Ralph Hancock – Roath’s very own Capability Brown

Ralph Hancock Photo - Dorothy Wilding

 

The weather is sweltering and the parks and gardens of Cardiff are in full bloom.  I’m reminded of a talk we had at our Society meeting last autumn from horticultural lecturer Bob Priddle all about the life locally born landscape gardener Ralph Hancock.

 

 

English Gardens in AmericaRalph Hancock first came to notoriety when in 1927 he created a rock and water garden for Princess Victoria, the daughter of the late King Edward VII, at the Royal house Coppins, Iver, Buckinghamshire.  She was so impressed she presented to him a little diamond and sapphire tie pin which became one of his most treasured possessions.  In a clever piece of self-marketing he published an illustrated booklet titled ‘English Gardens in America’ in which he described himself as being ‘Landscape Gardener to HRH the Princess Victoria of England’. and sailed off to USA to tell people.  His marketing worked and he designed an exhibition garden at Erie Station in New York to further exhibit his work.

 

Rockefeller Centre Garden

 

He was commissioned to design the famous ‘Gardens of Nations’, a series of roof gardens on the eleventh floor of the Rockefeller Centre in New York in 1930.   The work was made up of a series of cultural style of gardens from places as diverse as Holland, Japan and Britain. It was a sizable undertaking consisting of over 3,000 tons of earth, 500 tons of brick, 100 tons of natural stone and 2,000 trees and shrubs being hauled up the side of the skyscrapers by block and tackle.

 

 

 

Ralf Hancock kensington roof garden Photo by Bryce Edwards, Flickr

Hancock’s work became widely known and in 1935 Ralph Hancock was persuaded to return home to the UK and work on designing a rooftop garden for the Derry and Toms Department Store in Kensington.  The gardens opened in 1938 and included the Spanish garden complete with palm trees and fountains as well as Moorish colonnades and a woodland garden, built with a cascade, a river and its very own pink flamingos.  The building, gardens and Babylon Restaurant had for many years been leased by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group but finally closed to the public in 2018 when the lease expired.  It is not known whether they will ever reopen.

Flamingos in the Kensington Roof top gardens

When the Derry Gardens (as they were first known) were opened on 9th May 1938, they were the largest single roof garden in the world and became a huge attraction. Visitors were charged one shilling entrance and all the money went to support the Queen’s Institute of District Nursing, St John Ambulance, the British Red Cross and several hospitals. By the time Derry & Toms closed in 1973, the entrance fees had generated some £120,000 for various hospitals.

Ralph continued to be a very successful exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show, winning gold medals in 1936, 1937 and 1938 shows.  The gardens constructed at Chelsea had moved away from the naturalistic rock garden style towards the arts and crafts style that is now more associated with his later work.  One of Ralph’s specialities became the use of Moon Gates,  which he used both at Chelsea and a number of other garden projects.  He also exhibited gardens at the Ideal Home Exhibition.

Ralph Hancock and the Queen at Chelsea 1949

Ralph with the Queen Mother at one of his show gardens. (photo credit: Pathe News)

Not all the gardens Hancock designed were far away.  In 1948 Sir David Evans Bevan, a director of Barclays Bank, commissioned him to build the gardens at Twyn-yr-Hydd House, Margam Park.   The building was until recently part of Neath Port Talbot College and through the tireless work of the Horticultural Department and lecturer Bob Priddle the gardens were restored to their former glory.  Unfortunately it is understood that maintenance costs and associated drainage problems to the house uneconomic  to maintain and it has sadly been mothballed and the gardens have been allowed to become overgrown.

Twyn-yr-Hydd gardens

The gardens at Twyn-yr-Hydd

Personal Life

Clarence Henry Ralph Hancock, known as Ralph, was born at 20 Keppoch Street, Roath on 2nd July 1893.  In 1901 we find the family living at 88 Albany Road, opposite the junction with Wellfield Road, then later at 42 Ninian Road when he was attending Roath Park Primary school.  It makes me wonder whether his later career choice was influenced by the work of William Pettigrew in Roath Park.

Baptism July 30th 1893

Ralph’s baptism record

1905 - they were living in Ninian Road

Ralph’s school admission

In his early career Hancock was a marine insurance broker working in James Street, Cardiff.  On the outbreak of the First World War he enlisted as a private in the Territorial Army. In December 1915 he was commissioned second lieutenant in the Welsh (howitzer) brigade in 1915, but was invalided out in 1916.  After marrying Muriel Ellis in 1917 they moved to Augusta Road, Penarth and later to England to further his career.

Ralph Hancock died of heart failure, at the National Heart Hospital, London, on 30 August 1950. He was cremated at Golders Green and his ashes were later scattered in the Thames by his widow and his daughter, Sheila. There is another sad local connection with the Hancock family.  Ralph’s brother Charles died in the Claude Hotel, Albany Road in 1960.

The family of Ralph Hancock have carried out a lot of research on his achievements as a horticulturist which can be found on the Ralph Hancock website.

 

Derry Roof Gardens Kensington London

Uncovering the history of Wellfield Road

Wellfield Road, Roath, Cardiff

I must admit that Wellfield Road holds a special draw for me.  It’s where as a child I was taken to get my hair cut in Sam’s, where I was occasionally treated to a Thayer’s ice-cream, where I was taken into the china ornament shop under strict instructions to keep my hands by my side and not knock anything over or else I would have to pay for it, where Mr Clarke, the greengrocer, used to give me stamps to put in my stamp collection, and where I was allowed to spend my pocket money in Billy’s or Baker’s.  Ten years later as a teenager I would be spending hours in Ferrari’s bakery making a coffee and choux bun last for hours discussing world affairs or enjoying a late night chicken tikka masala in the Himalaya after an Allbright or two.

Some of Wellfield Road’s past has literally been uncovered this month.  Waterloo Tea are busy preparing their latest outlet at No.41.  It was most recently Ushi’s gift shop.  When the painter took away some of the old shop front and stripped away the paint what should be uncovered but the name H A Tilley, the name of the old shoe shop.  The signs are Waterloo Tea is going to preserve the old H A Tilley name.

41 Wellfield Road - uncovering the past

June 2019 – uncovering the past. Shop being prepared for Waterloo Tea.

 

H A Tilley - Copy

I’ve done a bit of research and found Herbert Arthur Tilley was born on June 29th 1911 in Newport, son of John Tilley, a gardener, and Alice Hannah Tilley (née Underwood).  In 1939 we find Herbert living on Sherbourne Avenue, Cyncoed together with his elder married sister Alice Doreen Lewis (b.1906).  Herbert describes himself as a boot and shoe retailer whilst Alice is a manageress of a shoe shop.  I’m guessing therefore that they may well have run the Wellfield Road shop together.  Alice passes away in 1984 in Cyncoed and Herbert died on May 28th 1993 in Bournemouth.  I can’t find any record of Herbert ever having married.

 

By all accounts Mr Tilley was a very nice man and a capable tennis player playing in a club in Rhiwbina.  He lived for some time on Llanederyn Road in one of those houses that had its own tennis court.

According to the Cardiff Trade Directories, the occupants prior to H A Tilley was a confectioners Brelaz & Williams.  Information on these occupants was somewhat harder to tease out.  Luckily in the past year, being part of our Society’s Research group, I have picked up some very useful tips.  And so with Pat’s help we have found the following:

Brelaz Williams hisotry

Maud Brelaz, nee Williams, was born in Cardiff and marries Charles Louis Brelaz in Dundee in 1923.  In 1925  we find she is advertising herself in the Dundee Courier as Madame Brelaz, Revue Actress and Welsh Singer, open to take on pupils for dancing and singing lessons.  By 1928 they have moved to Wellfield Road and opened a confectionery shop. In January that year the Western Daily Press reports they purchase two Princip steam ovens, manufactured just around the corner in Albany Road. In 1930 however Charles dies in Lusanne, Switzerland.  In 1933 Maud sets up a new company, Penylan Confectioners, with her brother Arthur and family.  We may even have found Maud staring in the 1916 silent film Grim Justice, but haven’t been able to prove that was the same Maud Williams as yet.

So how do we know all this.  Well for shopping streets in particular the very useful resource is Trade Directories.  Some of these are now appearing on-line but the easiest way to access them locally is in Cathays Library.  They tend to cover the period up to 1972.  There is another useful resource in recent years called the Goad maps.  They name every shop on a road in a given year.  The earliest I have found for Wellfield Road is 2006, again in Cathays library.

Goad map 2006

2006 Goad Map of Wellfield Road

Wellfield Road 1972 Trade Directory

1972 Trade Directory for Wellfield Road

 

We do however have a 30 year gap between the mid-1970s and 2006 where information is harder to find.  This is where we would like your help.  Can you help us list the shops that were there in that period?  Any help much appreciated!  Many thanks.

Our Research group is looking to spend some time concentrating on Wellfield Road history.  It seems to make sense given that our Society meetings are held at St Andrew’s URC church hall.   I have started a web page on the History of Wellfield Road.  Hopefully, with your help, that will grow and begin to capture some more of the history of this fascinating street.

Sir William Crossman

William Crossman – the first Labour Knight 

(22 March 1854 – 23 January 1929)

As its Labour Day allow me to present to you the life William Crossman, probably one of Cardiff’s unsung heroes.  He was the first labour Lord Mayor of the city and the first labour person and trade unionist ever to be knighted in Great Britain.  That’s quite a claim.  I think its true.  It was certainly a headline in the Echo at the time.

William Crossman picture unknown date

William Crossman wasn’t a Cardiff man.  He was one of the thousands of people that came to Cardiff from the West Country in the late 1800s.  As an aside, I’ve often wondered if that’s the reason why the Cardiff accent is so different from the nearby valleys accent.

Crossman was born in 1854 in Tavistock, Devon, son of John Crossman, a ‘captain’ in a copper mine.  He married Mary Ann Moore on 29th Dec 1885 at the Roath parish church, St Margaret’s.  His address at the time is given as Myra Place.  I’ve not been able to find Myra Place and am left wondering if it is in fact a misspelling of Moira Place in Adamsdown.  After their marriage they lived at 31 Harriet Street, Cathays for the rest of their lives and never had children.

31 Harriet Street, Cathays, Cardiff, home of William Crossman

31 Harriet Street, Cathays

William was a mason by training.  He came to Cardiff to work as a foreman mason on the Roath Dock at Cardiff in 1884.  He became a labour leader in 1892, at the time of the great building trade dispute. As a member of the conciliation committee he did much to bring that strike to a satisfactory end.  He was said to have been a reasonable man, standing for his principle, but not spoiling for a fight. His sincerity and simplicity is said to have won him the respect and confidence of his opponents. For many years his life was devoted to labour representation, what we would now call trade unionism.

His conciliation skills must have been widely admired.  In the early 1900s be became Chief Magistrate and was appointed as Lord Mayor of Cardiff in 1906.   He was knighted whilst still in office by Edward VII on his visit to Cardiff on 13 July 1907, when the King came to open the Queen Alexandra Dock.  A crowd of some 50,000 people is said to have gathered in front of the City Hall to witness the ceremony.  The papers reported that he was the first labourer to have been knighted and probably also the first trade union leader.  At the civic ceremony that followed the ceremony, King Edward VII is said to have commented to William, “I quite understand my man” upon seeing him refuse an alcoholic drink. Sir William was a devoted church member and one of the two Sunday school superintendents in the Bible Christian Methodist Church in Miskin Street, Cathays, Cardiff.

Knighting of William Crossman by King Edward VII in Cardiff by William Hatherell

Painting of Knighting of William Crossman by King Edward VII in Cardiff by William Hatherell

In January 1910 Crossman was appointed President of the new Labour Exchange in Bridge Street, Cardiff  by Winston Churchill, then President of the Board of Trade. His appointment appears to have been welcomed by politicians of all shades in Cardiff at the time.

Sir William Smith Crossman died on January 23rd 1929 aged 74 years.  He is buried at Cathays cemetery.

William Crossman Gravestone at Cathays Cemetery

Inscription: In loving memory of WILLIAM SMITH CROSSMAN Kt. JP. Lord Mayor of this city 1906-7, who died January 23rd 1929 age 74 years. “Until the day break and the shadows flee away” Also of Dame Mary Ann CROSSMAN the dearly beloved wife of the above who died April 29th 1935 aged 91 years. “In peace they lived together and peacefully they passed away”

The best insight into William Crossman’s life I’ve been able to find is, from of all places, the New Zealand Herald.  From the first part of the interview Crossman comes over as a very humble man.  Just as the interview is about to conclude he gets the opportunity to express his religious views and importance of abstinence. I wonder if the garden in Harriet Street still looks good!

 

New Zealand Herald.  September 7th 1907

FROM STONEMASON TO KNIGHT.

STORY OF SIR W. CROSSMAN’S LIFE.

Working, rather than talking, is the strong point in the character of Sir William Crossman, Lord Mayor of Cardiff, the Labour representative whom the King has just honoured with a knighthood.

There is certainly squareness and massiveness about Sir William’s appearance suggestive of speech—few words and weighty —and himself or his doings form above all others the subject he is most reluctant to speak about.

After some persuasion, however, he consented to give some account of his life and bringing up, telling the tale of quiet, steady work in the simplest possible language.

“I was born in Devonshire,” said Sir William Crossman, though, perhaps, I can hardly be called a Devonshire man, as I was ‘raised’ in Cornwall.  I was born at Tavistock in 1864.  My father was then the captain of the copper ore mine.

“I have not had a great deal of schooling.  All the education I ever had was at the Tavistock national school.  I remained there till I was fourteen, and then I set out to earn my own living.

“That was what took me to Cornwall.  I became apprenticed as a stonemason in the Gunnisiake Granite Quarries and served the usual term of five years.  Then I worked for a while as journeyman at the same quarries.

“After that I went to work at Bristol, and since then I have been engaged in my trade there and elsewhere, but generally working on public works.’’

Nearly half Sir William’s life has, however, been spent in the capital of South Wales; and it is his splendid record of public work in that city which has led to the dramatic contrasts in his life; so that the man who worked as a foreman mason on the building of one dock represented his city in the reception of the Sovereign at the opening of the next.

“It was more twenty years ago that I came to Cardiff,” said Sir William; “indeed, it was 1884.  The new Roath Dock was then being built, and I came as foreman-mason under the contractors, and held the position till the contract was completed.”

“‘Afterwards I was engaged on a good many other important building works in the town—the castle wall in the North Road, and I was foreman mason again at the erection of some big warehouses at the West Dock.”

LEADER OF LAROUR.

What first brought Sir William Crossman into prominence in the public life of Cardiff was a dispute in the building trade between employers and employed.

This led to a strike of a somewhat obstinate character which lasted several months, and was accompanied, as is usual by a considerable amount of embittered controversy.  Into this controversy Sir William Crossman entered as a cordial advocate of the claims of Labour, but at the same time the position he took up was so reasonable, and the manner in which he defended, it was so tactful, that he was successful in gaining not only the support of his fellow workmen but the respect and confidence of the employers.

William Crossman

On this aspect of the subject, Sir William Crossman had, however, nothing to say, only remarking that it was in the year marked by this dispute -1902- that was first elected a member of the Cardiff Corporation.

“I was put up for Cathays Ward,”  he said, ‘by Cardiff Labour Progressive League and I was returned for the ward by a good majority, “I have kept my seat ever since. though I have had to fight for it twice.  I have always contested the ward as Labour and Liberal.

“It is the same district – the Cathays Ward- that I represent on the Board of Guardians.  I have been on the board for some eight or nine years.  “But I not know,”’ said Sir William, smiling. “that if I were to enumerate all the different positions I do hold or have held it would be interesting.”

THE SIMPLE LIFE.

Though, since his public duties have absorbed so much of his time, Sir William Crossman has ceased to wield the hammer and chisel himself, he still leads the simple life of a working man.  His little home in the Cathays Ward of Cardiff, over which Lady Crossman presides with pleasant and kindly hospitality, is only rented, at £20 a year.

The garden is but a little oblong patch usually attached to such villas, but the most is made of it.  It is overflowing with flowers, and the little conservatory, which opens out of Sir William’s tiny study, displays a wonderful variety of blossom and colour.  Gardening is Sir William’s hobby in his leisure moments, which, however, especially since his accession to the Mayoral duties, are not very numerous.

Lord Mayor William Crossman portrait by Parker Hagarty

Lord Mayor William Crossman portrait by Parker Hagarty

“I have always found great pleasure in gardening,” he said. ‘‘After the busy life of the day I find working among my flowers restful.  I think, especially in towns, you can tell a great deal about the character of people by the way they keep their gardens.  Perhaps you see one a squalid wilderness and the next one ablaze with flowers.

“I do not think I have anything more to say,” said Sir William in conclusion.

“If you ask me to what I think I owe most in my life I would like to say I had the great advantage of being brought up by Christian parents and of knowing the benefit of total abstinence from my youth.  My father was a very strong temperance advocate”.

Miskin Street Bible Christian Chapel

“Then I was fortunate in choosing as a friend and companion when I left my home a man who was steady in habits and a good friend to have. That was when I left Cornwall for Bristol. “It is  in the choice of their friends and companions that I always feel young men should be so careful. I am sure their future often greatly depends on their companions in early life.  I have so often known young men who had good parents, but when they left home they allowed themselves to be led away by careless companions.  It is often simply for want of a little consideration on their own part, they forget the teaching of the old home life and cast it all aside.

Young men by the time they have passed through their apprenticeship, are launching out in their life on their own account, have generally picked up a friend.

The two start out together, and their characters influence each other a good deal.  A good friend then may make a lot of difference in a young man’s life.

“Since I have grown to manhood and taken part for some years now in Sunday-school work, I have always tried my best to instil into young people an idea of their responsibility in future.  I have tried to make them see how important it is for them, when they launch out into life for themselves to carry with them the influence of a good home as the best means to help them to grow up and useful citizens.

“For, of course, if a young man his character and grit, and can resist temptation, it is a great advantage for him when he has finished his apprenticeship  not to stay all the time at the same works, but to travel a bit, to ‘spread about the country’ as we say.  He needs to see other methods; to find out what other firms are doing, and the ways of other districts.

“That is generally how the best men are made, the men who become foremen of large worker. They have generally travelled and seen of variety of work.’

—————————————————————————————————————————–

 

William Crossman being knighted by King Edward 1906

William Crossman being knighted by King Edward 1906

 

Family History

William Crossman had six siblings though three of them died in infancy.  There also appears to have been quite a lot of child mortality in the offspring of the three remaining siblings so the Crossman family history isn’t spread very wide it seems.  There may be some living offspring living in Canada.

Mary Ann Moore, Lady Crossman

Mary Ann Moore, Lady Crossman

William Crossman’s wife, Mary Ann Moore, as from the Isle of Man.  ‘Annie’ as she was known was baptized on 21st March 1844 at St. Barnabas Church, Douglas, Isle of Man . She went into service as a cook working for an upper class family in England where Henry Bingham Mildmay was the man of the house. There she  met her future husband, William Crossman, who was a guest of her employer one evening. After dinner, Crossman asked his host whether he could meet the cook who had prepared such a wonderful meal. And the rest as they say is history.

They didn’t have any children, but Charlotte Moore, a niece, and her two young daughters, Dora and Rita (Marguerite), lived in Cardiff with the Crossmans for a couple of years following the death of Charlotte’s young husband, Mr Bond. Lord Crossman was known to send a regular supply of good quality second hand clothing to his brother-in-law, William Preston Moore, for him to distribute to the needy and destitute in Liverpool.

Mary Ann and her spinster sister Catherine Ellen were very close and they lived their final years together in Cardiff. Ellen had worked as a Ladies Companion to a member of the aristocracy. She was an expert in etiquette and mixed with high society. When her sister, Mary Ann was widowed, Ellen came to Cardiff to look after Mary Ann until she passed away. They are buried together along with William Crossman in the grave in Cathays Cemetery.

Mary Ann came from a maritime family.  Her father Peter Moore (1813-1880) was a sailmaker,  is listed in  Slater’s Directory in 1846 and 1852 as living at 5 James St., Douglas, Isle of Man. He is also listed as being a joint ship owner of the vessels “Dolphin” and “”Laburnum”. Peter is buried in the Old Kirk Braddan Cemetery in Douglas. Mary Ann’s mother was Anne Preston (1816-1857) also from Douglas, Isle of Man.  She had eight children the last of which was born in 1856, just a year before she died.

 

Pg 6 Glamorgan Gazette 19 July 1907

Glamorgan Gazette 19 July 1907 p6

Addendum

This piece of research into the life William Crossman originates from a U3A (University of the Third Age) Family History Group.  We wanted to learn together about tracing someone’s family history and someone suggested choosing someone not connected with any of our families and why not look at the life of a Cardiff Mayor.  As the fruit of that research didn’t seem to have a natural home and as William Crossman does have Roath ties, I thought why not post it here.  Thank you to the members of that U3A group for their efforts.

 

Ernest Willows – Airship Pioneer

 

Ernest Willows – the aviator

Ernest Willows constructed a number of airships, the naming of which probably didn’t take up too much of his time.  Willows 1, powered by a motorbike engine, was constructed in his workshop in East Moors Cardiff in 1905 when he was just 19 years old.

Willows I in 1905

Willows I in 1905

In 1910, in Willows 2, he succeeded in flying it to the city centre and landing near the City Hall netting him a £50 prize for the first aerial voyage in Wales.   Buoyed by his success and now with a bit of publicity behind him, he did the same three days later, this time in front of a crowd of 40,000. 

Willows II landing outside the City Hall Cardiff 1910

Willows II landing outside the City Hall Cardiff 1910

A new local hero was born.  Ernest advanced airship design in that he made his steerable, something that is no doubt a great advantage if you are trying to get somewhere in particular.

His next notable achievement was to fly from Cardiff to London in Willows 3 and become the first person to fly an airship over the Bristol Channel, something he could hardly avoid doing as it was on the way.

Willows II in the air

Willows II in the air

 

Channel hopping became all the rage and in November 1910 he was the first person to fly an airship from London to Paris and the first to fly an airship over the English Channel at night (and no I don’t know who the first person to do it in daylight was but it probably made for a better spectator sport).  The flight wasn’t without mishap and he had to put down soon after reaching France for repairs.

Ernest Willows arrives in France

French magazine depiction of Willows landing in France – being charged customs duty for the gas he is carrying

You would have thought by now that fame and financial success would no doubt follow but I’m afraid not.  A number of things happened which stopped this, most notably the outbreak of WWI and the invention of the aeroplane.   Ernest did however play a role designing the tethered barrage balloons which prevented enemy planes getting too low over London to seek out their targets.  He spent much of WWI managing the building of barrage balloons in Westgate Street, Cardiff.

The technical achievements of Ernest Willows and his airships  are well covered in Alec McKinty’s biography entitled ‘The Father of British Airships’. and also in a number of other blogs such as Then and Now. and Phil Carradice.  What interests me maybe more is his family history.

Ernest Willows – Family History

 

Ernest Willows was born on 11th July 1886 at No.11 Newport Road in a row of houses known as Brighton Terrace. The houses became part of Cardiff University and were eventually demolished to allow for the expansion of the university.  It seems fitting that the Cardiff University School of Engineering  now occupy the space where Ernest Willows was born.

Ernest Willows birthplace

 

 

Young Ernest Willows

Young Ernest Willows

His father, Joseph Willows, was a dentist who originated from Hull and his mother Evaline Willows, nee Garrett, was born in Bath.  By the age of four Ernest and the family had moved to Queen Street in Cardiff.  Young Ernest started school in Richmond Road and may even have gone to Cardiff High for a short period of time but most of his education was in Clifton College, Bristol where he lived with an aunt.  He was all set to follow his father’s career and started training to be a dentist but evidently didn’t take to it and soon working on airships became his passion, one his parents it seems fully supported.

In 1908 Ernest marries sixteen year old Irene Davies from Haverfordwest in Lambeth, London.  Their first two children Evelyn and Clifford are born back in Cardiff.  Evelyn dies on the eve of her first birthday in Deri Road, Penylan, Cardiff in 1910.  Poor Clifford was to die in 1932 aged 22 in a motorcycle accident on his way to work as a draughtsman in Whitley aerodrome, Coventry.  They have two more children; Dorothy who was born in West Bromwich in 1912 and died in 1980 and Ernest Joseph Denman Willows born in Hendon, London in 1914 and died in 1989, neither of whom married.  So unfortunately it appears there are no living decedents of our hero Ernest Willows.  Ernest did have two sisters, Daisy who died in infancy and Doris.  It is from this line where it gets interesting from a local history point of view where one of Doris’s daughters marries into the Crouch family, the famous Cardiff jewellers.

Ernest Willows 1911

Ernest Willows 1911

Anyway, I digress.  What of Ernest himself I hear you ask.  Unfortunately he doesn’t have a lot of luck either.  He never seems to make a lot of money from his airship business.  In 1921 he loses all his worldly belongings overboard from a ship off the Isle of Wight and ends up living, with his family, in a schooner moored up in Chiswick on the Thames.  His post-war career appears to be based on giving people joy rides in balloons.  One night in 1925, his balloon escapes from its mooring in the Wembley Exhibition and crashes into the house of Sir Hector Rason, a former Premier of Western Australia, wrecking the porch, knocking off the chimney pots and filling the house with hydrogen gas.

Ernest Willows sets off from Cardiff to London

Ernest Willows sets off from Cardiff to London

Ernest Willows life is cut short at the age of just 40 when he died in a ballooning accident in Bedford when taking two others for a ride in the balloon.  The basket gets detached from the balloon and plummets to the ground.  He is buried in Cathays cemetery in Cardiff along with his parents and infant child Evelyn.

Ernest Willows headstone Cathays

Ernest Willows headstone Cathays Cemetery.

 

The Ernest Willows Pub

The name of Willows is remembered in a number of places around Cardiff including Willows school and the Ernest Willows pub on City Road.  Here the walls of the pub are lined with pictures of famous Cardiffians, including of course our hero after which this pub is named.

Ernest Willows Wetherspoons

 

The Ernest Willows City Road Cardiff

A Wetherspoons pub never is never small and cosy with a real fire burning in the corner.  Many are in large old buildings of notable architecture.  I wouldn’t describe the Ernest Willows  in City Road, Cardiff as being of notable architecture.  Art deco would even be stretching it.  The building apparently used to be a garage and also a bicycle shop.  It is however friendly, spacious and has an outside area with its own mini-Gorsedd Circle feature around the side.

What the pub lacks in charm is more than made up for by its fabulous award-winning toilets.  Before you men get too excited, I’m mainly here talking about the ladies toilets, not that I’ve seen them firsthand of course.

The opulent ladies toilets are full of marble and mosaic tiles with a central feature that wouldn’t be out of place in the middle of an Italian town. I’m not sure of the history of the ladies toilets but I imagine the builder was told ‘If you do a good job for us here then we’ve a 1000 more for you to have a go at’.

Ernest WIllows Ladies Toilets

Ernest Willows Ladies Toilets

Summer Programme 2019

Here are the details of R.L.H.S.’s Summer Visits 2019:

 All places have now been filled and bookings have closed.

Merthyr

Thursday, 6th. June: Merthyr Town Centre.  A guided walk around Merthyr led by the charismatic historian, Huw Williams, with afternoon tea to finish.  Cost £10.00, inclusive of VEST transport and afternoon tea.  Mini-buses leave St. Andrew’s URC at 12.30 (estimated return – 17.00).  All places have now been filled and bookings have closed.

 

 

Cardiff reformm synagogue

Thursday, 13th. June: Cardiff Reform Synagogue, Moira Terrace, Cardiff. CF24 OEJ.  We will be welcomed by R.L.H.S. Member, Stanley Soffa, who this year was awarded the BEM in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list – For services to community cohesion,  combating anti-semitism and the  Jewish community in Cardiff.  This evening visit also includes a talk on “The History of the Jewish Community of Cardiff”, beginning at 19.30.  Free on-street parking in Howard Gardens.  All places have now been filled and bookings have closed.

 

Cardiff masonic hall

Wednesday, 19th. June: Cardiff Masonic Hall,  8, Guildford Street, Cardiff. CF10 2HL
Mr. Naunton Liles will guide us around this fascinating Victorian complex, founded in 1893 and centred around three Masonic temples. He will outline its history and how it functions today.  Tour begins at 14.00.  All places have now been filled and bookings have closed.

 

Maindy Barracks

Thursday, 27th. June: Maindy Barracks, Whitchurch Road, Cardiff. CF14 3YE.  John Dart, retired Sergeant Major of The Welch Regiment, will put us through our paces at this military installation, built in 1877.  Look  lively, you’re in the army now!  Tour begins at 14.00.  All places have now been filled and bookings have closed.

 

Pierhead Building

Thursday, 4th. July: Pierhead Building & Norwegian Church, Cardiff Bay
At the Pierhead Building, Alan Knight will give an historical introduction, before we engage with the various exhibitions for ourselves. This will be followed by a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, for refreshments at a second landmark building – the Norwegian Church.  Meet at 14.00 at the Pierhead Building.  All places have now been filled and bookings have closed.

 

Tewkesbury Abbey

SOLD OUT Wednesday, 10th. July: Tewkesbury Abbey.  The VEST mini-buses will arrive & depart from the Abbey. Leaving at 16.00 gives ample time to see something of both the Abbey and the town.  Entry to the Abbey is free but visitors are asked to leave a donation.
Mini-buses leave St. Andrew’s URC at 10.00 (estimated return – 17.00).  Cost: £9.00.  SOLD OUT

 

Booking Details:

 All places have now been filled and bookings have closed.

Only two of the trips incur a charge, but, because of security issues, we need to have a register of names and contact numbers (preferably mobiles), for each visit.

It would help enormously, if you could bring the exact money for Merthyr (£10.00) and Tewkesbury (£9.00) to our April or May monthly meetings.   Alternatively, cheques should be made payable to Roath Local History Society.

All bookings and reservations must close on Thursday 23rd May

Please note carefully the various days and times – two trips are on a Wednesday
and one is an evening event.

 

 

Albany Road and the 1911 census Suffragette protest

Who would have thought it that an e-cigarette shop in Albany Road was the centre of a Suffragette protest in 1911.  I’m certainly thinking this is going to be a candidate for one of our virtual Roath History plaques.

Cardiff and District Women's Suffrage Society banner, 1908

Cardiff and District Women’s Suffrage Society banner, 1908

Earlier this year I saw an exhibition at Cardiff Story Museum that explained the following:

In 1911 the Woman’s Freedom League (WFL) called for its members to ‘Boycott the Census’.  Their motto was ‘No votes for women, no information from women’.

 They declared ‘Any government that refuses to recognise women must be met by woman’s refusal to recognise the Government ……. we intend to do our best to make it [the census] unreliable and inaccurate

 Boycotters in Cardiff spent the night at 34 Albany Road, Roath. The census record for the premises reads ‘this is the shop where the local suffragettes spent the night of Sunday April 3rd 1911 in order to evade the census & on the authority of Mr R J Watkins, Superintendent Registrar, the estimated number was: Males 2, Females 15, Total 17’.

 The Western Mail reported that ‘it is definitely known that the number exceeded fifty’.

 

1911 Census for 34 Albany Road

Extract from 1911 census of 34 Albany Road, Roath, Cardiff.

Whilst the census boycott didn’t nullify the census results, it did focus the public’s attention on the suffragette movement and its campaign for ‘Votes for Women’.  The outbreak of war however somewhat slowed advancement of the suffragettes’ cause.

Eventually, after the First World War, Parliament passed the 1918 Qualification of Women Act which enabled women over the age of 30 who were either householders or married to a householder, or who held a university degree, to vote  It was not until the 1928 Representation of the People Act that women were granted the right to vote on the same terms as men.

 

Then last month Bernice Maynard posted on the ‘Cardiff Now & Then’ Facebook page a postcard of Edwards & Co Drapers in Albany Road and wondered if anybody knew where in Albany Road this shop used to be.  A number of people rose to the challenge and identified it as being  number 34 Albany Road, the very address where the suffragette protest had taken place.

34 Albany ROad, Roath, Cardiff, Postcard.

Edwards & Co Drapers had closed prior to 1911 and at the time of the census was lying vacant,  but the postcard probably still gives a good impression of what the premises looked like at the time. Today it is the Flavour Vapour e-cigarette shop.

Flavour Vapour, Albany Road, Cardiff

There were many responses to  Bernice’s post.  Someone shared a Western Mail newspaper article relating to the protest and someone pointed towards a copy of the 1911 census return for the premises. Many thanks to Bernice Maynard , Pat Allen, Jackie Lewis and others for sharing their research and to the ‘Cardiff Now & Then’ Facebook page.

The interesting newspaper article, supplemented with some pictures found elsewhere, follows below.

 

Suffragette Protest for the 1911 Census – WESTERN MAIL

Password of the Ladies
“ESCAPE FROM THE CENSUS IN CARDIFF.”
HOW A SECRET WAS WELL KEPT.
NIGHT IN UNTENANTED HOUSING.
EARLY MORNING CALL BY REGISTRAR.

None of the suffragettes who were successful in evading the census was prepared on Monday to give any hint as to the number who spent the night in the untenanted house in Albany Road, Cardiff. Reticence on this point was only to be expected for it was hardly likely that they would give any information which would nullify their all-night vigil.  It is definitely known however that the number exceeded fifty, and while the majority of them belonged to the Social and Political Union, some of the members of the Women’s Freedom League and the Cardiff and District Suffrage Society joined in the scheme. Those concerned displayed unrestrained delight that they had kept their plans a secret and had thus been able to “diddle the enumerators” and cheat the Registrar-General.

The story of the scheme was related in Monday’s Western Mail, but it was not known until the early morning where it was being carried out.  It transpires that Miss Barratt of Newport, acting on behalf of the Social and Political Union, had secured the use of commodious premises, part of which is a shop in Albany Road no 34.  The ladies turned up singly or in two’s during the evening and, in order not to create suspicion, they made their way to the premises through the back lane.  None was admitted until she had given the appropriate password “Escape.”
The night was spent in the sitting-rooms of the houses, where fires had been lit early in the evening. A large number of chairs had been secretly conveyed into the building, but those were nothing like sufficient for those who turned up, and many had to lay on the floors. They had, fortunately, taken the precaution of having a good supply of rugs, cushions and pillows.

During the night the ladies were visited by police officers, and one of the census enumerators handed two census forms to one of the ladies. These were however refused and the enumerator then threw the forms on the floor requesting that they should be properly filled up. The only reply he received was that they would not be touched and that they should have been delivered on Saturday.  The request of the enumerator was not complied with, and when the ladies left, between seven and eight o’clock in the morning- they did so in small batches – they had what satisfaction is afforded in believing that they had prevented a complete census of Cardiff’s citizens. They did not however return to their homes until late afternoon, and after having breakfast at various restaurants, they either took long walks in the country or spent their time in the Free Library.

One of the party told our reporter that the night was pleasantly spent, and none of them had the slightest cause to regret their attempt to “spoil the census.” Everybody she said, “brought a stock of refreshments. and, after our supper party we talked for hours, and when this morning was well advanced we played cards. It was certainly an interesting experience, and if it served to show the ludicrousness of shutting out of the Parliamentary franchise all of the women of the country well -we are satisfied.”

Votes for Women 1911 poster

Newspaper “Beds”

HOW THE LADIES SPENT THE NIGHT

Mrs Keating Hill, interviewed by a Western Mail reporter, described the scheme as “thoroughly interesting and more successful than we at first thought it would be.”

Asked how many turned up, Mrs Hill replied, “We were a large family of about – well, how many do you think? I really didn’t count them.”
Mrs Hill went on to relate how the night was spent. “Although we had before us the prospect of a night’s ‘dossing,’” she said, “everybody was in gay spirits, and the proceedings opened with a ‘reception.’  Then we had to divide forces, because we all could not possibly spend the night in the same room. Things were exceedingly comfortable. There were bright fires in the grates, and we had a plentiful supply of refreshments.  We had to be cautious in regard to light, as we knew police would be keeping a sharp look-out for us, but we had treated the window with whiting, and were able to burn candles with some amount of safety.  After midnight some of the party wrapped themselves up in their rugs and went to sleep, their ‘bed’ consisting of a newspaper spread on the floor.  Others preferred to do some crochet work.  In our room we were fortunate enough to have a clever fortune teller, and she provided an interesting entertainment and of course we talked for hours.”
“There were certainly some diverting incidents during the night.  We soon discovered that we were being ‘looked for,’ and occasionally men peered in through the front window.  Then of course we spoke in whispered tones, so as not to give the game up.  We could hear and thoroughly enjoyed the heated argument between a police officer and a gentleman who had been peeping into the shop, and who turned out to be a Western Mail man.  He was certainly well on the scent at that time, but had he continued knocking we should probably not have answered the door just then.”

Cardiff libraties

Photo: Cardiff Libraries

VISIT BY THE POLICE

“Later a couple of policemen came and hammered at the door, and demanded to know what we were doing on the premises.  ‘The occupier’ was adamant, and a policeman might just as well have endeavoured to get a tramcar to discuss philosophy as to question her.  Fancy, the police wanted to go through the door, but we would not allow them: and them came two more officers and a lady inspector, but it was all of no avail, and the census man who followed was met with no greater measure of success.”

“We all remained at the house until about seven o’clock, and as there were still some of the police about, and we did not want to give them the chance to count us, we had to watch our opportunity to get away.  We left in small batches and scattered in all directions.  We had a jolly picnic, and we believe we have done a service to the cause we advocate.  Some of the party had their first experience of hard suffragetting, and we are pleased to know that they are not in the least bit daunted.  They expressed themselves as being ready for greater hardships than that, so that the Government will experience more trouble than they have had before.”

a group of Welsh suffragettes departing from Cardiff to volunteer as nurses with the Serbian Army, sometime in 1

A group of Welsh suffragettes departing from Cardiff to volunteer as nurses with the Serbian Army, sometime in 1914 (Photo: Glamorgan Archives)

“SCHEME A COMPLETE SUCCESS”

The census dodging party included Miss Barratt of Newport, who is the organising secretary of the Women’s Social and Political Union for South Wales.  Seen by one of our reporters on Monday Miss Barratt remarked that the scheme had been a complete success, and that they had all spent a thoroughly enjoyable night.
“We certainly hadn’t a dull moment in the room I was in,” Miss Barratt went on, “and if we were not listening to entertaining discussions on the situation and the cause, we were able to watch some of the ladies playing their best trump cards in whist.  Of course we did not play cards on Sunday night- we waited for that until the early hours of Monday morning.”
Referring to the visits of the police, Miss Barratt said they appeared to be under the impressions that they had a right of entry to the house and would not credit that the building had been rented for two nights.  “They had no search warrant,” added Miss Barratt, “and of course they could not come in, especially as the person in charge explained that she was responsible for the conduct of the house.”
Miss Barratt stated in reply to a further query that the majority of the census evaders were educated women, and ranging in age from sixteen to 60. The number also included several married ladies.

Early Morning Call

REGISTRAR’S FRUITLESS VISIT TO ALBANY ROAD

On Monday afternoon one of our reporters interviewed Mr. Jack Taylor, registrar for East Cardiff, who has control of more than 30 enumerators.  Mr. Taylor was familiar with the hiding-place of the suffragettes.  It was he said, the shop and house, 34 Albany road, formerly in the occupation of a draper, and now vacant and to let.
“This morning,” he went on, “at two o’clock, I had some unexpected visitors in the person of Police-sergeant Wootton and Police constable Jack Hudson. They woke me up as registrar and reported that certain females were evading the census.  I got out of bed, and foreseeing certain difficulties, I prevailed upon my wife (who acts as my deputy) to accompany me in the hope that she might be able to identify at least some of the ladies.  We went together, and immediately I rang the bell three ladies came to the door. They carried ‘candle dips’. I asked one of them ‘Who is the head of the house?’ and she said ‘I am,’ but as it was past twelve, she in answer to my inquiries, refused any information.
“Were the police with you?”
“they were outside listening. I asked the ladies for their names, but as the schedules had not been served upon them before twelve they declined to give their Christian or surnames. I did not know them, and I should not know them again, neither do I know how many were in the house, but those I saw were well dressed.  One of the three retired.  I served each of the two remaining with a schedule, but they still declined information. I read to them the section under which they are liable to a forfeiture of £5 each.  All they said was that they were advised not to give their names or addresses because the enumerator had not served them with schedules before twelve.”
“That being so , will they be able to escape the penalty?”
“Certainly not,” answered Mr. Taylor, with emphasis. He added that at half past eleven on Sunday night some ladies were seen to enter the house in Albany Road and at twenty minutes past twelve the police reported the admission of three others.  The officers rang the bell.  The trio made a move towards the door but did not open it.  Mr Taylor will report the facts to the Registrar general.

 

“GONE TO CARDIFF TO EVADE THE CENSUS.”

A prominent gentleman in the neighbourhood of Cardiff has a daughter who is an enthusiastic supporter of the cause, and this young lady was one of those- chiefly school mistresses and assistant teachers – who passed Sunday night in the house in Albany Road. Her name and all the required details had been included in the schedule at home but immediately her father learned of the cause of her absence he put the pen through the name and wrote: ”Gone to Cardiff to evade the census.” The gentleman informs us that a good scolding awaited the young lady on her return on Monday morning.
One person only was found by the police wandering aimlessly about Cardiff streets on Sunday night and was enumerated as one of the homeless.

Women's_Suffrage_Pilgrimage_in_Cathays_Park,_Cardiff_1913

Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage in Cathays Park Cardiff in 1913 (Cardiff Libraries)

A Voice From The Inside.

HOW THE NIGHT WAS SPENT IN ALBANY ROAD
(By one who was present)

Late on the eventful night, along a convenient and little known back street, we approached the House of secret Abode. from the other end of the street’s dimness three forms approached, grotesque shapes gradually becoming outlined into the figures of three women, rugs and bundles, panier-like at their sides.
“Can they be some of us and don’t know the way to it? Shall I ask?”
“Better not,” my companion cautioned. “Perhaps it’s a trap.”
With furtive glances we passed them by. With equally furtive glances they passed us by; when “It must be,” said I, and turning after them called, “Are you a _?”
“ Yes we are!” came the prompt rejoinder, chorused in unmistakable relief. “Oh where is it? We don’t know where to go, and we are afraid to go anywhere.”
“Come along; it’s quite close now. But we must divide.”

So in twos, we dived through the little door, that opened noiselessly and readily at our approach into the garden, and then, with many stumbles and “Hushes,” into the House of Secret Abode, giving vent to a sigh of relief that at last we were safely inside.
Already there was a good crowd of us. From the ”reception-rooms,” sumptuous with a fire, one table and a clean floor, we overflowed into the “bedrooms,” to deposit our rugs in their bareness and select our planks for the night. In many rooms were already stretched on the planks they had chosen prostrate forms, occasioning – for “No Lights” was the order of the House – much stumbling stifled “Oh’s,” and suppressed laughter.
“What’s that? Hush! Oh,” with relief, “It’s only gravel thrown at a window. It’s one of us – she can’t find the way in, Quick; fetch her in or she’ll give us away.”
Gradually all were got safely in, the stealthy tramping to the bedrooms ceased and all sounds died down.
Thunder, thunder, bang –crash!
“Good heavens!” and with the shock of it the floor seemed to depart from our shoulders, and like marionettes on strings we sat up with a jerk.
“Will you open the door?” Bang, bang, “Open the door, I say,” and the impatient hammering began again.
“It’s the police. They’ve found us. Oh!”
Then footsteps were heard hurrying down: the door opened, the voice of She Who Resisted for Us raised in altercation, alternately heard and drowned in the two angry voices of someone who must surely be two huge, angry policemen. Doors were stealthily opened, and from each issued a bold spirit, to hang in darkness over banisters and report in hurried whispers what she heard.
“They want to come in. They want to search the house … They say they will come in … She won’t let them. No, she won’t – protests they have not the right. Oh,” with a gasp that made us all lie back with one accord – flop. “They are coming, I do believe.” And our particular bolder spirit hounded back into our room and fell over all of us in turn in her hurry to hide herself in her rug.
“What will they do?” was asked.
“They can’t do anything,” we all stoutly agreed.
A footstep on the stairs. Coward hearts thumped wildly. “Oh, it’s only one,” And then the re-assuring vision, behind a shaded candle, of Her Who Resisted.
“They have gone to get a warrant to search the house. Mind, answer no questions: give no names: just say you are my guests.”
With a shriek of inextinguishable laughter at the thought of the luxurious accommodation we “guests” had had provided for us, we buried our heads in our rugs till the excitement subsided into harmless gurgles and gasps.
Two hours of suspense. Every creak an alarm: every step in that uncarpeted house the loud step of what we feared. But gradually fear and wakefulness faded, and all rested, save the cricket down in the garden that chirped the night cheerfully away.
W-h-i-r-r-r-r-r, and a bell like twenty alarums for suddenness and violence rang and rang.
“Sh-sh-sh, keep perfectly quiet,” floated up the word from below. Then voices again, not angry, but – argumentative. Snatches were audible:
“Well, I admire you for ——“
“Oh, girls, it’s all right,” came a stifled voice: “he admires us.”
“Well, they won’t, if they come up and see us looking like this.”
Then again silence till the word came up –
“It’s all right. We’re safe.”
Then that House of Stealthy Steps and Stifled Voices became the House of Babel . Doors were flung open, and we trooped out and down the bare stairs to hear what She Who Resisted had to tell.
“Three policemen, a woman, and the enumerator. Yes, positively. But I refused to take the papers in, and, look, they have had to drop them on the floor. And they are gone. They haven’t the right to search.”
“Who wants to give three cheers?” sang out a voice. “No, no, the neighbours. Hush! Now to sleep, and then in the morning we must be up and out before they come for the papers.”
So it was done. Soon after dawn a hasty toilet, assembly downstairs, outer door opened, and we filed silently over the dropped census papers out into the street. And, hey, pronto! We are gone: nameless ones, melted away, no one knows where.
Along my way later dashed a taxi, windows full of fares smiling at me, of hands waving at me, the last batch of the comrades of that unforgettable night – “The rummiest night I’ve ever spent,” as one had quaintly remarked.
And what, after all, is behind it? Not fun, not laughter, not rumminess. Ah, no. It is the spirit of rebellion that is abroad, in growing earnestness and passionate desire for justice and freedom: it is the awakening in women of a new feeling of collective consciousness, of high responsibility for others. And he who reads aright the signs of the time sees therein a tremendous force for good making a higher civilisation, wherein the womanly qualities shall have direct sway in the molding of the nobler race of the future.

End

 

More information on the protests in Cardiff at the time is detailed here

 

 

The sad story of Harriett Fleming

wye velley youth hostel, welsh bicknor 2
Wye Valley Youth Hostel, Welsh Bicknor

 

It had been a splendid weekend. We had rented out Wye Valley Youth Hostel in Welsh Bicknor, near Goodrich.  It’s become somewhat of a tradition of mine to rent a youth hostel in January, something to look forward to after Christmas and a great opportunity to meet up with friends.  As the years pass it’s become less of a question of ‘Where can we put the cot?’ and more ‘Would you mind putting me down for a bottom bunk?’ Vacating a hostel by the midday deadline on a Sunday used to be a struggle as people recovered from a very late Saturday night.  This year however, after a day of walking or cycling in the Forest of Dean, people were clambering for their beds before midnight and up to experience the lovely Spring like day on Sunday.

st margaret's church, welsh bicknor 2
St Margaret’s Church and River Wye, Welsh Bicknor, from Wye Valley YHA

The Youth Hostel is the old rectory building adjacent to the idyllic St Margaret’s church on the banks of the River Wye.  It is part of the Courtfield estate, rich in history.  A young King Henry V even lived here for a while after the death of his mother.   It must have been one heck of a rectory.  The hostel is on three floors and sleeps 46 not including the staff.  How much space does a rector need?  It’s actually the ‘new rectory’ built in the 1800s.  The old rectory was adjacent to the church, which itself was also rebuilt in the 1858.  They had the sense to build the new rectory in an elevated position safe from any flooding.

harriett fleming grave

The grave of Harriett Fleming

I took a peaceful stroll in the Sunday morning sunshine down to the River Wye and St Margaret’s church. My eye was caught by one particular grave, not an ancient one and not a particularly attractive one.  It looks to be covered in concrete which has two holes in it as is the grave once had something on top of it.  The inscription is what interested me.  It reads:

In loving memory of HARRIETT, widow of John Fleming, Ninian Road, Cardiff

Died Dec 29th 1925, aged 60

Gravestones don’t often have an address on and I began to wonder why this one did and why Harriett was buried here in Welsh Bicknor.  The obvious reason seemed to me to be the idyllic setting but was there more to it?  In the week after I got home I started researching Harriett Fleming.

part of 1911 census of 3 ninian road cardiff
Part of 1911 Census of John & Harriett Fleming, 3 Ninian Road, Cardiff

In the 1911 census I found Harriett and John Fleming living at 3 Ninian Road, Cardiff with three children and a servant.  John, aged 52 was a marine surveyor and born in Maryport, Cumberland.  On the census however it stated that John and Harriett had only been married six years and the children were 21, 18 and 15, so pointed towards them being step-children of Harriett rather than her children.  Harriett’s birthplace was down as English Bicknor, just across the river from Welsh Bicknor.  There we are I though, mystery solved, she wished to be buried where she could look over to where she was born.  I almost left it there but felt pulled to do a bit more digging.

3 ninian road cardiff
3 Ninian Road, Cardiff, as it looks today.

In the 1901 census we find the John Fleming was living in Glossop Road, Cardiff with his first wife Jane, their three children, John’s father William, born Holywood, County Down,  and a brother, also called William.  Jane died two years later in 1903 aged 43.  The following year John marries Harriett in Ross on Wye.

31031_a100061-02252
Will of John Fleming

In 1909 John Fleming makes a will, witnessed by a Doctor living next door at 1 Ninian Road and a solicitor.  Maybe his neighbour suggested that making a will was a good idea for in February 1912 John dies and leaves his estate to Harriett, and then on to his children.  Some two years later in 1914 we find Harriett has seemingly moved from Ninian Road and living at nearby Shirley Road. Did her three step-children move with her or were they still at 3 Ninian Road?  And why if she had moved out of Ninian Road in 1914, was the address on her gravestone when she died in 1925?  Time for some more research.

I tried to find out a bit more about Harriett’s background.  I knew from the 1911 census that she had been born in the village of English Bicknor in around 1865.  I hadn’t at this stage been able to find her marriage so didn’t know her maiden name.  Luckily there was only one Harriett in the census records of the right age from English Bicknor and that was Harriett Keene, daughter of Roger Keene a farmer and another Harriet Keene and farming at Cowmeadow Farm.  in 1881 at the age of just 16 Harriett is a school teacher in English Bicknor.  Her parents, Roger and Harriet Keene, had many children and by 1891 had moved away from English Bicknor to another part of the Forest of Dean.  So it still left me wondering why she was buried across the river from her childhood home.

It was then that I found the probate record for Harriett which sadly stated that her body had been found in the River Wye at Welsh Bicknor six months after she had disappeared.   At the time of her disappearance she had been living in Cheltenham.  I’m not quite sure how you can tell the cause of death was drowning is a body has been in the water for six months.

probate of harriett fleming
Probate of Harriett Fleming

Curious to know if I could find out any more I visited a local library, immediately across the road from 3 Ninian Road, the address on her gravestone.  I learnt how to access the newspapers online and found three articles, two explaining her disappearance and one the inquest.

harriett fleming inquest
Inquest of Harriett Fleming nee Keene

The articles explain how Harriett was probably suffering from depression following the death of one of her sisters.  She had been living in Cheltenham but had decided to visit a brother, James Keene, the one closest in age to her and now running his own farm some eleven miles upstream from Welsh Bicknor.  She goes out for a walk but never returns.  A witness thinks he may have seen her on the bank of the flooded Wye and has a short conversation.  Her body is found tangled up in tree roots in the following June.  What a coincidence that her body should be found in the same place she was born some 60 years earlier.

will of harriett fleming
Will of Harriett Fleming

The inquest into her death was held in the Rectory in Welsh Bicknor, the very building in which we were staying that weekend.  She had written a will just a few days before she disappeared whilst staying with her brother at Wier End Farm.  Her will appears to overwrite that of her late husband in that it leaves the bulk of her estate to brother James and her other brothers and sisters but also some to her step-children.

harriett fleming accound of death
Harriett Fleming mystery solved

A sad but interesting bit of research.  I’m still sort of left wondering why she was buried here.  Was it the fact that the family thought it was meant to be as her body was discovered here, next to her childhood home?

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

 

 

Cycling in City Road

Nextbike City Road 2018

The appearance of a City of Cardiff bicycle hire rack in City Road inspired me to have visions of the past – velocipedes (boneshakers) and ordinaries (penny farthing bicycles) hurtling up and down Heol y Plwca or Castle Road (as it later became known in the 1870’s), on a road surface that was little more than a dirt track with ruts.  Most of these cyclists would have been members of the middle class and very few of them women.  To ride a Penny Farthing one needed to be fit, active and male and not encumbered by long heavy skirts and layers of petticoats.  The middle aged rode tricycles and quadricycles and from 1881 to 1886 more tricycles were built in the United Kingdom than bicycles.  They were more expensive, perceived as more genteel and were thought to be more suitable for women from middle class families.  With the emergence of the safety bicycle more women began to participate in cycling.  It was seen as part of the struggle for their social independence and critics were concerned by the risqué clothing they wore, such as divided skirts or bloomers.  Cycling was not embraced by the working class until after World War 1 when it was a means of travel to work (to the docks?) and an alternative to public transport.

City ROad Bicycle 2018

Cycling still popular today in the busy City Road.

The earliest known cycle dealers in Castle Road (now City Road) were Wheeler and Company trading at 10 Castle Road in 1889.  By now James Starley’s Rover safety bicycle had evolved to the extent that it had the appearance of a modern bicycle and was no doubt available from Wheelers’ cycle depot, complete with such refinements as Dunlop’s pneumatic tyres (1889) and the Silver King oil cycle lamp produced by Joseph Lucas of Birmingham (1879).  Electric batteries appeared after 1890.

Tandem cycles made their appearance in 1886 and the Cyclists Touring Club announced that ‘ladies, like luggage are wisely consigned to the rear’.  The Kennard Cycle Company followed in 1894 at 20 City Road at least until 1924.  By 1937 they had moved to 195 – 201 Richmond Road where they advertised themselves as agents for Raleigh bicycles.  The Raleigh Bicycle Company of Nottingham had been founded in 1888 and became the largest cycle manufacturer in the United Kingdom.  They probably also sold bicycles manufactured by the Hercules Cycle and Motor Cycle Company, founded in 1910.  The business prospered and by 1935 the company produced 40% of the total output of the United Kingdom, largely due to the adoption of mass production methods.

Worrell Cowbidge Road

Worrell & Co – not in City Road this one but on Cowbridge Road, but the City Road branch may well have looked similar.

By the decade beginning in 1910 there were three cycle dealers including the Worrell brothers who took over the former Wheeler premises at no. 10.  Expansion really came in the 1920’s, when there were 10 outlets in what was by now City Road.  This included a branch of the Halfords Cycle Co. Ltd. founded in Birmingham in 1892.  The City Road branch opened in 1929 at 210 City Road and closed in 1972.  They were of course agents for Raleigh bicycles including the Raleigh Chopper in 1970’s.  The Moulton folding bicycle had been developed in 1960 and the patent rights were sold to Raleigh in 1967.

Halfords was the last recorded cycle shop in City Road.

Halfords City ROad Wales Online

Halfords on City Road just on the left of the picture (Pic: Wales Online)

 

211 City Road in 2017 uncovers an old sign

Refurbishment work on 211 City Road in 2017 temporarily uncovers this old cycle shop sign (Cardiff Now and Then FB page)

 

Malcolm Ranson

16 Oct,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.