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FAIRWATER

 

Population: 13,680

 

Fairwater, or “the Prebend of Fairwell” as early documents refer to it, was originally a possession of Llandaff Cathedral. In 1553 the lands were sold to Miles Mathew, before later passing first to the Romilly family and then in 1852 to William Sheward Cartwright, from whom Cartwright Lane takes its name. In the early 20th century just over 100 people lived in Fairwater and the district presented a picturesque rural scene. Howard Spring remembers happy boyhood days spent fishing in a stream, “crossed by a railway bridge, whose embankment was at times like a long snowdrift, so thickly the dog daisies grew there”.

The heart of the district was to be found around Fairwater Green and the brook

which trickled down Cartwright Lane on its way to the River Ely. On one side of the Green was Swiss Cottage, later known as the Smithy, a beautiful half-timbered house with mullioned windows and barley sugar chimneys. Near Swiss Cottage was the 18th century Brook Farmhouse. On the opposite side of the Green stood a large chestnut tree, a semi-circle of conifers and a thatched cottage. Before World War Two, the conifers made way for the shopping centre and, when the cottage was destroyed in a fire, it was replaced by the Fairwater Hotel which became the home of the local Conservative Club in 1939.

Among the farming community of Fairwater, there were several large

houses. Fairwater Croft was the residence of Sir John Courtis, Lord Mayor of Cardiff. Ty-Gwyn in Fairwater Road was a substantial dwelling built for Harald Dahl and it was there in 1916 that his son, Roald, was born. Along the same road lay Fairwater House which no longer exists as it was wrecked by vandals in 1994. Built in 1840 by David Vaughan, the property was owned in 1929 by Major Edgar David who, it was said, “took great pride in the appearance of the village”. In 1949 it became one of Cardiff’s first residential homes for the elderly.

            The Davids were a very influential family in Fairwater. Possibly the most impressive residence in the district was the house designed by John Prichard in the mid-19th century for W.G. David at Ely Rise. The Gothic style of the house with its steep roofs and tall chimney stacks is still impressive. During World War Two the house was used by the Royal Observer Corps, “the eyes and ears of the RAF”, to plot the course of incoming enemy aircraft. After the war, the Fairwater Conservative Club purchased the property and turned it into one of the most thriving clubs in Wales.

Sometimes described as an Edwardian treasure, Ty Bronnau on the St Fagans Road was built by Charles Voysey and became the home of Hastings Watson. Legend has it that Ty Bronnau was haunted by a lady dressed in grey who was said to be the mistress of Mr. Watson. More than one person claims to have been awakened as the ghost tried to remove their wedding rings. When Ty Bronnau ceased to be a family home, it became part of the Glanely Tubercolosis Hospital. Founded after World War One, the hospital became a leader in the fight against this scourge and provided a school for nurses wishing to take the British TB Certificate. Later Ty Bronnau was used as the headquarters of the South Glamorgan Ambulance Service but, once the building was unoccupied, it was vandalised and eventually destroyed by fire in 1998.

Fairwater became a suburb of Cardiff in 1922 and by 1939 new houses covered the area between Wellwright Road and Ely Road. Since World War Two most of the countryside to the north and west of Fairwater has been urbanised. Brook Farmhouse was bulldozed in 1957, as the farms around Plasmawr Road began to disappear. Now only the brook remains as a memory of bygone days. Waterhall Farm gave its name to one large development and, in the 1960s, agricultural land at Pentrebane provided space for another housing estate. Amid the shopping centres, schools, churches and other social amenities essential to a growing population, the suburb also provides Cardiff’s only ski slope for those who wish to practise before trying the real thing.

 

Further Reading:

 

The Llandaff Society Llandaff (Chalfont Publishing Company 1996)