Victorian Pillar Boxes of Roath, Splott and Adamsdown.

I find Victorian pillar boxes strangely fascinating.  I think it’s their rugged steadfast look, their apparent determined attitude that the world around them can change as much as it likes but they’re not going anywhere.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 1

Beresford Road / Spring Gardens Place – CF24 1RA (left) and Connaught Road CF24 3PT (right)

I’ve discovered fourteen Victorian pillar boxes in the Roath/Splott/Adamsdown areas and one Victorian post box.  May be there are a few more hidden away?

Roath Victorian Pillar Boxes map

Positions of Victorian Pillar boxes in Roath, Splott and Adamsdown Cardiff marked in red.

I think we should have a minutes silence for the one I think we lost last year when the Splott Road railway bridge was raised for the electrification scheme.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 12

I think this one on Splott Road / Pearl Street has gone (Photo: Google Streetview 2016)

A pillar box can be dated by the royal motif on the front.  The Victorian pillar boxes have a nice VR (Victoria Regina) ensignia.

The history of pillar boxes go back to the 1850s.  For the first twenty years they weren’t red but green.  There also were not cylindrical but hexagonal.  The oldest pillar box in Cardiff is probably the one at St Fagan’s Museum.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 2

Cyfarthfa Street / City Road – CF24 3DR (left) and Habershon Street / Convey Street – CF24 2JZ (right)

All our pillar boxes have the words POST and OFFICE either side of the opening.  This dates them to between 1883 and 1901, the year Queen Victoria died.  That makes sense as that’s when a lot of the streets in the area were constructed.  Look at the bottom of the pillar boxes and you will see who made them.  I think all ours were made at by A Handyside Foundry & Co of Derby & London.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 3

Hinton Street / Singleton Road – CF24 2EU (left & right) with the old Splott library behind.

Just think for a moment what’s been posted in those pillar boxes over the years.  The letters to relatives, those working away or at war, invitations, love letters, job applications and the Victorian postcards – yesterday’s equivalent to social media.   In the days before the telephone the letter was the main form of communication.  Letters dropped into these old pillar boxes over a hundred years ago were beginning a long journey sometimes over land and sea to faraway places.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 4

Howard Gardens / Moira Terrace CF24 0EF (left) and Orbit Street / Newport Road CF24 0YG (right)

One of our Victorian pillar boxes on Ninian Road hit the news earlier this year when it was taken out of commission, apparently for safety concerns as it is being engulfed by a tree.  My photograph from a five years earlier however also shows it out of commission but in the five intervening years the tree certainly appears to have made progress.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 8

Ninian Road / Morlais Street – CF23 5EP (2013 – left & 2018 – right)

Every time I pass the Victorian pillar box on Ty Gwyn Road I have a little smile to myself.  Close to there was an large house called Oldwell, built for John Biggs who owned the South Wales Brewery.  One of John’s six sons, Cecil, married a lady called Edith Box, and guess what they christened their daughter;  Pilar.  She was of course Pilar Biggs rather than Pilar Box but I’m sure the novelty of the Victorian pillar box being placed next to their Cecil’s house must have been an influence.  This is where John the brewer would also have posted letters off to his son Norman, the rugby international, when he was serving in the Boer War.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 5

Priest Road / Newport Road – CF24 1YQ (left) and Ty Gwyn Road / Pen-y-lan Road- CF23 5HT (right)

A tour of the area’s Victorian pillar boxes will also take you to some grand buildings.  One box overlooks the Mansion House and another the old Splott library.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 11

West Grove with the Mansion House behind – would make a nice photo if the tree wasn’t there!

But what of the future?  Another generation or two and the need for post boxes may have disappeared all together as we transfer to electronic communication.  If there is ever one going spare I wouldn’t mind one in my garden.  Then again the Post Office might have something to say about that.  The Ordnance Survey weren’t too happy when I tired to get a redundant trig point installed in the garden.

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 9

Oakfield Street – CF24 3RF in 2013 (left) and after the pranksters visited in 2018 (right)

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 6

Ty’n-y-Coed Place / Inverness Place – CF24 4SP looking sorry for itself (left) and Walker Road / Splott Road- CF24 2DB (right)

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 7

Clifton Street Post Office – CF24 1LY

Cardiff Victorian Post Boxes 10

Not quite in our area but worth including or the backdrop:  Senghennydd Road / Llanbleddian Gardens – – CF24 4YE with the Sherman Theatre behind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to is Roath?

I’m a man who likes to know where he stands.  It wasn’t long after I joined the Roath Local History Society that I started to ask the question ‘Where exactly is Roath?’  Or to use the local vernacular, ‘Where to is Roath?’  It turns out to be a much more complex question than I originally imagined.  The answer to the question varied tremendously and ranged from ‘A large area, bigger than Cardiff itself’ to ‘Roath doesn’t exist any longer’, so I decided to look into it a bit more.

Roath on Council map

Roath on Cardiff Council cycling and walking map – but no boundaries

Back in the twelfth century I get the picture that Cardiff was basically the Castle stuffed full of hungry people who needed feeding, and Roath was their breadbasket…. and their dairy supply and anything else they fancied eating.  The manor house and home farm was believed to be on the site of what is now James Summers Funeral Home on Newport Road.  The mill was in nearby Roath Mill Gardens.

During the twelfth century sometime Roath fragmented into three areas, Roath Tewkesbury, Roath Keynsham and the charmingly named Roath Dogfield. But let’s just look at what those three areas of Roath covered in today’s terms.  Roath Dogfield included most of the town of Cardiff, today’s Roath, parts of Splott, Tremorfa, parts of Cathays, Butetown, Cardiff Bay and portions of Pontcanna, Grangetown, Llanishen and Lisvane.  Roath Keynsham included Pen-y-lan, Cyncoed and significant portions of Pengam, Llanishen, Thornhill and Whitchurch.  The area belonging to Roath Tewkesbury is unclear apart from it including St Margaret’s chapel but looking at it there wasn’t much left of what we now call Cardiff to go around.  You just get the feeling that if there had been a football team in those days it would have been called Roath Rovers rather than Cardiff Town.  It also seems like those guys in Cardiff castle certainly took a lot of feeding.

For anyone keen to grapple yourself with Roath and its early history I can recommend the book written by our vice chairman Jeff Childs, ‘Roath, Splott and Adamsdown – One Thousand Years of History’, as detailed on our publications page.  Alternatively there is a brief history given in The Story of Roath.

Jumping forward some 600 years to the 1700’s and the Parish of Roath has emerged as its own entity and seems to have shrunk.  It encompasses today’s Roath, Penylan as well as Splott, Tremorfa, most of Adamsdown and part of Cathays, and even edges its way into Cyncoed.  The parish boundary of Roath, visible on maps all the way from 1789 up to the 1920  appears not to change.

Copyright: Anne Leaver and Jeff Childs

1840 tithe map of Roath – northern section only (Cardiff Libraries)

So let’s look in a bit more detail where the parish boundary is.  In the west the boundary defined by City Road, Crwys Road and Fairoak Road is easy to pick out.  Going south from City Road the boundary goes down Glossop Road and Meteor Street, cuts across Adamsdown Gardens before picking up Windsor Road and then East Moors Road and straight on into the Bristol Channel.  Overlaying the boundary on a modern map we find that only three quarters of Roath Dock would have been in the parish of Roath whilst Roath Basin would have been outside.

1869 Roath Parish (Map credit: Glamorgan Archives)

Jumping now to the north of the parish we pick the boundary up at the eastern end of Fairoak Road.  The parish boundary cuts north east to Cyncoed Road, up Cyncoed Road for a very short distance before going east, through what was Queen Wood and Well Wood and following Nant Pant-bach brook into the River Rhymney. From then on it’s easy. The parish boundary goes south along the River Rhymney into the Bristol Channel.

The parish of Roath marked on a modern map – well 2003 (Copyright A-Z Map Company)

You’d have thought anyone with an interest in local history would be happy with that.  In a perfect world I would like to push the western boundary just a bit further.  After all what about all that history wrapped up in the Richmond Road and The Parade areas, and how did they manage to get left out of the parish of Roath? Then there is the western part of Adamsdown which includes Howard Gardens etc.  Can’t we argue a case for that too?  And I haven’t mentioned Roath Park Lake yet either which falls outside the parish.  You get the feeling that many places with Roath in the title are not in Roath at all.

So where exactly is the boundary of modern Roath?  Well, if you can tell me where that is you are doing well.  It appears as if I am not the first person to grapple with this slippery question.  Peter Finch in his splendid eloquent way tackles the question in one of his books.  Then there was a project that took a different approach and drew a chalk line around the boundary – theirs included Roath Park Lake.

The Roath boundary as many people would argue it? (Image Credit: The Cashmore Johnson Art Collective Roath Boundary Ramble in 2014)

Surly the Council must know I thought.  Then I discovered that there is no such area as Roath in terms of a council ward any longer, it has been absorbed into Plasnewydd and Pen-y-lan.  In fact looking at the history of the council wards sketched out in the map collection of the Cathays Heritage Library map collection is fascinating.  The Roath boundary seems to change regularly over the years before disappearing entirely.

The 1973-83 council ward boundaries    (Image credit: Cathays Heritage Library)

Current council ward boundaries. What happened to poor Roath? (Image credit: © Andrew Teale)

Fear not folks.  Roath is still here and alive and well.  Pick up a modern Ordnance Survey map, an A-Z and even a Cardiff Council map of cycle routes and alike and Roath/Y Rhath is still there as bold as anything BUT with no boundaries marked.  That’s why I like the old parish map of Roath – I know where I stand with it.  But what is the old map showing me?  Is it the old ecclesiastical parish or the civil parish  of Roath?  Ahhhh – more questions than need an answer!

The name Roath lives on today, here in the form of some street art.

 

Ted Richards

Upcoming Lecture Programme published

Our upcoming Lecture Programme has recently been published and kicks off on Thursday 13th September.  Details of the lectures can be found by clicking on the ‘Programme’ tab in the main menu.

Post_Office_Engineers Crdit - Wiki

Post Office Engineers inspecting Marconi’s telegraph equipment on Flat Holm in 1897 (Wiki)

Some of you who picked up an early print edition of our programme may notice a change.  Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, our original speaker for February 2019 is unable to make it.  Instead we welcome Peter Sampson who will talk on ‘The Story and History of Flat Holm Island’.  Peter’s talk will be especially welcome given that we had in fact been hoping to visit Flat Holm island in June as part of our Summer Visit programme but had to change plans following problems relating to a damaged landing jetty.

Apart from that little glitch our Summer programme of visits ran very well indeed, helped of course by the dry weather we are still experiencing.  We had six trips in total, all of a varied nature.

St_Saviour's_Church,_Cardiff Credit - John Grayson Wiki

St Saviour’s Church and war memorial in Splott (Wiki)

We started at St Saviour’s Church in Splott where the parish priest, Father Phelim O’Hare, kindly gave us a guided tour and pointed out some of the changes made to the church over time.  The church was consecrated in October 1888 and was originally a daughter church of St German’s church in Star Street. St Saviour’s has been remodeled over the years and the nave cleverly converted into a church hall.

 

 

Newport Ship Model - Credit - Ted Richards

The 1:10 scale model of the Newport Ship with the recovered timbers depicted in solid form at the bottom.

 

One of the highlight’s of the Summer programme was an afternoon trip to both Newport and Caerleon.  In Newport we visited the ‘Newport Ship’, the remains of this 35m long medieval vessel were discovered in 2002.  The ship was built in northern Spain and traded mainly between Spain and Portugal and southern Britain carrying cargoes as varied as iron and wine.  It is believed that the ship came to Newport in 1486 for repairs but it toppled over into the mud where it lay for over 500 years.  We were treated to a detailed description of the painstaking work involved in restoring and preserving the ship’s timbers.  We look forward to visiting again when the restoration work is complete.

 

 

Cathays_Library

Cathays Branch and Heritage Library (Wiki)

Closer to home, the Society visited Cathays Branch and Heritage Library.  The library contains a host of resources for anyone interested in local studies in Cardiff.  Enthusiastic library manager Katherine Whittington talked us through their collections and resources including their on-line catalogue that can be searched at home.  I’ve since revisited the library in an attempt to answer that elusive question, ‘Where exactly is Roath?’ More on that in the future may be.

 

Before and after restoration

Highfields Church before and after restoration (Hisotorypoints)

A week after a hastily arranged visit to St Fagans National Museum of History it was time to visit another church, this time Highfields Church in Monthermer Road, Cathays.  There, Tony Cort gave us a tour and detailed talk on the history of the church buildings.  The church was originally Crwys Hall Methodist chapel built in the fashionable Arts and Crafts style and opened in 1900.  In 1906 the Pierce Hall, on the corner of Robert Street, was opened, named after Charles Pierce, a wealthy bachelor and retired magistrate from Bangor, who had donated a lot of the money for the church building.  In 1995 Highfields Church took over the building from what was then Cathays Presbyterian Church of Wales and began an extensive series of refurbishments but maintaining much of the original fabric.

Cyfarthfa Castle. Credit Ted Richards - Small

Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery

For the last trip of the summer we went to Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery in Merthyr Tydfil.   This isn’t a castle at all but the former grand home of the Crawshay  ironmaster family.  Chris, our eloquent guide for the day, gave us a fascinating and entertaining talk on the history of the Crawshay family, the ironworks and the house as well as the museum collection.  The view from the house today is green and picturesque and no doubt looks very different to the Crawshay days when he overlooked his iron works which were one of the largest in the world making him in turn one of the most wealthy industrialists in the world.  Entrance to the museum and art gallery is just £2 whist entrance to the extensive grounds is free of charge.

Looking forward to seeing you at our upcoming lectures.  In the meantime, enjoy the Summer!

Ted Richards