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CYNCOED AND LAKESIDE

 

Population: 10,490

 

A century ago Cyncoed Road was still an ancient trackway leading from Penylan to Lisvane. The road was bordered by farms, a few dwelling houses and extensive areas of woodland. From the wooded ridge, after which Cyncoed is named, streams such as the Nant Fawr Brook poured down the hill to create what one observer described as a “malarial bog”. At that time few people would have foreseen that this unpromising landscape would become one of the most select suburbs of Cardiff.

            The first step was taken in 1887, when the Cardiff Corporation was seeking a site for a new public park. The Third Marquis of Bute and other land owners offered 121 acres of despised marshland, free of charge, to provide a park with a lake, pleasure gardens and playing fields. The development of Roath Park cost £62,000, half of which was used to drain the land and create the lake. Amid great celebrations the new park was formally opened by the Marquis on 20 June 1894.

            Soon trams were travelling to Roath Park from every part of Cardiff. Boating on the lake became a special attraction as it still is. The most prominent feature of the lake is the lighthouse which was dedicated in 1915 to the memory of Captain Scott. Crowds cheered Scott’s attempt to be the first man to reach the South Pole when his ship, the Terra Nova, set out from Cardiff in June 1910. Few among them could have imagined the cruel death that awaited Scott and his faithful band of comrades after the bitter experience of discovering that their Norwegian rival, Amundsen, had reached the Pole before them. There are further reminders of the Scott connection with Cardiff at the Dicovery Inn on the Lakeside Estate and the Royal Hotel in the city centre.

            Not surprisingly the magnificent views overlooking Roath Park soon attracted property developers. Large villas in Lake Road East, many of them now transformed into luxury flats and nursing homes, were occupied by shipping magnates and coal exporters before 1914. There were also fine houses on Lake Road West and after World War One an array of streets sprang up on this side of the park, patriotically named after admirals such as Jellicoe, Beattie and Cunningham.

A number of dwellings were built in Cefn Coed Road before 1914 and standing among them is the original farm house. The building dates back to the early 18th century, though an extension was added in the Victorian era. It was after World War One that the landscape around Cyncoed Road began to change its character, when high quality houses were built on former farmland. By 1939 a major residential area extended from Rhydypenau Road to Llandennis Avenue and Hollybush Road. The houses were all individual in style and, sited in an idyllic setting, attracted many of Cardiff’s wealthiest families to Cyncoed.

It was still not difficult to escape into the countryside. The Cardiff Golf Club occupied a considerable stretch of land to the north of the suburb and Llanishen Reservoir was within easy walking distance for most people. The Cyncoed Lawn Tennis Club, which was used as an anti-aircraft battery in World War Two, stood on the site of modern Brynderwen Close. Among the acres bordered by Lake Road East, Cyncoed Road, Cefn Coed Road and Llandennis Avenue, people could still ramble through open fields.

In 1923, as the parish church of Llanedeyrn lay some distance away, All Saints was dedicated as a mission church on Cyncoed Road. Fifteen years later the Methodists established their “chapel in a garden” a little further along the road at Westminster Crescent. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1965 and more recently a thriving community centre has become a focus, not only for the church, but for other organisations as well.

A few bombs fell harmlesly on the golf course during World War Two but tragedy occurred when a spitfire crashed near the 12th green, killing its pilot. In the tense days of 1940, poles were inserted in the fairways to prevent an airborne invasion and the Home Guard patrolled the course, using the clubhouse as their headquarters. Later in the war there was a US army base in Cyncoed and, during the build-up to D-day, it was a familiar sight to see hundreds of Sherman tanks trundling along Cyncoed Road.

In the 1950s the rural nature of Cyncoed vanished, when the insatiable demand for new homes led to a fresh encroachment on the countryside. The biggest development was the Lakeside estate, centred around Celyn Avenue, but there was also a major building programme further north where Hackerford Farm and Black Oak Farm had previously stood. The new houses were built for private ownership in keeping with the prewar character of the district. As the population increased, Lakeside Primary School was built in Ontario Way and Ty-Celyn, later Cardiff High School, was built on the site of Celyn Farm. The high reputation of these schools is one reason why many parents choose to live in Cyncoed.

The Cardiff College of Education opened in 1961 to meet the demand for more teachers and is now one of the sites used by University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC). Various courses are taught at Cyncoed but its fame stems from the PE Department which over the years has been attended by many Welsh sporting heroes. Lynn Davies, who later lectured in the PE Department, was a student when he won a gold medal in the long jump at the 1964 Olympic Games. Huw Morris, Steve Watkin and Greg Thomas were cricketers who studied at the college and went on to play for England. The Welsh goalkeeper, Dai Davies, represents the world of football but the college is most renowned for its conveyor belt of Welsh rugby internationals. J.J. Williams, John Deveraux , John Bevan, Clive Griffiths and, most famous of all, Gareth Edwards were all students at Cyncoed.

Property values in this prosperous middle class suburb are very high and houses, built in the 1920s for £1000, may now command a value 500 times greater. Older residents might mourn the loss of their open countryside in the last 40 years but they are still fortunate enough to live in one of the most desirable districts of Cardiff.

 

Further Reading:

 

Morgan D. Llanedeyrn, the Story of Our Parish (Dennis Morgan 1973)