon. Tho. Morgan of Ruperra – qualified to act as Justice of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan by virtue of his estate called Splot… at yearly value of £100 and upwards. (Subsequent entries referto Tho. Morgan of Ruperra House )
1763. 12 October. Harry Lewis of the Splot dyed – Roath P.R.
1768. David Rees servant of Rowland James of Splot died September the 22nd, – Roath P.R.
1777. Will of John Morgan made 28 October 1777,
4 acres freehold land in the parish of St Mary
5 acres land on Splot Moor in the parish of Roath.
These were devised to the testator by his father. – (C.R.III.187)
1782-85. Land Tax assessments for these years show William Harris as tenant of Charles Morgan and others of land which can be identified as Splott.
1787. 10 April. Buried – William Haries, Splot. – Roath P.R.
1787. An Account Book of Rents received for the years 1778 to 1789 amongst the Tredegar Papers (N.L.W. TRED.MSS/302) shows William Harris as tenant of Splott Farm up to 1787 at an annual rent of £300. On August 3rd 1787 the following entry occurs:-
Rec’d by a bill of repair on the Mill £102.3s.6d.
Rec’d cash by Thomas Harris £19.1s.6d.
This clears March 1784 £121.5s.0d.
1791. Land Tax assessment. Jane Harris = occupier.
1794. Land Tax assessment. Mrs Harris = occupier. The assessments are the largest in Roath.
- William Bradley, the coaching proprietor had a 21 year lease on the Upper Splott Farm (later “The Great Eastern Hotel”) at a rental of 300 guineas per annum. (Cardiff – William Rees. 2nd. Ed. p.99)
1840. Tithe Appt. Plot No.53. Lower Splott homestead 1a.0r.22p. Owner: Chas. Morgan. Occupier: John Skyrme. He is shown as occupying the following plots:
Plot No.49. 2 acres Pasture in Splott Moors.
Plots 26 to 42, 51 to 60, & 204. Splott Farm. (See map in this issue and key thereto)
Plot Nos. 44,45,49,50. Land, Splott moors.
In the preamble to the Tithe Apportionment Schedule, the lands of the Upper and Lower Splott Farms are described as comprising 374 acres approximately.
1841. The Census shows “Splott House” occupied by John Skyrme, head of household, farmer, age 40. Living with him was his wife, Elizabeth, age 40, his son John Henry age 4 and his daughter Elizabeth age 2. He and his wife were not born in Glamorgan but both of his children were born in Roath.
Also there, perhaps in separate quarters, were 4 male servants, (ages 60, 30, 15 & 15) three female servants (ages 14, 14 & 15), a 15 year old farmer (Robert P. Edward) and a 15 year old male lodger.
Lower Splott farm was occupied in 1841 by William Thomas, an agricultural labourer, age 30, his wife, Ann, age 30 and their two children – Morgan age 12 and Mary age 10. In a separate household were the Lewis family. Thomas Lewis and his wife, Eliza, each gave their age as 35. The children were John age 3 and Leah age 12.
Also at Lower Splott was one of the few remaining shepherds, Job Woodward, probably in a separate cottage. He was then 65 years old. Other members of his family living with him were Sarah, age 20, John age 20, an agricultural labourer, and William age 14.
1843. Monumental Inscription recorded by David Jones of Wallington (Vol.IX) (C.C.L.): “John Skyrme of Splott House, yeoman, died 1 July 1843 age 46.”
In Vol.XI. David Jones has this entry:
“John Skyrme of Splott House of this parish died 25 July 1843 age 46”
The latter entry evidently refers to the memorial tablet inside St Margaret’s Church whereas the entry in Vol.IX must refer to the inscription on the tomb in the churchyard.
“Vault and railing. John Skyrme of Splott House in this parish, yeoman; died 1843 aged 46.” – M.I. Roath Churchyard —- C.R.III.552.
1843. November 7th. Probate granted to Elizabeth Jane Skyrme, the widow of John Skyrme of Splott. Witnesses to his will (awaiting detailed analysis) which he had made on 13 May 1833, were Henry Morgan, Henrietta Bruce and Morgan I. Morgan.
1845 to 1846. William Boughton of Splott appears in the Voters’ List for Glamorgan as qualified to vote by virtue of occupation of land at Splott.
Charles Morgan of Tredegar, near Newport, is qualified by virtue of his freehold lands “Splot farm” tenanted by John Skyrme.
1847. For the year ended 1 December 1847 the entries in the Voters’ List are identical except that William Boughton replaces John Skyrme as Charles Morgan’s tenant.
1848 Boughton’s name does not appear in the Voters’ List for the year ended 1 Dec. 1848.
1850 William Boughton,Esq., of Splott House and of Adsett Court, Co. Gloucester, died 14 February age 35.(M.I.Roath – David Jones, Wallington).
In memory of William Boughton,Esq., formerly of Splot House, in this Parish, and of Addsitt Court in the County of Gloucester, who died February 14th, 1850, aged 35 years.
– M.I.(Roath) – John Rowlands 1865.
1851 Census (Roath. Sch. No.10).
Spotte (sic) Farm: The head of the household was not at home on the night of the 30 March 1851.
Edward Williams, son of head of household. Unmarried. Age 18. Farmer’s son at home, 231 acres upland & 239(?) moor, empl.10 men. He was born at Eglwys Ilan. His 15 year old sister, Margaret, is described as a Farmer’s daughter employed at home. She was born in Llanbradach. Also living in the homestead was Rachel Gibbon, a 22 year old general servant who was born in Bedwas.
The occupiers were David Thomas, a 42 year old Agricultural labourer (Cowman), born Sully, Glam. His wife, Mary gave her age as 36 and her place of birth as Wigmore, Herefordshire. Their daughter, Susannah was 2 years old. Their three sons were Edward age 8, David age 6, and William age 5. All the children were born in the parish of Roath.
Also at Lower Splott (Sch.51) in a separate household were:
John Fisher, a 56 year old shepherd. The occupation of his 53 year old wife, Mary, is given as a milk woman. Both were born at High Bray, Devonshire. The occupation of their 18 year old son Michael is shown as “Usher Free School”. Both he and their 9 year old daughter, Mary, were born in Roath.
John Fisher of Lower Splott died 12 January 1886 at the age of 92.
His wife died 1880 aged 82. Their son William died 2 August 1850 at the age of 15 years. – Roath M.I.
[John Fisher and his family appear also in the 1841 Census but the location of their household is not there specified. ]
1853. For the year ended 1 December 1853 the Voters’ List for Glamorgan includes Sir Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan, Bart., of Tredegar (later, Lord Tredegar) as holding the freehold of “Splott farm” while the tenant of Splott Farm, John Williams, is also enfranchised by virtue of his “occupation of lands to the value of £50 per annum”
1855. John Williams of Splott Farm shown as overseer (with Wm. Evans) for parish of Roath. – Ewen’s Directory,1855.
1861. Census. Unfortunately, the portion of the Enumerator’s Return for the area which included Splott has been lost. Splottlands Terrace leading from Newport Road along the parish boundary towards Meteor Street consisted of 5 houses of which one was unoccupied. No.4 is named “Splottlands Inn”. The innkeeper was Evan Joseph, age 28. With him were his 27 year old wife, Lucy and their one-year old daughter, Eliza. Also living in were a general servant and a bar-maid.
1868. The Voters’ List for the County of Glamorgan includes Henry Bennett of Connection Street, Roath, (now Clifton Street). His qualification was as “occupier of land at £50 rent”, the property being “Part of Splott farm and part of Island farm”.
Sir Charles Morgan again appears as freeholder of Splott farm.
John Williams again appears as in 1853.
1869. The Voters’ List for the Borough of Cardiff (1 Nov.1868 to 1 Jan.1870) shows the same Henry Bennett as living “at the back of Clifton Street”.
In the same register Philip Gibbs of the Great Eastern Hotel is listed as qualified to vote by virtue of his dwelling house at “Splottland”.
John Williams of “Lower Splott Farm” is listed by virtue of his house and lands there.
1871. Census.(Enum. Dist.28(4). Sch.816)
The property described as “Splottland Farm” shows it to be occupied by John Williams who was by then a 70 year old widower farming only 36 acres and employing 4 labourers and 3 boys. He was born in Eglwys Ilan. Leah Phillips, a 37 year old widow was his’ resident house-keeper. His batchelor son, Thomas, age 42, and his spinster daughter, age 22, were living in the farmhouse together with a 17 year old housemaid, an 18 year old female general servant, and a male farm servant age 26.
The name “Splott” does not appear at all in the 1871 Census Enumerators’ Returns – only “Splottlands”. As well as Splottland Farm we have No.1 and No.2. Splottland Farm Cottages, both occupied by farm servants and their families and the terrace of houses in what is now Longcross Street was called Splottlands Terrace. (Enum.Dist. 28(3) 633-640). Of the six houses listed, No.4, although not named as such must have been the Splottlands Inn, the occupier’s occupation being an inn-keeper.
1873 John Williams of Splott in this parish died 5 August 1873 aged 73 – M.I. St Margaret’s Churchyard. (C.R.III.551)
It may be appropriate to insert here some notes on the Williams family of Splott as gleaned from the monumental inscriptions in Roath churchyard transcribed by C.V.Appleton before the clearance of the churchyard and by David Jones of Wallington in the 19th century.
The children of John Williams and his wife Catherine were:
Edward, who died 28 October 1861 age 28, Rees, who died 6 January 1871 aged 34, Catherine, their daughter who died 22 July 1872 age 24 and their son, Thomas who died 24 November 1904 at the age of 77.
William Llewellyn Williams, son of William Williams of Splott died 18 January 1904 at the age of 37.
Most of the buildings of the Upper Splott Farm had been demolished before 1860. The homestead of the farm was let as an inn which was called and is still licensed under the name of the “Great Eastern Inn”, on the corner of Metal Street. Brunel’s ship, the S.S.”Great Eastern”, had been launched in 1858 – the largest ship of her day, propelled by paddle and screw. No doubt the inn was named in commemoration of this momentous event. When the farmland had been laid out as a building estate, the first Lord Tredegar gave the barn for church purposes. By 1861 we can see from the Census returns that streets had been built and houses occupied in Meteor St.,Eclipse St., Comet St., Planet St., System St. and Constellation St. The old short cut between Green Lane (Broadway) and the Newport Road near the Four Elms, known as Connection Street, was renamed Clifton Street in December 1866. The land belonging to the Upper Splott farm had by 1871 become a gridiron of streets of small terraced houses bearing metallurgical and astronomical names – Metal, Copper, Zinc, System, Star, Moon, Orbit and Planet. The precious stones series followed later.
On 7 August 1860, Tredegar’s agent, Mr Davis, reported to the Roath District Board of Health that he had prepared an enclosure on Lord Tredegar’s land for a temporary cattle market which was opened that day. The new Cattle Market was opened 11 March 1862 with the market house in Cycle Street.
In 1874 the converted barn church, known as Christchurch or the Splott Chapel was re-converted into a church school for infants and on adjoining land Tredegar provided land for boys’ and girls’ schools. The school property was not formally conveyed to the – school authorities until 1880 by the second Lord Tredegar. By 1875 on absorption of Roath into Cardiff, Tredegar’s urbanisation of Splott Farm had reached saturation point. Amidst the houses were the churches, chapels, mission halls, schools and institutes each of which has its unique history and each of which played its part in coalescing the spirit of comradeship and loyalty that pervaded the working class community in Splott.
The development of Tredegar land around the Lower Splott Farm, the construction of Splott Road and the springing up of a network of Streets in that area is a story which must be told elsewhere, as is the story of the former Dowlais cottages on Bute land, leased to the Dowlais Iron Co., in what came to be known as Lower Splott. When they went, a community was lost. As Bill Phillips has written in the prologue to his undermentioned book: “When the last of the Dowlais cottages fell, the friendships and the community spirit had departed forever”.
There are two recent books which give us an interesting insight into life in Splott during the early years of this century :-
“A Kid From Splott” by Bill Phillips, Cardiff, 1985. (One limited edition only). (ISBN 0 9510383 0 3)
“The Splott I Remember” by E.J.Jenkins. D.Brown & Sons Ltd., Bridgend, 1983. (ISBN 0 905928 11 3).