I was looking for something on the Friends of Cathays Cemetery website the other day when my eye was caught by the fact the William Curtis Brangwyn is buried in Plot R2486. True, I’d never heard of him, but the name of his son, Frank Brangwyn, rang a bell. The Brangwyn Hall in Swansea is named after him, somewhere I walked past on a daily basis many years ago to and fro from college and even went into a few times; to see Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, Chris Bonington deliver and excellent lecture, and to receive a degree certificate wearing a funny hat. Anyway, I digress, a common ploy for someone trying to write something that know nothing about – not my fault – I was told to do it as an exam technique.
I paid a visit Plot R2486 at Cathays Cemetery. The headstone was covered in ivy and in the shadow of an holly tree. Gently removing some of the ivy revealed an unusual headstone design on which William’s middle name Curtis is split between two lines without even a hyphen. That’s architects for you! My interest was now piqued and I was asking myself why has this grave been seemingly forgotten. I began to research him and another interesting life story slowly revealed itself.
The Genealogy Bit
Many articles written about Frank Brangwyn state his parents were Welsh. Well, his mother Eleanor was for certain but try as I might I haven’t found any Welsh connections with William Curtis Brangwyn – other than he is buried in our beautiful city and his surname sounds like it should be of Welsh origin. True, his family history isn’t straightforward, particularly as the spelling of Brangwyn has changed over time from Brangwin to Brangwyn. If there are any family historians out there keen to take a look then I’d be glad of a helping hand.
Census returns consistently give William Curtis Brangwyn’s birthplace as Crendon, Buckinghamshire. It seems he was born on 10 Aug 1837 to William Brangwin, a cattle dealer and Mary Curtis and baptised on 21 Nov 1837 in Long Crendon. In 1851 he was a scholar living with his uncle Thomas Brangwin in Long Crendon. In 1861, he is 23 and living in Scarborough, Yorkshire working as a trainee architect and by now his surname has morphed to Brangwyn. The same year he publishes a booklet entitled ‘Gothic Memorials: Being Sundry Sketches for Headstones, Monuments and Crosses’ (available for free download on Google Play).
It appears his career was about to take off – he became an ecclesiastical architect and designing not only the churches themselves but everything inside them, especially the tapestries. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this, after all he came from Long Crendon, which used to be the centre for the England steel needle-making industry in the mid 16th-century.
Eleanor Brangwyn nee Griffiths
His wife Eleanor was born in Llanstephan, Radnorshire and grew up in the village of Glasbury, daughter of James Griffiths, a house servant and Ann Griffiths. In 1861 at the age of 19 she was working as a housemaid for Rev Walter Powell Jones, the rector Llyswen.
Eleanor married William Curtis Brangwyn on 24 Jun 1865 at the Sardinian Roman Catholic chapel in St Giles, London. It puzzled me for a while how Eleanor, a country girl from deepest Radnorshire, ended up marrying William Curtis Brangwyn in London. I have a theory about that. I discovered that her employer Rev Walter Powell Jones had moved from LLyswen to London and in the 1871 census we find him working as a clergyman in Marylebone. I think therefore that Eleanor probably went with the family to be their housemaid in London. Perhaps, one day, a budding young ecclesiastical architect William Brangwyn knocked on the door hoping to entice Rev Walter Powell Jones into buying some of his latest tapestry designs. Eleanor answers the door. “Hello Mr Brangwyn, unfortunately Rev Jones is busy at the moment but perhaps you’d like to come in for a glass of communion wine?” “That would be nice” says young Mr Brangwyn “Perhaps you’d like to see my etchings?”. And the rest as they say is history.
Their first child, Edith, was born in Jun 1864, prior to them getting married. After their marriage they moved to Bruges, Belgium so that William can further his career as an ecclesiastical architect. Eleanor has three more children whilst they are in Bruges including Frank Brangwyn in 1867 who was actually baptised Guilliaume Francois Brangwyn.
Life in Bruges
William’s time in Bruges appears to have been pretty successful. He won a prize in 1865 for the best designed parish church awarded by the Belgium Guild of St Thomas and St Luke. Whilst in Bruges he was appointed to help carry out the decoration of the Holy Blood Chapel (Bruges) in neo-Gothic style. He also decorated the now disappeared chapel of the Saint Juliaangesticht (1870) in the Boeveriestraat. In 1868 he also designed the neo-gothic extension of the Saint Vedastus church in Zerkegem.
He was certainly up there with the top embroiderers. The book ‘English Church Embroidery 1833 to 1953 – The Watts Book of Embroidery’ describes his work alongside other renowned artists of the time such as Pugin and Bodley.
When you are working in the field of ecclesiastical embroidery I guess the top endorsement you can get is from an Archbishop and this is what William got in 1868. The newspaper carried an advertisement quoting a letter from Henry Manning, Archbishop of Westminster. ‘I have much pleasure in testifying to the beauty and excellence of your Ecclesiastical Embroidery of which this Diocese processes several rich specimens. I feel it only needs to be seen to be appreciated. ……’
Return to England
The family returned to London in the 1870s with offices at 6 John Street, Adelphi. It is written that after returning to England, Brangwyn went to work in the studio of architect Sir Horace Jones (the man credited with designing Tower Bridge).
Whilst in Bruges it seems William Brangwyn had an emphasis on embroidery but may be that fell away when he returned to England. In 1872 William Curtis Brangwyn of Baker Street, ecclesiastical embroiderer, went into liquidation. Having said that, as late as 1892 he designed the alter hangings used at the Royal Wedding of Princess Marie of Edinburgh and Prince Ferdinand of Romania.
Although it is possible to find building designs by William Brangwyn, finding actual completed structures is more difficult. He did design a school and church in Langsett, South Yorkshire but I’m afraid you are out of luck if you wanted to visit nice though the village looks. It was demolished in 1988.
There are pictures of his competition entries for building designs including the Middle Class Schools for the Grocer’s Company in Hackney (1874) and the Board of Works Offices In Greenwich (1875). The Cardiff Times of 1874 describes a competition submission for a school design by W C Brangwyn and L A Withall (London) which included twin turrets. It is not known if they won the tender.
Relocating to Wales
William moved to Cardiff where he became a draughtsman employed by the renowned architect Col. Bruce Vaughan. There seems to be little documented information on William Brangwyn’s time in Cardiff. He isn’t accredited with any of Bruce Vaughan’s pieces directly but may well have leant a hand on one of his best pieces, St James the Great church on Newport Road. It has been written that ‘The appealing artistry here, for example in the depiction of two angels swinging censors over the porch entrance, would have owed something to his collaboration in these years with the Welsh designer William Brangwyn’. The church is currently being converted into flats but the angels above the door can still be seen from the road.
In the 1901 census we find William Brangwyn, architect, aged 61, living as a boarder at 121 Crwys Road. He died at 36 Salisbury Road on 19 Nov 1907 of intestinal obstruction and cardiac failure. The informant was Catherine Williams, present at death. The age on his death certificate is given as 72 though he was probably more accurately 70. The newspaper was advertising rooms for rent at 36 Salisbury Road earlier that year. I am wondering if William Brangwyn was boarding in the house, Catherine Williams was the landlady and whether he was somehow estranged from his family. His death was only reported in the newspaper in Feb 1908 where he was described as an authority in Gothic architecture. Eleanor was still alive in 1901 but I haven’t found her anywhere on a census. She was living with her son Frank in the 1911 census and she passed away in 1918 in Hertfordshire.
The man behind the ecclesiastical architecture
An interesting insight into the life of William Curtis Brangwyn comes from the book Frank Brangwyn and his works – by Walter Shaw-Sparrow. It was written in 1911, not long after the death of William Curtis Brangwyn and reads as it had good access to family information. In fact it refers to William Curtis Branwyn being known as Curtis Brangwyn and newspapers after this date also called him Curtis Brangwyn. It describes his life as one of ups and downs and of a man who preferred undertaking art in various forms rather than the business of trying to sell it. Here are some extracts:
…. But (Frank) Brangwyn is not drawn to Wales by any strong feeling of affection, although his art owes so much to his mother’s race and country, and although his father, Mr. Curtis Brangwyn, spoke always of Wales with great enthusiasm, and himself claimed some descent from that country.
Mr. Curtis Brangwyn was a very remarkable man, and his name has been coupled with that of Pugin, for he greatly loved Gothic and helped to reawaken the public taste for mediaeval arts and crafts. His temperament was Anglo-Welsh ; and when he chose architecture as his profession, he did not know that building methods had lost their old-time freedom, and that they needed long office hours and stern business habits. Painting would have suited him much better; and although he gained the confidence and admiration of distinguished architects like G. E. Street and Sir Horace Jones, Mr. Curtis Brangwyn was thwarted all his life by his inability to be at the same moment an artist and a man of business. Many writers on architecture have deplored the effects of a mercantile routine on men of imagination. Fergusson went so far as to say that modern architects in practice “could never afford to give many hours to the artistic elaboration of their designs,” and that they generally succeeded ‘more from their business-like habits than their artistic powers.” Fergusson was right, and the career of Mr. Curtis Brangwyn was a case in point.
The racehorse could not be broken to the plough; that is to say, the artist could not adapt himself to relentless methods of routine in a city office, so he worked in the employ of other men rather than bear the many responsibilities that Fergusson hated and condemned.
Mr. Curtis Brangwyn married early, and his education in architecture having brought him in touch with the energetic school of thought known as the Gothic Revival, he kept his home for some time by doing for church uses such work as many could afford to buy. Then, believing that life on the Continent would be less expensive than it was in London, he decided to make his home in Belgium, at Bruges; here he set up his quarters at No. 24 in the Rue du Vieux Bourg, and then opened workrooms for the reproduction of old embroideries for altar-cloths and vestments. At Bruges his son Frank was born, May the 12th, 1867. Mrs. Brangwyn was then twenty-three, and her husband twenty-seven. Frank Brangwyn was their third child. He had two sisters for playmates, and Bruges -she has been called the Dead City – was a quiet nursery.
One thinks of Bruges as a fitting birthplace for a Fernand Khnopff or a Maeterlinck; but Brangwyn and Bruges?
And I find, too, that Brangwyn has very little to tell about his birthplace, though he remained there for eight years. Some recollections are clear-cut, but they have nothing to do with boyish mischief in the town. They are all connected with art. He remembers many a visit to his father’s workrooms, where exquisite needlework lay on tables, shimmering with bright colours ; and one day in his father’s garden he found by chance a bundle of photographic negatives, half broken, and looking up from them he saw, against a background of houses and blue sky, a tree covered with red blossoms, such as the Japanese love in their lightly touched prints. Colour was to him what music was to the boy Mozart. He has related that the home garden in old Bruges was an enchanted place to him, where great beasts lurked in the shadows, where trees were giants and ogres, and flowers little lords and ladies.
More important still, I think, is another recollection. There was a portfolio of prints at home, and the boy was allowed to play with it. A good many artists were represented, but only one really delighted him ; it was Charles Degroux, a painter of the Belgian poor, who died in 1870. ………..
Yet Brangwyn at the age of eight not only enjoyed Degroux, but struggled to copy from engravings after Degroux’s pictures. The boy was father to the man. His present work (to a great extent) was foretold by his native tastes in childhood. ………
At the beginning of 1875 Mr. Curtis Brangwyn left Bruges for England. “I remember dimly our embarkation, though it might have resulted in the days of my youth being ended once for all, for – at least, so I am told I was discovered crawling along one of the sponsons of the steamer. From this highly perilous position I was rescued in the nick of time, and – here recollection becomes more vivid – soundly spanked and put to bed. In England I went first of all to a dame’s school, and then to a big middle-class school, the name of which has totally escaped me. For reasons into which I need not enter, but which have nothing to do with myself, my schooldays came to an abrupt end, and I made myself useful in my father’s office.”
When Mr. Curtis Brangwyn arrived in London he took an office at No. 6 John Street, Adelphi, and sent two architectural designs to the Royal Academy, “ Hastings Town Hall,” and “Schools of the Grocers’ Company, Hackney.” Next year, 1876, he exhibited again, ‘‘ Design for Offices of the Board of Works at Greenwich,” and also, in 1879, “ Yarmouth Town Hall,” and a fine sketch in water-colour of a pulpit at Canford Church. The R.A. catalogues give me no other information, but Mr. Curtis Brangwyn is permanently represented at the Victoria and Albert Museum by a beautiful piece of embroidery – a banner carried out from his designs in his own establishment. After a life of hard work, chequered with ups and downs, he died in December 1907.
William Curtis and Eleanor Brangwyn had six children. Edith (b.1864) born in England, Eleanor (b.1866), Frank (b.1867) and Philip (b.1870) born in Bruges and then Cuthbert (b. 1876) and Lawrence (b. 1879) born back in England.
Frank Brangwyn was an artistic jack-of-all-trades and difficult to categorise. As well as paintings and drawings, he produced designs for stained glass, furniture, ceramics, table glassware, buildings and interiors, was a lithographer and woodcutter and was a book illustrator. The life of Sir Frank Brangwyn has been well recorded. There is a synopsis on Dictionary of Welsh Biography and a nice piece by Phil Carradice. If you prefer to view a biography on him rather than read something then I would recommend this Goldmark video. He was initially taught by his father, then spotted by Mackmurdo and also no doubt benefited from his short time working for William Morris. The history of the British Empire Panels at Brangwyn Hall is nicely covered by Andrew Green.
Frank Brangwyn is reputed to have produced over 10,000 works of art. You would have thought among those there would have been some of his Mum and Dad, but unfortunately I haven’t come across any as yet.
Two of the other sons also benefited from being taught by their father William Curtis Brangwyn. Cuthbert Patrick Joseph Brangwyn (1875-1911) went to America and became an designer and interior decorator for McCreery & Company’s Pittsburgh branch. Philip Brangwyn also became an interior decorator in Canada but I haven’t been able to find any further information about him or for that matter the other siblings.
As part of my research into this article I did an internet search on “Brangwyn” and “Architecture” and came across Caitlin Brangwyn who is studying architecture at Liverpool School of Architecture, following in the family footsteps and uses embroidery in her work. Here’s wishing Caitlin all the best in her future career.
So next time you are taking a walk around the peaceful Cathays Cemetery, take a careful look under the ivy. You’d be surprised what story you may unearth.
We had an enquiry in recently asking if we knew anything about the crew members of the Cardiff steam trawler Miura which was shipwrecked off the coast of Cornwall in March 1927. The short answer was no, but it raised so many interesting questions it prompted me to do some research. So many things came as news to me. I hadn’t realised that Cardiff even had a trawler fleet; I’d always associated the port with coal-exporting. I also hadn’t realised that trawlers were at one stage steam-powered. To use the modern vernacular – my bad.
What had prompted the enquirer to contact us was the fact that their grandfather had been involved in the rescue mission that saw five of the twelve crew survive. Not only that but her grandfather had then named his recently born daughter Miura. The enquirer was particularly asking about P Kennedy, the second-engineer, from Roath, a man the grandfather had helped up the cliff that stormy March night.
More about P Kennedy later but first I wanted to discover more about the trawler and it’s ties with Cardiff.
The 274 ton trawler Miura belonged to the Neale and West company headquartered in Bute Docks, Cardiff. Their fleet of twelve steam trawlers were based in Cardiff and Milford Haven.
Let’s start by looking at the owners of the trawler company. Neal and West was set up by two fish merchants in Cardiff in 1885.
Joshua Neale on the right (pic credit Cardiff Naturalists)
Joshua Neale born in County Antrim, Ireland to English parents. He sounds quite a remarkable character. He was largely self-educated having left school at the age of twelve. He taught himself languages and had a passion for natural history. He also had a lot of physical strength and excelled at many sports including rugby and cycling. His knowledge of natural history led him to become a member of Cardiff Naturalists and then their President on two occasions. He wrote a number of papers on natural history, the early ones based on species landed by the firm’s trawlers. More about the life of Joshua Neale can be found in this post from Cardiff Naturalists.
Woodlands, Ty Gwyn Road (pic Cardiff Libraries)
The other partner in Neale and West was Henry West. He was born in Leek, Staffordshire in 1858 and grew up in Bristol before moving to Cardiff and living in Roath. In 1891 he lived in Castle Road (now called City Road) and describing his occupation as a fish merchant. By 1901 the family were living at 42 Ninian Road. He left the partnership in 1910 although the company continued to trade under the name of Neale and West. In 1911 the West family had moved to Woodlands, Ty Gwyn Road. He was by this stage manager of the Cardiff Ice Company, no doubt supplying ice to his former trawler company. He was also a great sportsman an shared a passion for cycling with his former partner Joshua Neale. When he died in 1942 his address was Broadhurst, Ty Gwyn Road. His will specified which of his grandchildren were to receive his sporting medals and cups.
It sounds like when Joshua Neale and Henry West set up their fish merchant business in Cardiff in 1885 they struggled with the supply of fish. There were no trawlers operating out of Cardiff at the time but instead a few tugs would take trawling nets out into the Bristol Channel and catch what they could. In 1888 the Neale and West company decided to buy their own trawler. The business grew and the company that operated out of the West Bute Docks eventually owned over a dozen steam trawlers. The company became involved in training Japanese trawler men and as a result started naming their ships with Japanese names. This would explain the origin of the name for the Miura.
Neale and West trawlers and fish boxes in Bute Dock, Cardiff
The Miura which sank off the coast of Cornwall in 1927 was in fact a replacement for another Neale and West trawler of the same name. The original Miura was built in Middlesbrough in 1911 but only fished for three years before it was acquisitioned by the Royal Navy for use as a WWI patrol boat. On 23 Aug 1915, the original Miura was sunk by the German submarine UB-2, off Great Yarmouth. Eleven lives were lost. Read more at wrecksite. It was one of seven Neale and West requisitioned trawlers to be sunk in WWI.
A replacement vessel was constructed in Middlesbrough by Smiths Dock Co Ltd in 1916. As WWI was still underway it was immediately requisitioned again by the navy initially as a minesweeper and then as a hydrophone vessel (fitted with underwater listening equipment that could detect submarines). Fitted with deck guns, Miura continued in war service until 1919 when the ship moved to its original intended use fishing out of Cardiff.
The Miura set out from Cardiff on 18 Mar 1927 with twelve crew on board for a fishing expedition to the south coast of Ireland. It was due back in Cardiff on 30 Mar. It never returned.
It was skippered by William Joyce, his first trip out as skipper of the Miura though he had previously acted as skipper’s relief frequently.
On its way back to Cardiff, no doubt laden with fish, the Miura ran into dense fog and then high winds off Cornwall. The Miura struck rocks at Stanbury Monk, eight miles north of Bude, at 11.45 at night on 29 March. For 45 minutes the wireless operator sent out SOS calls but then the Miura heeled over to port and the wireless ceased to function. With the engine and wireless out of action their situation seemed helpless. Five men lashed themselves to the mast and others were lost overboard. Two of the five decided to try and swim for the shore. After spending and hour and a half in the water the wireless operator managed to swim ashore in heavy seas, clamour up the cliffs and make it to a farmhouse. The Bude Rocket Brigade was summoned and the rescue operation initiated.
Mr Kennedy (2nd engineer) reported: “We climbed the rigging to the masthead light, and I clung there. We shouted to the others to join Wilkinson, Bridge, Melhuish and myself, but they could not get along. The last person, I think, to go over was the third hand, Thompson. He said ‘I’m finished’, and disappeared. After daybreak we saw a couple of fellows waving to us. Wilkinson dropped over and made for the rocks, and I followed. A big sea came along, and I swam blindly for the shore. I was weak and cold and rolled over and over, striking small rocks all the time. Someone pulled me out.”
Five of the twelve crew survived the shipwreck but seven perished. One of the anchors from the Miura was recovered in 1979 and is on display in Bude. This March saw an exceptionally low tide when it was possible to see what is believed to be the boiler from the Miura still in the sea.
Miura trawler boiler seen at low tide in 2021 (Pic Bude and Beyond)
The Miura hit rocks at 11.30 at night on Tuesday 29 March. The rescue of the survivors took place on them morning of 30 March. By Thursday 31 March the Western Mail was carrying an article about the shipwreck, listing the crew and had reporters visiting the addresses of the widows. By Saturday April 2nd the paper was already reporting the findings of the inquest. We tend to forget how quickly things happened back then.
R Bridge, Second-mate, Bristol
A Melhuish, Deck-hand, 52, Carlisle Street, Splott
T Wilkinson, Deck-hand, Blackpool and lodging at Holmesdale Street, Grangetown
P Kennedy, Second Engineer, 119 Arran Street, Roath
W Page, Wireless Operator, 2 King’s Road, Alyesbury
William Martin Joyce, Skipper, 101 Arran Street
B Collins, Boatwain, – Tweedsmuir Road, Splott
C G Thompson, Deck hand, Cardiff, formerly of Cheltenham
W Metcalf, Cook, a native of Carlisle, 12 Merches Gardens, Grangetown
I have researched the four that were from the Roath/Splott/Tremorfa areas:
Phil Kennedy, Second Engineer
The first bit of luck I had was finding a newspaper report about the wreck that mentioned Mr Kennedy and some key facts about him. He was Mr P J Kennedy and came from Great Yarmouth, used to be boxer when young and served in WWI in Mesopotamia and he was married and lived in 119 Arram Street (presumably a mis-spelling of Arran Street). Using that information I was able do some research and piece together some of his life story.
Philip James Kennedy was born in Norwich on 22 Apr 1895 the eldest child of James Robinson Kennedy, a tailor, originally from Edenderry, Ireland and Gertrude Vincent Kennedy, née Fiske, originally from East Dereham, Norfolk. In 1901 the Kennedy family were living in East Dereham.
By 1907 the family had moved to Great Yarmouth where Philip attended Northgate Boys School. The 1911 census shows Philip, then aged 15, working as a grocers errand boy. Phil evidently took up boxing as there are a few reports in the Yarmouth newspapers of his boxing matches.
I haven’t found any documents as yet relating to Phil fighting in Mesopotamia in WWI. His younger brother, James Vincent Kennedy, was however killed in Mesopotamia on 21 Apr 1916 whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment.
On 7 Jan 1920 Philip James Kennedy marries Winifred Maskery at Great Yarmouth Parish Church. Philip at the time describes his profession as a labourer. In June 1920 Phil joins the Merchant Navy where he is to have a long career. He and Winnie move to Roath, Cardiff and are living at 119 Arran Street when Phil was survives the shipwreck of the steam trawler Miura in Cornwall in 1927.
Tragedy was however to strike Phil six years later as his wife Winnie died in Sept 1933 aged just 33. They appear not to have had any children together. A newspaper report of her funeral says they were living in 89 Donald Street, Roath Park at the time and Philip was working for the Neale and West fleet. His brother Pat Kennedy attended the funeral.
In Sept 1939, at the outbreak of WWII, Philip, listed as widowed, is living in Fulham, London and working as a Plant Attendant for Fulham Power. At the same address is Ethel Kennedy (single), a music hall artist. I am thinking Ethel may be a cousin or some relation of Phil’s.
Phil Kennedy stayed in merchant navy till 1956.
Phil Kennedy goes back to working in the Merchant Navy for there are identity cards from 1955 with his picture on.
He dies on 26 Jan 1978 aged 82 at the Royal Alfred Seafarer’s Home, Belvedere, Kent.
His will leaves his estate to John Kennedy, of Wokingham, Berkshire, his nephew, who I think was a son of Phil’s brother Patrick
Alfred Melhuish, Deck-hand
Alfred Melhuish was born in Crediton, Devon on 24 Jun 1895 to William Melhuish, an agricultural labourer, and Ellen Melhuish née Burridge, both originally from Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon.
Alfred moved to Cardiff and marries Matilda Blanche Randall from Splott, Cardiff in 1923. They go on to have five children together, two born prior to the Miura disaster and three afterwards. The 1939 Register records that Alfred Melhuish still working as a deck hand fisherman and living in Carlisle Street. He died in 1954 and is buried in Cathays Cemetery. His wife Matilda passes away in 1976. Her address in the 1901 census was Carlisle Street, Splott as it was when she died in 1976.
William Martin Joyce – Skipper
Born in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire on 3 Jul 1894 to Joseph (Joe) Martin Joyce, a trawler skipper, originally from Hull and Emma Carlotta Joyce née Jones originally from Milford. He attended Bow High Street School in Milford.
In 1911 he was living in the family home and working as a fish-dock labourer.
He enrolled in the Royal Navy in Oct 1916 and became part of the Auxiliary Patrol operating as part HMS Idaho (the depot ship/parent ship for trawlers and drifters of the Auxiliary Patrol based at Milford Haven). The Auxiliary Patrol would have been on anti-submarine duties and alike guarding key ports such as Milford Haven. The commissioned trawlers would have been fitted with armaments. He was discharged in Feb 1919.
He married Susannah Elizabeth Osborne in 1924 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. She was a daughter of a fisherman and had been born in Great Yarmouth. They moved to Cardiff shortly after getting married. Their son William James Joyce was born in Cardiff in 1925 but sadly died the following year. In 1927 at the time of the Miura tragedy William and Suannah Joyce were living at 101 Arran Street.
His wife Susannah returned to live in Milford Haven shortly after the tragic loss of life of her husband. She never remarried. W M Joyce is remembered on the headstone of his wife in Milford Haven cemetery.
Albert John Collins – Boatwain
Bert Collins was born in 1894 in Blackwood, Monmouthshire to Alfred Collins, a School Attendance Officer originally from Milford Haven and Martha Emma Collins née Saunders originally from Haverfordwest. In 1901 the Collins family had moved back to Milford Haven and the 1911 census shows Albert Collins, aged 16, working as a fisherman. He married Margaret James in Haverfordwest in 1916.
He died aged 32 when the Miura was shipwrecked. His probate record shows that at the time he and Margaret were living at ‘Cleddau’, Tweedsmuir Road, Tremorfa Garden Suburb. The house name Cleddau was a reference to Pembrokeshire. The houses of Tremorfa were newly built and it is interesting to see it referred to as Tremorfa Garden Suburb.
The death of Bert Collins was also felt by the Melhuish family. Bert’s sister Edith was married to James Melhuish, brother of Alfred Melhuish, a deckhand and survivor on Miura. In fact it seems James Melhuish was probably the former skipper of the Miura.
In World War II the whole Neale and West trawler fleet was again requisitioned by the Royal Navy leaving Cardiff with no operating trawlers. Some of the vessels were lost as a result of war action. After the war the fleet was rebuilt by purchasing second hand Hull and Grimsby trawlers. By 1956 however fishing out of Cardiff had ceased as fish stocks in the area depleted, but the company still operated out of Milford Haven for some years afterwards.
Miura trawler anchor on display in Bude (pic Bude and Beyond)
The research paper below was written in 2005 by one of our long-standing members Malcolm Ranson. It was one of a series of ‘occasional papers’ that are now being digitised, supplemented with pictures and uploaded onto our website for others to enjoy.
In the 17th Century Plwca Lane or Heol y Plwca (later City Road) marked the western boundary of the parish of Roath, adjoining the parish of St John’s Cardiff. The centre of the village lay a mile to the east, clustered around St Margaret’s Church. Surrounding Plwca Lane was an area of dirty wet uncultivated land. Rushes grew in the fields and were used to make rush mats which were then sold in the streets of Cardiff (Cardiff Records,1905). Here where City Road, Richmond Road, Crwys Road and Albany Road meet stood the town gallows. As commemorated on a plaque on the wall of the Nat West Bank the Roman Catholic martyrs, St John Lloyd and St Phillip Evans were executed here as were many others.
What is now the Mackintosh Institute at Plasnewydd was built around 1800 and in 1824 was advertised for sale as “a modern villa containing dining and drawing rooms, excellent bedrooms… and every necessary attached office.” By 1830 John Mathew Richards was the landowner and occupier of what was then known as Roath Castle together with 6 small cottages and 2 fields. By 1851 Roath Castle had been let to Capt. George W.C.Jackson and in 1861 to Frederick Greenhill, a colliery proprietor.
The Cardiff Improvement Act, 1875 incorporated Roath into Cardiff. It also gave the Corporation power to provide public pleasure grounds. The first intention was to purchase part of the Plasnewydd estate, but this was dropped when building site value was demanded. In 1884 development began on the Plasnewydd estate. Most of the land was the property of Arabella Richards of Plasnewydd. She had married the Mackintosh of Mackintosh, leader of the Scottish clan, which explains many of the street names in the area.
In 1897 a memorandum setting out a case for the recognition of Cardiff as a City was submitted to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury which he rejected. Populous as it was, Cardiff was surpassed in size by many towns in the United Kingdom and which did not rank as cities.
In 1801 the population of Roath was 236. Over the next 50 years it slowly rose to 402 in 1851. In Plwca Lane in 1851, 28 residents were born in Glamorgan, 3 in Monmouthshire, 9 in Wiltshire and 1 each in 7 other counties. One woman, a soldier’s wife, was a British subject born in America. By 1861 there were 19 houses in Plwca Lane and 14 of their occupants were born in Glamorgan and 4 in Monmouthshire. Eight others were born in Somerset, 6 in Kent and Wiltshire; 5 in Devon and Ireland, and 13 from 11 other counties.
By 1891 the population of Roath was 39,903.
Plwca Lane and Castle Road in the 19th Century.
Most of the landowning families in Roath, systematically gave their land over to urban housing development during the second half of the 19th Century. In Roath Lord Tredegar was the largest landowner and some of the earliest street development was on Tredegar land adjacent to the Cardiff boundary i.e. The Parade. All the landowners adopted the practice of leasing building plots for a term of 99 years and exercised overall architectural control over the building operations on their estates.
Each ground landlord employed his own architect (the Mackintosh Estate retained Charles Rigg), who submitted plans to the local authority for the proposed layout of streets and the houses as and when they were ready to be built. Usually a large number of master builders or contractors were involved in the house building operations on each estate. They were allowed to introduce minor variations of design, thus pinpointing the work of a particular builder. Not much is known about the individual builders. Fluctuations in supply and demand made house building a risky form of enterprise. Bankruptcies were common. (Daunton, 1977)
James Hemingway the elder (1802-1854), his two brothers and Charles Pearson were all natives of Dewsbury, Yorkshire and were contractors for the construction of the East Bute Dock (1851-1859). James the elder lived at the corner of St Peter’s street (Perrix Wholesalers), but appears to have purchased land on the east side of Plwca Lane on which Talworth Street, Pearson Street and Byron Street now stand.
Talworth House had been occupied by James Hemingway the younger, at least from Nov 1859. He married Mary McGregor, step daughter of his late father’s partner, Charles Pearson. James the younger moved to northern England in Jan 1861 and the house was later leased to John Batchelor and to Samuel Nash another Cardiff businessman.
John Batchelor and Talworth House
By 1861 there were 19 inhabited houses and 9 uninhabited houses in Plwca Lane. Waring’s plan of 1869 shows that there was no development north of James Street on the even numbered side, and north of Tredegarville on the odd numbered side, though an application had been made for 14 houses to be built in Castle Road. (BC/SI/90342) Plans for 6 houses were proposed in 1872 (BC/SI/90657) and a further 6 in 1874, two of which were described as villas, implying a middle class market. (BC/S1/90908)
In 1873 the streets to the east of the lower end of City Road were drained into the Cardiff sewers, the outfall for which discharged itself into the sea, over the Splott moors about 1 mile east of Cardiff.
Before the end of 1862 Charles Pearson had moved from Leckwith to Talworth House and was appointed a member of the Roath District Board of Health. A house in Clive Street now Byron Street) was built for Charles Pearson in 1863 and plans approved for further development. Plans were also approved for additions to Talworth House in July 1867 and for a new street, James Street off Castle Road, both for Charles Pearson. Further development in Clive Street took place between Oct 1868 and Dec 1870. (Keir, c 1978)
On the west side of Castle Road the Parade had been developed from before 1875 and St Peter’s Street from at least 1861, when the Roman Catholic church was built. Penlline Street, Norman Terrace and Alexander Villas were all in existence in 1875, but lay in St John’s parish, Cardiff. Meanwhile Castle Road continued to develop, plans being submitted in 1875 for 6 proposed villas, 3 stables and coach houses, 4 shop fronts, 2 bakeries and many other minor alterations. In general, most new houses were still terraced buildings, 2 or 3 storeys high, their dimensions controlled by the end of the 19th Century by bye laws passed by the local authority. At this time water was increasingly plumbed into houses. This permitted internal sanitation, hot and cold water and bathrooms. In 1909 the Cardiff City Engineer reported on correspondence he had had with the Gas Company respecting the laying of Gas mains in City Road. The Council authorised him to arrange the best possible terms with the company to lay the mains and to provide street lamps. (Cardiff B.C., 1909)
Between 1880 and 1890 the area around City Road and Richmond Road had been developed and in Albany Road extended as far as the newly erected Board School. In 1884 urbanisation begins of the Plasnewydd and adjacent Ty’n-y-Coed land by the Richards family on what became the Mackintosh estate in and around Albany Road. Construction began in Arabella Street, Donald Street and Inverness Place in 1884. In 1886 there was no development north east of Cyfarthfa Street. On an OS map (1886) the site of what was later Glenroy Street is marked by a footpath adjoining “Mr Shergolds’ field” leading to the junction of Albany Road with Penylan Road alongside the Claude Public House. Finally construction begins in Angus Street, Diana Street and Alfred Street in 1891 and in that year Plasnewydd alias Roath Castle and 2 acres of land was donated by the Mackintosh family to local residents for their leisure use. Houses in Keppoch Street were selling for £136 each in 1892.
Despite all this new building some redevelopment was necessary. In 1883 a memorial from the inhabitants of Castle Road prays for an improvement to the narrow and dangerous entrance from Castle Road into Newport Road and for the removal of Hemingway’s house on the west side of Castle Road “an eyesore and a reproach to all living in Castle Road and others passing through.” (Cardiff BC, 1883-1884)
Development has now spread on both sides of Castle Road. Montgomery Place is pre 1861, when it had 7 inhabited and uninhabited house. Vere Street formerly St John Street had its first house built in 1867. Ninety nine year leases were granted on nos 7 & 8 and 52 & 53. Shakespeare Street in 1856, and the 1861 census records 56 inhabited and 18 uninhabited houses in that year, but the earliest known house plans date from 1865. Finally 14 houses were built in James Street for James Hemingway and later renamed Talworth Street in 1872
By 1889 there were 154 properties in Castle Road, 101 of which were commercial enterprises, and 53 were private houses occupied by residents. In 1894 an investigation in South Roath found that most houses had 6 rooms with rents of 8 to 9 shillings. It is not clear if South Roath included Adamsdown and Splott, both areas in the original parish of Roath, or the area bordering Newport Rd to the North. Men with families earning 24 to 28 shillings a week lived in these houses and as one man commented “There is not one tenant in 10 who does not let unfurnished apartments. That’s how they have to do; they could not get along otherwise… These are not the sort of buildings which ought to be put up for working men… They are too large. (Daunton, 1977)
Working in Plwca Lane & Castle Road in the 19th Century.
The 1851 census records 6 cottages in Plwca Lane, all occupied by families, and all with lodgers. Two heads of households were coal heavers possibly working in the docks, and also a painter. Two boatmen could also have been employed in the docks. Four women were employed in domestic occupations, 2 laundresses, 1 dressmaker and 1 domestic servant. Interestingly the latter is not described as such, but as being “employed at home.” Agricultural interests were represented by 6 agricultural labourers, 1 thatcher, 1 gardener and a waggoner who would easily find employment on adjacent farms. Finally there were two special categories, 2 soldiers, no doubt from the Longcross Barracks and 11 children described as scholars.
In 1861 their occupations were becoming a little more urbanised. Eight were in the building and engineering trades, including one builder who employed 24 men, and in addition there were 6 labourers. Domestic occupations i.e. servants and dressmakers accounted for another 6, while the commercial group included 5 in the boot and shoe trade and 2 grocers. There were also 2 grocers in Shakespeare Street in 1858.
At this time there were 2 hotels in City Road, the Ruperra (the Tut’n Shive) and the Clive Arms. Excessive drinking was one of the major evils of urban life. Opening hours were curtailed gradually between 1864 and 1874, but late Victorian pubs could still open between 5.0 am on weekdays and from 1.0 to 3.0 pm and 6.0 to 11.0 pm on Sundays. On the other hand the public house was a recreational and social centre where many could enjoy the comforts of light, heat, furniture and newspapers not available in their own homes. Public meetings were frequently held in public houses and it was not until the 1850’s that they ceased to be centres of political party organisation. Trade unions and Benefit societies met in pubs and workers went to their local to look for jobs. As today they were also centres for sport and entertainment. (Baldwin, 1986)
By 1882 there were 41 private residents mainly concentrated on the west side of Castle Road above Northcote Street. They were supported by 33 shops in the food trades and 15 shops of a general nature e.g. stationers, general dealers, tobacconists etc. There was also an industrial group, who presumably worked away from home and included tin plate workers, fitters, platelayers and general labourers. They numbered 17 in all.
Following Solomon Andrews move to Tweed lodge at 47 Newport Road his former house at no 37 The Parade was converted to an ironmongers shop. Though the plans were rejected by the Borough Surveyor on several occasions, considerable additions were made to the Castle Road frontage and the shop became known as 3 Castle Street (now a disused filling station in City Road) Accommodation for plumbers and tinsmiths was located at the rear. (Andrews, 1976)
An analysis of the Cardiff Street directory, 1889 reveals the Food trade as the largest group, 36 tradesmen in all. Of these 10 were grocers, 9 butchers, 6 greengrocers, 4 bakers, 4 sweet confectioners, 2 fish and poultry dealers and 1 dairy. Plans for new premises for the Cardiff Milk Supply Co were approved by Cardiff BC in 1890. Next were 27 service shops i.e 5 boot and shoe makers, 4 general shops, 3 drapers, 2 pawnbrokers, 2 hairdressers and 1 tailor, hosier, umbrella maker and a tobacconist. The Building trades included 3 carpenters and 1 decorator, painter, contractor, builder, mason and a chimney sweep amounting to 9 in total. Finally there are the engineering and craft trades, led by 3 engineers and 2 cabinet makers. Others include an ironmonger, coal dealer and a smith, while the craft trades include china dealers, jewellers and watchmakers, 13 in all.
By 1889 there were 6 hotels in Castle Road and only 2 the Roath Park and the Ruperra (now the Tut ‘n Shive) remain. The average yearly consumption of beer per head between 1895 and 1900 was 31.2 gallons and 1.03 gallons of spirits. For the Victorian alcohol was a thirst quencher because water was unsafe and milk dangerous, even when fresh. Intoxicants were believed to impart physical stamina, assisted dentists and surgeons, quietened babies and helped women through childbirth. (Baldwin, 1984)
Street maintenance and public transport
In 1855 the Cardiff Street Commissioners ordered their Surveyor to inspect Plwca Lane and the road leading from the Crwys to Fairoak (Pen-y-Wain Rd), and report to the Commissioners on the most advantageous mode of arranging with the parish of Roath for the repair of such roads. (Cardiff Records, 1903)
By 1859 the Commissioners were complaining about the obstruction of a footpath by the removal of stiles, between Park Place and Plwca Lane. Co-operation with the Surveyor of Roath did not appear to be going smoothly since once again the Commissioner intervened and ordered “that the necessary steps be taken to recover the value of the stones removed by the Surveyor of Roath from Plwca Lane”. (Cardiff Records, 1903)
Despite setbacks road improvements continued and a drainage plan for Plwca Lane was implemented in April 1865. In the same year Solomon Andrews (b 1835, Trowbridge), signed an agreement with David Phillips of Roath to purchase his business at Roath Mews (no 1, City Rd) and the lease for £400. The purchase included 7 cabs, 12 horses, a brake, a phaeton, a dog cart, and 7 sets of single harness, buckets and other equipment. Eventually the freehold of the mews was purchased and later formed part of the company’s garage at nos 1 to 3 City Road.
Castle Road, Roath, Cardiff. The Roath Park Hotel can bee seen on the right.
Saddlers, harness makers and wheelwrights flourished until around 1920. Corn merchants lasted a little longer, gradually evolving into pet shops. One corn merchant, Wyndham Smiths (1901-1940) at no 38 received a direct hit by a bomb during a German air raid in 1940. Three employees were killed.
In 1871 Cardiff BC decreed that all turnpike gates within the town boundaries be removed and in 1872 The Provincial Tramway Co began its first Cardiff route from the town centre to the docks. In 1878 the system was extended to Roath and Canton.
The street name of Castle Road was introduced in 1874, taking its name from the mansion known as Roath Castle (formerly Plasnewydd). (Daunton, 1977)
Rees Enoch had been appointed a member of the Local Health Board in July 1867. He was a grocer living at 78 Shakespeare Street and stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate for the Roath ward in the Cardiff Borough elections in 1875 and 1876. He was finally elected in 1879 and remained on the Council for 3 years.
In March 1877 the Council Surveyor reported to the Public Works Committee that the kerbing, channelling and paving required in Castle Road had been commenced by the contractors, Messrs Jones and Jepson. Later that year in May 1877 Mr Rees Enoch laid before the Sanitary Committee a memorial from the tradesmen residing in Castle Road, complaining of insufficient watering of that street, and the Foreman of Scavengers was directed to look into the matter. By June the Surveyor reported that the fencing on the North East side adjoining Mr Sherley’s field was now erected and that nearly the whole of the kerbing, channelling and paving ordered had been laid down, and a portion of the road reformed and rolled. From then on there are continual references in the minutes of Cardiff BC to repairs in Castle Road. Remember that the road surface had not yet been metalled. (Cardiff BC, 1877)
Despite pressure from Cardiff BC, the Provincial Tramway Co was not inclined to make further extension into Roath. The problem was that severe competition from the omnibuses run by S Andrews and Sons in Cardiff was cutting profits, so that in 1886 and 1887 no dividend could be paid. Eventually following compulsion from the Council, small extensions were made in Roath and Canton, and negotiations begun to buy out Andrews. By mid 1887 he had agreed to sell, and this led to a proper and regular timetable, ending the system whereby a bus had “nursed” a tram, so that in effect 2 vehicles had done the work of one. Remember the Bluebird buses in the 1990’s!
Education, education, education.
In 1847 a government report gives the total population of the parish as 298 and a Day school is recorded as having 30 pupils and the church Sunday school 32 pupils. In the 1861 census 11 children living in City Road were described as scholars. Were they attending the village school in Merthyr Rd (Albany Rd)? There were alternatives.
St Peter’s RC Church was built in 1861 and was originally known as St Peter’s in the Fields. A private school for Roman Catholic children was run by a Mr Timothy O’Brien at first from his house in Milton Street but later transferred to a small room in Castle Lane (Road?). This venture was almost certainly supported by the parish priest, Father Signini. There was no set syllabus, no government grants and minimal control by the Church, but it was better than nothing.
In June 1868 Father Signim rented a large room in a former Wesleyan chapel in Chapel Street off Bedford Place. The new accommodation was larger, had better facilities and gave the RC Church greater control over the school. Alas the pupils had to pay for their education. From this income Mr O’Brien paid the church £12 annually. but there was still a need for a larger school. The land next to the church on which the presbytery now stands was originally intended as a site for a school, but the Homfray estate was unwilling to agree on a fair rent. Finally Lord Bute negotiated with Lord Trdegar for land in St Peter’s Street, where the school was eventually built and where today Richmond Court flats now stand. St Peter’s RC School opened on 1 August 1872.
A Sunday school attached to Roath Road Methodist Church opened in 1868. In 1870 a new church was built at the south end of Castle Road (now City Rd), where Eastgate House now stands. The Sunday school premises were thought to be among the finest in the United Kingdom and together with a mission school in Cyfarthfa St catered for nearly 1,000 pupils.
The Clifton Calvinistic Methodist chapel also dates from 1868, when a group of friends began to hold prayer meetings and a Sunday school at the house of Mr Job Dew in Shakespeare Street. A chapel was opened on the corner of Clifton St and Newport Road on 5 Dec 1870. It is now the Inkspots Arts shop.
The Education Act, 1870 continued state support for church schools, but set up school boards to provide elementary schools when no others existed. From 1880 all children had to attend school between the ages of 5 and 10 and by the end of the 19th Century the school leaving age had been raised to 12. On 1 June 1886, the Cardiff School Board resolved to purchase a site on the Mackintosh estate on the south side of Albany Road. A contract was agreed with the builders, Stephens and Bastow of Bristol for the erection of a school designed by the architect A Llewellyn Batchelor for £8579. Today the school consists of a 2 storey range facing Albany Rd with a single storey infants department added to the rear. It was formally opened by the Mayor, Sir Stanley Morgan on 2 Nov 1887.
Health Services in City Road
As early as 1889 there were 2 chemists in Castle Road, and this had risen to 5 from 1932 to 1972. Three doctors were practising in 1901, but only one by 1949. City Road had 3 dentists in 1920 and a maker of artificial teeth. The latter was called a Dental mechanic by 1949. One of the Dentists, Henry Sainsbury had a practice at 173 City Road between 1922 and 1942. He married Maud and they had a daughter Betty born in 1922. (Mowbray, 2004). The first chiropodist arrived in 1949, herbal medicine in 1972, and an optometrist in 2002.
The design of artificial limbs was much improved in the latter half of the 19th Century. Prior to the 1914 -18 war, the British government realised that a large number of amputees would require artificial limbs, so it is not surprising to find J Stubbs & Son established in 1887, operating as an artificial limb expert in City Road in 1920, when John Stubbs and his wife Laura May were resident at no 7 City Road.
The Naming of City Road
The Prince of Wales, later King George V, paid a two day visit to Cardiff in June 1905, during which as Chancellor of the University of Wales he laid the foundation stone of the new UCW Cardiff building in Cathays Park. It was a successful Royal visit, and the civic leaders decided to put forward once more the claims of Cardiff for recognition as a City. On 3 July, a petition by the Council containing a statistical summary as to the population, trade, educational and other facilities in the borough was sent to the Prime Minister. Balfour did not comment until September, when he agreed to Cardiff’s case solely on the grounds of it being a town of exceptional position and importance in Wales, but worried about emphasising any further distinctions between England and Wales. (WM, 23.10.1905)
Progress remains slow, but finally the Mayor was privately informed on the 15 October by the Marquis of Bute that Cardiff was to become a city, followed by a letter to the Council from the Home Secretary. On 21 October, 1905 Cardiff was finally given the status of a city. There were of course immediate calls for Cardiff to be recognised as the Capital of Wales!
It was not until 1906 that a memorial signed by 195 residents of Castle Road and neighbourhood was received by the Council, praying that the name of Castle Road be altered to City Road. The Council agreed. (Cardiff CC, 1906)
Trades and occupations in City Road, 1901 to 1971
C & G Geen had a builder’s yard behind Argyll Chambers (Quartermasters Stores) from 1910 to 1961. Confusingly Parfitt (Builders) Ltd appear to have had office premises in the same building from 1952 to 1972. J Staples was a builder living at no 123 in 1910, but did not necessarily run his business from that address.
A Stark was a mason at no 71 in 1889 when City Road was known as Castle Road as was James Brobyn a carpenter at no 139 and F Krantzcke a chimney sweep at nearby 131. E.J.Sawyer was a plumber at no 99 in 1910 and Daunton and Winfield are described as plumbers and ironmongers at nos 160 to 162. John Downey was a plasterer at no 71 in 1920, the same year that Hampton and Co were established as Heating engineers and Lawrence Bros as plumbers, electrical engineers and decorators.
As might be expected boot and shoe makers were well represented when people walked more frequently. There were 12 in 1901, 14 in 1910, reducing gradually to 1 in 1961. Tailors, dressmakers and outfitters were also in abundance, 11 in 1910 and 1952, and 9 in 1949. J Hepworth & Son, clothiers were in City Road by 1910. James Edward Boughton went to work for them as a junior in 1920 at the age of 14. He worked at Hepworths for nearly 30 years working his way up to manager and then area manager for South Wales. In approximately 1948, James Boughton decided to branch out on his own and bought a property that had been W.H. Hills butcher’s shop with a large sausage factory at the rear. He opened his Gents Outfitters – J.E.Boughton at no 184 and the business continued successfully until shortly before his death in 1982. He had been President of the Wednesday Football League and a freemason with the Bute Lodge. (Andrews, 2005)
Umbrella makers disappeared after 1920 and hosiers after 1910. The furnishing trades prospered during this period, 11 in 1920 and 1949, and 10 in 1952, as did hairdressers and still do so today. The Roath Furnishing Co was owned by the Fligelstone family. They made furniture in several buildings in the lane behind City Road.
Before the 2nd World War, Newtons was a newsagent and tobacconist at the Newport Road end of City Road. It also had a barber’s shop at the rear of the premises. When the barber had finished cutting your hair, he would give you a token, which you then took into the shop and paid the required amount. At no 26 was Mrs Burns news agency, stationers and Catholic repository. The interior of the shop was long and narrow and Phillip Strong remembers a silent Mr Burns standing always at the rear of the shop dressed entirely in black and wearing a hat! (Strong, 2004)
On the comer of Oxford Lane was the Post Office. Behind this building with an entrance from Newport Road was the British Restaurant, one of hundreds sponsored by the government during the 2nd World War and afterwards, where meals were served as a supplement to the food rations.
In 1901 there were 4 hardware dealers and/or ironmongers in City Road, one of them belonging to Solomon Andrews at no 3 (CY 17:21), where a derelict garage now stands. Paraffin was sold in the shop and Phillip Strong recalls a large circular glass tank calibrated in gallons standing on the counter. When a sale took place the required quantity was pumped by hand to the level needed and then the tap opened filling a bottle or other container. Margaret Reeves remembers David Jones hardware shop at no 82. The shop advertised rubber handle grips for prams and pushchairs and offered to fit them free for customers. This operation took about 3 weeks until in exasperation Margaret’s mother accepted an offer of a free handle grip and fitted it herself!
Gaiety Cinema, City Road, Roath, around 1912
There was an engineer living in City Road from 1901 to 1910. Whether he was the mining engineer whose qualifications of M.I.M.E. are given in 1920 is not clear. The craft of the smith also survived between 1901 and 1910, but had mutated into motor engineering between then and 1949. Electricians also appeared in 1910. Other occupations such as sheet metal workers, plating technicians and tyre makers (vulcanizers) appear from 1920.
The livery stable established at no 1 Castle Road by Solomon Andrews remained until 1920, when it became a petrol station and garage. By 1952 there were 20 motor car dealers in City Road, 30 in 1961 and 53 in 1972. To support these were 5 motor engineers and car accessory firms in 1952, 9 in 1961, and 7 in 1972. There were also tyre distributors (2 in 1961), auto electrical engineers (2 in 1961), battery manufacturers (1 in 1952) and brake liners (2 in 1961).
Before 1920 pedal cycles were built in City Road by J. Worrell at nos 2 and 10 in 1910 and Kennard & Co (1910 — 1938) are described as cycle manufacturers at no 20. Halfords arrived in 1939 and stayed until 1972.
Banks in the past had splendid names, no abbreviations then. The Metropolitan Bank of England and Wales Ltd was at no 223 in 1910, followed by the London Joint City and Midland Bank, before becoming the Midland Bank in 1932, now of course HSBC. Alterations and additions to Barclays Bank on the corner of City Road and Richmond Road were rejected by the Public Works Committee on 18 Nov 1920, though later approved in 1921. Barclays Bank remained there at least until 1972, but has now been closed. At the other end of City Road, Lloyds Bank stood facing Newport Road (now the site of Longcross Court). It had previously been the Wilts and Dorset Bank until 1910.
There were 2 pawnbrokers in Castle Road/City Road from 1901 to 1920. Mrs S Cohen was a pawnbroker at no 134 in 1920. In 1921 the Council made an order prohibiting for 6 months building work at 134 City Road. Was business not so good in 1921 and cash flow was a problem? Difficulties also occurred for Fligelstones, pawnbrokers at no 22 City Road. In 1938 a serious fire broke out at night and much of the property was destroyed. The shop had an imposing front with 2 large convex plate glass windows which curved into the door of the shop. When the building was repaired these were not replaced.
Food trades dominated the commercial life of Castle Road in 1901. There were 10 butchers, 10 grocers and 9 confectioners. In addition there were 7 hotels and/or public houses. The grocers included Jones and Sons at no 49 near St Peter’s Street, H.J.Small a grocer and fruiterer at no 167 near Northcote Street and P.L.Dodington at no 232 on the corner with Strathnairn Street. John Williams ran the well known Argyll stores on the corner with Albany Road. The Modern Provision Co at no 34 was run by the Campbell Bros. and their predecessors from 1920 to 1961. O’Sheas succeeded Heginbothams at no 44 from 1940 to 1952.
The meat trade was well represented from 1901 to 1961, peaking in 1910 and 1932 with 15 establishments in each year and dropping from 7 to 1 between 1961 and 1972. Phillip Strong was born in the living quarters behind his father’s butcher’s shop at no 24 City Road in 1932. W.L.Strong had a business here from c 1920 to 1961 and was involved in the administration of meat rationing during the 2nd World War. When the siren sounded the family would go to their air raid shelter and stay there until the all clear. They could hear the sound of the German aircraft; their diesel engines had a distinctive ‘thrum’ sound. Bombs would fall and there was always speculation as to whether their house would still be standing. Fortunately for the Strong family it always was.
Phillip recalls the names of the other butchers in City Road at that time. Lamerton and Sons were Pork butchers between 1910 and 1932 at no 236, while T Storm had shops at nos 212 and 214 between 1932 and 1961. The Co-op arrived between 1940 and 1961 at no 152. Two specialist suppliers were Excel products a tripe dresser at no 92 and Thomas Lane a Salt Meat purveyor at no 50, both in 1920. On the other side of the road beyond St Peter’s St was Bill Sweet who succeeded Pleydell at no 29. Monks the pork butcher sold hot faggots and peas and had another shop in Albany Road where Woolworths now stands. (Strong, 2004)
In 1901 there were 2 cafes in Castle Road rising to 6 in 1971 and 1972. Today take-aways and restaurants are everywhere. One is Miss Millies; a small chain based in Bristol, it is a regular contributor to local charities and has contributed £500 towards the City Road Centenary Event. The site on which Miss Millies stands was not developed until around 1900. William Hillbome ran a confectionery business here from 1901 to 1920. Between 1949 and 1961 it was a milliner’s shop but by 1972 was taken over by Cleanercrafts (Cardiff) Ltd. who sold domestic appliances.
The number of confectioner in City Road peaked at 17 in 1932, dropping to 4 in 1972. John Paskell at nos 43 to 45 with his sweets in rows of glass jars is remembered by many people from 1920 to 1972. Pascall House, a block of flats now stands on the site of his shop. H.A.Frayling, confectioner was another well known name at no 2c. In 1910 there were 7 bakers in City Road, among them E Sirrell. In the 1920’s the Pearson Street side door to his shop was used daily by numbers of Roath schoolchildren to obtain a free meal.
Mild ale had replaced porter as the main beverage in public bars by 1900, but patrons in saloon and private bars continued to prefer bitter. Today there are 3 public houses in City Road, but between 1901 and 1910 there were 10. The Ruperra Hotel is now the Tut n’ Shive, The Roath Castle Hotel flourished from 1906 to 1961 at no 89 City Road, but the Roath Park is still in business today. Only the Ernest Willows does not date from the 20th Century or earlier.
Possibly the most recognisable building in City Road is the former Gaiety Theatre which opened in 1911 and closed in 1961. It was part of a chain of cinemas which included the Splott, Monico, County, Ninian and several other cinemas. They changed their programme midweek, half the chain having a film for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday passing them on to the other half on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Cinemas closed on Sundays until the early 1960’s. Unlike today you could enter the cinema at any time, even in the middle of a film and stay to the end of the following performance. Prices in the late 1940’s ranged from 1/6d to 2/6d. By 1972 it had been a Bingo Hall for several years and in 2004 was taken over by Spin Bowling Ltd. Despite the changes of use the building is still recognisable as an early cinema building.
In 1910 a music warehouse was opened by Richard Allen at no 82 who later with his brother owned a musical instrument depot at no 171 between 1920 and 1932. J Williams was Cranes agent at no 30 between 1910 and 1932, and Waddington’s the piano makers and dealers were at nos 29 to 31 between 1910 and 1932. Two outlets were selling gramophones in City Road in 1932. One, W.H. Jenkins, also sold baby cars and bicycles. The other, Byron Motors Ltd was a motor car dealer!
Lewis Lando (1910) was a glass silverer and dealer at no 159, followed by Charles Zausmer from 1920 to 1932. A china and glass dealer, P.W.Tatem had a shop here in 1911 at no 209, followed by William Heavan at no 83 and Thomas Henry at no 221, both in 1920. They were preceded by an earthenware dealer in 1901. Watchmakers and jewellers are steadily represented between 1901 and 2005. H Porter was a wholesale jeweller who operated from 1949 to 1972 at no 203. J.L.Fligelstone had a jewellers and pawnbrokers shop at no 22 from 1932 to 1940 and Herman Leveson at no 147 in 1952.
The last but one picture frame maker disappeared after 1932, but we have one today in 2005. The first antique dealer in City Road was in 1901. Richard Woodruff who was at no 79 from 1910 to 1920 was followed by J Lester (1932-1952) at no 13 and Owens (1949-1952) at numbers 156, 198 and 200. A Teacher of embroidery had premises above the Argyll Stores (today the Quartermasters Stores) from 1949 to 1961, but had been preceded by a Mrs Candlish (1910) whose art needlework shop was at no 12. In 2005 we have Crafty Sew and Sew at no 67.
Sign writing was a skill that we take for granted in 2005 and was represented by Banaman Signs at no 124 in 2004. Things were different in 1910 when M.J.Bentley was described as a Sign manufacturer and Enamelled letter cutter at no 111.
Photography is represented by Cadogan & Sons (1910) at no 109 and from 1951 to 1972 by Goundrys photo service at no 158. Today in 2005 we have Venture portraits at 227 and Express Imaging at no 172.
Down towards Newport Road, the Lucania Billiard saloon opened in 1920 at nos 52 and 54 City Road. Described as a Temperance institution it closed in 1962 and by 1972 had been replaced by Riley’s Snooker Clubs. Between 1920 and 1961 Benjamin Cheetham opened a shop described as an athletic outfitters at no 148, but it was not until 1972 that the more informally named Cardiff Sportsgear opened at no 248/9 again formerly the Quartermasters Stores). Fishing interests in 1972 were catered for by Norries (Cardiff) Ltd.
Looking back over 25 years
In 1969 Shakespeare Street and Milton Street, built around 1859 were demolished and Poets Corner changed beyond recognition. The Ruperra Public House (now the Tut’n Shive) remains, but the Riley Snooker Club, Plasnewydd Community Hall, Kimberly motors, the Plumb centre, houses and flats and Shelley Gardens have replaced the old houses.
By 1901 the population of Cardiff had reached 164,333 and that of Roath 61,074. In 1961 the Roath ward covered 3526 acres and had a population of 40,417. By 1991 the now named Plasnewydd ward had a resident population of only 14,010. In 2004 there were 236 names on the Electoral Register for City Road, most of them students.
To quote Peter Finch’s book, Real Cardiff (2004) “Under the onslaught of more than one hundred years of South Wales drizzle City Road has simply crumbled slightly. Today it is seedy, edgy, slightly wrecked, and, yes, exciting – all by turns.” We could do better.
Our guest blog this month is penned by John.F.Wake. John is now an author, public speaker and guide but spent his working career as a policeman. He joined the Cardiff City Police in 1965 and was posted to Bute Street (Tiger Bay) police station. He later became a Detective Inspector with the South Wales Police.
Working from Roath Police Station in Clifton Street in the 1960/70s was a evocative experience. Nothing seemed to have changed from the day it was built. (Except of course it had central heating – unlike Bute Street which had coal fires until its end in 1969).
Time had stood still in much of the building. Take for instance the Superintendent’s Accommodation. In the early years his main office, at the very end of the first floor corridor, was a cosy place. If you walked into the police station today, and upstairs, to that very room there, still insitu, is the ‘bosses’ magnificent marble fireplace. If you stare from across the road, the Super’s private stairs from the street are still behind the single door on the far right hand side of the frontage.
The Super’s office in the station’s later years, was the room on the right hand side of the ground floor main entrance.
The cell block in its later years was home to traffic cones, bicycles, ledgers and archive books. Those cells had held thousands of men and women. From the overnight drunk to the murderer.
There was only, in my records, just one man who escaped from those cells, his name was Harry Heathfield.
If you are accused of something you have not done it goes deep into the psyche, especially if the police are involved. After being accused, even if found innocent, there are still people who judge you and are willing to believe the worst.
Take Harry for example. He was accused of stealing lead worth £5 from a schoolhouse roof. He vehemently denied he had done it.
Harry escaped from Roath Police Station, Clifton Street in 1905. The cells at that police station have hardly changed over the years. Harry said he tore a piece of steel from the door and put it in the cell lock. He forced the door open. He did the same with the main cell corridor door.
He got over the outer wall via a fire escape. He then slept in a haystack in the field of Pen-y-lan Convent. He got to Newport. Ship to Bristol. Train to London. Returned to Bristol. Ship to France. Ship to Bristol. He also undertook two return working trips to Buenos Aires, Argentina from Liverpool and returning on one occasion to Cardiff. It was estimated he had travelled 30.000 miles in 5 months.
At that point he said he was at the end of his tether and nearly threw himself off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. He then went back to Cardiff and attended the Horse Show Week. (Which was big in Cardiff at the time).
It was his young wife that drew Harry back to Cardiff and to give himself up to police.
Now for the black mark. An 89 year old, ex Roath police sergeant, remembers being told by the Superintendent circa 1970s, to get the ‘C’ Divisional Van and park in the Gold Street station car park. The sergeant remembers two constables, going back and fore between the cells and the van. Each time they bought numerous ledgers and occurrence books, dating right back to the opening of the station in 1895. He remembers the van was full. He was then instructed to go to the Incinerator (or furnace) at East Moors or Rover Way. He can’t remember which. Every book, ledger, document was fed into the furnace, except two. These were the original law statutes of Cardiff policing / town rules etc., dating from 1837 from the reign of William IV. He ‘naughtily’ kept those back. They in fact were the least of interest. The major interest were the arrest books, the early photo records, the court records and the occurrence books. All gone, but at least those two 1837 statute books are safe. (with me!)
(Photos – except those from the newspapers, are copywrite John F Wake)
The A48 Theatre Company and the writers Living Lines have joined forces to produce “12 Stories from Cathays Cemetery” which was made possible through a grant received from The National Heritage Lottery Wales and CADW. The films are on the A48 Theatre Company YouTube channel and well worth a watch. Quite a few of the people that feature in the stories have Roath connections.
You can get to the individual films by clicking the links or pictures in the summaries below. Credits to the writers of both the short films and the short biographies are given on the A48 Theatre YouTube channel. Eleven of the films are in English and one in Welsh. The English films also have subtitles available.
Francis Batty Shand was the youngest daughter of planter John Shand and his long-term partner, a free woman of colour called Frances Brown. She was born in Jamaica but removed to Scotland when she was 4 years old, probably in the care of her aunt Helen Shand of Elgin, Moray. All of Frances Brown’s seven children were taken from her. She had a portrait painted when each one left and, on writing her will in 1834, asked that each child be given their portrait as a momento of her. While living with her brother in Cardiff Francis Batty Shand was instrumental in founding the Cardiff Institute for the Blind: “Miss Shand was concerned with the “ragged” children she saw in Cardiff and toured the city offering help and support. Miss Shand first opened a small workshop in the Canton area of Cardiff, employing four blind men making baskets for the coal ships sailing from Cardiff ports. Within a year, larger premises were purchased at Byron Street in the Roath area, and ten men were employed. In 1868 a third move was made to Longcross Street off Newport Road, and a fourth move to the iconic Shand House.” In her will, Frances left c. £2,600 in small legacies, £1,000 and a life interest in her property at Moss Terrace, Elgin to Ann Allardice, £1,000 to the trustees of the Cardiff Association for Improving the Social Conditions of the Blind for the ‘Shand Memorial Fund’ and the residue to the Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire Infirmary for the maintenance of a children’s ward named for her late brother John Shand as the ‘Shand Memorial Ward’. Her estate in Scotland was valued for probate at £11,777 2s 5d.
James Driscoll, commonly known as Peerless Jim, was a Welsh boxer who fought his way out of poverty. Driscoll was British featherweight champion and won the coveted Lonsdale belt in 1910. Driscoll was born in Cardiff in 1880 and was brought up on Ellen Street in the Newtown region of the town. Driscoll’s parents were both Irish, and both Catholicism and the local St Paul’s Church played a key part in his life. Driscoll’s father died in a goods yard accident before Driscoll was one. His mother was forced to accept parish relief to bring up her four children. Driscoll was an apprentice with the Western Mail printing works when he began boxing in the fairground booths of South Wales. He turned professional in 1901 and by the end of the year he had secured twelve wins without defeat. On 22 February 1904
Driscoll fought his first match at the National Sporting Club in London, a points decision win over Boss Edwards. That year he also suffered his first defeat in a return bout against Mansfield, losing by points in a ten-round clash.
On 26 February 1906, Driscoll took the British Featherweight title by defeating Joe Bowker in a 15-round contest at the National Sporting Club. He undertook four more fights before his first defence, which included beating Mansfield by knockout in their fourth meet. His first title defence was a twenty-round match and Driscoll stopped his opponent in the seventeenth via a knockout. The 24 August 1907 is recorded as a non-contest fight between Driscoll and fellow Welshman Freddie Welsh.
Boxing historians such as Andrew Gallimore have cast doubt on this being a professional contest and instead regard it as a display fight at a fairground. Welsh supposedly took advantage of this situation and attacked Driscoll with kidney and rabbit punches. Driscoll never forgave his former friend for taking such liberties. On 24 February 1908, Driscoll faced New Zealander Charlie Griffin for the vacant Commonwealth Featherweight title. Again fought at Covent Garden, the match went the full fifteen rounds with Driscoll declared champion on a points decision. After claiming the British and Commonwealth featherweight titles Driscoll went on to prove himself in the U.S.. American boxing fans of the era favoured all-action boxers, but they were won over by the Cardiffian’s skills, giving him the nickname ‘Peerless Jim.’ Featherweight champion Abe Attell faced Driscoll in 1910; the Welshman dominated the fight, but with the “no decision” rule in place, without a KO, he couldn’t take the crown. Driscoll declined a rematch in order to attend an exhibition match in aid of the orphans of St. Nazareth House: “I never break a promise.” He returned to the United States the next year, but a chest infection and an injury in a road accident meant a poor showing.
He never got his title shot at Attell. After becoming the first featherweight to win a Lonsdale Belt, Driscoll prepared for an eagerly-anticipated fight against Freddie Welsh. The match was a disappointment, though, as Welsh’s spoiling tactics upset Driscoll’s style. By the tenth round Driscoll’s frustration boiled over, and he was disqualified for butting Welsh. Driscoll’s boxing career was interrupted by World War I. In succeeding years, he continued to box despite failing health, relying on his skills to keep him out of trouble. When he died in Cardiff of consumption at the age of 44, over 100,000 people lined the streets for his funeral. A statue was erected in his honour near the Central Boys’ Club, where he trained, in 1997.
Ernest Thompson Willows was a pioneer Welsh aviator and airship builder. He became the first person in the United Kingdom to hold a pilot’s certificate for an airship when the Royal Aero Club awarded him Airship Pilots Certificate No. 1. Willows was born in Cardiff, Wales on 11 July 1886. He was educated at Clifton College in Bristol, entering the school in 1896 and leaving in 1901 aged 15 to train as a dentist. He built his first airship, the Willows No. 1, in 1905 when he was 19. It was first flown from East Moors, Cardiff on 5 August 1905, the flight lasting 85 minutes. This was soon followed by an improved Willows No. 2, in which he landed outside Cardiff City Hall on 4 June 1910. No. 2 was re-built as No. 3 which he named the City of Cardiff before he flew it from London to Paris in 1910. This was the first airship crossing of the English Channel at night and the first from England to France. The journey was not without incident, including dropping the maps over the side during the night, and problems with the envelope caused the airship to land at Corbehem near Douai at two o’clock in the morning. With the help of the local French aviator Louis Breguet the airship was repaired and arrived at Paris on 28 December 1910. He celebrated New Year’s Eve with a flight around the Eiffel Tower. Willows moved to Birmingham to build his next airship, the Willows No. 4. First flown in 1912, it was sold to the Admiralty for £1,050 and it became His Majesty’s Naval Airship No. 2. With the money from the Navy Willows established a spherical gas balloon school at Welsh Harp, Hendon near London, although this did not stop him building Willows No. 5 in 1913, a four-seater airship designed to give joy rides over London. During the first world war Willows built barrage balloons in Cardiff. After the war he continued with ballooning but on 3 August 1926 he died in a balloon accident at Hoo Park, Kempston, Bedford instantly, together with a passenger. Three other passengers died later that day either in hospital or on their way to it making 5 deaths in all. There is a school named Willows High School built on his old airfield to remember him. There is also a pub called The Ernest Willows which is situated not far from the school.
Senghenedd Disaster. On the morning of Tuesday, October 14, 1913, 950 men and boys were underground at the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd, near Caerphilly. John Walters was not amongst them. He overslept as his young daughters had kept him awake much of the night. At 8am, there was a massive explosion with such force that it sent the cage in the Lancaster pit up the shaft and crashing into the pithead gear. The force of the blast smashed the wooden platform on which the banksman, John Mogridge, was standing and he was decapitated by a large splinter of timber. As there was little damage to York pit, the manager and other men descended the shaft but they were blocked by girders 530 yards down. Mine rescue teams from the Rhymney Valley, Porth, Aberdare and Crumlin raced to the scene but they were hampered by raging fires, thick smoke and roof falls. One rescue worker William John was killed in a roof fall. At 11.30am, an advanced party of rescuers managed to find a man and young boy alive and unharmed in the Bottanic district of the mine. By 1am the following morning, a group of 12 trapped miners were found alive behind a roof fall. A short distance away, another four were found unconscious but still alive. Twenty bodies were recovered from that district. Rescue teams continued to be hindered by further outbreaks of fire, roof falls and gas. After three weeks, only a third of the victims had been brought to the surface. Eventually rescuers reached the districts known as Ladysmith, Pretoria, Mafeking and Kinberly where the majority of bodies were found. More than 90 bodies were so badly mutilated that they could not be recognised. Some had to be identified by their clothing. One young boy’s identity was confirmed when his mother recognised a patch she had sewn into his vest. Another was identified by a champagne cork in his water bottle given to him by a friend and Aaron Manders was recognised by the new boots worn for the first time that day. By the end of the rescue mission, 439 were confirmed dead. Nearly every household in Senghenydd had lost somebody. It was estimated that 1,500 dependants were left without a bread winner. During a Court of Enquiry, several breaches of regulations were uncovered, the most serious being the inability of the ventilating fans to reverse the airflow contrary to legislation implemented on January 1, 1913. It is estimated that if the current of air had been reversed, hundreds of lives might have been saved. This led to 17 charges against the colliery manager and four against the company and they were fined a total of £24. The disaster was the second explosion to cause loss of life at the colliery. Just 12 years before, on Friday, May 24, 1901, a gas and coal dust explosion killed 81 of the 82 men underground at the time.
Mr. William Jones JP resided at Pencisely House, Cardiff with his wife Martha. He was the General Manager of the Cardiff Channel Dry Dock and Pontoon Company. This company, founded by the Cory shipping family, were instrumental in building the new graving dock in the Bute Dock, Cardiff. He was a JP and magistrate, a philanthropist and great supporter of the Cardiff Naval Brigade, an organisation established by Sir Edward Nicholl. The Cardiff Naval Brigade sought to encourage young men to take an interest in ‘everything that pertained to sound discipline and manliness giving them the necessary skills to fall in line for the defence of their country when required’. An article in the Evening Express on 26th September 1910 describes how 180 officers and men from the Cardiff Naval Brigade were entertained to tea at Pencisely House by Mr. William Jones JP. The lads were warmly complimented by Mr. Jones on their smart appearance.
The tragic story of Louisa Maud Evans, the Balloon Girl, is told in Welsh. An English translation is provided below together with a synopsis of her life:
“To be famous. To be known. To have people whisper my name as I pass them in the streets. There she is. That’s her. That’s Louisa. On a signal, I fell, and I felt Exhilaration, picturing the sea of eyes below mine, there, far, far, below me – 100,000 pairs of eyes looking up at falling me. And all of them, in that moment of time, they all knew my name, they all knew I existed. This moment, it was perfect, a window of utter release, and freedom, and a gleeful understanding that, unlike those who watched me from below with their Sunday best and their feet on the ground , I knew what it was to be a bird, and I knew what it meant to fly and everything beneath me, the city, the country, spread out like a painting drying in the sun. I could see the spires on the churches and the endless ribbon of the river. I could see the clustered trees and the scattergun tin pot houses. I could see the clouds high above me and the crowds far below me and best of all, they could all see me. Whatever they did, whoever they were none of that mattered. I was their focus, the reason their mouths fell open. I could feel the breath of the wind as it chased me through the sky . Then a realisation , there, that morning, cold and dawning , that I was drifting. That I was drifting away from where I should be to where I should not and that I could not do this and that I would not survive this. The dawning on high that I was so small and I was oh so out of control and that the world, one moment, so far below me, was getting bigger, larger, more apparent by the moment like looking at something through binoculars . I was falling like a paper doll with nothing to clutch at but a wind without handles, a fear, rising, hot against the cold, that we are not invincible and though we may think it, we can fall , we can certainly fall. And as I spiralled I thought back to the thing that, since a girl, I had prized above all things and I realised, yes, as I twisted and twisted , that I would be famous , that I would be known, that the city would remember my name. To be famous. To be known. To have people whisper my name as they pass me in the cemetery. There she is. That’s her. That’s Louisa.”
Louisa Maud Evans, otherwise known as Mademoiselle Albertina, fell to her death during a ballooning accident at the Cardiff Exhibition on July 21, 1896. It is estimated that 100,000 people had gathered at the Cardiff Industrial and Maritime Exhibition in Cathays Park in Cardiff, to see Louisa’s ascent by balloon. She was supposed to have landed by parachute on the outskirts of the city to be returned to the crowds via horse and carriage. However, she never reappeared and her body washed up three days later near the village of Nash, a few miles east of Cardiff. It is thought that Louisa was born in Barton Regis in Bristol in late 1881 and was adopted at 16 months old. She went on to work in a cloth factory but, wanting more in life, ran away at the age of 14 to become a circus apprentice and a trapeze artist. An inquest jury reached a unanimous verdict: “The deceased was accidentally drowned in the Bristol Channel whilst attempting to descend by parachute from a balloon.” A member of the inquest jury said: “We wish to censor Mr Gaudron, showman and balloon aeronaut, in that he showed great carelessness and disregard for the safety of such a young girl by allowing her to attempt her descent during such high winds.” Moved by her death, the people of Cardiff gave Louisa a decent burial and a headstone.
Winifred Fortt. Winifred Ellen Fortt’s father ran a lodging house for Greek Sailors in Cardiff Bay. She became the girlfriend of a lodger, Alec Bakerlis, 24, a fireman, who became jealous every time his 19-year old girlfriend spoke to any of the other residents. This got so bad that Winifred’s father gave him notice to quit and Bakerlis moved to other lodgings. Winifred broke off the relationship and asked a friend to return the ring and some letters Bakerlis had given her. Bakerlis refused to accept them from the friend and insisted Winifred returned them herself. On Christmas evening 1916 Bakerlis approached Winifred and her friend in Bute Street and asked her for the ring. Bakerlis then knocked her over and stabbed her repeatedly, seven or eight times on the head and body. A nearby police officer, Arthur Moss, saw Bakerlis running with a bloodstained knife and apprehended him. Bakerlis admitted to stabbing Winifred. Winifred died 3 days later from Blood Poisoning. Bakerlis was charged with wilful murder, found guilty and executed at Cardiff Gaol on 10 April 1917 by John Ellis.
James Power was born into a rebel family in Crooke, County Waterford, Ireland in 1889. Like his father, he worked on the land. In 1911 James was arrested and found guilty of “riotous behaviour.” When war broke out in 1914 Irishmen were encouraged to fight for Ireland as soldiers in the British Army and James joined the Royal Irish Regiment. He was not a model recruit. His military Charge Sheet cites offences such as “highly irregular conduct in barracks” and being absent without a pass. James did his training at Richmond Barracks in Dublin during 1916. This was the time of the Easter Rising, when Irish Republicans launched a rebellion against being ruled by Britain. The British reacted by mobilising troops onto the streets of Dublin – James Power amongst them. During six days of fighting British troops (including Irishmen such as James) either killed or captured all the rebels. The captured Republicans were imprisoned at Richmond Barracks. Sixteen of them were given a death sentence and were executed. This ruthless punishment made them into martyrs. The Royal Irish Regiment departed from Devenport and James served in Salonika, Egypt and the Battle of Jerusalem. He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal. On returning to Ireland James joined B Company, Third Battalion, East Waterford Brigade as a 1st Lieutenant – the IRA. In the 1920s this was the military wing of the Irish Republican movement that was fighting for Ireland’s independence from Britain. James returned both of his medals. Servicemen who had previously been in the British Army in WWI now needed to prove their Republican credentials to their fellow fighters and one way of doing so was to return their British Army medals. In 1921 a truce was called in the conflict and the next year saw the creation of the Irish Free State when independence was granted to the south of Ireland. There was little work in Ireland at this time and James took up a job in the Merchant Navy, becoming a fireman and trimmer on a ship called the Sheaf Lance that sailed out of Barry in South Wales. It was hard, hot, filthy work – four hours on, four hours off round the clock. In December 1926 James was on a voyage destined for Brazil and Argentina. Its return passage brought it back to Wales, arriving in Penarth near Cardiff on the 5th of April, 1927. James Power left the ship that day, and is not recorded as sailing on any other voyages. His family were told he had died at sea but his death certificate shows that, at the age of 37, James Power was found dead in the Glamorganshire Canal in Cardiff on the 19th April, 1927. He died from “shock from distended stomach acting on diseased heart.” An inquest confirmed that he was not drunk and it is likely that he had a heart attack and fell into the canal. A local shopkeeper identified him, “particularly by his ginger moustache.'” James’ wife, Julia, died in childbirth less than two months later. Their two daughters were adopted. One of them, Mary-Anne, married Albert Martin and had a son, Paul Martin – or Paul Merton as he is better known. Paul said: “It’s 92 years ago this happened. I’m the first member of the family to find out his (James Power’s) final resting place. That is rather remarkable, isn’t it? It’s a long time ago 1927, and it’s taken this long for us to find out the truth.”
Thought to be the most arrested woman in Victorian Wales, the facts of Minnie McGuire’s life can mainly be found in court records and newspaper reports, which variably spell her surname as McGuire, Maguire and Macguire. Minnie’s exact birth date is unknown, but it’s estimated that she was born around 1860. She was descended from Irish immigrants and, during her many court appearances, her address was often given as ‘no fixed abode’, although she lived in bedsit rooms in various houses in the poorest areas of central Cardiff. Throughout her life, she was arrested multiple times for violence, drunkenness and lewd behaviour, and served many spells in prison. An article in the Cardiff Times of 18th July 1885 described her as “an incorrigible woman” and detailed her prison sentence of three months with hard labour, as a result of the charge of being “a disorderly prostitute”. Almost four years later, the South Wales Echo of 29th May 1889 reported that, at her seventy-second appearance at court, the same sentence was inflicted on her for being drunk and disorderly. Such reports brought her infamy and her exploits were well-known to the people of Cardiff. Minnie was also known to have travelled from town to town selling inexpensive wares as a ‘hawker’, although newspapers from subsequent years suggest that she was still getting into trouble in these places, having made appearances at several other courts in South Wales and as far afield as Taunton and Cheltenham. By this point, her total number of convictions was well over a hundred. Elm House, a workhouse for adults in Cardiff, was where Minnie spent her final days. Her death certificate gave her age as fifty-four. She was given a ‘pauper’s burial’ and her grave in Cathays Cemetery is unmarked.
Hamadryads are Greek mythological beings or sprites that are bonded to trees. Cardiff’s Hamadryad gave her name to a ship, a hospital and more recently, a Welsh medium primary school. Here, she introduces us to Dr Henry Paine, Medical Officer of Health, now a resident of Cathays Cemetery but best known for the public health improvements he brought to Cardiff and for the seamen’s hospital ship, The Hamadryad. In the face of a rapidly growing population throughout the nineteenth century, many of Cardiff’s inhabitants faced poverty, unsanitary conditions and repeated outbreaks of disease. Dr Paine made improvements to the water and sewage infrastructure of the city and is credited with saving many lives over the course of his career. In 1866 Dr Paine bought and fitted out the Hamadryad, a 43 year-old frigate, as a hospital for seamen, with a doctor, medical staff, matron, nurse and cook. The ship was moored on “Rat Island” and was used for thirty years. To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, a permanent seamen’s hospital was built and was opened on 29 June 1905. The Royal Hamadryad Seamen’s Hospital provided free medical treatment for seamen until 1948, when it was incorporated into the National Health Service. The hospital ship was broken up, but the ship’s bell and figurehead were preserved. Today, the figurehead is exhibited in the Cardiff Story Museum.
Edward Kaltenbach and his brother Adrian Kaltenbach sought asylum in Cardiff from Baden (now part of Germany) in the late 1860s. Cardiff was expanding rapidly thanks to coal. They set up their watch, clock and jewellery business in Caroline Street, a business which continued to flourish on the same site for nearly 150 years. The main shop premises were always at 22 & 23 Caroline Street where Edward Kaltenbach advertised “WATCHES! WATCHES! WATCHES! Silver patent lever watches, chronometer balances, all kinds of other gold and silver watches, and gold and silver jewellery”. Kaltenbach’s contemporaries were William Weichert and Polish born Wladyslaw Spiridion Kliszezewski. A measure of Spiridion’s prestige is the fact that James Keir (1839–1921), another Cardiff watch- and clockmaker and jeweller, always paid tribute to him in his advertisements, proudly stating that he had been ‘10 years with Spiridion’. Another watchmaker, George Best, was not so well-renowned. His business was located at 27 Talbot Street Cardiff and later in the High Street Arcade. In 1889 he was declared bankrupt, a circumstance which he blamed on the failure of the shares he had bought in Allsopp’s brewery. The Official Receiver stated that his assets would produce only 1d in the £. His Honour granted the debtor his discharge but suspended his business operations for 18 months, Best having previously been declared bankrupt in 1885.
Margaret Jones-Morewood was a well-known soprano soloist in the late 1800s. Born Margaret Ann Jones on 17th August 1863 in the Swansea Valley, she was singing locally by the age of ten, and benefit concerts were arranged so that she could hire a singing coach. When she was seventeen, she went to train at the Royal Academy of Music in London and graduated with the distinction of medallist. Margaret’s father was employed at the tinplate works owned by Messrs. E. Morewood & Co. in Llanelli and, as his colleagues were very supportive of her aspirations, she adopted Morewood as part of her stage name during her time at the academy, along with the informal version of her first name, Maggie. Further success beckoned, including performances at the National Eisteddfod, leading parts with the Turner Opera Company, and top-billing at the Cardiff International Exhibition of 1888. In 1890, Margaret married John Jones, the manager of a silversmiths, and moved to Cardiff, where they had a daughter and a son. When she was expecting her third child, she went into labour two months early and gave birth to a stillborn baby. Two days later, on 9th October 1894, Margaret died. An inquest was held and her youngest sister, Gwendolyn ‘Gwennie’ Jones, was called as one of the witnesses along with the couple’s servant, who claimed that John had been physically violent towards Margaret, including during her most recent pregnancy, a claim that he denied. Following the post-mortem, the verdict was that she had died from natural causes and that premature births were common. However, although the jury concurred, they requested that the Coroner severely censure John for his conduct towards her and he agreed, stating that he could not understand how any man could treat his wife in the manner alleged, especially in her condition. Before long, most of the family left Wales for new lives in the United States. Their connections to the metal industry continued, however, as Gwennie married William H. Davey, General Manager of a tinplate works in Washington, Pennsylvania.
In this video, Roger Swan (Memorial Manager, Bereavement Services, Cardiff Council) introduces us to the cemetery, some of its history and emphasised the benefit of visiting and having a walk around.
The German invasion of Belgium in 1914 shocked the world by its suddenness and the ruthlessness of its army. Many towns were almost destroyed by the ferocity of the bombardment, and troops were recorded as committing atrocities, murdering innocent civilians.
The carnage received a lot of press attention and sympathy in the UK – the “Rape of Louvain” was a popular theme, accompanied by photographs showing the destruction of the medieval town centre. For the civilian population, there was little choice but to escape the devastation. Many thousands crossed the border into France, and the UK set up numerous relief funds and local organisations were established to help refugees. In all, some 200,000 – 250,000 refugees came to British shores.
Many of these were women and children, plus men beyond the age eligible for military service. Some had professions and occupations which they put to good use over here, encouraged by local aid bodies. The image of the plucky refugee was a common one, immortalised in fiction by the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.
In Wales, some 4,500 refugees were accommodated, whilst Lord Bute offered to find homes for 3000 refugees in Cardiff and on Rothsay. Towns including Cardigan, Aberaeron, Lladysul, Lampeter and Barmouth all invited Belgian refugees. The Davies sisters of Gregynog (the daughters of David Davies the entrepreneur who developed Barry Docks) recruited 91 of what they termed “a better class of refugee”, mainly artists and musicians, and set them up in Aberystwyth and Barry, hoping to enrich the cultural life of Wales, with a degree of success. The Western Mail ran a column in Flemish and a Belgian primary school was set up at 9 Richmond Road.
By early 1915 the local authorities had ascertained the following numbers of Belgian refugees in the whole of Glamorgan:
Male over 16 408
Female over 16 505
Male children 212
Female children 202
Source: Glamorgan County Council War Distress Relief Committee (GC/WD/1)
Records from the Roath Park United Reformed Church show that it was agreed that a house in Albany Road be taken subject to the Belgian Relief Committee agreeing to furnish same.
St Martins Church in Albany Road had its original Lady chapel decorated by a Belgian refugee artist in gratitude for the kindness shown by the parishioners during the First World War. However, much of the interior was destroyed by bomb damage during the Second World War.
It is fair to record that as the war dragged on public opinion began to turn against those Belgian male refugees who were of military service age who hadn’t enlisted, at a time when British men were conscripted, and thus support for the “plucky Belgians” began to wane. About 90% of the refugees were said to have returned to Belgium after the war, leaving about 25,000 who settled in the UK.
Thank you to Jon Roberts for this guest contribution to our blog. Pictures added by Ted Richards.
There can’t be many people who win a Nobel Prize for something they discover as a 22-year old student. Brian Josephson from Pen-y-lan is the only Welshman so far to have won a Nobel Prize in Physics.
Brian David Josephson was born on 4 Jan 1940 in Cardiff. He grew up in 26 Earl’s Court Road, Pen-y-lan, an only-child of Jewish parents. His father, Abraham Josephson, was a teacher at nearby Howardian High School. Abraham Josephson had been born in Salford to David and Betsy Josephson who had immigrated from Russia. Brian’s mother was Minnie ‘Mimi’ Josephson née Weisbard who was born in Swansea, to parents who had immigrated from Russia. Mimi had various jobs including teaching gifted children and as a reporter. She once interviewed Dylan Thomas. Brian has published a number of her poems.
Earl’s Court Road, Cardiff, the childhood home of Brian Josephson
Brian attended Marlborough Road Junior School before moving onto Cardiff High School. He credits Emrys Jones, his physics teacher at Cardiff High, with introducing him to the subject of theoretical physics. In the evenings he sometimes attended Pen-y-lan observatory that was on Cyncoed Road in what is now Cyncoed Gardens. In 1955, aged just 15 he was awarded a mathematics scholarship for Trinity College, Cambridge, having already obtained distinctions in pure and applied maths A-level. Despite being awarded the scholarship he decided not to go to Cambridge until 1957.
He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1957 and received his BA in physics in 1960. He initially read maths at Cambridge but later switched to read physics. This was in the days when computers were the size of a whole room and built using valves. He published his first paper, dealing with aspects of the special theory of relativity and the Mössbauer effect, while still an undergraduate. All I can tell you about the Mössbauer effect is that it is to do with certain atomic nuclei bound in a crystal that emit gamma rays The story goes that Brian attended a lecture on the recently discovered Mössbauer effect and went away and did some calculations. He sent them to the Government’s Harwell Laboratory and so impressed were they that they sent a car with a uniformed chauffeur to pick him up at his Cambridge college and take him to Harwell to discuss the calculations further.
He chose to do a PhD at Cambridge in the Cavendish laboratory under Prof Brian Pippard. It was whilst studying for this PhD that he developed a theory that became known as the Josephson Effect. It is associated with superconductivity and his work came shortly after the phenomena had been explained.
So what is superconductivity? When electricity travels from the power station to your house quite a lot is ‘lost’ along the way. Think of it as a leaking hosepipe. With superconductivity none is lost along the way meaning there would be fewer power stations needed. Although many advances have been made in the understanding of superconductivity over the years it is not yet in everyday use in our homes.
Superconductors based on the Josephson Effect have however come into being and found wide usage in the scientific world. Perhaps the most widespread use is in superconducting quantum interference devices which have the wonderful abbreviation of SQUIDS and measure extremely small changes in magnetic fields.
For his prediction of the Josephson Effect he was awarded the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physics. The official citation from the Nobel Committee explains he was awarded the prize:
“for his theoretical predictions of the properties of a supercurrent through a tunnel barrier, in particular those phenomena which are generally known as the Josephson effects.”
which the Nobel website explains by:
In quantum physics matter is described as both waves and particles. One result of this is the tunneling phenomenon, which means that particles can pass through barriers that they should not be able to squeeze through according to classic physics. In 1962 Brian Josephson predicted unexpected results with superconductors, material that at low temperatures lacks electrical resistance. Without superimposed voltage, a current can result between two superconductors that are separated by a thin insulator. If a rectified voltage is added, on the other hand, an alternating current can result.
After his PhD, Josephson served as a research professor at the University of Illinois, USA, from 1965–66 and in 1967 he returned to Cambridge University as assistant director of research.
Ever since returning to Cambridge he has tended to work outside what people would consider as mainstream physics. Indeed, it could be said that he works in areas that are anathema to most physicists. He started studying the relationship between music, language and mind and in the early 1970s, started practising transcendental meditation and trying to find a scientific basis for telepathy. He has studied the brain and the paranormal for over 30 years.
In the 1970s he witnessed first-hand the metal-bending skills of Matthew Manning (similar skills to those of Uri Geller) and was intrigued by what he saw. He is quoted as saying “I think we are on the verge of discoveries which may be extremely important for physics. We are dealing with a new kind of energy. This force must be subject to laws. I believe ordinary methods of scientific investigation will tell us a lot more about psychic phenomena”.
He worked out of a cluttered office on the top floor of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge.
He describes himself as ‘the resident heretic’. Brian Josephson certainly has a reputation for being notoriously brilliant but also for taking on controversial subjects such as telepathy and the relation of mind and matter.
He retired in 2007 as a professor at Cambridge and is now emeritus professor, still based in the city. Presently he serves as director of the mind–matter unification project in the Theory of Condensed Matter research group. It is safe to say that he still goes by his guiding principle of ‘nullius in verba’ – take nobody’s word for it.
Brian married Carol Olivier in Cambridge in 1976 and they have one daughter Miranda Josephson. Brian’s abilities are not only in physics. He can also play music and has been known to compose pieces, so why not sit back and listen to his composition and see if it inspires you to come up with a new theory.
Brian Josephson plaque on the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.
I continue to build up the information on our website. It’s always been my aim to try and make our website the ‘go-to’ site for information on the history of the old parish of Roath. It is still a long way from being that at present I admit. For the past couple of months I have been making a determined effort to complete our page on the histories of churches, rather than dart around witting about churches, pubs, schools, streets and buildings etc. I’ve a fair number still to go but I am getting there. The final number could be close to a hundred I think.
Some of my work has led to exchanges with people who know about the history of certain churches. One of those people has been Richard Haworth who knows about Ebenezer Baptist Church in Pearl Street. He has kindly not only provided some interesting photographs but also expanded on the history of the church. I reproduce the full article below.
For anyone worried about all this emphasis on churches, panic not, I’m planning on finishing off the pub history page next.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Ebenezer Baptist Church on Pearl Street was a daughter Church of Tredegarville Baptist Church. It started as the Christ Church Baptist Mission on Theodora Street in 1879, moving briefly to rooms on Broadway before a building was constructed on Pearl Street in 1883 at a cost of around £700. In 1886 the newspapers reported that a communion plate and baptismal dress and some other items were stolen from the church. In November 1981 the foundation stones were laid for the new Chapel, the previous building becoming the schoolrooms at the rear of the Church.
The Church was built in the gothic style with a capacity of 500 in mind, though the gallery was not added at this stage. The cost was projected to be about £1200. Alderman Richard Cory JP laid the foundation stone and contributed £100 towards the building fund. The Church building was opened on 1st October 1892 with the Rev. Edwin Schaffer preaching a sermon entitled “The Preservation of Mankind”. The following year however Rev. Shaffer was dismissed and Alderman Cory led a service in November 1893 in front of what was described as a “meagre congregation”. The Church survived this wobbly start and the Rev. T Walton ministered from 1894 – 1897.
Ebenezer Baptist Church Organ
In 1899 Rev. Caleb Joshua took up the ministry of the church and remained until his death in 1923, he was said to have “enjoyed throughout the years a good measure of God’s blessing”. Such a significant leader for the Church that on his passing a large plaque was commissioned in his memory and was mounted next to the pulpit. In the late 1920’s, thanks to the good works established by Rev. Joshua, the Church was redeveloped somewhat, this included the installation of a new organ in 1929. Rev. Garnet Powell, locally recognisable for his unusual skull cap, ministered through the late 1920’s and 1930’s. It was during his ministry that the Gallery was finally built. The Church flourished through the next few decades and at one point had a considerable choir who were nicknamed “The Pearl Street Pigeons”. The Rev. Winston took over the ministry for the War years. In 1946 Rev. Glyn Thomas took on the ministry and remained until 1963, his period being described as “a long and stable ministry”.
Ebenezer Baptist Church Whitsun treat prep
In the early 1970’s discussions with Tremorfa Baptist Church commenced, initially around calling a minister together but this soon progressed into the idea of uniting the Churches due to dwindling congregations. In 1972 Rev. Doug Harbour began his ministry of both Ebenezer and Tremorfa Baptist Churches. Over the next three years plans were put in place for the union and in 1975 it was decided that the new Church should be called “Belmont” named by Church Deacon Mr. Fred Browning. Morning services would take place in the Tremorfa building and evening services in Ebenezer, with any larger special services taking place in Ebenezer as it was the larger property. Because of the size of the Ebenezer building, it soon became apparent that it was becoming too expensive to maintain, especially when considering there were now two church sites. A proposal was made to build a new Church, equidistant between the two locations, the chosen plot was the site of the former Moorland Road Forward Movement Hall on the corner of Moorland Road, Habershon Street and North Park Road. However, despite initial favourable noises form the council it soon became apparent that they had their own use for the site and it went onto become the Moorland Community Centre. So, in 1976 the Ebenezer Church was used for the last time by this congregation. The building was rented to the New Testament Church of God for a year before it was sold to the Sikh community who opened their Gurdwara in 1979. The Sikh community added an extension to building in 2014 also adding a new entrance through one of the houses on Pearl Street and also levelled off the Gallery to create a new room on the upper level. Belmont Baptist Church continues to worship as Belmont Tremorfa Family Church to this day over 140 years after it was first established (2020).
The old Gaiety Cinema on City Road is under threat of demolition again. Admittedly the iconic domes don’t look at their best any longer. Maybe with some tasteful renovation they could be incorporated into a modern structure making a real feature in this historic street, formerly known as Plwcca Lane, the Castle Road and now City Road. Join us as we take a look at the history of the Gaiety.
Assessing the Gaiety Cinema building in 1995, John Newman refers to it as “presenting an appearance of gay abandon” a marked contrast to its appearance in 2020. Built in 1910 and originally planned as a roller skating rink and cinema the building is listed by Cardiff Council in its List of Local Buildings of Merit (no 297). The Gaiety opened in 1912 with a seating capacity of 800. The picture of the cinema in 1913 advertises the main feature as ‘Thor, lord of the jungles’ (1913) A feature of the design is a pair of small art deco domes on either side of the entrance. The words “The Gaiety” were inscribed above the entrance within a curved head mould. There was also some swag detail on the upper façade.
The Gaiety Grand Cinema was opened by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Morgan Thomas J P for the Splott (Cardiff) Cinema Co. a group of Cardiff business men who eventually owned 7 or 8 cinemas in the suburbs of Cardiff and who by 1913 had changed the name to the Gaiety Electric Theatre. The then manager was a Mr J Schlentheim.
Between 1920 and 1923 plans were submitted for alterations to the roof and the gallery seating. As with most cinemas of the time there were two programmes each week, half the chain showing a film on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and passing it to the remaining cinemas on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. All cinemas were closed on Sundays until the early 1960’s. Unlike today you could enter the cinema at any time, even in the middle of a film and stay to the end of a following screening. Again like most cinemas there were Saturday morning matinees for children.
By the 1930’s there was growing concern about the influence of the Hollywood film industry. Film going in the United Kingdom was most popular in Northern England, Scotland and Wales. Data on consumer expenditure in the 1930’s indicates that the average Welsh household devoted 14.4% of their household expenditure on going to the cinema, well above the national average. In Cardiff the most luxurious cinemas were to be found in Queen Street. The Empire was converted to a cinema in c1933 and The Capitol had opened its doors in 1920. The Queen’s cinema was less pretentious, but in 1929 presented Al Jolson in The Singing Fool, the first “talkie” film released in 1927. By this time The Gaiety had been open for over 15 years and by 1934 had been remodelled and enlarged by William S Wort an architect who increased the seating capacity to 1518.
Renamed as The Gaiety Cinema, prices in the late 1940’s ranged from 1/6d to 2/6d. Plans were submitted for alterations to the toilets and to have neon lighting fitted. Thousands of leaflets were distributed each month advertising forthcoming programmes. By the 1950’s cinema attendance was 45% higher than in 1934 and the British are the world’s most avid film goers. In 1956 The Gaiety Cinema becomes part of the Jackson Withers Circuit, an alias for the Cardiff banker, Sir Julian Hodge, but by 1961 it had closed and reopened as a 7 Day Bingo Hall until 1994. Initially part of the Coral Bingo Hall network, by 1991 was part of Top Rank. Edith Pearce had visited the cinema many times as a child and was later employed in the Bingo Hall. She observes that in her opinion one of the failures of the Gaiety’s design were the two shops on either side of the entrance. Rented out to independent retailers, they continuously changed hands, both in the cinema and bingo eras.
Following a planning application to become a public house in 1998, which was withdrawn, the building was taken over by Spin Bowling Ltd in 2001. After an extensive renovation it became ‘The Spin Bar and Bowling Centre’, now having two floors, a Ten pin bowling alleys and a bar and restaurant area. Sadly it closed in 2006. A planning application to re-open as a bar, entailing further alterations, was rejected by Cardiff Council in 2007. The building remained empty and visibly deteriorating. In 2012 an anarchist group called the Gremlins break into the building and set up ‘The Gremlin Alley Social centre’. They are later evicted.
An evaluation of the state of the building was made in 2014 , when ripped out piping, crumbling walls and a floor covered with needles were found. Councillor Mary McGary then proposed a compulsory purchase order which would have allowed Cardiff Council to dispose of the site with the consent of the owner. The proposal was rejected due to lack of funding.
In 2015 the Wales United Housing Association began negotiations with the then owners Bonnes Mares Ltd to buy the property. Their proposal was to demolish the building and to construct 40+ affordable flats on the site. By 2018 ownership appeared to have changed again and the new owners the MSG Group apply to Cardiff Council for a demolition order to demolish the building on 1 Aug 2019. Recently developer Bonnes Mares has applied for planning permission from Cardiff Council for a temporary car park on the site but has not stated how long this would be for.
Young people will probably find it hard to believe that in the days when the Gaiety opened the films didn’t have any sound. Theatres had pipe organs to provide music and sound effects to accompany the silent film. Should, heaven forbid, the domes ever be demolished, then maybe someone should set themselves up on the pavement opposite with an organ to provide appropriate musical accompaniment in true Monty Python style. Fingers crossed that will never happen.
I was wondering what to do yesterday morning, middle of lockdown and pouring with rain. Then the postman arrived. Somebody had sent me a baptism card from 1896. Two question immediately sprang to mind; Who had sent it to me? and, Who was the named on the card?
A day later and I still don’t know who sent me the card or probably more accurately, I can’t recall who said they were going to send it to me. On the other hand I do know a lot more about the person who was baptised and as usual there are some interesting parts to the story and some parts that remain a mystery.
The card was for Georgana Pepperdine. Thank you Georgana for having such an unusual name! The baptism took place at St German’s church in Adamsdown on 11 Jan 1896.
The next stage wasn’t too difficult – make myself a cup of coffee and search for Ancestry, Find My Past and other family history resources for Georgana Pepperdine in Cardiff. Only one hit appeared – her baptism record.
A couple of unusual things jumped out from the record. Firstly the address was given as Bristol not Cardiff, and secondly written in the margin was the fact that rather than being an infant baptism she was baptised aged 12.
The baptism record also helpfully told me her parents’ names and father’s occupation; Robert and Elizabeth Mary Pepperdine and he was a stone mason. At this stage I was thinking their presence in Cardiff may have been linked to the father’s profession. Cardiff was booming, houses with stone bay houses were popular and stone masons were no doubt in high demand. But no. False assumption.
Next stage was to look for the birth of Georgana Pepperdine, again not too tricky given the unusual combination of first name and surname.
There she was, born in the second quarter of 1883 in Lincoln and her mother’s maiden name was Slater.
Now let’s see if that fits in with the marriage of a Robert Pepperdine to an Elizabeth Mary Slater. And bingo. There it is in October 1881 in Lincoln.
This is easy I was thinking, I’m only just finishing my first cup of coffee. All I need to do now if pick the family up on some census records and everything will be tied up. How wrong could I be.
Things started off easy enough. I found Robert Pepperdine in the 1881 census, living in Lincoln, born in Lincoln and a stonemason.
I then found Eliz M Slater, aged 18, living in Lincoln, with her parents James and Frances Slater. Elizabeth was born in London and interestingly has a profession listed as ‘formerly actress’.
Moving forward ten years to the 1891 census I expected to find Robert and Elizabeth Pepperdine and their daughter Georgana, but there was no sign of them. Instead I found a Lincoln newspaper cutting from Feb 1886 describing a court case and how Robert Pepperdine had assaulted his wife Elizabeth and mentioning he wished to be separated.
Elizabeth Pepperdine then goes on to remarry Charles Henry Bellamy in Bristol in 1889 and they go on to have a number of children. We find them in the 1891 and 1901 census together with Georgana from Elizabeth’s first marriage.
Hang on a minute I hear you say. If Elizabeth and her daughter Georgana now have the surname Bellamy, how come they turn up in Cardiff in Jan 1896 at the baptism still using the Pepperdine surname. Well I’m not sure. I guess if she was born a Pepperdine then in the eyes of the church maybe she needed to be baptised a Pepperdine.
I’m going to give you a family tree sketch now as things are starting to get a bit complicated:
And why did they come to Cardiff for a baptism. Eventually I solved that one too. Elizabeth’s parents had now moved to Cardiff. In the 1901 census I find them living in Pearl Street, her father Thomas a retired engine smith.
To tie it all together I found an somewhat terrifying letter in the paper from Thomas Slater. The address was Topaz Street, close to St German’s church. It tells about how his son-in-law Edward Morgan (who had married Elizabeth’s sister Jane) suffered a serious injury from falling glass at the Queen Street Lecture Hall. The glass severed and artery and drenched him in blood. Another report explains how the pane of glass that smashed was in the dome of the roof in the centre of the hall and a stampede for the exits followed.
That incident was a few months before the baptism in Jan 1896. I wonder if her visit to Cardiff was to see her sister and injured brother-in-law.
Georgana goes on to marry Harry Bradburn in Bristol in 1903 and have a child Clifford Frances Herbert Bradburn in 1904.
It is still raining heavily outside. It’s almost as if Georgana knows that. She sets me another mystery.
In the 1911 census she and her husband have moved to London, leaving Clifford their son with his grandparents in Bristol. There’s nothing too unusual about that if he was settled in a school etc. What is a mystery though is that I lose all trace of Georgana and Harry, though there is a Georgana Bradburn living in Paddington in 1931 that could well be her. I can’t find their deaths recorded anywhere.
Never mind, there is some brightness in the sky so let’s leave that for another day.
Let’s just hope that the next miserable day is brightened up by the postman bring me another mystery to solve.