The Development of City and Albany Roads

This is a digitised version of a research paper that one of our members authored back in 2009 with some pictures added.

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.

Cardiff and Roath map from 1799
Map of Roath from 1789.

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.  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 National Westminster Bank, the Roman Catholic martyrs, St John Lloyd and St Phillip Evans were executed here, as were many others.

Plaque on the side of the Nat West bank on Crwys Road marking the site of the gallows.

In 1802 Parliament passed the Heath Enclosure Act.  Half of the land enclosed was awarded to the Cardiff Corporation, while a sizeable amount went to freeholders who had a claim to rights of pasture.  Most of them were rich and powerful families such as the Butes and the Lewises.  The landscape of the Heath was transformed as Heath Farm, Allensbank Farm and Ton-yr-Ywen farm were created from the former rough pasture land.  Certain rights of way were upheld, among them the future Heathwood Rd, Allensbank Rd and Merthyr Rd (now Albany Rd) running east from the junction of City Rd with Crwys Rd.  Together these two roads would form the framework from which the Mackintosh Estate later developed.

In the 1840s the land surrounding the lower end of Plwca Lane where it joins what is now Newport Road was owned by the Tredegar estate, centred on Tredegar House, west of Newport.

Roath in the 1830s

Of the residents of Plwca Lane in 1851: 28 were born in Glamorgan; 3 in Monmouth shire; 9 in Wiltshire; 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; 4 in Monmouthshire; 8 were born in Somerset; 6 each in Devon and Wiltshire; 5 each in Devon and Ireland and 13 from 11 other countries.

James Hemingway the elder (1802-1854), his 2 brothers and Charles Pearson were all natives of Dewsbury, Yorkshire and were contractors for the construction of the East Bute Dock between 1851 and 1859.  James the elder lived at the junction of St Peter’s St and City Rd (Perrix Wholesalers) but appears to have purchased land on the east side of Plwca Lane on which Talworth St, Pearson St and Byron St now stand. Talworth House which stood to the west of Plasnewydd (now the Mackintosh Institute) had been occupied by James Hemingway the younger, at least from November 1859.  He married Mary McGregor, step-daughter of his late father’s partner, Charles Pearson.  James the younger moved back to Northern England in January 1861.

Example of 1851 Census for Plwcca Lane – the James Hemmingway household

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 St (now Byron St) 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 St, off Castle Rd (now City Rd), both for Charles Pearson.  Fourteen houses were built on James St for James Hemingway the younger and it was late: re-named Talworth St in 1872.

Development now spread on both sides of Plwca Lane.  Montgomery Place is pre- 1861 when it had 7 inhabited and 1 uninhabited house.  The 1861 census records 56 inhabited and 18 uninhabited houses in Plwca Lane but the earliest known house plans date from 1865.  Three houses are described as villas, implying a residential district.  In one lived Edward Cleavin, age 39, a civil engineer; Edward Edwards, an engine fitter from Neath and John Webb a builder from Staffordshire who employed 24 men.  Finally by 1865, Solomon Andrews had established his business at No 1 Castle Rd i.e. Roath Mews.

Waring’s plan of 1869 shows that there was no development north of James St on the even numbered side and north of Tredegarville on the odd numbered side, though an application had been made for 14 more houses to be built in Castle Rd (BC/51/90342) Plans for 6 houses in Plwca Lane were proposed in 1872 (BC/51/90657) and a further 6 in 1874, two of which were described as villas, again implying a middle class market (BC/51/9098).

1869 map. Roath / Cardiff boundary marked in pink went down the middle of Plwca Lane. The land off the southern end of Plwca Lane has been developed but the land surrounding Plasnewydd (later called the Mackintosh Institute) remains undeveloped

In 1874 Plwca Lane was re-named Castle Rd and in the following year the Cardiff Improvement Act incorporated Roath into Cardiff.  Castle Rd 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 alterations.  In general most new houses were still terraced buildings, 2-3 stories high, their dimensions controlled by the end of the 19th century by byelaws passed by the local authority.  At this time, water was increasingly supplied directly into houses.  This permitted internal sanitation, hot and cold water and bathrooms.

In 1877 the Borough Surveyor reported on the state of footways in Castle Rd and submitted estimates for their repair.  Further reports between 1879 and 1887 indicate continuing road maintenance activities being carried out in Castle Rd (CBC Minutes 1879-1881) but in 1880, 123 acres of land belonging to the Hemingway estate was purchased by Cardiff Borough Council for £140 for the purpose of road widening.

1880 map of the northern part of Plucca Lane, again marked with a dotted line indicating the Cardiff-Roath boundary. The four-way junction neat the top was later to become a five-way junction when Mackintosh Place was built. (map from

Cardiff BC had been unsuccessful in 1883 in purchasing Plasnewydd and its grounds from the Mackintosh family for use as a public park and it may well have been this which acted as a catalyst for the family to proceed rapidly with housing development on the estate (Childs, 2005:5).  By now, Merthyr Rd cut through the Plasnewydd estate from the cross roads at the Roath parish boundary with Cardiff St John in the west to Roath Court in the east.  Forty feet wide and constructed along the course of a public drain, it provided a ready-made central highway for future urban development (Childs,2005:7).

John Batchelor and Talworth House

Most of the landowning families in Roath systematically gave their land over to urban housing development during the second half of the 19″ 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.

In 1884 development begins on the Plasnewydd estate.  Harriet Richards of Plasnewydd had by now married the Mackintosh of Mackintosh, Chief of the Scottish clan, which explains many of the street names in the area.  Charles Rigg, an architect with offices in High St, Cardiff submitted plans to the local authority on behalf of the  estate, for the proposed layout of the streets and 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).

Plans for 9 houses to be built in Merthyr Rd were submitted by Leonard Purnell, a builder in Calston St, Adamsdown and his partner Mr Fry under the supervision of the Mackintosh estate architect, Charles Rigg.  In the same year Merthyr Rd was renamed Albany Rd on the 10 April 1884 (Keir, RLHS).  Initially intended as a residential. development, which the estate may have envisaged as a superior type of residential road similar to Richmond Rd.  It soon became a commercial centre as houses were converted into shop fronts.

Edward Jellings who lived in no 31 also built 4 houses in Albany Rd in 1884 and another 6 in 1885. Another builder, William Geen, lived at no 1 Albany Rd (Childs, 2005:10).  He sought permission to erect 6 houses in Albany Rd in 1890.  In the area where Charles Rigg was the Mackintosh estate architect, Thomas Gough, a builder at No 1 Oxford St off lower City Rd, applied to build 19 houses.  His architect was E WM Corbett who normally acted for the neighbouring Bute estate.  Applications were made to build a further 48 houses in Albany Rd in1891.  Among the builders were David Edwards of Glenroy St and Henry Lewis of 54 Arran St and Wilde and Allen were neighbours at nos 22 and 20 Kincraig St respectively.  After a lull in 1892, when William Geen applied to build 8 houses, 16 houses were built in 1893 and 20 more by the end of the century in 1899.

Albany Road in the early 1900s looking east with St Martin’s church on the right.

By 1900, the development of the Mackintosh estate was complete.  The estate comprised about 2750 houses, various shops and commercial premises, several places of religious worship, 2  schools, 3 public houses and many trades and services needed for the maintenance of  what was a densely packed housing zone.  The total population of the area was some 15,000 (Childs, 2005:7).

By 1901, 76 houses had been built on the north side of Albany Rd and 67 on the south side, where an area of rural development still existed between Roath Court and the Claude Hotel. Castle Rd (renamed City Rd in 1905) numbered 479 houses of which only 23 of the occupants could be described as private residents.

Given the estate’s large population, the transformation of Albany Rd into a suburban commercial centre was unsurprising; indeed it could be said to be a natural development.  The conversion of the properties’ ground floors into shop fronts involved the disappearance of the low front walls and small forecourts (Childs, 2005:11).  In City Rd a Doctor’s surgery was established by 1908 at 107 when a waiting room and dispensary were added.

In 1895 there were 13 planning applications for shop fronts in Albany Rd, 23 in 1896 and 11 between 1897 and 1899.  There were also 10 applications for stables to be built in this period and G H Hodgkinson applied to build a shoeing forge in 1895.  From 1900 to 1902, 11 more shop fronts were converted in Albany Rd and 12 in the period 1903 to 1908.  Conversion also continued in City Rd e.g. at no 169 when a house was converted into 3 shops, in 2005 the site of Rent Direct.

Cardiff postcard
66 Albany Road before it had been redeveloped into a shop.

By 1912 Albany Rd is a tree-lined road with a line of tram poles running along the centre, removed by 1925 (CY 10:24).  Occupations include tripe sellers in 1910 (CY 10:53) and W H Bishop and Son, sanitary engineers at no 60 (Cardiff Dir 1910).  Cardiff Co-operative Society had premises at no 69 in 1907, as did E Snook at nos 52-54 City Rd and 113-115 Albany Rd.  Land tax returns for 1910 record a G H Snook as residing at no 126 City Rd and owning premises at no 3, but the Burgess Roll for  1911 records Geo Hill Snook as living at no 30 The Parade and owning property at no 126 City Rd!

From 1910 garages or motorhouses became the object of planning applications rather than stables.  10 were built between 1910 and 1915.  Another sign of the times was that Walter Andrews, a son of the mighty Solomon, undertook an apprenticeship in the motor trade in his father’s garage in the former livery stables and in 1910 Daimler cars were introduced into the car fleet, to be replaced by Austin limousines in 1929.

Gaiety Cinema, City Road, Roath, Cardiff
Gaiety Cinema, City Road, Roath, around 1912

Other commercial enterprises in City Rd were Smith & Bedoe, decorators at no 5 in 1910 and William Lamerton, a butcher at no 195 but at no 236 by 1920 (CY8:48).  W H Wormleighton was a sculptor or monumental mason at no 197, next door to the Gaiety Theatre.  T Shapcott is still a fruiterer at no 119a and Samuel Milkins, once of the Bedford Hotel, at no 185.  According to the land tax returns for 1910, Samuel Milkins is also the owner of a house at no 21 City Rd, where Albert Stone is the occupier, and at no 189

John and Minnie Rich at no 103 City Rd seem to have owned a group of properties in City Rd.  Minnie also seems to have owned houses at nos 105 and 109.  By 1920, John and Ethel Rich are living at no 109.

Finally, City Rd celebrated its 100th birthday in 2005, when part of the road, north from the Roath Park Public House to its junction with Albany Rd, was closed on the 10th July.  In addition to dancing and live music, the stalls were filled with displays and exhibitions by local schools and Societies, together with street performance workshops, community information and charity stalls.

City Road centenary celebrations in 2005.

Memories of Growing up in Wellfield Road and Albany Road

The article below was written in 2008 by one of our members, the late Cathie Mabbitt (née O’Connor). It is supplemented by pictures featuring some of the shops mentioned in her reminiscences.

I was born in 1930. We lived behind the off-licence in Wellfield Road (Ed: No15 now occupied by Troy Meza Bar).  I always say that’s why I enjoy a drink.  Our front door was the gate leading into the lane.  Next door was Day’s Ice Cream shop and, further down, the Penylan Bakery where my brother was sent on a Saturday evening for 6 pennyworth (2½ new pence) of cream cakes and I was allowed to lick the cream off the paper bag when he came back.  It was Louis, who lived there, who let me ride his tricycle to Roath Park School when I was 4.

No 15 Wellfield Road was Continental Wine and Spirits in 1972, to the right of Thayers

When I was 5-6 we moved to the flat behind Singer’s Sewing Machine shop in Albany Road, next door to the Misses Bowen’s Wool shop.  Next door to them was the Post Office, then I think five private houses before a few more shops, including Mr Roberts the Jewellers in whose porch we would shelter while waiting for a tramcar. The other side of us was the Music Shop, with usually a grand piano in the window. Opposite us was Percy Thomas the Florist, Cadogan’s the Photographer, A G Meek who are still there, a good Ironmonger’s and The Cabin Sweetshop.  Further up was  “the Direct Grocers, where my Grandfather would sit smoking a pipe until he was served.  The Welcome Newsagents, a Sweet Shop, then Woolworth’s – still in the same place now.  Littlewoods was on the comer of Diana Street.  On the opposite corner to Woolworth’s was either Hopkin Morgan the Bakers or Lipton’s the Grocers.  At the top of the road, taking up the entire block apart from [Hopson’s] the Tobacconists,  was Collins the Drapers, where you went to the department you wanted, sat on a seat at the counter and, when you had made your purchase, your money was sent in a little capsule on a wire across the store to the cashier and your change winged back the same way.  There were lots more shops in Albany Road but these are the ones I remember.

60 Albany Road (Rediffusion) in 1980, Telefusion at No.62 and the Post Office at No.64

In Albany Road we had a porch and a large front door, a wide hall leading into a large living-room with a big pantry in the corner with a large cold slab for keeping everything cool and fresh.  Then a kitchen-scullery and outside a toilet and out-house, where you could light a fire to boil the wash and a large mangle which I don’t think I ever liked using.  We had quite a good sized back garden with a good piece of grass on one side where I could play and, on the other side, vegetables and flowers.  My Irish Grandfather, who lived with us, grew tomatoes.  My brother would be sent out with bucket and spade to collect the droppings from the dray horses and dairy horses.  My Grandfather would water it down and always seemed to be feeding his tomato plants with it as my Mother would be getting the tea, with the kitchen door wide open.  We had a side entrance opening on to Albany Road.  During the day, it was never locked so it was not unusual for my Mother to arrive home to find half-a-dozen of my brother’s friends in the kitchen having tea and biscuits.

1964 Albany Road. Chain Library was at No.84, corner of Alfred Street.

When I was 7, I was sent to St Peter’s School and made friends with Mary from Angus Street and Evelyn from Treharris Street.  We are still friends now.  Summer evenings were spent either in the street, playing all the street games, or else at the ‘Rec’ (Recreation Park) paddling in the stream or climbing down ditches.  We could spend hours over there with a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of pop, quite safe with just an occasional lecture on not to talk to strange men.

Albany Road in 1959 – extract from the Cardiff Directory. Left is south side of the Albany Road, right is the north side

My parents were credit traders, that is they sold clothes, men’s, ladies’ and children’s clothes and household goods.  Customers paid weekly for them.  My Mother had started the business and then, just before I was born, my Father lost his job so started working with her.  They were out every day and in the evenings the customers would come to the house to choose clothes.  Our big front room upstairs was the stockroom and, while waiting their turn, they would sit in the living room having a cup of tea.  It was a struggle for my parents.  Years later, my Mother told me that sometimes, to pay an urgent bill, they would borrow coppers from my money box (I was always the saver in the family) replacing it when they could.  My brother had 6d (six pence) a week pocket money, I had 4d.  Out of his, he bought my Mother a 2d bar of chocolate and I bought her a penny bar.  The other 3d was spent on a pennyworth of sweets and 2d to go to the Globe Cinema on Saturday morning.

The Globe

I was almost 9 when war was declared.  I remember the day for we all listened to Mr Chamberlain’s speech on the radio. We had the radio two years before in time for [King George VI’s] Coronation.  After his speech, I played ball quietly in the garden, wondering what it meant.  At first, life carried on as normal with black-out material lining the curtains and the street lights going out, being taught to use a gas mask and carrying it over my shoulder everywhere.  My parents sold gas mask cases and black-out material.

We had a large cellar. The coal would be delivered through the manhole in the front but then my Mother would sweep it into a tidy pile and the rest of the floor and steps were washed. (Years later, when the Rent Act altered and the new landlord gave us notice to go, all the new small houses in Roath Court Road had been sold but one came back on the market.  There were several people wanting it but the estate agent, remembering our house and how clean the cellar was, thought my Mother deserved it! But I’m going ahead of myself).  When the bombing got heavier, a single bed was put down in the cellar for me to sleep, with chairs for the others.  A neighbour in the top flat above the music shop would come in most nights, waiting for the sirens to go. The Misses Bowen had a Morrison Air Raid Shelter which they used as a dining table, with cushions and blankets underneath.  The houses, I think, had Anderson Shelters.

A.G.Meek before they relocated. Site now occupied by Sainsbury’s

Albany Road and Angus Street had the first bombs in Cardiff.  Most people think it was Canton and Neville Street, but no – it was us.  My Mother was in hospital, she had been in the Infirmary but was now in the [William Nichols Convalescent Home] in  St Mellons so my aunt with her baby daughter had come from Ebbw Vale to look after us.  The sirens had gone but we weren’t paying much attention when there was a huge BANG! and my Grandfather came rushing from the outside toilet with his trousers half-down and there was a crashing of glass as the greenhouse windows  broke.  The bomb had hit the Antique Shop just past Mr Roberts the Jewellers.  They  were Canadian friends of my aunt and their eldest daughter was buried under the rubble and killed.  I think they all went back to Canada ‘til the end of the War In Angus Street, it was two houses and a boy a bit older than me with big dark eyes, very shy, was also killed.

A.G.Meek on corner of Albany Road and Angus Street following the bombing in September 1940

Next morning, my friend called for me as usual for school but when we came home at lunchtime the barricades were up because sightseers had come in dozens to see what had happened.  I remember going up to the policeman to ask to go through the barriers because we lived there and the crowd looking at us with awe.

As the raids increased, Littlewoods had a big fire and St Martin’s Church also went up in smoke. I remember watching both.  Because sleep was disturbed we started school later, first 10 am and then 11 am and home at 12 for dinner!

The tramcars started at 4 am, I think they were later on Sundays.  We were so used to them, it didn’t disturb us but our visitors always woke up.  My brother had a dog, Bubble, part Airedale, who would get on a tramcar in Albany Road, change in town to the one for Pier Head and get off in Louden Square to see my Grandfather who was the park keeper there.  Then he would make the journey in reverse.  I can remember being on the tram with him.

My Mother didn’t like shopping so, before the War, though we had two grocers within a hundred yards, a man used to call every week to take her grocery order. That was how he earned his living. What we needed otherwise, my Grandfather, my brother or myself would get it.  It was this man who advised my Mother to  buy an extra bag of sugar and tea and other dried foods each week, in order to have a  Store in hand when the War came.  My Mother was careful, so we always seemed to have enough and some to share.  One customer was a Slaughterman, so often my Mother arrived home with sweetbreads for my Father’s tea, which I shared.  My uncle worked for Armours the Meat Importers, so he always gave us the turkey for Christmas.

Albany Road looking east. Albany Road School can be seen on the right. The Wellfield Road junction is just beyond the church on the left.

I never liked margarine and never ate it.  When ice cream stopped, we used to buy the cones and imagine the ice cream. When sweets were rationed, I’m sure I must have had my parents’ allocation. I would go to friends in Llandaff every week and come home with eggs and fruit from their vegetable garden.  We must have had a big cheese ration, at one time our favourite tea was our own tomatoes fried with melted cheese on top.  It didn’t look very interesting but it tasted delicious. When I learned to cook, I made marzipan. with soya flour and toffee with condensed milk.  My friend’s father worked on the Docks and one day he came home with a banana, one banana which she took to school and the nuns raffled it for charity!

More photos and links to Albany Road articles on our Albany Road page.


No.60 Albany Road is in the news at the moment as it is currently occupied by squatters protesting against landlords.

60 Albany Road – Oct 2020 – Pic Credit: Google Streetview

Hopson & Son tobacconists, Albany Road

One of the businesses synonymous with Albany Road and no doubt still in the memory of many people who grew up in the Roath area would have been the tobacconists Hopson’s.  It was a lot more than just the tobacconist shop ‘House of Hopson’. It was the headquarters of a wholesale tobacco and confectionary business, Hopson and Son Ltd, the largest wholesale tobacconists in Wales.  Hidden behind the shop frontage of 27 Albany Road was a cigarette warehouse where orders were packed for delivery all over Wales and the West of England area to shops, pubs and clubs.

Albany Road had been a residential street called Merthyr Road when first constructed.  Slowly over the years the houses were converted to shop fronts.  The stretch between Inverness Place and Arabella Street was one of the first to see such a transformation.

Albany Road, Roath, Cardiff in early 1900s

Albany Road, early 1900s. H A Hopson, tobacconists, is the awning, just to the right of the lampost, where the man with the cart is standing. On the left is the bootmaker Stead and Simpson, on the corner of Inverness Place.  On the right is the original St Martin’s Church.

The business began in 1899 as a hairdressing and tobacconists shop. The profit at the end of the first year trading was 16s 1d.  In the 1913 Cardiff Trade Directory the business is described as ‘Hopson H.A – hairdresser, confectioner, newsagent and tobacconist’.   When the company first diversified into supplying cigarettes and tobacco to pubs, clubs and other shops the orders were delivered by bicycle and horse-drawn cart.

H A Hopson shop display

H A Hopson window display with Exmoor Hunt, Biggs cigarettes and De Reszke cigarettes named after Jean de Reszke (1850-1925), a famous Polish opera singer.

The shop had a touch of class about it, fitted out with walnut panelling that had been salvaged from the British Ocean liner RMS Olympic and had wall to wall red carpeting.   The shop also had a kiosk facing onto Albany Road to cater for the smoker in a hurry. In 1967 the shop used to stock almost 200 brands of cigarettes and 300 blends of tobacco.  The warehouse operation turned over 6 million cigarettes a week and had 110 employees.

Hopson, Albany Road, Roath, Cardiff, Hairdressing salon

The interior of the tobacconists shop with the entrance to the gentleman’s hairdresser at the rear.

What better way to get an insight into the history of the business than to look at the family history:

William John Hopson

The entrepreneurial spirit of the Hopson family can be traced back to William John Hopson.  In the 1871 census we find William, then aged just 16, living independently in Hereford and working as a gentleman’s hairdresser.  He was son of William Hopson, a trunkmaker, originally from Sedgeley, Staffordshire. William John Hopson marries Sarah Davis in Hereford when he is 19 and by 1881 has his own hairdressing business in Bedminster, Bristol. Ten years later, in the 1891 census we find he has decided to move to Wales and owns a gentleman’s hairdresser business in Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley.  They have five children, one of whom is Henry Albert Hopson b.1874 in Hereford.

Henry Albert Hopson

Henry Albert Hopson originally worked as a hairdresser in his father’s business in Treorchy.  He marries Katherine Saddler in 1898 in Cardiff.  In August 1899 he opens the gentleman’s hairdresser and tobacconist business at 27 Albany Road, no doubt with his father’s support.  In the 1901 and the 1911 census we find the Hopson family living at the Albany Road address. By 1934, when the business of Hopson & Son Ltd is registered, Henry is living at 13 Southcourt Road.  Henry Hopson passes away in 1936 and the business is passed onto his son Clifford Allison Hopson.

Wood lined Hopson and Son Ltd

The wood-lined Hopson tobacconist shop

Clifford Allison Hopson

Clifford Hopson was born in 1904 at 27 Albany Road.  He trained as a ship’s engineer and worked on vessels in Cardiff docks but gave it up when he was 32 and took over the family business when his father died young.  He expanded the business significantly, both via growth and acquisition.  Like many businesses of the time there were annual staff outings to places of interest such as Torquay, Windsor and Bude.  As well as the outings there was the legendary Christmas Dinner, traditionally held at the Angel Hotel, as a way of saying thank you to the staff.   He died in 1961 aged 57.

House of Hopson


Alan Clifford Hopson

Alan Clifford Hopson was born in 1938 and takes over the reins of the business when he was just 22 years old. After leaving Cardiff High School at 16 his father had trained him up to run the business, sending him around different parts of the organisation and having him work in the packing warehouse. He was sent on courses and even over to Cuba to learn the fineries of cigar making etc. Alan’s father had already been diagnosed with the leukaemia hence the need and urgency to learn the business as his father’s health deteriorated.  When Alan took over the business continued to prosper but eventually in the 1980s external forces such as supermarkets being able to source cigarettes at discount prices from suppliers and the public’s growing awareness of the health issues began to impact trade.  The business went into voluntary liquidation in Nov 1986. The Albany Road shops and warehouse were sold and are now occupied by the Iceland supermarket.

Alan Hopson conducting an interview

A young Alan Hopson being interviewed in the office area

So what went on in that warehouse behind the tobacconist shop?  Early every morning a fleet of Hopson & Son white vans with their gold leaf lettering would load up in the yard before heading up to the valleys and further afield to make their deliveries.  Once they had departed it left room in the yard for the wagons from the cigarette companies to edge their way in through the arched entrance on Arabella Street, testing the driver’s manoeuvring skill to the maximum.  Whilst they went for a celebratory cup of tea an army of employees would speedily unload the wagon with the aid of rollers and neatly stack the boxes.  It’s hard to believe these days that some suppliers transported their cigarettes on flat bed wagons with just tarpaulin tied over the top of their valuable loads.

Back of 27 Albany Road being prepared for Hopson & Son

The yard behind the Albany Road premises being prepared including and entrance in via Arabella Street.

Later in the day the reps would arrive back from their rounds, clutching the orders that needed to be typed up by the office staff upstairs before being sent down to the warehouse for assembly.

Hopson fleet in Cathays Park

The Hopson & Son fleet lined up early one morning in Cathays Park

The Albany Road premises were just one of a number in the Hopson business  There were shops as well as smaller warehouses throughout Wales and nearby areas, including Chester, Haverfordwest, Newtown, Merthyr and Swansea.  Just off Newport Road in Cardiff  was the confectionary warehouse.

Publicity shot outside Hopson & Son, Albany Road, Cardiff

Rothman’s publicity shot with Alan Hopson in the white shirt.

And how do I know all this?  Well, I was fortunate enough to have a holiday job there for many years. It was there that I earned my first wage, £9.47 for a week’s work back in the 1970s, handed to me in a buff coloured packet and tiny wage slip and a national insurance number that has stayed with me all my life. Before I learnt to drive I worked in the warehouse assembling orders, unloading the wagons and running up and down stairs with the orders. After passing my test I was trusted with delivering the orders and filling in for drivers when they were away on their holidays.  It taught me a lot, not just the geography of South Wales.  You may go to school and college to learn the academic stuff but it was doing jobs like this that you learnt your life skills.

The packing room staff at Hopson & Son Albany Road, Cardiff

the packing room staff at Hopson’s on Albany Road

The business at the time was run by Alan Hopson, the third generation of the Hopson family to manage the business. He wasn’t one of those managers to hide away in an office. He would turn his hand to anything that needed doing and lead by example.  Outside work he was just as energised whether it be with youth work at Albany Road Baptist Church,  roadie for the local Unit 4 pop group or charity work with the Cardiff East Rotary Club where among other things he led an initiative to support disabled sports. As if his life wasn’t busy enough already you can add to that being a Director of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. He lived by the motto of ‘Service before Self’.  Alan sadly passed away in 2011, also from leukaemia.  Thank you Alan for teaching me so much.

Hopson deliveris being made

Deliveries being made to Cardiff pubs in the 1980s.

Hopson & Son up for sale, Albany Road, Cardiff

End of an era.  The Albany Road premises up for sale.