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LLANRUMNEY

 

Population: 12,200

 

After the Norman Conquest, Llanrumney was among the lands bequeathed to Keynsham Abbey by the Lord of Glamorgan. The monks built a small chapel where Llanrumney Hall now stands and, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the estate passed into the hands of the Kemys family. Until the 20th century, there were few buildings of significance in the area but the most important of these was Llanrumney Hall.

In 1560 William Kemys left the p roperty to his daughter who married Thomas Morgan. The Morgan coat-of-arms, dated 1587, can be seen above a fireplace at the hall, where five generations of the family lived. Many of them are buried in the Llanrumney Chapel of St Mellons Church.

There are a number of interesting legends relating to Llanrumney Hall. One unlikely tale concerns the Welsh Prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, who was slain at Builth Wells in 1282. Supposedly, his head was presented to Edward I at Conway but the rest of the body was brought by monks to Llanrumney and interred in a stone coffin. The story has never been confirmed, despite claims that the coffin was discovered within the thicker walls of the house in the early 19th century. There have also been reports from some quarters that the headless body of Llywelyn has appeared as a ghost.

Much more plausible is the belief that Sir Henry Morgan, who became the most famous pirate to terrorise the Spanish Main, was born at Llanrumney Hall about 1635. Details of his early life are somewhat shadowy but, after leaving Llanrumney, Morgan joined a ship bound for Barbados. There he was sold as an indentured servant and, after serving his time, found congenial company with a band of buccaneers in Jamaica. In 1668 he became their leader and three years later he carried out his most daring exploit, when he captured Panama and broke Spanish power in the Caribbean. Morgan was a brave and intrepid leader but he was also cruel and treacherous. He even cheated his men out of their share of the booty taken from Panama. Morgan’s piratical deeds came to an end in 1672, when he was arrested and sent back to England for trial. However there had been an ambivalent attitude towards privateering since Elizabethan times and the famous diarist, John Evelyn, expressed the views of many in his comments on the sacking of Panama: “Such an action had not been done since the famous Drake”. Morgan certainly convinced Charles II of his worth and, not only did he return to Jamaica as its Deputy Governor, but was also given a knighthood. Ironically he now tried to stamp out piracy in the Caribbean and died a wealthy man in 1688. One of the Jamaican properties left by Henry Morgan to his wife was named “Llanrumney”.

In the early 20th century, C.C. Williams became the last lord of the manor at Llanrumney Hall. Known as Squire Williams, he was a typical country gentleman and a much respected local figure. His 700 acres of rich farmland, woods and a small lake offered “a charming sylvan setting” to his home. Williams loved the countryside and was a keen sportsman who once played cricket at Lords against W.G. Grace. He was Master of the Tredegar Hunt, Sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1925 and in World War One he was awarded the Military Cross.

C.C. Williams remained the leader of this agricultural community which until 1951 was in the county of Monmouthshire. In that year Llanrumney Hall and its parkland was sold by compulsory purchase to the Cardiff City Council. Squire Williams could have remained at the hall but, saddened at the loss of his lands, he moved to the Vale of Glamorgan. A few years later Llanrumney Hall was sold to Hancocks’ Brewery and was converted into a public house.

The land was needed to provide new homes for 12,000 people and, while most of them were council houses, there were private properties as well, some of which stand at the top of the hill in Ball Road. The old houses of Ball Farm and Mill Farm have been absorbed into the modern estate, kindling memories of the past. Some of the original flats in Ball Road were unsightly and have been demolished, but generally the estate was attractively designed. There are several open spaces, including a 21 acre playing field separating Newport Road from the housing estate. Many of the trees were preserved and the open parkland surrounding Llanrumney Hall provides a pleasing aspect to this historic building.

 

Further Reading:

 

Bielski A. The Story of St Mellons (Alun Books 1985)