Roath Dogfield was the name given to the manor retained by
the Lord of Glamorgan after the Norman Conquest and today most of that district
is in the electoral division of Plasnewydd. The village of Roath grew around
the manor house at Roath Court. This ancient site, where a circular mound is
surrounded by a ditch, suggests that it may have been an administrative centre
for the early Welsh rulers of Cibwr. The present building dates back to the
18th century but in 1578 Rice Merrick mentions an earlier manor house,
fortified and moated “which is called The Court, but now in ruin”.
Dairy farming was the principal
activity of the mediaeval manor. The land was originally worked by serfs who
gave their labour at certain times of the year as rent for the land they held.
By the early 14th century most of the tenants at the manor were free men and,
after the carnage of the Black Death, feudal service was virtually eliminated.
Not far from the manor house was the lord’s
mill. It was powered by water from the stream which still flows through
Waterloo Gardens and by 1316 was acting as a fulling mill for local weavers.
Roath Mill was rebuilt in the 18th century and remained in use until 1897, when
it was demolished to make way for new houses.
Though the Marquis of Bute was the Lord of Roath Manor,
the Williams family became the owners of Roath Court in 1824 and lived there
until 1952. The most notable resident in this period was Charles Croft Williams
who was an alderman, several times Mayor of Cardiff and also Master of the
Glamorgan Hunt. In 1952 the property became a funeral home when it was
purchased by Morlais Summers.
Tredegar was another prominent landowner in Plasnewydd and, from the 1850s
onwards, fine houses were built on his land. The district around The Parade,
The Walk, East Grove and West Grove.became known as Tredegarville and of
particular interest are two houses built by James Howell, the Cardiff store
owner. Each of them became the offical residence of the Lord Mayor of Cardiff.
Howell’s first home at The Walk has since been converted into flats, but the
present Mansion House has a fine double-bay frontage and was originally
intended to be two separate dwellings for his sons. They chose not to live
there and, when their father died in 1909, the house was sold to the council.
Its spacious, pleasant rooms make it an ideal setting for the Lord Mayor to
receive distinguished visitors.
Not far away in Newport Road,
Cardiff’s first infirmary was opened in 1837. Money was raised from a number of
sources. Daniel Jones, a wealthy lawyer from Beaupre, donated £3,500, the Marquis
of Bute gave a further £1,000 and all the money raised at the Cardiff
Eisteddfod of 1834 was given to the cause. The Glamorgan and Monmouthshire
Infirmary was able to accommodate about 30 patients and was extended in 1866.
Even so, by 1880 its resources were strained to the limit and it was decided to
build a new infirmary at Longcross.
The former hospital then became
the first campus of the new University of Wales College at Cardiff which, in
its first year, provided courses in the arts and sciences for 109 men and 42
women. The number of students grew rapidly and in 1909 the university moved to
Cathays Park. The old premises remained in use and after World War One were
greatly enlarged to house the Welsh School of Medicine. The original infirmary building
was demolished in 1966 and five years later the school was transferred to the
Heath Hospital. The site in Newport Road is now used by the Engineering
Department of the University.
Castle, so called because of its crenellated battlements, was the home of the
Richards family. Arabella was the posthumous daughter of Edward Richards who
was tragically killed in 1858, when his horse collided with a cartload of
manure in Newport Road. She inherited his estate and married Donald Mackintosh
of Mackintosh, the wealthy leader of the Scottish clan. The development of
their property in Roath began soon after their marriage and many of the new
streets, such as Arabella, Donald, Diana, Angus, Alfred and Mackintosh, were
named after the family. The association with Scotland is also commemorated by
Keppoch Street, Inverness Place and Strathnairn Street. In 1890, ten years
after their marriage, Arabella donated Roath Castle to her tenants. It was
re-named the Mackintosh Institute and is still used as a community centre.
Among its facilities is a beautiful bowling green on which the famous W.G.
Grace once played.
The splendid houses in Ninian
Road, opposite Roath Park, were built on land owned by the Butes. The road is
named after Lord Ninian Stuart, MP for Cardiff before World War One and son of
the Third Marquis. A popular figure in Cardiff, he was killed by a sniper at
the Battle of Loos in 1915. A statue stands to his memory in Cathays Park.
Castle Road became City Road in
1905 to celebrate Cardiff’s new status but, before urban development began in
1873, it was known as Plwcca Lane leading to Plwcca Halog, the Gallows Field.
Two Roman Catholic priests were hung, drawn and quartered at this sinister spot
where five roads now meet. Philip Evans and John Lloyd were caught up in the
hysteria of the Popish Plot, a fantastic falsehood which alleged that the Pope
was planning to invade England and replace Charles II with his Catholic
brother, James. The death penalty was automatically applied to Jesuit priests
and Philip Evans’s final words were: “If I had never so many lives, I would
willingly give them all for so good a cause”. A stained glass window was later
dedicated to the martyrs at St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.
mid-19th century, Merthyr Road was a country lane constructed after the Heath
Enclosure Act. Its name was changed to Albany Road in 1884 in memory of the
Duke of Albany. Building began that same year and 117 shops were established in
the road by 1914. Plasnewydd has changed little since that time and in this
densely populated suburb, City Road, Albany Road and Wellfield Road are among
the busiest shopping centres in Cardiff.
Childs J. Roath,
Splott and Adamsdown (Chalfont Publishing Company 1995)