Post War Reconstruction
of a depression similar to that after
the First World War proved to be
groundless but the docks, so important in wartime, resumed the decline which had begun a quarter of a century
earlier. The flow of military traffic
ceased within a year or two and ships, which had used Cardiff during the war, now returned to their home
ports. More significantly, coal exports
barely reached a million tons in 1946 and ended altogether in 1964. Soon afterwards came the final touch
of irony when coal, needed for the East
Moors Works, was actually imported into Cardiff. Since 1983 Associated British Ports have been
responsible for the docks. In 1989 the
port handled 2(1/2) million tons of cargo and the number of dockers had fallen to 160, a far cry from the
frenetic activity of those days before the Great War. Nowadays, only the Queen
Alexandra and the Roath Docks are needed to deal with the ships using the port
of Cardiff, though the East Dock and the Roath Basin still survive, giving
pleasure to present and future generations as Cardiff Bay is developed.
The Glamorganshire Canal has
virtually passed into oblivion. After a landslip at Nantgarw in 1942, the City
Council assumed responsibility for the canal and, apart from the sea lock, it
was closed to traffic. After the war a decision was taken to fill in the canal.
Perhaps this was a sensible choice at the time but, with the advantage of
hindsight, what a priceless asset the waterway might have been in linking
Cardiff Bay with the city centre.The sea lock remained in use until December
1951 when a dredger, Catherine Ethel collided with the inner lock gates,
wrecking them beyond repair.
North of Cardiff, the A470 to
Pontypridd and Abercynon is largely built on the old canal. Its route near the
Cow and Snuffers at Llandaff North, and alongside Mountstuart school in
Butetown, is clothed with a layer of turf. The Moat car park covers the canal
where it approached the castle and in the city centre, Queens West, St. David's
Shopping Centre and the Marriott Hotel are all partially built on the site of
the Glamorganshire Canal. The nature reserve at Velindre and the underpass at
Kingsway are the only tangible remains in the city of this once vital artery between Merthyr and Cardiff. Elsewhere, only place names such as Tunnel Court,
East and West Canal Wharfs, or the New Sealock Hotel recall the passage of the
canal through Cardiff.
Since 1945 Cardiff has been faced
with the problems of retaining or replacing its manufacturing industries. At
Llanishen, the R.O.F. continued to produce weapons and in 1947 over a thousand
people were employed in the factory. Engineering firms, such as John Curran and
John Williams, also provided a foundation for heavy industry, and a successful
industrial future appeared to be beckoning when the Rover Factory was
established at Tremorfa in 1963. Unfortunately, the Rover plant never lived up
to its expectations. No more than an eighth of the anticipated jobs
materialised and these were lost in the 1980's, when the works closed following
the reorganisation of the company.
The closure of the East Moors
Steelworks in 1978, with a loss of 3,000 jobs, was the biggest blow to
manufacturing in Cardiff. As its plant became obsolete, losses rose to £15
million a year and East Moors suffered the fate of Merthyr a generation
earlier. Steel making continues at the Allied Steelworks near the East Dock,
but the closure of East Moors had serious repercussions for local services,
contractors, and the docks.
The Buchanan Report noted in 1965
that 40,000 people in Cardiff were working in manufacturing industry, compared
with 95,000 in the service sector. Since that time the gap has widened
considerably. As the 1970's drew to a close, employment prospects in Cardiff
were far from healthy and few would have foreseen the transformation that was
to occur in the next decade.
some years after the war, the construction industry was kept fully occupied in
repairing the ravages of the conflict. It was true that Cardiff had escaped
lightly compared with many cities, but over 600 buildings had been completely
destroyed and nearly 30,000 needed repairs. Priority was given to the
rebuilding of houses, though it was not always possible to match the original
materials. In many districts of Cardiff there are new brick houses, contrasting
with earlier dwellings of pennant sandstone, to evoke memories of the Blitz.
Nearly fifteen years were to pass
before Llandaff Cathedral was raised to its former glory but in 1960 a
Thanksgiving Service for its restoration was held in the presence of the Queen
and Prince Philip. The reconstruction was largely based on Prichard's work in
the nineteenth century but, outside the North Door, the opportunity was taken
to build a processional way and a Memorial Chapel, dedicated to the Welsh
Regiment. A more controversial innovation was Epstein's statue of Christ in
Majesty, looking down on the Nave from a new cylindrical organ case.
In retrospect, the Luftwaffe did
less to spoil Cardiff's landscape than some of the postwar development,
especially during that barren period of the 1960's and early 1970's. Apart from
the obliteration of the Greyfriars' site, the greatest acts of planning madness
were reserved for Newport Road and the city end of Cathedral Road, where superb
Victorian buildings were demolished to make way for ugly tower blocks.
Recently, planners and developers have shown
much better taste. In the 1980's a genuine attempt to preserve the best of the
past has been made at Jones Court, the Custom House, and in the restoration of
properties in Charles Street and Park Place. Modern buildings, such as the
Capitol and Queensway shopping centres or the Magistrates' Courts, are also an
improvement on those of the 1960’s.
The boundaries of Cardiff have been
extended on a number of occasions since the war, partly for administrative
convenience, but also to provide the land for new housing programmes.
Llanrumney was incorporated into Cardiff in 1951 and an estate, mainly
comprising council houses, grew up around the parkland of the Llanrumney Hall.
In 1967 Llanedeyrn and Whitchurch,
together with parts of Radyr and Llysfaen, came under the autonomy of the City
Council. The most important result of this enlargement was the release of land
on which the giant housing estates of Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn were built.
Another consequence of the 1967 boundary changes brought Rhiwbina into Cardiff.
Planned as a garden village in 1912, Rhiwbina now became one of the most
beautiful suburbs of Cardiff, with the unspoilt countryside of Rhiwbina Hill
and the Wenallt on its doorstep.
The most recent adjustments to the limits of
Cardiff, apart from a few minor alterations in 1982, took place at the time of
local government reorganisation in 1974. Tongwynlais, St. Mellons, St. Fagans
and the remnants of Radyr and Llysfaen became integrated within the city's
borders. Despite the intensive development which has accompanied these
acquisitions of land, the population of Cardiff has seen no dramatic alteration
since the Second World War. In 1974 it stood at 275,000 and it is currently
estimated at 315,000.
An inevitable consequence of the
city's encroachment on the countryside has been the erosion of the green belt
around Cardiff. Fortunately, there have been some compensations, such as the purchase of the
delightful Cefn Onn Park by the Corporation in 1944. Generous gifts have also
redressed the balance of urban sprawl.
In 1947 the Earl of Plymouth
presented St. Fagans Castle, together with its extensive grounds, to the
National Museum of Wales. The estate became the home of the Welsh Folk Museum,
one of the finest in the world. Its splendid seventeenth century mansion, three
museums and, most interesting of all, its restored buildings of infinite
variety from every part of Wales, are set in attractive parkland. The museum is
now a major tourist attraction in the Principality, visited by more than
250,000 people every year.
The beauty of Cardiff is further enhanced by its unspoilt
greenery in the heart of the city. The foresight of the Butes, in preserving so
much of the countryside in the centre of Cardiff,
was never more apparent than in September 1947. As a parting gift, the Fifth
marquess granted to the people of Cardiffhis castle and 146 acres of land in ButePark. Despite the
austerity of the times, thousands of Cardiffians assembled to join in the
celebrations on this last great "Buteoccasion'. Views about the family had been divided over the years but, on this
day, few disagreed with the Lord Mayor that here was a "gesture of truly
1958, three years after becoming the Welsh capital, Cardiff was able to advertise itself to the
world when it staged the Empire and Commonwealth Games. Existing facilities were
used to keep the costs within bounds and, unlike some of the lavish spectacles
of recent times, the games yielded a profit of £30,000.
Only the Wales Empire Pool, now
sadly demolished, was built as an entirely new project. Maindy Stadium,
converted from a flooded claypit between the wars, was the venue for cycling
events. The boxing programme, in which Howard Winstone won Wales's only
gold medal, was held at Sophia Gardens Pavilion. Since the war this former
aeroplane hangar had been used for ballroom dancing, exhibitions and public
meetings. Despite a somewhat utilitarian appearance, the pavilion continued to
serve a practical function until it collapsed in 1982 after a heavy snowfall.
The athletics were staged at the CardiffArmsPark. It was here that
the closing ceremony of the games produced an outburst of rejoicing to end a
great festival of sport. The Queen, unable to attend because of illness,
recorded a message, announcing that Prince Charles was now to be known as the
"Prince of Wales' and in due course would be presented to his people at
Caernarfon. The crowd of over 50,000 burst spontaneously into the singing of
"God Bless the Prince of Wales', while the rows of competitors broke ranks
to enjoy one great carnival, a custom since imitated at the closing ceremony of
the Olympic Games. It was a fitting climax to a memorable occasion.