Here is an introduction to local Grangetown history. We hope to add more features and would welcome any stories, articles, memories or photographs. Please email

Houses in Clive Street, built in 1891PART ONE: Here is Grangetown history from the early days to the area's growth in the Victorian age to the first few decades of the 20th century. We hope to add more features and would welcome any stories, articles, memories or photographs. Please email us.

Go to PART TWO for 1930s and Second World War

Go to PART THREE for post-war 1950s and schools memories

We're also developing a PART FOUR - an index of streets, hopefully with reference and census page numbers for those interested in family history. It's a work in progress at the moment but the outline is there. Thanks for those far and wide who make inquiries, we try to assist when time allows.

Thanks to Peter Ranson and the Grangetown Local History Society for their help, especially with photographs and also to those members and others at home and abroad who have added memories and stories. If there are any copyright issues we are unaware of, please let us know and we will gladly give a credit/amend etc. As this section has been growing rapidly and there are more articles to publish, we've divided it up into two sections to make it a little easier to read.

GRANGETOWN LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY:

For those interested in local history, the Grangetown Local History Society meets every month at the Grangetown Library, Havelock Place, on the first Wednesday of month (2.15pm-4.15pm - all welcome - bring photos along if you have them).

The society also publishes popular calendars of historical scenes every Christmas. They normally retail at 2.50, and are available annually from Grangetown library and other local shops.

As well as collecting photographs (it is happy to do copies), tbe society is also recording audio memories from people in Grangetown in an audio history project. It recently received funding from Voluntary Action Cardiff towards purchasing a computer and recording equipment for this purpose. The society is also involved in activities, such as a recent visit to the stacks unit at Cardiff Library and appearing at local history fairs in the area.

The Society has also published in 2009 Old Grangetown Shops and Memories, which is a collection of photos and stories about stores people remember. This 44-page book costs 4.99, (add for mail order in UK 1.50 and Australia and Canada 2.50). The Society thanks local people who have sponsored the publication, as well as J R Freeman. Those who wish to pre-order, email us here or contact chairperson Zena Mabbs on 01446 421674 or email.

Grangetown History Society committee 2009/2010: Zena Mabbs, chair - 01446 421674 or email; Ian Clarke, secretary, Peter Ranson/Ken Lloyd, treasurer; Rita Spinola, vice chair.

There are also two published illustrated books in the Images Of Wales series by Tempus publishing, Grangetown (compiled by Barbara Jones) and Grangetown The Second Collection (compiled by Ian Clarke). Copies can be found in the local library, bookshops and you should be able to find copies on eBay or order via Amazon. There is also a Tales Of Old Grangetown DVD, by Ian Malcolm, which is reviewed below.

'Our grange near the town of Kaerdiff'

Grangetown's oldest surviving building - Grange Farm - is a reminder that both the building and the area which took its name can be traced back 800 years to medieval times.

The Cistercian monks of Margam Abbey (near modern day Port Talbot) established a grange to farm the land in the early 13th century, off what is modern day Clive Street. It was an outpost, and legend has it that they were sent there as penance for drinking and gambling! Moor Grange was reputedly built at some time between 1193 and 1218 and ran to 100 acres. The monks had been granted land at Margam in the mid 12th century, with the abbey founded with the help of Robert, son of King Henry I and by the end of the century Henry Bishop of Llandaff had granted to the abbey all land nearby "in more de Kardif," in return for an annual rent.

According to a short history of Grange Farm, put together from local records in the 1940s by J Cleary Martin, details of the land emerge again in 1329 in the reign of Edward III. Noblemen sitting at a court at Cardiff Castle heard a land dispute involving the Abbot of Margam and the recently departed Lord of Cardiff, Gilbert de Clare, killed at Bannockburn. The abbot had a dispute with Clare over land at Kenfig (near modern day Bridgend) but the judgement in the monks' favour also mentions "the grange on the moor near Kardif."

The Grange of Luquyth (Leckwith) by the end of the 15th century had 400 sheep and 100 cattle and the abbey leased out the farm through Jasper Tudor (Henry VII's brother) to Griffith ap Meuric. The records also showed 7s 1d was paid for taking "17 loads of hay from the abbot's Grange" to the lord in Cardiff.

Lewis ap Richard was the last farmer to lease from the abbey. His agreement from the monks stated - "know ye that we have delivered to Lewis ap Richard, esquire, our grange near the town of Kaerdiff, commonly called More Grange, with the end term of 90 years. " 6 13s and 4d was payable on the feast of the Anunciation, along with 4s a year to the Bishop of Llandaff and two acres of hay to the abbot. Lewis was also responsible "to suitably repair and maintain" the grange, house, sea walls, weirs, ditches and fences.

But with the dissolution of the monastries by Henry VIII, Abbot John of Margam was pensioned off and the farm passed to the Lewis family (of Van, Caerphilly) in 1537. In 1547, Edward Llewelyns was farmer with the same rent Lewis ap Richard had paid. By 1595, rent had dropped to 44 shillings a year, showing the farm had declined somewhat - "messuage (house and outbuildings), one barn, one parcel of land, meadow and pasture called the Graing de Moore."

By 1638, "the manor land they called the Grange Marshes," was 300 acres, each with a yearly value of 4d. It was "bounded by the higher lands of Penarth in the west, the Severne shore on the south, and the River Tave on the east, and the common lands of Leckwith in the north."

Grange Farm in 1890, before most local housing was builtForward a couple of centuries and the land passes onto the Earl of Plymouth and a long association with one family. The Morgans started running the farm for the Plymouth estate in about 1835. In 1851, the tenant farmer was Thomas Morgan, then 39, who had been born at St Fagan's. He lived there with his wife Mary 44, and their four daughters Eleanor, Jane, Ann and Mary and two sons the eldest William, 14, and one-year-old Thomas. They also had a teenage girl servant and 15-year-old agricultural worker living at the farm.

By 1881, we find the 120-acre dairy farm being run by the Morgan's third daughter Ann and husband Samuel Burford. The Grange Dairy provided milk locally, while the farm also kept animals and a coal business. Not long before her death, Doris Burford, who still lived at the farm in 1987 recalled her 78 years born and bred there. As a girl, she got up at 4am to start the milk round, first in a horse and cart, eventually in a van. "It used to be dark getting the horse out of the stable - I was a bit frightened," she recalled to the Echo. "We used to sell the milk straight from the shed - now a garage - until the rules came in that it had to be pasteurised."

"Everyone would come to the house - it was the only one for miles. It used to be the life and soul of the place," said Doris. The farm was taken over by her nephew Peter Farr, who in 1996 made a deal with relatives to make sure the property would stay in the family and its importance to local heritage be preserved. Despite the terraced streets built on its old land, the farm building still survives today, with some original features inside. It is Grade II listed. The Victorian library building, set to be preserved as converted flats in 2008, is a pleasant neighbour.

Full steam ahead for king coal and Cardiff

Cardiff was a fairly insignificant market town until the 19th century. Its population was barely 1,900 - and at the start of the industrial revolution, it was still dwarfed by the iron town of Merthyr Tydfil and copper town Swansea. Under successive Marquesses of Bute, who inherited estates and land, Cardiff's importance grew as its docks and railways were built and it became the world's pre-eminent port for coal for steam ships. The population rapidly grew to 165,000 by 1901, with 20,000 new homes built in the last two decades of the Victorian age.

Rapid growth

The Sloper Road tannery
In the first few decades of the 19th century, Grangetown would have been a few houses but it also had pockets of industry.

The David and Sloper tannery opposte the site of the present Sevenoaks Park (pictured right), a brick yard (Durham-born Samuel Stubbs, the brickyard engineer, lived in the house there with his family in 1861), and a rope works.

There was also the gasworks - the Cardiff Gas Light and Coke Co, which was built in 1863. The company, formed in 1837, expanded from its works off Bute Terrace as the town grew rapidly and it supplied gas lighting as far afield as Penarth, Radyr and Roath.

Much more short-lived was Grangetown Iron Works, which when it was put up for sale in 1873 had a price of 10,000. It had 12 pudding furnaces, four steam boilers, six coke ovens, set in six acres of land, with its own railway sidings. It could produce between 300 to 400 tonnes of finished iron a week. There were no bids at the 1873 auction. It always struggled and had closed down for good by 1881 after numerous changes of ownership.

The railway was a predecessor of today's suburb and along with the river Taff defines its boundary. Some say this enclosure helps modern Grangetown retain something of its old "village" atmosphere.

The village of Lower Grangetown was first to grow (with Clive Street, Holmesdale Street, Kent Street, Worcester St, Amherst, Bromsgrove, Knole, Sevenoaks and Hewell Streets) and was well established between the 1860s and 1880s. The Grange National School opened in 1864.

Auctioneer Thomas Clarke said he first knew Grangetown in 1859 "when it was a dismal swamp and morass, given even the village missionary, the water wagtail and the postman who passed it on his way to the ferry." The scene, however, by 1873 offered a great contrast and he argued it was "capable of great development in the future."

An Estate Act of 1857 had allowed Lady Windsor to mortgage farmland to raise money for new roads and what was regarded as the city's best drainage and sewage system. Long leases on land were sold to a patchwork of builders and speculators to develop new housing for workers. There was originally hope of developing Grangetown as an industrial area, with workers living close by, but this never really took off and it became a commuter area for the Docks. M J Daunton's study of the Windsor records between 1857 and 1875 found that Grangetown's progress was hit by a city-wide housing slump at one point, with the developments taking a long time to break even, with suitable returns for the builders and landlords. He said it was piecemeal progress involving "many hands over many years." Between 1873-74, he lists 10 different builders in Holmesdale Street and Amherst Street alone.

Upper Grangetown - known for years too as Saltmead - was slower to develop. A few streets, chiefly North Street and Thomas Street off Penarth Road, were built by the start of the 1860s and home to many Irish immigrants. The majority of streets, off Cornwall Street and North Clive Street and close to the railway, were constructed for the thousands of migrant workers in the late 1880s and 1890s, as Cardiff expanded.

There was pockets of poverty too, already by the mid to late 1860s. In 1867 in the town's poor relief books, Bridget Foley, 32, with two children, was described as "destitute" and received four shillings and five pence a week, as well as food and milk; Thomas Allen, 40, was widower and father-of-four who was too ill to work - as well as seven shillings a week in relief, he received food, meat and 14 shillings to meet funeral expenses; Mary Collins, 34, had been deserted with five children and was given five shillings a week.

These two distinct areas of Grangetown were linked by Clive Street and crossed by Penarth Road. The old Moors Road (later Clare and Corporation Roads), ran parallel to the Taff although not all the way to Butetown in the mid 1880s.

1871-1878: Disease and distress
A sketch copied from architect plan of houses in Thomas Street in 1878The north of Grangetown in particular had strong Irish and Catholic links. The census of 1871 for Thomas Street shows us a number of Irish immigrants, who'd settled with their families, many of them labourers with work in the developing town. Typical is Thomas Fitzgerald, 45, a labourer with his wife and seven children, all born locally. Neighbours include Ryans and Donovans. There are also some brickmakers - which perhaps would tally with the brickworks in Sloper Road. There's a pub at No 22 - The Penarth Dock run by Christopher Griffith, 37, unusually, a Cardiff native, who lived there with his Swansea-born wife and four young daughters. Another pub, the Grange Inn in Francis Terrace first appears in the '61 census, run by a Daniel Francis. By 1871 it is run by a widow from Durham. Living at 67 Francis Street (it was later renamed Franklen Street in the 1890s, while there is also a Frances Street in Butetown, just to confuse you!) are three families brought up in Cardiff and headed by Irish-born labourers, John Pat Moricy, 45, his wife Mary and their six children, aged from one to 20 - including 14-year-old Patrick, already a labourer; John and Alice Cronin also had six children and James O'Brien and his three young children.

To give us an idea of some of the conditions is this report from September 1873. Eleven householders were summonsed to court for continual overcrowding in their properties. Magistrates were told that the area was thickly populated and typhoid was spreading, with seven cases reported recently. The Western Mail report doesn't name the streets, only giving the area as Upper Grangetown. The censuses puts the families in the Thomas Street, Havelock Street and Rosemary Street areas. Thomas Donahue was found to have 18 people living in his three-bedroomed house, which was deemed fit for six. Cornelius Driscoll had 11 in his similar-sized property. Michael Mahony, his wife and five children shared their house with another seven people - with the home only fit for half that number. The Western Mail reports that the inspector when he visited Patrick Morris' house found three families, of 18 people, with every room used as a bedroom. "The place was so foul I could hardly enter it." Jeremiah Regan had a household of 14, including his wife and eight children.

In November of that year, the Cardiff Sanitary Committee looked at Upper Grangetown, where 59 cases of typhoid were reported, three of them fatal. "This serious outbreak of a dreadful malady is attributed to the filthy state of the habitation of the streets," reported the Mail, and it was decided to apply to the Local Government Board to obtain powers of an urban sanitary authority to make improvements. Grangetown was lying outside Cardiff, and bringing it in as an official suburb would at least improve conditions in terms of sewerage and drainage.

In 1878, with economic problems in the south Wales valleys acute - many mines shut or on short time - and even Cardiff "suffering the pinch of poverty after three years depression", charitable collections, poor relief and soup kitchens were springing up for struggling working families. The Western Mail noted however: "It's somewhat remarkable, however, that no public movement has been set on foot for the relief of the people of Grangetown. Here, the inhabitants seem to be in greater want than in other parts of the borough. The iron works having been closed, many out of work as a natural consequence, and poverty is compelling a number of people to adopt all sorts of measures for obtaining some kind of livelihood."

Later in the year, the paper found several people from Grangetown using the soup kitchen set up on the corner of St Mary Street and Penarth Road..."their wants being of an extreme character. A few casual inquiries in that neighbourhood led the manager (of the soup kitchen, Theophilus Jones) to believe that a vast amount of distress exists there."

I came across quite an interesting account of the end of the 19th century in a St Patrick's parish magazine, dated from 1948. In it, C Sexton recalls seeing in the new century at a special midnight mass. "We were all glad to see the old century go. Times had been hard, there had been strikes and unemployment and in the fall of 1899, we had started the South African war that was to drag on for the next three years.

"In those days we had no electricity, very few houses had gas, the good oil lamps, many of them with beautiful shades were in most use. I saw the first electric car driven from the Clare Road sheds in 1901. In those days, Solly Andrews' horse-driven tram cars and buses were the means of transport...very few houses had baths and hot water."

The article also recalls as well as theatre and music hall in town, locally there were two concerts a year at St Patrick's school rooms - including an Irish concert on St Patrick's Day. Father Brady would also give a lantern lecture on his trips to Rome.

The writer also said it was still a few years before Grangetown library opened, and children relied on teacher Mrs Butler's own small collection of books, including favourites like Jules Verne.

Possibly proving that things come around, writing in 1948 - just after the war years - it was noted: "One thing you do not see in these days, but were seen frequently then were the number of drunken folk about at closing time, Saturday nights and when a big football match was on." Shops were also open until about 8pm every day, and Fridays and Saturdays untl 9, 10 or 11. Pubs were open at 6 or 7 in the morning, until 11pm at night - midnight on Saturdays.

The old Thomas Street was demolished in the 1970s and new housing replaced it. Madras Street disappeared to make way for St Patrick's School.

In 1875, Grangetown became a Cardiff suburb, although there were still fields separating it from the town centre. The two parts of Grange were still distinct - Saltmead in the north, named after the salty marshland; and lower Grange to the south.

The biggest spurt in building came in the 1880s and 1890s and by 1901, the suburb had a population of 17,000 - effectively the same as it is today.

The city's most prominent and grandest builders of the period were Grangetown-based, E Turner and Sons in Havelock Place. As well as homes, schools and churches across Cardiff, they were responsible for City Hall and Civic Centre. The company remained there until 1993, when they moved to Cathedral Road and the offices and cottages were demolished for new housing.

1878: A fire and a firearm

The Cardiff to Penarth railway officially opened this year. And it caused something of a problem one July night in Grangetown, when hot cinders from a passing train were blamed for starting a fire which burnt down half of the rope works, backing onto the track. Messrs Elliott and Sons, which was owned by Alderman J Elliott, made rope out of hemp - just off Penarth Road.

At 3am on the night of the 17th July, a watchman at Grangetown gas works opposite spotted the fire. It had taken hold of the wooden buildings which housed the machinery and store of hemp. The manager, Sunderland-born Samuel Waugh, 37, who lived on site with his wife and three children, was roused and sent his teenage son Robert - later the assistant manager - for the constable. The steam-driven fire engine with nine of the fire brigade had arrived within 20 minutes. The best they could do was save the engine house, new rope shed and the manager's own house. "Whenever the flames burst through, the smell from the burning hemp was so strong that anyone approaching was driven back by the choking sensation coming from the inhalation of smoke," reported the South Wales Daily News. The rope yard, machines and hemp waiting for tarring were destroyed, with just "ironwork bent and broken left" and damage estimated at 1,500. Luckily, they were insured. Cinders had started grass fires on the embankment earlier in the summer. "It is supposed that a hot coal from one of the engines on the Penarth railway had fallen on the roof of the wooden shed and set it on fire."

An incident in September, which attracted local concern, was the tragic death of 15-year-old Irish-born Patrick Shea, the eldest of five children of a Cork labourer who lived in Havelock Place (then Street) in upper Grangetown. He had been playing with two friends when they came across another youth, who had been left looking after a double-barrelled shotgun for a man and his companion. They had left him to pick up a boat so they could reach starlings on the other side of the banks of the River Taff.

It seems the boys made dart for the gun, not thinking it was loaded, and it led to Patrick's friend, a boy known as Desmond, shooting him in the head, as they played with it. "The case attracted considerable interest and the police station was surrounded by a large number of inhabitants" for the inquest in Grangetown, reported the Daily News.

Desmond ran for Sgt Abram Murley, and told the police officer "I fired it..it hit another boy in the neck, he is bleeding very much." When Sgt Murley reached the river, the boy was already dead. Desmond had been a neighbour and play-mate of Patrick's for years. The inquest jury returned a verdict of misadventure, but criticised the older man who left the gun with the boy. They also raised the issue of gun licence laws."If a little effort was made, many cases of evading the law would be discovered and many persons would be found using guns for which they had not possession of a licence."


The Square in Holmesdale Street, with the rather ornate public convenience in the centre - and how the area looks today.
Move your mouse over the old photo for a colour contemporary image

1881: Holmesdale Street - a snapshot

Holmesdale Street to many is the heart of Grangetown, stretching from Grange Gardens to Ferry Road, with a network of terraces off it, with shops and local schools. Back in 1881, who lived there? The census in that year shows a Londoner, Edward Smith ran the Plymouth Hotel at one end of the road with his wife and five children living there, with three servants and a nurse employed. Living nearby were migrant workers from Somerset, Gloucester and other parts - builders, two blacksmiths next door to each other - one who had a game-keeper as the lodger, one Robert Iles, 50. An iron moudler father and son, Thomas Gillard, one of two nearby grocers (and another native of Somerset) - his neighbours, Fred Denham a railway clerk and cab driver Alfred Gough were also from the west country. There were also two green grocers, including Eleanor Wilkie, 60, a widow and mother of two, whose teenage son John was a seaman. At No 48, there was another grocer, Owen Jones, 70, a native of Aberaeron, while at No 78, is the appropriately named William Hook, the butcher, 54, and yet another from Somerset. George Blake ran the Lord Windsor pub at No 47 - which shut a few years ago and is currently facing demolition. There are plenty of dock labourers and coal trimmers (loading coal onto ships) of course. Showing the distances people had travelled, is mariner David King, a native of Sydney, Australia, who had moved from Cornwall with his wife and son, while having a young daughter after their move to Cardiff.

An auction in 1883 saw houses in the street being sold for around 150.

You can find more on the 1881 Census under District 28b, Llandaff.

FEBRUARY 1886 - BURNING EFFIGIES OF POLICEMAN AND HIS LADY
Something of a scandal amused Grangetown residents, after a local policeman became infatuated with the wife of the keeper of the York Club, near the Plymouth pub in Clive Street. The woman in her 30s, and "very dressy" had been linked with a member of the club and had left her husband. The policeman, who had served in Grangetown for three or four years and was recently widowed, then became "much too friendly" with the club keeper's wife. The Western Mail reported that her estranged husband spoke with the constable, who insisted "he would keep her in the defiance of everybody."" His infatuation led to his neglect of duty, which led to an appearence before the watch committee and his resignation. Some of the "young and fun-loving members of the club" took to preparing to burn two effigies of the couple, whose dress was paid for by the husband. The policeman had blue coat and hat and his lover, with a "showy hat and huge feather." A procession marched through lower and upper Grangtown, accompanied by tambourine, cow horn, pans and kettles. A doggerel rhyme and shouts of "We'll hang old...on a sour apple tree." They marched onto Tressilian Terrace, where the couple now lived, and burnt the effigies on waste ground. The procession was repeated on the following Monday evening, although this time a policeman intervened and took the effigy of the wife. He was followed by a crowd down St Mary Street, with the effigy under his arm, and inquiries made "as to the nature of the offence committed by the prisoner, so tenderly taken in charge."

THEN - AND NOW

A few old photos of Grangetown, with how those scenes look today. Moved your mouse over the old photos to see the change.


Clare Road, from Penarth Road and then (below), Penarth Road near the Clare Road junction. The old Penarth Road methodist church on the corner has been replaced by a supermarket after first closing and then being badly damaged by fire in the 1970s.


Corporation Road was a main thoroughfare, although the Butetown end of the road (behind this image) was only developed comparatively late. Today, there are more cars of course and no tramlines.


Another shot of Corporation Road, near the Stockland Street junction.


Clive Street, with the distinctive Clive Buildings (built c1891) on the left. The tramlines have gone of course.


The old Co-Op at No 158 Clare Road dates from around 1904. It is hard to recognise the building now, as the front and roof look very different and it's a snooker club/bar. The Co-Op also eventually extended into No 160 nexr door. Clare Road is still quite a busy shopping street but at the time the Co-Op first appeared, it was bustling with around 70 shops and tradesmen. On either side in 1905 was Philip Tyndall, a cabinet maker - he was a Gloucestershire man, who lived at No 160 with his wife Mary Ann - and Eastman's butchers. At No 59-61, was Harding's brewers and mineral water manufacturers, while the Salvation Army barracks was at No 104.


Penarth Road junction with Paget Street - today it looks pretty much the same, apart from the traffic of course!

JULY 25-26 1886: A bridge too far

Two nights of disturbances in Grangetown made the national news, as workers held a mass demonstration against tolls being introduced on the road linking the suburb with their workplaces in the docks.

It centered on a swing bridge at the Old Sea Lock over the Taff in Penarth Road, linking Grangetown with the docks. It was a private road leased by the Taff Vale Railway Co and which had cost £60,000 to build in 1861.

Suddenly the company wanted to enforce its rights. Working men were to be charged a penny for walking over the bridge, and the toll rose for those with animals or in carriages. The Western Mail reported that almost every resident of Lower Grangetown was against the toll, which would lead to hardship and inconvenience in many cases. By the first day, around 100 householders had already decided to give notice to move, because they could no longer afford to live in the area - and the paper mooted that if this continued, the area would soon become "a deserted village".

By 5.15pm on the toll's first day, feelings were running high and crowds of men, women and children headed towards the toll-gate, as workmen started heading for home from the Docks. When workers returned again that evening, a crowd of about 1,000 gathered again and a group of ship's carpenters took the gate off its hinges and threw it into the river.The Times reported that 1,000 men took part in the protests each day against the railway company. There had been "upmost good humour" for the most part, as 200 police stood by, but then there was direct action. "They rushed at the newly-erected toll gate and tore it from its hinges, throwing the structure in the river." The first gate was replaced the following day, as well as a sentry box for the toll-keeper. The toll house was also damaged. The paper later publishes court reports of three men who were arrested for causing the damage, costing £5 - Cornelius Dacey, William Smith and William Webb, all under 23. Police were also after another man called William Drew, who was heard to shout "Go it boys, that's right, pull it off!" The court was told of "200 armed navvies with iron bars up their sleeves." The three were found guilty and the judge expressed sorrrow at having to sentence them to a month's hard labour.

There were attempts to resolve the issue, before and after the direct action. The matter was raised at a public meeting on July 20th at Clive Hall, chaired by Mr Alderman Jones, in which it was agreed to send a deputation to the company. But the bureaucracy and resistance by the company prevailed. By the time the toll was brought in the following week, some of the 600 men who daily used the bridge decided to take the long route via Penarth Road and Bute Street or catch a tram, rather than pay the toll. They even tried to start a ferry service, costing a halfpenny. After the mini-riot, negotiations continued between borough and company, which eventually led to a commuting of the toll for foot passengers, as the company were unwilling to sell the bridge and road to the corporation. Problems continued and the head at St Patrick's School noted in August a fall in pupil numbers - "many families are leaving the neighbourhood owing to the enforcement of the toll in Lower Grange." The same in November, with the situation having "made a great difference to the attendance of the school, many families having removed in consequence."

But the men won an eventual victory. It led to the corporation building the Clarence Road and James Street swing bridges, and the railway company's bridge was dismantled within 10 years.


Joshua Bann (standing right) and his butcher's shop in Kent Street/Holmesdale Street, about 1902. He opened the shop in 1896 and his son Harry, pictured next to him carried on until 1951. His daughter Lal later married another butcher, Jack Harris of Corporation Road. It's now a private residence.


1895: Grange Gardens

We owe much of today's parks to the Victorians and patronage. Grange Gardens was a gift to Cardiff in 1894 by Lords Bute and Windsor, who owned the land on which it stands. Just over 9,000 square yards belonged to Bute and 5,764 square yards came from the Windsor estate. The bandstand cost £2,374 and was constructed at the same time as one in Victoria Park. However, it was complicated by the fact the wrong foundations were laid for the bandstand in Grangetown. "Grangetown Gardens" were opened on June 19th 1895 by councillor Joseph Ramsdale, the chairman of the parks committee. "A very large number of the inhabitants of Grangetown" gathered for the ceremony and the mayor proposed a toast to Lord Bute and Lord Windsor. Mr D A Burn's Roath brass band entertained with a selection of tunes. There was also a celebratory dinner later.

Above is an Edwardian photo of Grange Gardens with the original bandstand. See the little boy tying his shoelaces before joining his friends in the background. The war memorial was added in 1921 at a cost of £1,000. Was this lad in the photo one of the ones who returned safely? Interestingly, a plaque was added in 2000 in memory of Private W Langstone, whose body was only found nine years after the end of the war and who was missing from the memorial. Surviving members of his family attended the ceremony, along with representatives of many service organisations. A further plaque to later Grangetown war dead has been added.

Colin Gundersen writes: "The bandstand was removed during the war when the park also lost its ornate railings. During the war, events arranged around the 'Holiday at Home' campain running at that period, made large use of the park to include open-air dancing around the base of the old bandstand, the base itself being used for announcements by the "master of ceremonies" if that is not too grand a title, together with moral-boosting speeches by local councillors concerning such matters as the amount collected for the Spitfire Fund.

"Cecil Guy, Gwyneth Lewis and there team used to give demonstrations in Grange Gardens. I am sure Cecil's son will be happy to confirm that after moving home from Clive Street, the family settled in St Fagans Street opposite Grange Council School. The fountain sited midway along the eastern path to Corporation Road, remained until long after the war alongside which at that time was a large resevoir excavated and lined with shuttered concrete for emergency fire fighting use. It was bounded by wood-lath wired fencing which was to be seen all over the city, and in fact all over the UK in those days. It was cheap and quick to erect."

There is now the bowling club building on the right and a children's playground on the left, while the trees are more mature. The gardens celebrated its centenary with new trees, fences, a relaid path and improved children's equipment. The bandstand is a replica of the original, which had been dismantled. The new one cost 324,000 and it was finally opened with a ceremony - and plenty of music - in 2000. A replacement to the drinking fountain, taken away during the war, also returned to the park at the same time.

1891-1901: Saltmead grows up, a little forgotten


This block of cottages in Court Road, along with a grocers and butchers's shop on either corner, were built in 1891-92 by builder David Davies.
The homes and shops opposite were built by WT Ellery four years before.

You have to look hard these days to find evidence that Saltmead as a place, ever existed. Which is a shame, as a case has been made for an area which developed semi-independently from Grangetown. The salt marsh "Saltmede" is mentioned in the Valor Ecclesiasticus (1535). Saltmead Baptist Hall was built in 1901, on the corner of Hereford Srreet and Avoca Place - there is now a modern replacement building. We still have a Saltmead surgery in Clare Road. But the name seems to have dropped out of use and fashion. Local historian Colin Weston made the argument in his short history of Saltmead, which appeared in Grange News in 1981. For him, Saltmead was a "forgotten district of Cardiff". It became known as Upper Grangetown sometime in the 1930s, as Saltmead was swallowed up.

"Unlike Tiger Bay, Saltmead was a real place, yet in many ways it was very similar to the Bay. Many different races settled in Saltmead, men gambled on street corners, police walked around the area in pairs. Here and there some households had donkeys in their back kitchens and pigs in the passage. The roads were very empty in the early days, except for the horse and carts of the milkman, coalman and the local builders."

Saltmead is quite evocatively described in a memories column from an old Cardiff newspaper in 1940, looking back to when the houses were built on former farmland behind Clare Road for 120 each - a bigger yield from the rents of the growing migrant workforce than brought off farming the land. Rents were charged of six shillings a week - nearly a third of the working man's not always regular income. It admits that they could suffer wage loss due to rain or frost and looked elsewhere.

"Old Salt" writes: "In days gone by, owing to the influx of new workers, promised employment in the town and unable to find it, the practice arose of these workers hawking coal with donkey carts. The cart was parked in the roadway at night but the donkey was led through the passage and stabled for the night in the kitchen."

It is not hard to imagine those builders' carts, when you look at how Saltmead quickly developed from the end of the 1880s. It was not without its problems - builders' strikes, short-term housing slump and problems with drainage from building on marshy land.

In July 1890, Stephenson and Alexander (agents still in existence today) held an auction at the Royal Hotel. It included 70 lots of building land for development. These included part of Allerton Street and what is now called Sussex Street (then Staughton Street), and a large tract of land between Somerset Street, Compton Street and Hereford Street, off Court Road, which was offered as either land for industrial development or "small houses...which would easily secure tenancy." The roads and sewers had already been put in place; all was needed was the houses. There were also 35 houses offering rents totalling 189 5s 7d. One house in Dorset Street, commanded a rent of 1 6s and 8d, while a bakehouse on the corner of Staughton Street and Court Road was worth 6, 8s. However, an earlier sale in 1887 had attracted "meagre" interest according to the Western Mail, and proceedings were called to a halt after low prices for some building land in Court Road.

Court Road, as an example, with its late Victorian terraced homes is a fascinating snapshot of this piecemeal development, as well as how people moved to Cardiff.

The road started to be built in the 1880s. At first glance, it's just another terraced street but you quickly notice the different styles to the houses along it, reflecting the numbers of builders involved and the time it took to complete. You can still see the date 1887 over the doorway of Number 8 and this end of the road was mostly developed from this time, but it was slow progress. Building continued off and on over the next eight years. Houses had sculleries and kitchens, and the plans show outside toilets and coalhouses. Some of the corner shops had stables for up to four horses and coach-houses. Typically of the area, a number of different builders were involved: Llewellyn Thomas built more than a dozen homes and shops in Court Road between 1887-88, but others like W T Ellery, David Davies, Alfred Dando and Llewellyn Preece built smaller numbers. The Court Road School also stood where the newer homes off Rutland Street and Courtmead Gardens stand today, opening in 1893.

In 1893, there was a bit of a "stink" over refuse being buried in Grangetown's open spaces, which were the new building sites. There was a difference of opinion between Cardiff's public health official and surveyor. The former believed it was "very undesirable" to make use of "offensive refuse" from elsewhere in the town, but the latter argued "a man might as well object to the use of manure in his garden." He believed that a similar burial of "carefully selected" waste at Ely Common had not been a health hazard. There was nothing wrong with vegetable matter, offal and filth finding its way under the new houses. But it certainly aroused enough controversy to need a public meeting. The "Man About Town" column in the Echo poured scorn on the "pathetic touch" of "indignation of the good people of Grangetown having their new homes built on refuse."

Interestingly, by the early 1890s, local councillor SA Brain had been complaining about the "swamp" in Saltmead, so much so, that he believed he was regarded as a nuisance at the authority. These problems with the new housing by 1898 became known as"Saltmead swamp" scandal. Cardiff's medical officer found drainage and health problems due to some homes being built on clay, with stagnant water under the floors. Dry rot had affected the woodwork, with damp in the walls. The Western Mail criticised the situation, questioning the planning process and builders, saying the "poor were being choked out of existence in the Saltmead swamp."

"The fool who built his house upon the sand was a wise man by comparison with the builders of certain streets in Saltmead." Homes were slowly rotting away, "built on filth" - on pools of stagnant water and ditches. A cattle market would be cleaner, "and a prison brighter, healthier and purer", said the Mail. The reporter found 30 empty houses, boarded up in Stoughton Street, some tenants moving upstairs to live. There were another 14 empty houses in Hereford Street, 16 in Saltmead and Court roads and six in Allerton Street. One town engineer had tried to blame the rough neighbourhood and tenants "knocking about" their homes. But the reporter could see why some would have looked for distractions in the pub and elsewhere due to the "noxiousness" of the place they call 'home.'

The borough inspectors visited houses in Compton Street, Somerset Street and Saltmead Road. As well as finding a list of building and drainage defects, they saw tenants with symptoms of rheumatism. But they also found that not all homes were affected and there was evidence of maltreatment of houses by "careless and indifferent" tenants. Councillors visiting the area found workmen on roofs and in backyards in Court Road and Compton Street, where bricks were simply crumbling away in some houses. One resident complained of rats and how his wife could not keep their children's feet dry indoors in wet weather. Feet sank in the backyard at another home in the street "several inches into the sodden, ill-smelling soil." A floorboard was taken up underneath a house in Court Road and 3ft beneath was a mass of foul-smelling slush. The issue was enough to create concerns for the housing planned for the roads laid out between the Taff and Clare Road - now Taff Mead, which had been used to bury refuse and where children used to swim and skate on ponds.

The censuses of 1891 and 1901 are wonderful tools for giving a snapshot of what Grangetown was like more than a century ago. The area today is profoundly multi-cultural, not just with Asian and African communities, but with eastern European migrants and a population which changes by around a fifth every five years. At the end of the 19th century, the growth of Cardiff as a city was driven not just by the general population rise, but by the migrant workers who moved from rural parts of Wales and England, other towns and cities and Ireland. Saltmead, provided housing for a time when the town's population grew rapidly. The 1891 census shows Court Road partly developed with around 50 homes - many of those living there are workers who had moved from Somerset, Gloucester, Bristol and other rural areas. The Clare Road-side of the terrace seems to include a number of railway workers, but there are trades ranging from blacksmith, butcher, groom to tailor and sawyer. A few homes also took in lodgers and boarders. William Causey, a Devon-born carpenter lived with his wife and four children, all under four - but also took in two boarders from his home town, who were plumbers!

By 1901, the pattern of workers settling in the boom town continues, although by now the whole road has been constructed. Into one of the last block of homes to be built were Devon-born James Youlden, 48, who was a boildermaker's helper (later ship rivetter). He lived with his wife Elizabeth, 42, born in Gloucestershire, and their three sons, aged 13 to 16, all born in Cardiff. The family had moved from nearby Devon Street, where the two youngest were born. The eldest Robert worked as a waiter in the railway rooms. Another Sam later became an engine driver, according to local records, then an electrician/labourer, while son Charles became a teacher and the family moved to Severn Road in Canton. Next door one side lived Charles Davies, 51, a stonemason, and wife Mary, 56, both originally from Ross-on-Wye. Their four children included the eldest, Mary, 21, a "domestic" and son John a butcher's assistant. The other side of the Youldens was tailor Richard Giles and his wife Emily, both 38, orginally from Monmouth and their two children. Other neighbours of the Davies family were John Reed, 40, who was a more recent migrants. He was born in Hong Kong, while his wife Annie, 40, was a Londoner. They had brought their eldest daughter from London, but youngest Olive, six, was born in Cardiff. Living next-door to them is water clerk Godwin Palmer, 33, wife Cicily, 29 and three young children. They were another couple from Monmouth.

Court Road has only one shop today, but at the end of the 19th century - before cars - it was a busy mix of shops and terraced homes. In 1899, according to the Western Mail's Cardiff directory of the time we find five grocers, three butchers, two green grocers, a newsagent, other unnamed shops. Edward Ribton's fried fish shop is now a mid-terrace house a block away from the surviving corner shop.

By 1890, the first few homes had been built on Cornwall Street, Court Road, Allerton Street and Hereford Street, but other streets would follow within a few years. Given the origins of so many of the population, it's not a surprise then that street names like Cornwall, Hereford, Somerset, Monmouth and Devon appeared in this part of upper Grangetown. Other names were eventually changed - Staughton Street became Jubilee Street and Sussex Street, Saltmead Road became Stafford Road.

Some of the street names in other parts of Grangetown owe their connections with the Plymouth estate. As well as St Fagans and Rhydlafar streets, there is also Penhevad, Pentrebane, while Stockland Street is named after a farm north of St Fagans upon where Royalist and Cromwellian troops fought a little-mentioned bloody battle in the Civil War.

 


Foulkes' shoe shop in Holmesdale Street in 1914. Nowadays you can only get sole - it's the Holmesdale Street Fish Bar! Before that in the 1880s, sign-writer Edwin Johns lived there. Pictured right is an advert for the barber's in Clare Road - now a private house.


Two photographs of the Clare Road Laundry at the end of the 19th century. It was next door to Syl Evans' newsagent, at No 56. It has since been converted to a private house. There was still a newsagents next door until recent years, when it became a jewellers. Move your mouse on the right hand photo for how it looks now.

MAY 1893: "That business, pure and simple, appeared to be consuming as much beer as they possibly could"


The Hotel de Marl, as photographed by GH Lawrence of Cardiff.

It was seen as remarkable at the time, and it looks pretty odd even today - but hundreds of Grangetown men got around the Sunday drinking laws in 1893 by founding an open-air "gentlemen's club."

Pits were dug 8ft deep in the clay ground of The Marl to form the walls, carpet was laid out and up to 400 men sat around, as beer was poured freely from casks from 7am until 9pm at night. No alcohol could be officially sold, but members made "donations," with sixpences and pennies collected in old copies of the South Wales Echo. By all accounts, this arrangement was fairly observed and the men were impeccably behaved. As one of the organisers said, likening the activity to the champagne drunk in the private members County Club in Westgate Street: "Them pays as likes and we all drink square."

Police intervened when it started but when the organisers appeared in court, they proved to magistrates they were not breaking the law. This ensured an even bigger crowd for the following Sunday.

The Echo's correspondent joined the group for refreshment at the "Hotel de Marl" on May 7. The reporter found 70 men, seated in a cresent shape in two rows, with the chairman of the gathering, known as "Jeremy." The report says: "He occupied an elevated position on a 4.5 gallon cask of double X beer (empty)...a man called 'Bill', humourous, red-whiskered and as it transpired, strictly law-abiding character, acted as drawer". He filled the men's decanters while they, from time to time, put money into a "tattered" copy of Saturday's Echo. Fresh supplies were brought from a licenced drink wholesalers in nearby Clive Street.

It was estimated a 4.5 gallon cask was consumed every 20 minutes. The reporter, on the edge of the pit, was "good humourly" invited down and offered a glass of beer. "One glass of that beer was enough for anyone who really valued a good draught of the national breweries."

"The civility of the crowd was no less remarkable than their determination to obey, while this consented to be the law and to avoid creating a nuisance and a scandal," said the correspondent. He said there were "no loafers or corner boys," juveniles were ordered away and the majority of the crowd were "working class masons, fitters, engineers, a few dockers and sailors." He added: "If questioned, I should positively deny that the men I saw were idlers, or blackguards or scoundrels of sorts."

The reporter also saw some "well-dressed people," possibly on their way back from church or chapel. Another account reported a group from a theatrical company, who were playing in town.

"They were working men, pure and simple, with a flavour of strong language and stronger tobacco but undeniably wage earners," said the Echo man.

A separate account in the London Pall Mall Budget found people turning up in cabs "laden with kilderkins of beer" from as early as 7am. Fourteen kilderkins (about seven barrels) had been drunk in 10 minutes. Quoting The Morning paper in Cardiff, it was estimated there were 360 "club members" and another 1,500 spectators. "It appears almost incredible that the proceedings should have been so harmoniously conducted as was the case," reports the paper. It found "perfect order" as the various clubs were "engrossed" in emptying 4.5 gallon casks and to remind one another there was not sufficient money on the carpet to pay for the next, "to pay much attention to anything but the business in hand."

It added: "That business, pure and simple, appeared to be the consuming as much beer as they possibly could."

Up to 5pm, more than 80 4.5 gallon casks were emptied, but after retiring for tea, a "roaring trade" was expected in the evening.

After the attention given to the field club, the "disgraceful exhibitions" were attacked by Canon Thompson in a lecture to the YMCA. He appealed for an end to the "club", for the influence it might have on children. By June, Lord Windsor had banned drinking on his property and threatened arrests for trespass for anyone found drinking on the Marl. The drinking club had taken to meeting in other locations near Canton Common and Saltmead, as well as meeting at the Marl just after midnight to avoid police. Another club was reported near the tannery and 40 people were spotted drinking in the open in a field off Clare Road. The Western Mail remarked that while Sunday was usually the quietest day of the week, in Grangetown "it was just the reverse." The scenes taking place were "disgraceful and demoralising."

* There had been an issue for a few years regarding the 1881 Sunday drinking laws in Cardiff. There were claims of hundreds of "shebeens" - illegal drinking dens - in the town. Newspapers speculated that the large Irish community was one factor for their popularity. In 1889, a Royal Commission heard evidence that there were 450 shebeens in the town and that police raids couldn't contain the trade. The Western Mail sent a team of ordinary people under cover to investigate their extent. In Grangetown, they found 40 shebeens with 173 people present - Cardiff-wide it amounted to 3,196 in 457 shebeens. There were around 58 people in one alone in Andrew Terrace, five shebeens in in Hewell Street and Havelock Street, four in Lucknow Street, two each in Saltmead off Cornwall Street, Cornwall Road, Court Road, Hereford Street, Holmesdale Street and Sevenoaks Street, other shebeens in Andrew Terrace, Bishop Street, Courtenay Street, Earl Street, Newport Street, North Street, Oakley Street, Plymouth Street and Redlaver Street. Dr Gibbins, the curate at St Paul's Church in Grangetown said the Sunday closing act had had an "evil effect" on the area, with drinking been driven underground in clubs and where illicit drinking in homes had become "widespread." The inspectors also found illegal drinking in shops, including two fried fish shops and a barbers. Convictions were running at one a day in 1891-92. In February 1892, police raids included houses in Earl Street and Cornwall Street, with 4.5 gallon casks of beer confiscated. In October, police found 17 people drinking at William Jones' house in Dorset Street - 11 of them women. Charles Morgan in Saltmead Road said he had to provide for his family, as he had been in hospital.

Freeman's - a century of cigar-making


The girls from the JR Freeman cigar factory before a picnic trip in the 1920s.

One of Grangetown's longest surviving businesses is JR Freeman's, with more than a century of cigar-making and which has been a major employer of mostly women. Sadly, it is set to disappear in 2009.

Freeman's was founded in Shoreditch, east London by James Rykes Freeman in 1839, but the company's expansion led to it opening a second works in Cardiff at the end of the 19th century. The exact details are sketchy, but a cigar factory under the name of R Kingston & Co - listed as agents for Freeman's - was open at 57 North Clive Street, on the site of Chivers old vinegar works - by early 1903. By 1906, this was known as Freeman's. The business apparently started in the late 19th century in Bridge Street before moving to Grangetown. Although it's not listed in local directories of the time, the company has in its files invoices with the Bridge Street address there..

JR Freeman and Son by this time was run by JR's son George, whose two sons were also in the family business. Tennis-playing, non-smoking and radical Peter Freeman, came to Cardiff, while brother Donald took over the London factory in 1909. Another brother, Ralph, showed his talents by designing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The South Wales Graphic - an Edwardian lifestyle magazine - for April 1903 has a feature on the new segar factory."The scale and style in which Messrs Kingston have started their business are sufficient evnidence that their Cardiff cigar factory is to be no mushroom concern but that is has come to stay," wrote the correspondent.

He was given a guided tour by Mr Williams, the manager, and found "cleanliness, happiness, industry" amongst the workforce on rows of long benches in the cigar-making rooms. The foreman scrutinised the finished product carefully, before the cigars were stored for around a year to mature. The factory had a mess room, including a gas stove and library of books, which could be accessed from the recreation ground. An innovative novelty was an American-made chute-style fire escape for the workers. The 80 women workers were reported to have all successfully drilled through the cork-screw shaped escape, to the satisfaction of the head constable. "It is designed more particularly for the safety of the female employees, amongst whom there is always a tendency to faint at critical moments, " commented the Graphic correspondent. Incidentally, an earlier edition of the publication carried an advert for Kingston's and Freeman's brand of cigar, Freeman's Flying Horse, which would set you back 3d in 1903 - or five for a shilling.

Peter Freeman apparently came up with the brand name for one of the company's best sellers after walking through Cardiff and seeing a billboard for a music hall act called "The Little Mannikins." The Manikin small cigar became a huge seller, as the products became popular beyond the smoke-filled rooms of higher society. A new factory on the site was built from 1914, and was known for its excellent social and welfare facilities, and finished in 1919. The plant was producing 25 million cigars a year by the 1920s. Freeman, meanwhile stepped down in 1931 and became a colourful Labour MP for Newport. Donald's two sons Robert and John took over the business, but after the war, in need of investment, the company was taken over by the Gallahers cigarette company (1947). Freeman's by this time was producing 70 million cigars a year. The popular Hamlet brand was made from 1955 and by 1961, the company moved to a bigger factory on the edge of Grangetown in Penarth Road, while opening another factory in Port Talbot to add to the one in London. The old Freeman site is now home to an automotive parts seller. The group was eventually taken over by a Japanese tobacco giant. Sadly, Freeman's closure was announced in September 2007 - set for 2009 - blamed on falling sales and with work due to move to Northern Ireland. A total of 184 jobs are being lost and will bring to an end 106 years of cigar-making in Grangetown.

More on Freeman's history here

1899-1912: Distress and disease

Of all districts in Cardiff, Grangetown had the highest number of people classed as paupers, who were granted poor relief by the Cardiff Union. There were two types - those, mostly men, who were in the workhouse (the old St David's hospital site in Cowbridge Road) and the others, mostly women, who lived in the community as "outdoor paupers" but were granted a few shillings a week to live on, or payment in kind in the form of food, boots or medical expenses. Their experiences, as listed in the Cardiff poor relief books, show a myriad number of maladies and misfortune. There is simple old age, widowhood and infirmity, people who have lost limbs or are blind, others succumb to phthisis (better known as tuberculosis), bronchitis or are senile. Others have been "deserted" or their husbands are "at sea" or "in prison". Others are simply classed as destitute.

Few streets in Grangetown escape unscathed. At the end of the century, Grangetown has a list of 195 families receiving "outdoor" relief. Across the town there were a total of 140,000 days relief paid out, with nearly 24,000 in Grangetown. This list of families steadily rises past the 300 mark by 1906 to a peak of 330 in 1911 - a total of 838 adults and children out of 13,291 in the town.

In 1906, for example, across Cardiff, there were 11,798 people receiving "outdoor" relief, with 709 of them (at its highest 311 families) in Grangetown, broken down as 91 men, 273 women and 345 children. Admittedly, Adamsdown and Splott at this time were counted as separate districts, which if combined would have seen 964 people classed as paupers in the community. In addition, 1,342 men, 729 women and 683 children in Cardiff were receiving workhouse relief, with another 4,425 people classed as vagrants.

* If you want to view the poor books for yourself, the volumes are kept in the local studies section of Cardiff Central Library.

Infant mortality was an issue of real concern at the end of the 19th, start of the 20th century. There had been improvements in sanitary conditions, the start of vaccination but the numbers of children, dying of malnourishment for instance, had actually gone up in urban areas at the turn of the century. To compare, today in Wales the average infant mortality is five deaths per 1,000 births - in 1902 in major towns it was 146 deaths per 1,000. That was around 150,000 babies dying a year. It was worse in the large northern towns and cities, especially where women went out to work - they could be back in factories and mills a month after giving birth. In Cardiff, health officials prided themselves that the death rate was the lowest of all towns of a similar size, and half that of places like Liverpool and Manchester.

If you look at Grangetown, it did show up as a pocket for deaths in diseases like diphtheria, compared to other parts of the town. Diarrhoea was also a killer - especially in hot summer months - in the days before fridges - cases rose 70% in the first few years of the new century.

In 1900, in one three month period in Cardiff there were 611 deaths - of these, 212 were babies under one and 276 were children aged between 18 months and five years - only 81 were deaths of people over 65. (Broken down there were 62 diarrhoea deaths and 21 from diphtheria; other causes were whooping cough, scarlet fever and typhoid) Grangetown's death rate was 15.9 per 1,000 compared to a Cardiff average of 12.5.

There were studies, inevitably, into the causes. Some dismissed arguments over poverty, claiming bread and meat were cheaper and wages were higher. Some of the health arguments are familiar to us today - issues like breast feeding, while there was criticism of diet and the basic milk substitute products of the day. The conclusions, which did lead to improvements within a few years, were that women needed more health and nutritional care while they were pregnant - and again after they had given birth.

In Cardiff, they had a public meeting in 1905 to address the issue of underfed children in the town's schools - so there were issues of nutrition for some children who were older.


Another of Grangetown's fantastic late Victorian buildings, long since disappeared. The Grangetown Forward Movement mission hall was built in 1895 on the corner of Paget Street and Corporation Road. It closed in the 1960s, was demolished in 1968 and the site later became an office equipment store and is now a Tesco store. The Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement was set up in Cardiff in 1891 and established a number of Christian missions around the town, in which chapel members provided meals to children from poor famiilies, as well as Sunday schools. The Grangetown mission started off in a tent in 1893, before being replaced by an iron building. This brick replacement cost £3,352 to build and typically was rather too grand - and expensive - an undertaking . For example, a bazaar was held in 1899 towards trying to raise money towards an outstanding £2,000 debt on the buliding. The movement was started by Rev Dr John Pugh, who left his post at the Clifton Street chapel in Roath. By 1894, four centres in Cardiff and 15 more outside had been established. Five years later, it had 20,000 members, with 35 centres across Wales, one in London with hopes of more to follow in Manchester and Liverpool.

JANUARY 12 1895: Ice tragedy for local rugby star

This particular sad story illustrates something of what it was like in what is now the Taff Mead area, before Merches Gardens, Hafod and Mardy Streets were built at the end of the century. As well as being an area for dumping some of the town's refuse, there were also brick ponds between the River Taff and Clare Road. These ponds seemed quite large, and were popular with townspeople for recreation. They were on privately owned land, leased by a Mrs Jones of Francis Street (now Franklen Street) who would charge a 3d toll for entry.

In winter, when they froze over, the ponds were popular with skaters. On this particular Saturday, tragedy struck involving a well-known local rugby player. "Dick" Davies (left) was 26 and was a "dashing forward" for Cardiff football club. On this particular weekend, he couldn't join his twin brother William and the rest of the squad because of an ear injury. They had travelled all the way north for a match at South Shields. Dick instead, visiting his mother and sister in Allerton Street, joined up to 300 other people skating. He was one of half a dozen men who went through thin ice, as it grew dark, 10ft from the bank and left struggling in 12ft deep water. Poles from a building shelter were thrown across the pond for the men to reach. Spectators used planks and linked hands to try to reach them.

The Western Mail reports how Dick "struggled manfully" and was seen trying to remove his coat - which onlookers say may have entangled him. But he was too far away and disappeared before assistance could reach him. Peter Lynch (101 Clare Road) recovered his body half an hour later and it was taken to the mortuary to be identified by his mother and sister. Two other lives were saved by a Norwegian sailor, George Jacobsen. E J Humphreys, from Adamsdown was rescued after grabbing hold of a plank. "They laid me on the bank and started pumping me, they thought I was passed recovery," recalled Mr Humphreys, a non-swimmer. He was taken to the Neville Hotel, where he was given clothing and refreshments by the landlord Mr Gillard.

Dick was employed by the Barry Railway Company as a plumber and he lived with his brother-in-law Frank, an engine driver, in Barry. Dick had briefly left Cardiff to work in Huddersfield during a builders' strike and was selected for the town's team. "A genial young fellow, liked by everyone" he was due to be married in the summer to Prudence Goodhall. His body was taken to his mother's house at 19 Allerton Street. She had been making his tea when he drowned and cried repeatedly "if only he had gone to Shields" when she heard the news. The sad news was telegraphed to Tyneside and Charlie Arthur, Cardiff rugby club's secretary, who relayed the news to Dick's brother and the team. A F Hill, captain of Cardiff, led the funeral procession on the Wednesday from Allerton Street, swelled by members of other local rugby and cycling clubs. The pall-bearers were four members of the Cardiff team. A special train had carried 250 of his work colleagues from Barry.

* An earlier newspaper report from 1893, comparing skating ponds across Cardiff, called another 3ft deep pond off Ferry Road at the Grangetown Brick Works, "the finest piece of ice in the town." A small charge covered the hire of skates and you could have a coffee from a cottage next to the pond. There was also a Dumballs pond, off Penarth Road, "frequented by people whose company was anything but congenial."

Grangetown's missing streets


Here's a photo dated from about the turn of the century, in Lower Grangetown. It shows Margaret Saddler standing outside her son Fred's shaving saloon - near the junction of Worcester Street and Oakley Street. She would have been in her early 50s at the time this was taken, her son Fred around 20. Father Edwin was a sailor. These are two of the "disappearing" terraces, which were replaced by modern housing and an OAP complex. The shop was still a hairdresser's in the late 1920s.

Other streets which have gone are Madras Street (off Clive Street), which made way for St Patrick's School. Hewell Street (above in 1937) and its 70 homes also made way for a new school and modern housing in the 1970s, after standing for a century.

FEBRUARY 1904: Unsolved and mysterious murder in Saltmead

She was found dead in bed, with a rope around her neck and a huge puzzle about not only why she died and who killed her, but what her real story was. The body of Harriett Stacey, 50, was found on February 14th 1904, around a week after she was strangled, in the front bedroom of her house at 41 Saltmead Road (since renamed Stafford Road and near the junction with Cornwall Street). She was strongly suspected at the time to be working as a prostitute, but there also existed at the time a notorious diary, which she kept and was deemed too scandalous to be detailed at her inquest or divulged in the newspapers, which hinted at clues to her sexual appetites and deviances.

She was a mother-of-six, originally from Market Drayton, Shropshire, who via Brecon had come to south Wales from Hereford and a marriage to engine driver husband John Stacey. After an affair with the couple's lodger, a sewing machine salesman, she came to live in Cardiff a few years before. At the time of her death, she was living with a man called Robert England, a Dutch marine engineer who had left on a voyage in January and was still at sea when she was killed. Neighbours thought he was her husband and she was also known as "Kate Stacey" or "Kate England".

According to the South Wales Daily News reports of her "foul murder," she was last seen alive over the back garden wall by her neighbours at No 39, Thomas Williams and his wife on February 7th, a week before. But the initial suspect, the man who discovered her body, was a William Henry Warren, a widower from East Moors, who visited her regularly. Neighbours thought he was her brother but, as he told the inquest, "draw your own conclusions" when he refused to deny he was a paying customer of Harriett's.

The newspaper said she had "many and frequent visits"..."in most part from the seafaring class," and "at all hours of the night." In a darkly comic twist, she kept her door key on a piece of string from the letter box for convenience because her poor hearing meant callers frequently had to bang hard on the door to be heard. Warren, who had called with a loaf of bread, was worried when he failed to rouse her, and suspicions grew when she was not seen, the blinds remained drawn and washing undone. Warren found he could not enter the house in the usual way and filed down his own key to gain entrance before taking a matchlight and making the grim discovery in her bedroom. The police and surgeon found her in a nightdress, a rope around her neck, loosely tied to the bottom of the bedstead. She had been strangled and the surgeon concluded it had been expertly done and she would have died instantly.

Her estranged husband John was at the inquest, when he questioned Warren about his relationship to her. Mr Stacey claimed not to have seen his wife for two years. Although at least one of her grown up daughters lived in Cardiff too, they were apparently discouraged from visits by their mother.

Harriett Stacey was believed to have been planning to leave Cardiff and had bought a trunk from her neighbour, had 40 in her account - which confirmed a local view that she was "never in want of a quid." She was known to be a regular visitor to LondonThere had certainly been a search of her possessions by whoever killed her, her purses were empty although nothing was obviously missing and the next door neighbour belatedly recalled the sound of what might have been chopping wood from a fire coming from inside the house late one night in the days before she was found.

Her diary is referred to by the newspaper, as being a journal in which she kept record of money coming in and out but also "all sorts of peculiar entries....of a remarkable character and are of such a character they cannot be disclosed." There is a hint in the report of the inquest that after a "crisis incidental to womanhood" may have led to a "moral looseness" and the diary entries reflected a "depravity of the mind of the worst type."

* Mark Isaacs details the case in his excellent Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths In Cardiff (12.99, Pen & Sword) and speculates that possibly Harriett was involved in erotic practices in which her death could even have been accidental, with the "killer" only trying to get rid of traces of himself.

Churches and schools

St Paul's Church in Grangetown was conscecrated by the Bishop of Llandaff in 1890. It was built on an acre of land given five years earlier by Lord Windsor, who also donated 4,000 to build the church's 75ft-long knave. The building was aimed at accommodating a congretation of 600. The congegration initially came under the parish of St John's in Canton and first met in Vanstone's Loft, over a stable in North Street. When the Grangetown National School (renamed St Paul's Church-in-Wales Primary in 1963) opened in Bromsgrove Street in 1864, the Sunday services moved there. In 1879, Lady Mary Windsor Clive had given 500 for the building of the Iron Mission Church, known as "The Iron Room". It was here that a service was held in March 1889, ahead of the laying of a foundation stone by Lord Windsor. Around 200 then sat down to lunch at the school. As for the school, "the Nash" moved to a new building in June 1974 and the old National School building in Clive Street was demolished. St Dyfrig and Samson's church dates from 1927.

St Patrick's RC School opened in north Grangetown in 1873, (with the chapel opening in 1882), to serve an estimated 500 Grangetown catholics and 100 pupils. Classes had been held from the 1860s in a small cottage in Havelock Place, followed by "The Brickyard School", opened by a pioneer of Catholic education in the town, Father Fortunatus Signini. He had arrived in Cardiff in 1854, moving to St Peter's in Roath with the ambition of spreading Catholic schools across the town. The centenary history of the school, with extracts from its log books - reflects the period in Grangetown. Residents in nearby Thomas Street, still semi-rural, hung out their washing "on the hedges and bushes," and children had to cross ditches and streams to reach school. Ilnesses like scarlet fever and measles could take their toll - three pupils died of the former in one month in 1876. These were the days before free schooling although the inspector's reports were good.

An extract from the log from 1884 gives a flavour of the time: "It is impossible to get the children to school. The mothers complain of the roads and the bad weather..it is painful to see some poor little infants with bad boots trudging through the mud. Even those who are well shod get wet feet. Another reason for the poor attendance is that the illness that is always prevalent in damp weather. Many are suffering from bad coughs, bronchitis, sore eyes, earache and sore throats. The absentees are chiefly the younger children, who as a rule, leave school in the winter months."

There were other distractions too. The school head noticed in 1874 that attendances fell off from April until October, as some pupils took up work at the brick works next door. Helping to supplement the family's income could be a necessity.

As for St Patrick's RC Church, before the permanent building was opened, mass was celebrated in people's homes and even at the Irish pub, the London Style Inn in Lucknow Street. The first church building was opened in 1884 next to the school on St Patrick's Day. The Bishop of Newport celebrated a high mass, with various clergy officiating. The building, seating up to 500 people, cost £1,200 to build - it was 70ft by 28ft, in the Early English style by architect John J Hurley and builders Richardson and Trick. The chancel and baptistry was omitted due to lack of funds. The choir gallery had underneath the infants school, with two large classrooms, separated from the church by shutters. A second site was eventually found at Grange Gardens which eventually led to the current church opening on St Patrick's Day in 1930. St Patrick's Memorial Hall, close to the school, opened in 1920.

Grangetown Baptist Church opened in Clive Street in 1865 and is one of Grangetown's oldest surviving buildings. An adjoining school was later demolished for a housing development. The Ebenezer chapel in Corporation Road dates from 1899.

Court Road School was another Victorian school, which was opened on 19 August 1893 by the mayor, W E Vaughan, after considerable delay due to a building strike. The new board school was much needed in the growing area of Saltmead and Mr Vaughan commented at the opening ceremony in one of the classrooms that every child should be educated, whether their parents could afford to pay or not. The school catered for 380 girls on the ground floor - with class sizes of 70 and 60! The 380 boys were taught upstairs. There was also an infants school block looking towards the railway, with room for another 468 pupils. The main entrance was off Rutland Street. A report on its opening in the Western Mail commented on its design, allowing light and ventilation, and fittings which gave "an appearence of warmth and cheerfulness." It was built by the prominent local builders E Turner for a cost of 11,703 and designed by architects Jones, Richards and Budgen, although Mr Jones did not live to see the opening. It was later renamed Courtmead Primary School, eventually closing in 1969 and demolished a year later. New housing was built on part of the site in Rutland Street and a new community garden opened in 2006 after part of the site was left as wasteground for 35 years.

Pictured above is Grangetown Council School in 1904-1905 and the boy's rugby team. The school was founded in Bromsgrove Street in 1884, with spaces for 1,044 pupils. It was one of five new schools opening across town to accommodate the growing population. The school board speculated in 1884 that there were 18,400 children of a school age in the town, but 2,284 were "at large without any education at all." Photo: Grangetown History Society/Grangetown Primary School.

Ninian Park School opened in 1900 as Virgil Street Board School, before being renamed with the opening of nearby Ninian Park and the home of Cardiff City Football Club. During World War One it became a hospital for servicemen. During this time, pupils travelled to Court Road School for lessons in the morning, while the host school's children had their classes in the afternoon. More than 30 servicemen died at the school "hospital". The school was damaged during the air raid in January 1941. In 1948, for 20 years, the school was a secondary school until the new Fitzalan School opened and it reverted to being a primary. In 1949 the first Welsh medium class opened in Glamorgan county within the school. The school celebrated its centenary in 2000 with a Victorian fayre and exhibition. There's an excellent history and photos on the school's website

Grangetown Library
The old Grangetown Library on the corner of Stockland Street and Clive Street

When SA Brain meant books not just beer

The name "SA Brain" is well known in Cardiff as the name of a pint of beer, after the brewer of the same name.

The eponymous Samuel Arthur Brain, as well as being co-founder of the brewery in 1882, was also a Conservative councillor for Grangetown from 1885 and played a crucial role in founding the area's library.

Councillor Brain took a keen interest in the education of the area's population. He personally helped to support a reading room in Clive Street. As chairman of the town's branch library committee, in 1901 he oversaw the opening of a number of lending libraries in Cardiff. The second of six to open, on September 15th, was the one on the opposite side of the road to the old reading room.

Designed by EM Bruce-Vaughan, the red-brick building was noted for its natural light and ventilation and regarded as a model likely to be "widely adopted." It was built by contractors D Thomas and Sons for a cost of £3,501 including freehold.

It appears Mr Brain helped pay for 3,000 of the 5,000 books in the library, chosen by the chief librarian Mr Ballinger. Previously, he had "privately subscribed heavily" to supplement the grant from the rates to maintain the reading room. But the Cardiff Weekly Times reported that he made clear that "the inhabitants of Grangetown were not to associate charity with the library, it was their own, bought out of the public purse." The six branches, which also included Splott, Canton, Roath, Docks and Cathays, were to "place sound literature within the reach of all."

Mr Brain, in the absence of the mayor, opened the library by applying for membership and borrowing its first book. He then received a golden key in return and treated the guests to lunch.

Grangetown Library remained in use until September 2006, when the service moved from the corner of Stockland Street and Clive Street to a new building in Havelock Place. The building, after local campaigning, was saved from demolition and it is being sensitively converted into flats.

Time, gentlemen! Grangetown's disappearing pubs


The landlord of The Grange, Mr Pritchard, in the early part of the 20th century. And a photo of the pub from the 1990s.

In 2010, there were just three pubs currently open in Grangetown. At the turn of the 20th century, there were 10. Let's start with the trio still open:

The Grange Hotel in Penarth Road back in 1901 was run by John M Pritchard (pictured above left, centre), then 40, who lived there with his wife Ellen, 27, originally from Swansea. His son Edgar, 18, was a plumber and there were two daughters Winifred, 11, and one-year-old May. Also living on the premises was book-keeper Kate Jenkins, a Irish-born widow, 39, barmaid Rose Bernard, 24, servant Emily Brooks, 23, and Mr Pritchard's cousin Ralph, 16, a sign-writer from Monmouth. The Pritchards lived there until the 1920s. Part of the pub's present-day lounge used to be a butcher's shop.


The Neville pub in around 1910 - and then 98 years later, very much in colour, as the Grangetown carnival passes by.

The Neville in Allerton Street, in 2010 was put up for sale, with a serious question mark as to its future. The pub dates from September 1889, started life as the Saltmead Hotel when it was built for the Hancock's Brewery, before its change of name within about a year. In 1901, it was run by Devonian John Gillard, 57, assisted by his son George, 20. His wife Annie, 51, looked after their other five children - although the two eldest girls were an apprentice milliner and dressmaker (so much for the myth that women didn't go out to work..! You can easily find women who worked as laundry workers in this area too). The pub by the time of the 1891 census, run by a Bristol man, who lived there with his wife and six children. It had a bar, tap room, saloon bar, and two jug and bottle compartments. It had seven bedrooms but no rooms recorded for guests.

The Neville became the centre of an emergency in January 1895, when a well-known local rugby player drowned and two other men were rescued while falling through the ice skating on the frozen ponds the other side of Clare Road. Mr Gillard looked after the injured. (See above). In 1911, it was run by Surrey-born Henry Haynes, 47, and his wife Elizabeth, with five others living in to help run the pub.

Down the road in Cornwall Street is The Cornwall (House) Hotel - which first opened its doors in September 1894. It also seems to have tried to take the name Saltmead Hotel initially when it was first built for £2,000 in 1893, with a large club room, four public rooms, bathroom "and every convenience". It didn't initially get a licence, although there was demand for it, given the numbers in the rapidly growing Saltmead area. Evidence to the (unsuccessful) licence hearing was that in 1885 there were no houses in the area, but by 1893 there were 786 with an estimated population of 4,716 and "a great many houses were in the course of erection." Giving evidence, a Joseph Hardy of Hereford Street bemoaned the fact that on Saturday nights in the crowded Neville Hotel down the road "there was no time and not enough room" to fill jars with beer "for the Sunday consumption." It was put that the pub was needed to combat the illegal drinking dens, the shebeens in the area. By 1901, it was run by another Devon-born man, Joseph Martin, 32, his wife Emma, 34, who had recently moved to Cardiff from London with their young family and took over the licence in 1898. Also living at the pub in 1901 was an Irish housekeeper, a widow, and two barmaids (who also spoke Welsh) from Maesteg and Taibach. As well as family accommodation on the first floor, there were four bedrooms upstairs - three for the use of travellers. The licence had transferred the following year. The pub in 1902 had two bars, a dining room and "jug and bottle" compartments. In 1911, it was run by James White, 50, his second wife Laura and his 22-year-old daughter, all originally from Bath. They had four servants living in helping to run the place. The old story about this pub is that it is haunted by Will The Pig, the father of an old landlord who died in the lounge. The Cornwall today is open-plan with photos and memorabilia relating to the HMS Cornwall ship, with Cardiff connections.


Now those no longer with us:

Pictured above is The Cork Club's picnic day out in 1919, outside The London Style Inn, which stood opposite St Patrick's church hall and had strong Irish links. Before the permanent church was built, it was also often used for Catholic services. It was at No 1 Lucknow Street, at the back of Havelock Place and Madras Street - both street and pub disappeared for the grounds of the modern-day St Patrick's school. I presumed the "Cork Club" was purely connected with the area's Irish community. But it was a "brotherhood", with a set of rules centred around all members having to carry a cork with them - if they were unable to produce one at the request of a member, they were asked to pay into the fund, which went to charity! "Cork Club" rules also included addressing members as "Brother." In 1881, the pub was run by Abraham Brown, 59, a Cornish carpenter who lived there with his wife and six children. He had worked as a ship's carpenter in the docks since the 1860s and took over a pub in Sophia Street in the 1870s.


Another club outing in 1946, outside the Lord Windsor pub, which isn't there any more.


Turner's House on the embankment, and then in the change photo (left), when it was converted into a public house; the photo on the right is of the new flats being built in its place in 2009. Cadw did not believe the building was worth preserving because of the changes made in 1974 - but it still seems sad to see this distinctive building disappear, especially as it was once the house of a man behind some of the city's most beautiful structures.

Inn On The River The empty Inn On The River, hit by arson attacks in June 2006, was demolished in September 2008 and a new flats development has replaced it. Its history is only comparatively fleeting as a pub but it was an interesting landmark all the same.

At one time it was a popular venue for blues, rock and jazz bands. The association's plans include one, two and three bedroom apartments.

The inn started life as a town house owned by William Turner - part of the E Turner and Sons building company, which was based in Havelock Place - and included a tennis court before being turned into a pub in 1974 by his grandson. Turners was founded in 1885 by Ephraim Turner, 43, a Herefordshire-born mason who had settled with his wife Anne in Merthyr Tydfil. With two of his sons James and William, the company became associated with building Cardiff's finest Edwardian civic buildings, including City Hall (1905), the law courts, the main University College building (1909), as well as the Coal Exchange (1911), the David Morgan store and the Guildhall in Swansea. Ephraim moved his family to Jubilee Terrace in Penarth Road, when the company was first founded, before he and James moved to Roath Park. Ephraim died in 1911 but the family continued to be involved in the business up to the present day, although it has been taken over by a larger firm. See also Blitz and Blight

The Plymouth, which was thought to be Grangetown's oldest pub, was demolished in November 2008. Opening in September 1847, on the corner of Clive Street and Holmesdale Street,. It had a bar, tap room and smoke room, two jug and bottle compartments and nine rooms for travellers in its hey day.

It was a landmark pub as Grangetown grew up around it. The hotel was also host to meetings and dinners in Victorian times, ranging from organisations and fellowships like the Foresters and the Oddfellows, as well as the Grangetown Primrose League, the Grange Estate Tenants and until their first club was built opposite, Grangetown Conservative Association. Inquests were also held here at times. Sadly, it was empty for several years before its demolition and the site is set for a flats development.

The Bird In The Hand in Bromsgrove Street, which closed in 1995 and was demolished for development. It had two bars, smoke room and two jug and bottle compartments. The licence in 1898 stated that as well as selling liquor, the pub also provided "ordinary refreshments (cold) and Bovril!" The lovely picture above is of Ken Lloyd, a member of Grangetown History Society, as a boy outside the pub in 1931, while next to it is a photo when it was boarded up before demolition. At one time the pub was run by a landlord called Mr Clark, who was related to the singer Petula Clark.

Other pubs no longer around are the Penarth Dock at 35 Thomas Street (Grangetown-born Paul Flynn MP writes of his mother being the landlord's daughter and growing up in the "melting pot"). The pub was a short stagger from the Baroness Windsor. There was a bar, smoke room, tap room, a quite large club room and a jug and bottle compartment. The Forge Hotel/Inn in Oakley Street (pictured above), which is thought to have opened in the 1880s. Its building may date from the 1860s. The pub and terrace around it was demolished in the 1970s, which these photos date from. It had two bars, a smoke room and two jug and bottle compartments. The street is now more modern developments. There was also the Royal Princess in Hewell Street.

Another pub to disappear more recently is the Red House on the waterfront at Ferry Road (left). The distinctive looking pub sadly made way in 2005 for characterless apartments near the sports village. It was formerly known as The Penarth Railway Hotel, which pre-dated 1878. It consisted in 1900 of a bar, tap room and smoke room and stables. The Baroness Windsor in Penarth Road in early 2008 was closed and boarded up. It had been open since at least the 1860s. There was a planning application to demolish it, but it seems as if the new owners want to keep the building and convert into flats and a shop.

A look back at Grangetown - a century ago

APRIL 1908: James W Morgan, a tramway signalman who lived at 112 Holmesdale Street, was given a Royal Humane Society award for saving a 17-year-old girl from drowning. Mr Morgan was on duty by the Custom House Bridge, when he spotted Florrie Williams standing on the top of the bridge. He could do nothing to stop her jumping, in what was reported to be a suicide attempt. At first tried to use the long pole for removing the trolley heads to reach her in the water. But he dropped the pole and ended up jumping in after her in 10ft of water. The South Wales Echo reported that he was in full uniform, wearing heavy clogs and leggings, "which much hampered him in the water." He managed to reach her and two young men also entered the water to help him with the rescue. Mr Morgan's colleagues in the tram company had a collection for him and he was presented with 1 11s and 6d. He came from a family of strong swimmers and his brother Henry was said to have saved several young people from the River Taff.

Another story from this month a century ago is one which the newspaper headlined "A sad story of poverty, squalor and neglect." It tells of a time before the welfare state and with the shadow of the workhouse still looming large. A mother from Compton Street in Saltmead is prosecuted for child neglect, after a policeman found three of her children in a sorry state.

The Cardiff Police Court heard that Frederick Ball was too ill to work and Mrs Ball had pawned most of their possessions, including her clothes, to buy food. Daughter Nellie, 11, was "weak, poorly fed, dirty and verminous" when Sgt Whitcombe saw the family in the "dirty" two rooms where they lived with little furniture and no fire on the grate. Wallace, five, was weak, thin, poorly nourished, "very verminous" and only wearing a sleeveless coat, a ragged shirt and no boots or stockings. Sister Violet, only two, was better fed but poorly clad. The children were taken to Grangetown Police Station, where they "ate ravenously," before they were taken to the workhouse hospital. Mrs Ball tearfully told the court of their circumstances and when she applied for parish relief, was told they had to go to the workhouse. A shopkeeper Mrs Barker said how she had given her a shilling because she seemed so poor. Sgt Whitcombe said he had seen her around, but also in a situation when she had had a drink. The stipendary magistrate warned her that "poverty was no excuse for the insufficient feeding and dirty condition of the children". He was to review the case in six months time.

MAY 1908: A couple of stories of marital issues this month. Ellen Ann Harris summonsed her estranged husband to court for destertion and wanted a separation order. She had been married to Benjamin Harris, a boilermaker, for 13 years, lived in Penhaved Street and they had a child. The court heard that Mr Harris had treated his wife "in a diabolical manner" by "staying out night after night". She turned detective after obtaining certain information and found her husband in bed with another woman. He was told to pay the price, at 25 shillings a week.

Another story in the Western Mail involves a tugboat owner from Amherst Street who was after a separation order from his wife and to make an arrangement for maintenance. "The cursed drink" loomed large, with even his mother-in-law admitting to the court her daughter was "always, always drunk..and the children, the poor little lambs, are allowed to go around in an awful dirty state."

JUNE 1908: One that sticks out for this month - for all those who say things were always better in the old days. There was trouble reported in the Echo at Grange Gardens, as well as parks at Splott and Canton because of misbehaviour from young people, with stones and balls being thrown. There were threats to withdraw the bands from the bandstands "unless there was an improvement in conduct of youmg people."

"The old discipline of the schools has declined evidently," said the paper, when "some children and young people" could pose such a threat.

JULY 1908: A more heart-warming tale about Edwardian youth the following month - and also the perils of playing in the river in a heatwave. There was praise for the heroism of 13-year-old Elmer Darroch, from 35 Saltmead Road (now Stafford Road), who dived into the Taff to save nine-year-old Clifford Baldry from drowning, after he got out of his depth. Elmer had just passed out of Court Road school and was on his way to work at Messrs A McLays printers in Duke Street in the town centre.

Seeing Clifford in difficulty as he passed over the bridge, he dived from a parapet, fully clothed, into the water. Passer-by Stephen Keely, who lived in Court Road, went to help. Clifford was revived by Pc Albert Knight, with the help of bystanders, and was taken to his grandmother's house in Eisteddfod Street in Temperance Town, where he lived (approximately where the pitch of the Millennium Stadium lies today). He came round, although was very wet and suffering from shock. The Western Mail reported that "but for the plucky action of the boy Darroch and the man Keely, Baldry would have been drowned."

The paper interviewed Elmer "a bright, intelligent lad", who told his story with "becoming modesty and treated the matter somewhat lightly". Elmer told the paper: "He was going under as I got to him - I managed to hitch one of my feet to his bathing drawers." Finding his clothes and boots heavy, Elmer had to let him go and Keely took over. Elmer lived with his mother, "a hard working widow" - the rest of the family had moved to Cardiff, where Elmer was born, from the north east of England. Two sons and two daughters had learned to swim at school at the corporation baths.

AUGUST 1908: It really was the "silly season" in Cardiff and nothing to report of note for Grangetown, this month 100 years ago.

A couple of stories from around Cardiff however caught the eye. Firstly, there was the tragedy, and remarkable story of survival, of a Cardiff sailor following the sinking of his steamship off Germany. The Kirkwall, bound for Cardigan, was in collision with a mystery ship near Cuxhaven. Forty men lost their lives, including 20 seamen from Cardiff. Most of them were a multinational crew, based in digs in Butetown. But Cardiff-based Greek sailor John Stellakis had a remarkable escape. He held onto a plank of wood, as he drifted in the sea for several hours before being spotted by a German boat. He was one of only two men rescued. "I held onto a plank with the chief engineer but we were both washed off," he told the Western Mail on his return a few days later. "I succeeded in regaining my hold but he failed and was not seen afterwards. Then the messroom steward and the fireman held onto the same plank but after some hours, they too were exhausted and were drowned."

Stellakis recalled: "I simply let myself drift on the plank. The skipper and some men escaped on a small boat but that too sunk." When asked whether the water was very cold, Athens-born Stellakis replied, "it was hell," apologising for using such a strong expression. He was picked up by a German tug, which also rescued a ship-mate. He lost his coat and trousers, the only thing left was his post office savings book.

The evils of speeding motorists were highlighted in the Western Mail, under the headline "Fast Driving in Cardiff". A chauffeur was prosecuted for dangerous driving in Queen Street (long before it was pedestrianised, of course). Bentfield Charles Hicks forced a number of people waiting for a tram to "jump back on the pavement" to avoid him. Hicks was accused of reaching the dizzying speed of 16 to 18 mph. He was fined 50 - what must have felt like an extraordinary amount for the time - and banned from driving for three years!

OCTOBER 1908: The darker side of Cardiff was getting attention, with claims that prostitution was getting out of control. A new church-led group, called the Citizen's Movement was formed, with Rev John Thomas of the Forward Movement its secretary, dedicated to measures againt prostitution, illegal drinking and drunkenness.

George Bibbings, who lived in Holmesdale Street, wrote to the chief constable and the Echo, saying it was clearly evident that there was a "brothel colony" on the route from Tudor Street to Clarence Embankment, via Penarth Road. Prostitutes "and their partners in vice" were using the trams, with the full knowledge of the conductors, claimed Mr Bibbings. "The behaviour of these gangs of women is flagrantly indecent and an extreme object lesson in degradation." Problems started in town, with St Mary Street "unsavoury" at nightfall. Soliciting was going on "under the noses" of police, while daughters, wives and sisters were being accosted in Tudor Street as they waited for their cars home. The chief constable had refused to reply to Mr Bibbings letter and denied at the watch committee meeting that "whole streets were given up" to brothels. The newspaper this month, as usual, carried reports of women (and men) running disorderly houses, including a 70-year-old man in Eldon Street (now Ninian Park Road) and Clare Poole, 24, for assisting in the management of a disorderly house in Somerset Street - not once, but three times in three weeks. She was fined 5. A similar case against a couple in Allerton Street was dropped.

The paper also carried the story of a young Grangetown woman, who had married into the notorious Agopemonite sect in Somerset. The group, which lived in a large communal house called the "Abode of Love" had been associated with accusations under its late founder in earlier years ranging from rape to brain-washing. Elizabeth Link, 20 (formerly of Ludlow Street and daughter of a dockyard labourer), had married a "highly educated" retired stockbroker's son John Read. Elizabeth's father was now at a workhouse, while her mother was a housekeeper in Kent Street. "Of course I was uneasy about it at first because I had read so many dreadful things about what is supposed to go on at the Agopenmon," said her mother, also Elizabeth. "But I've been there many times and I know of my own knowledge that most of what is said in the papers is untrue."

NOVEMBER 1908: Two burglaries in Grangetown made the news. Firstly, a safe was stolen from a house in Clare Road belonging to Edward Thomas, a turf commission agent. It contained £130, postal orders and bank notes worth £440 and a gold watch. Three men in their 30s were charged with the theft, after the safe was found empty and the trail went as far as Nottingham, where one of the men tried to pawn the watch, while another was found a little closer to home - Eldon Street in Riverside (now Ninian Park Road) - with postal orders. In another case, a pawnbroker's, Lewis Finsberg, was broken into in Penarth Road. Jewellery worth more than £27 and cash was taken. A watch was found in the back yard where one of the men, later charged, was lodging in Millicent Street. Jewellery was also recovered from the Marl, where it was buried in the ground.

Meanwhile, a little cautionary tale from Clive Street. Postman Mr Humphries returned home with his wife to find a gas leak. He turned off the supply but unfortunately lit a candle to find his way into the room. There was an explosion and fire in the front room. Luckily, neighbours helped put out the flames and the couple escaped with minor burns, scorched clothes and singed hair.

DECEMBER 1908: Fortune and misfortune at Christmas for two Grangetown folk. Firstly, it was good news for Nathaniel Hounsell, who lived in Stockland Street. They didn't have EuroMillions in 1908, but he was the lucky winner of a share in the French lottery. Mr Hounsell had bought his share of the ticket from an acquaintance, a marine engineer, who had in turn bought the ticket from a French sailor at Barry docks. The total amount, with 25 francs to the pound, worked out at 3,400. There was an appeal in the local paper to track down Mr Hounsell from the man who held the ticket.

Less of a Merry Christmas for Alice James, of Llanbradach Street, who had gone to police after becoming the victim of what looked like a scam for cheap turkeys. This "highly respectable woman," as the court was told, had answered a newspaper advert offering 8lb Christmas turkeys for 2s 6d postal order. Unfortunately, rather than a bird, she received a letter asking for another five shillings - or an offer to sell coupons to friends. Two Cardiff men, including the son of an Inland Revenue official, were due to appear for a trial in the new year.

JANUARY 1909: A practical joke at the wedding of a couple in Saltmead Road led to the police becoming involved. While the bride and groom were at church, a prankster tied two ropes across the road, attached on one side to a lamppost and to the railings on the opposite side. "A rather corpulent woman", sitting on a soap box on old pram wheels, was then pushed down the road, and showered with confetti, as a crowd gathered. But when the happy couple arrived back from the ceremony by taxi cab, the driver failed to see to ropes. Thankfully, no-one was hurt but the force against the ropes pulled down a railing, two gateways, damaged a wall and also the front of the car.

FEBRUARY 1909: Times have changed and some times for the better. Cardiff's always had a reputation as a multi-racial town, so it's still a bit of a jolt to read the headline of a story in the Western Mail from 1909. There's a story about a woman from Somerset Street applying for a court order for the desertion of her husband, "a black sea cook." There are details of him being jailed for running a disorderly house; a common enough occurrence in Somerset Street in 1909! But the headline, even for the dubious fashion of the time, is ugly. "Married a black man," it reads.

APRIL 1909: An inquest into baby Ivan Jones, 10 months old, who died in Earl Street, the youngest of 13 children - five still living at home. Neighbours told the inquest that the mother had a drink problem - "I did it for the sake of the baby, because she was always out drinking," said one, who reported her. The NSPCC inspected but the inquest gave the mother the benefit of the doubt. The child was delicate and had suffered fits before he died. Natural causes was recorded.

Remembered - the wartime sailor who postponed wedding for action

The sacrifice of a Grangetown sailor during World War One has been remembered 90 years after his death in April 1918, thanks to the Friends of Cathays Cemetery.

The grave of John Cleal had become unkempt and overgrown until the group stepped in - and it was re-dedicated in a ceremony on April 20th to mark the anniversary of the sinking of his ship. The stoker on HMS Iphigenia died of his injuries on a hospital ship, the day after an attempt to sink three ships filled with concrete at Zeebrugge.

John Cleal, 24, had served in the Navy for six years and it is believed he lived in both Clive Street and Holmesdale Street. He had postponed his wedding to volunteer to take part in the raid. Eight Victoria Crosses were awarded, but the casualty rate was high with more than 200 killed and a further 300 wounded.

The South Wales Daily News reported ahead of his funeral: "He was engaged to be married to Miss May Price, and the wedding was only postponed in order that he might volunteer for the great exploit. His brother George is serving in the army, and one of his brothers-in-law has been killed."

His memorial was erected by public subscription but had been neglected over the years until his story was re-discovered last year by two researchers James Lister and Peter Gronow.

The friends group then contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, arranged for the grave to be tidied up. The Royal Naval Association joined the friends group to rededicate the memorial.

* Thanks to Elaine Long, who sent us a photo (above) showing another Grangetown connection. Her grandfather Tom Williams, who once owned the newsagents on the Square in Holmesdale Street, and who lived in Amherst Street, was involved in the committee as treasurer which organised the original memorial. He is pictured third from the left at the graveside, along with George Edwards (asst secretary); G.Hobbs (president); F.H.Cornish (chairman); and Mr Mossford (sculptor).

* The Friends of Cathays Cemetery would be pleased to make contact with any living relatives of John Cleal. Contact GCC and we will pass the details on.

A trolley bus over the old Clarence Bridge into Grangetown - one of the images in the film


Grangetown history - told on DVD

A DVD telling the story of Grangetown and the Docks has been released locally. It has been written and produced by Grangetown-born Ian Malcolm, who is involved with the Cardiff Cine and Video Society and has already produced films telling the history of Cardiff. This nearly hour-long more localised history includes comparisons of the area then and now, stories in the words of local people and some fascinating archive film.

Tales Of Old Grangetown naturally features some common ground, for those familiar with the splendid "Images of Wales" books compiled over the last 10 years by Barbara Jones and Ian Clarke. It begins with a scene-setting history of Butetown and the Docks and how Grangetown grew rapidly beyond, although its name and earliest landmark dated back to the medieval Grange Farm. Certainly, it was fascinating to be taken on a look inside this, thankfully, preserved building today.

What will appeal to those not already familiar with local history are firstly the little nooks and crannies surviving in the area, despite the huge changes. It's also a lesson that too many landmarks seem to be disappearing or under threat. The most poignant moment is the plaque marking the wartime bombing of Hollyman's Bakery in Stockland Street and the death of 32 people. It's left to the owner of the hardware shop built on the site to retell the story of that night in January 1941, a reminder of an event not forgotten but of time moving on. Happier times are remembered by other locals - the St Patrick's church pipe band, Cardiff City players when they lived a few streets away and walked to the ground (some old colour footage at Ninian Park is worth a look), and the small but perfectly formed business which is Clark's Pies. There is also the curious tale of the haunting of The Grange pub by a former landlord. Although this particularly story may lack cinematic evidence, there is other film worth a look - including Currans munitions factory during World War Two and some colour film of one of the earliest adventure playgrounds on The Marl from 1970 - Grangetown was not immune to some fashion mistakes!

These sort of films give you an appetite to delve further and perhaps take a look at your surroundings just that bit more. The DVD occasionally has patchy sound quality and could have done with a little less cheesy background music in places - a personal bug-bear - but it's well overdue.

Tales Of Old Grangetown (DVD-R) is available at 10 from Video Image, Rumney, Cardiff, 02920 795 619. There is also a copy to borrow in the Grangetown and Central libraries.

LOCAL HISTORY RESOURCES:

Cardiff Library members can now access Victorian newspapers online from home, including the Western Mail from 1869 to 1899. You need to log on to the Cardiff e-library with your membership number and password. You can also access Ancestry.co.uk through your library membership log-in. For visitors, the Central library, currently in temporary accommodation in John Street, also has old newspapers on microfiche, as well as old documents and directories for reference - all in the Local Interest section on the first floor. Some material is also kept at the library's Stacks warehouse in Roath, which can be viewed by appointment. Grangetown Library in Havelock Place has a selection of Cardiff history books.

The Cardiff Museum at the Old Library building in The Hayes houses regular local history exhibitions, amongs other shows. When We Were Young: growing up in Cardiff is running until January 2009. It's also trying to gather memories and photos for it's ongoing Collecting Cardiff project.

There is also the Glamorgan Records Office, now in Leckwith, close to the new Cardiff City stadium development. You can call in but it's often best to book a place in advance - the office has old archive documents, parish and estate records, original plans for houses and other buildings in Cardiff, as well as local directories and maps. You can also access censuses up to 1901. There are lockers for personal belongings, bring pencils not pens

Other useful links or interesting sites for local or family history include the Glamorgan Family History Society, which is useful for those both with family connections in the area or those with just an interest in history; ancestry.co.uk (subscription required for most services); GENUKI Cardiff, abandoned communities has details of old Temperance Town and Newtown in Cardiff.

© Grangetown Community Concern and webmaster 2010