Pen-y-lan Streets

Abbotsford Road

Only now seen on old maps, and even then misspelt. The dog-leg of five houses at the end of Melrose Avenue, now numbers 101-109 Melrose Avenue.  Named after Abbotsford House, near Melrose, Scotland, home of Sir Walter Scott, poet, novelist and historian.

Agincourt Road

Houses on one side, Marlborough Primary on the other. Named after the decisive battle in the One Hundred Years War in which Henry V and his outnumbered troops defeated the French on 25 Oct 1415 thanks to the longbow.

Alma Road

Houses date from 1898.  Named after Battle of  Alma, 20th Sept 1854 in which the British, French and Turkish forces defeated the Russian forces in the first decisive battle of the Crimean War.

Amesbury Road

The houses dates from 1907. Help! The derivation of the street name defeats me. There is a cartoon of a Battle of Amesbury, which would make it fit with nearby streets, but looks like it is fictional?  Is it one of the Abbey/Cathedral streets; following on from Dorchester, Winchester, Colchester, Melrose Avenue etc? The town of Amesbury used to have an abbey a long time ago. Amesbury Abbey is now name of a large house in Amesbury. More likely the town is named after the Wiltshire town of Amesbury and maybe follows Marlborough Road, another Wiltshire town.

Bottom: cartoon of the Battle of Amesbury by artist Charles Keene who drew for magazines like Punch. Amesbury Abbey – not an abbey at all but just a large house.

Arnside Road

Named after the coastal town in Cumbria.  The houses on the west side date from around the 1960s.  The houses on the east side were built in the early 2000s on the site of the former Penylan Synagogue itself built in 1955 with a copper domed roof. The foundation stone for the synagogue was laid in Nov 1952 by the Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie, and the building consecrated in Jan 1955. The building was sold in 2003 with the congregation moving to its current premises in Cyncoed Gardens.

Top Rt: Map with Penylan Synagogue (photo credit: old-maps.co.uk). Bottom Left: Arnside, Cumbria, Bottom Rt: Penylan Synagogue (photo credit: Peoples Collection of Wales and Jewish History Association of South Wales (JHASW) )

Baber Close

Built around1991 on what would have been the middle of the hockey pitches in front of Lady Margaret school. It is named after Mr ‘Frankie’ Baber who was Head of Geography (1946-57) and 3rd Master at Howardian school. Francis Thomas Baber was born on 3 Sept 1916 in Abersychan to Thomas Baber, a coal miner, and Mary Ann Baber. He arrived at Howard Gardens in Jan 1946 with the school struggling to make use of the buildings that were remaining after the school was badly bombed in WWII. Frankie Baber obtained an MA in Geography from Aberystwyth University in the late 1940s (whilst a teacher) and was on the staff when the school moved into its new building in Penylan in 1953 and subsequently became known as Howardian.

An old boy wrote of him “One of the ‘giants’, though small in stature, a big voice which came from a big heart in a big personality. I admired him tremendously. He raised his department to undreamed heights of success and did much the same for Hawke House”. Described as being ‘at times aggressive in manner, as so many small men are, miscreants feared the sharp edge of his tongue, but to those who wished to learn or who had troubles of some kind, Frankie was the sole of kindness and a tower of strength’. ‘Many Old Boys now in prominent positions still speak with awe of his triads and with gratitude of his skill and knowledge with which he imparted to them. He was the same in the staff-room, outspoken to a degree but equally ready to stand by a principle or a colleague when occasion demanded’. He left Howardian in 1957 to become geography lecturer Cardiff Teachers Training College. He died in Cardiff in 1989.

Balaclava Road

The road was developed 1898.  It is named after the Battle of Balaclava, fought on 25 Oct 1854, in the Crimean War. Captain Godfrey Morgan, who later became Lord Tredegar and the landowner of much of Pen-y-lan was part of the battle’s ill-fated ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’.  He was one of only two members of the 17th Lancers to survive the Charge of the Light Brigade after a miscommunication sent them headlong into a wall of Russian cannons. His horse, Sir Briggs, also survived and returned home and when he died was buried at Tredegar House, Newport, where a statue of the horse still stands.  A statue of Lord Tredegar riding Sir Briggs stands outside the City Hall in Cardiff.

Barons Court Road

Dates from around 1935. Named after the West London underground station.  There were no Barons apparently .  Sir William Palliser who built and named the area in London and was thought to have been poking fun at Earls Court. With or without an apostrophe?  At the top of the road the sign has an apostrophe at the bottom of the road it doesn’t.  The underground station doesn’t if that helps.

Top Rt: Barons Court underground station. Bottom Left: Sir William Palliser.

Birchwood Lane

A right-of-way running through Cardiff University accommodation buildings. Named after the nearby sizable house, Birchwood Grange (still there).  The other houses, Craigisla and Shandon were demolished. Shandon was owned by Cardiff shipowner Sir William J Tatem who went on to become Baron Glanely of St Fagans. The nineteen roomed luxury house Craigisla had a number of notable inhabitants including Daniel Radcliffe, a leading Cardiff businessman at the start of the twentieth century.  He raised a lot of money for the Scott voyage to the Antarctic, hence Scott made a point of setting sail on the voyage from Cardiff. Birchwood Cottage still fronts onto Birchwood Lane though it looks as if it is probably a rebuild of an earlier cottage.  University Hall dates from around the 1960s.

Birchwood Road

Probably dates from around the late 1950s. Named after nearby Birchwood Grange, one of the last large Penylan houses, former home of Sir William Thomas (Baronet Thomas of Ynyshir), Great Western Railways Director. The house became part of Cardiff University in early 1950s and was converted into a male hall of residence.

Top Rt: Painting of Sir William Thomas by L.de Berna and is at the Mansion House, Cardiff.

Blenheim Road

The road dates from 1909.  It is probably named after the Battle of Blenheim on 13 Aug 1704 in which the British, led by Duke of Marlborough, and the Austrians/Prussians defeated the French/Bavarians at Blenheim, Germany. It was a major battle of the War of the Spanish Succession.  The top the road offers a good view over the centre of Cardiff and the City Hall. It has some coy houses, not all facing the street. Just to add to the coyness it also has Marlborough Road school and Albany Road Baptist original school room and church facing onto it.  St Edward church claims to be on Westville Road as does the house opposite, the front door of which opens onto Blenheim Road but has a sign above the door saying Westville. What has poor Blenheim done to be shunned like this?   

Bottom: Marlborough Road school, Albany Road Baptist original school room and church.

Boleyn Walk

Dates from 1982.  The houses are built in mock-Tudor style on the former Taff Vale railway line, Roath branch.  Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII (Tudor) and she ended up getting beheaded.  The houses on the other side of Penylan Road are called The Tudors so it appears these are named after Ann Boleyn, one of the Tudors.  Her marriage to Henry VIII kicked off the Reformation and dissolution of the monasteries which is kind of ironic considering the nearby St David’s College was built on the site of the former Convent of the Good Shepherd.

Borrowdale Close

Houses built post 1958.  Built on former allotments on land owned by Lord Tredegar. Named after Borrowdale in the Lake District, a beautiful valley at the north end of the Lakes, stretching from near Keswick south to the Honister Pass.

Brandreth Road

Dates from late 50s/early 60s. Named after the 715m mountain in the Lake District, north of Great Gable (899m).   I can personally recommend staying the night at the isolated Black Sail Youth Hostel for an early morning ascent of Brandreth.

Brandreth Road. Top Right: Brandreth top with Great Gable in the background.

Bronwydd Avenue 

Dates from around 1930.  Bronwydd meaning wooded hillside in Welsh. It is named after the mansion Bronwydd that once stood between the present A48 Easter Avenue and Yew Tree Court.  The mansion was built in 1866, and later lived in by Sir Alfred Thomas, Lord Mayor, Liberal MP and Lord Pontypridd.  There are newspaper reports of Lloyd-George having stayed at Bronwydd with Alfred Thomas when he visited Cardiff.  Lord Pontypridd died unmarried at the age of 87 in 1927 and Bronwydd and most of his estate was bequeathed to the City of Cardiff.  Bronwydd was later owned by Captain J.J.Williams, a land agent to the 4th Marquess of Bute and later again by Prof W.E.Waters.  It was demolished around 1970 to make way for the construction of the Eastern Avenue.

Bronwydd Avenue. top rightt: Sir Alfred Thomas – Lord Pontybridd (pic Wikipedia) , lower right: Bronwydd (pic credit: Prof W.E.Waters)

Deri Road

Houses date from 1907.  Named after Deri Farm that used to occupy the land, demolished just prior to the road being built. Deri meaning Oaks in Welsh. Picture of the farm taken in 1890.


Dorchester Avenue

Developed from west to east, starting in 1923. Map (undated) shows houses still being built in black and some gaps still. One of four parallel streets named after places with an abbey/cathedral.

Earl’s Court Road

 Shares its name with an area of West London and an underground station, like neighbouring streets. Tucker built houses from around 1931 with their distinctive stained glass windows. It was the childhood home of Nobel prize-winner Brian Josephson.  


Harrissmith Road

The road dates from 1904. It is named after the town in South Africa where British troops were involved in battles around the town during the Second Boer War (1899-1902).  The town of Harrismith itself is named after the British soldier Lieutenant-General Sir Henry George Wakelyn Smith. Harry Smith, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, went on to become Governor of the Cape Colony in today’s South Africa in the 1850s.  The original road signs have the spelling Harrissmith with a double-‘s’, which is not necessarily due to a mis-spelling by a corporation worker as some claim. The newspapers at the time of the Boer War commonly used the double-s spelling, but not consistently, as did the Cardiff-based Harrissmith Steam Shipping Company.   

Ladysmith Road

The houses on Ladysmith Road date from 1905.  It is named after the town in South Africa between Durban and Johannesburg which was scene of one of the first battles in the Second Boer War on 30 Oct 1899.  The battle was a defeat for the British and led to the siege of Ladysmith which lasted for 118 days. The Relief of Ladysmith took place in Feb 1900 by a column of British soldiers that included Winston Churchill. The town of Ladysmith, South Africa was originally named  the Republic of Klip River by the Boers in 1847. It was annexed by the British in the same year and on 20 Jun 1850 was proclaimed a township called Windsor. On 11 Oct 1850 the name was changed to Ladysmith after Juana María de los Dolores de León Smith, also known as “Lady Smith,” the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith, the Governor of the Cape Colony.

Top Rt: Juana María de los Dolores de León Smith, Bottom Left: Ladysmith Town Hall 1900, Bottom Rt: The Relief of Ladysmith. Painting by John Henry Frederick Bacon

Marlborough Road.

The houses date from 1898. The two most impressive buildings, the Marlborough Road Board School (destroyed WWII) and the steam laundry, are no more. The laundry was replaced by Thomas Court flats for the retired. Marlborough Road was home of documentary photographer David Hurn, the subject of one of our blog posts: David Hurn – the man who shot James Bond. There is a bit of a debate over where the name of the road originates. It is possibly named after the 1st Duke of Marlborough who led an army at the Battle of Blenheim (1704). Alternatively, it may be named after the Battle of Marlborough in 1642, though this was a relatively minor battle (but you probably wouldn’t say that it you were there!). Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough was decorated during the second Boer War, which would fit in with other streets in the area being named after Boer war events but the Second Boer Boar War where he fought wasn’t till after Marlborough Road had already been named. Given the fact that the road was built prior to the other neighbouring streets named after battles, Marlborough Road may not have been named after a battle/person at all but purely after the Wiltshire town.

A look at the history of the streets in the Pen-y-lan area of Cardiff, Wales.
Marlborough Road 2021. The most up to date Steam Laundry in the Kingdom (corner of Marlborough Road and Blenheim Road). Marlborough Road Board school, now replaced by Marlborough Primary school. The 1st Duke of Marlborough who led an army at the Battle of Blenheim.

Salmon Close

Salmon Close, off Hammond Way on the Howardian Estate is named after Horace ‘Bill’ Salmon who taught History and Economics at Howardian between 1932 and when he sadly died in 1958.  Salmon Close is where the lower rugby pitches in front of the school would have been.

Horace ‘Bill’ Salmon was born on 7 Apr 1905 in Whitchurch, Cardiff to Willie Salmon, a tinplate worker from Whitchurch and Lillie Harriet Salmon (née Boots) from Aberdeg, Monmouthshire.  He attended Cardiff University where he played rugby for the 1st XV. He was awarded his Education Certificate in 1927 in Cardiff.  He joined the staff at Howard Gardens school in Sept 1932 to take over the History Department but he also began and organised the Economics Department which was to have wide success at the school.  Mr Salmon was known to masters and boys alike as ‘Bill’ though on the part of boy this was not in his hearing.  He was a good disciplinarian, but not of the old, severe, repressive type.  He treated his senior pupils as adults and gentlemen and expected them to behave in that way. His quiet, though often humorous, approach to his subject brought him and his pupils the success which they deserved.  He took over fostering the swimming in the school which was also very successful though he had difficulty in obtaining and retaining the School Club Night at the Baths. He married Muriel Richards Charles in Cardiff in the Summer of 1934 and they had one son together born 1935.

He was a member of the Territorial Army and at the start of WWII was on duty at a gunsite in Cardiff Docks.  He became a member of the 77th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery and served in the Far East.  He, and fellow school-master at Howard Gardens, G.G.Davies, a German master,  were both taken prisoner by the Japanese and endured their cruel captivity together.  It was said that but for G.G.Davies, Mr Salmon might never have survived the treatment in the POW camps.  ‘G.G.’ revived his hopes and interests by teaching him German and generally ‘jollying him along’. At the end of the war he rejoined the staff at Howard Gardens and moved to the new school building, Howardian, in Penylan.  In 1957 he became Second Master at the school but unfortunately his health finally broke down later.  He passed away on 15 Oct 1958 aged 53 and is buried at St Mary’s church in Whitchurch. 

Salmon Close. Top Rt: Bill Salmon Lower Rt: Howardian High School and playing fields (pic credits: Floreat Howardia)

Southcourt Road

Developed around 1932. Nearby roads are named after West London underground stations including Turnham Green, Ravenscourt, Hampton Court, Baron’s Court, Earl’s Court. South Kensington Road would have been a bit lengthy for a road name so Southcourt Road could be named after South Court in Kensington Palace (now the Victoria & Albert museum).

South Court in Kensington Palace, the snow of 1982, Southcourt Road in 2021.

St Margaret’s Crescent

A short street, off Albany Rd, oozing history. There has been a church here since the 1100s, the present St Margaret’s church was built in 1870. The 16th century Great House was only demolished in 1967.  The residential home which replaced it lasted far less time and has since also been demolished.  At the entrance to the Crescent, on the junction with Albany Road, stood Dean’s Farm.

St Margaret's Crescent, Penylan, Cardiff

St Margaret’s Crescent, Penylan, Cardiff, St Margaret’s church as seen from St Margaret’s Crescent, demolition of Great House in 1967 with the church seen in the background.


Trafalgar Road

A road with six street signs and only twelve houses which date from 1911.  Its name derives from the 1805 naval ‘Battle of Trafalgar‘, part of the Napoleonic Wars, in which Britain’s Lord Nelson and his 27 ships defeated the 33 ships of the Franco-Spanish fleet off the coast of Spain.  

Trafalgar Road, Penylan, Cardiff

Trafalgar Road 2021, Lord Nelson, map of Battle of Trafalgar site, painting of Battle of Trafalgar by Turner (photo credits: WiKi).

Waterloo Road.

Starts at heart of Roath, St Margaret’s church, centre of the old village. There’s been a chapel here since the 1100s. First houses 1907. Named after the Battle of Waterloo 18/6/1815. Interestingly, one of the few remaining headstones in St Margaret’s churchyard is that of Sergeant Thomas John (d.1864) who took part in the Battle of Waterloo. I wonder if this had any bearing on the naming of the street. The road was also the childhood home of Michael Moritz, Wales’s richest man.

Westville Road

The houses dates from 1907 with those at the eastern end quite different in style to those at the eastern end. Set in among the streets named after battles the derivation of name Westville Road is not immediately apparent.  My best guess is that it is named after Westville, a suburb of Durban, South Africa.  Although there was no battle there in the 2nd Boer War as there was in Mafeking, Ladysmith and Harrismith which gave their name to nearby streets, troops may well have been stationed there after disembarking at the port of Durban.  Westville, Durban is named after Sir Martin West, Lieutenant Governor of Natal from 1845 to 1849.  Martin West was born in England and  educated at Balliol College, Oxford, before joining the British East India Company. He served in Bombay until ill-health forced him to retire to the Cape of Good Hope.