RADYR AND MORGANSTOWN
While the remains of an Iron Age cooking hearth in Radyr Wood indicate an
earlier habitation, the first historical reference to Radyr comes in the 11th
century, when a biographer of St Cadoc refers to “the hamlet of Aradur between
Llandaff and the forest”. It appears that a small hospice or hermitage at this
site was sometimes visited by those making a pilgrimage to the shrine of Teilo
The only two buildings of
importance in the 13th century were St John’s Church and the manor house at
Radyr Court. St John’s, which was built by Richard de Clare, retains some of
its original features in the present structure, notably the chancel arch with
its corbels originally intended to hold the Rood beam. Hugh Despenser, the
favourite of Edward II, was the owner of the manor in 1321, when the Mortimer
family, bitter enemies of Hugh and the King, launched a devastating attack in
which buildings were gutted, crops were destroyed and animals driven off.
In the 15th century Thomas
Mathew acquired the manor of Radyr by marriage. He also enhanced his fortune
through his position as Receiver of Ogmore and, after his death in 1470, his
descendants carried on the family tradition of profitable matrimony. To reflect
their riches, the old manor house on the west side of St John’s was replaced
with a fine two storey building on a new site to the east of the church.
wealth and influence in Radyr reached its peak under Sir George Mathew, who not
only lived ostentatiously at Radyr Court, but also held the manor of Llandaff.
He married twice and sired 24 children. His son, William, succeeded him in 1558
and he too had a large family. Ironically, their sexual prowess contributed to
the family’s decline as between them they fathered 21 daughters, all of whom
were in need of dowries.
This drain on the estate was compounded by
extravagance. Sir George built an impressive deer park at Radyr Court in 1536
but his son replaced it with an even more expensive one 60 years later. While a
deer park was a mark of prestige to the Tudor gentry, its creation ensured that
there was no income from the tenants who had previously occupied the land.
Radyr Wood, at the rear of the High School and Woodfield Avenue, is now part of
the former deer park.
Edmund Mathew owed debts of £25,000. Among his creditors was his nephew, Sir
Henry Billingsley, who issued a writ for the seizure of Radyr Court. Edmund
resisted with armed force and the Sheriff withdrew, arguing that the house “is
not to be won without ordnance to batter it and shedding of much blood”.
Remarkably Edmund’s son, George, held on to Radyr Court for a few more years
but in 1625 he sold it to Lewis of The Van and the Mathew interest in Radyr
came to an end.
The Plymouth Estate owned most of
Radyr by the end of the 18th century and its policy was to favour large,
efficient farms. In 1836 Evan David of Radyr Court was farming 700 acres in
Radyr, Llandaff and Fairwater. The old manor house had been largely demolished
and the surviving part turned into a farmhouse.
For most of the 19th century Radyr was little more
than a hamlet of scattered cottages, relying on agriculture as the basis of its
economy. In 1851 its population was only 417 but changes were beginning to take
place. As the ironworks at Pentyrch increased its labour force, new housing was
needed for the workers. In 1841 there were ten cottages at Pentre Poeth, the
“village of fire”, and the number grew steadily until 1878. While there is some
doubt about how Pentre Poeth became “Morganstown”, it was probably named after
Morgan Williams who leased his land for the early development of the district.
The arrival of the railway in 1859
heralded the emergence of fresh commercial activity in Radyr. Penarth Junction
proved to be a convenient marshalling yard for the Taff Vale and Penarth Dock
Railways, as an ever increasing volume of coal was transported from the mining
valleys to the docks at Penarth and Cardiff. The sidings lay to the east of
Radyr Wood and, at the same time, another siding was built for the use of the
local quarry. Radyr stone had been used on a small scale for centuries but it
was not until the 1850s that large scale commercial exploitation began, when
the quarry to the south of Radyr Station was opened. It provided major
employment for the next 60 years as the stone was used for building work in and
When a passenger station was built in 1883,
professional people began to seek homes in the peaceful surroundings of Radyr,
while still having easy access to their offices in Cardiff. By 1901 fine houses
had been built along Heol Isaf and Station Road. Among them were Dan-y-Bryn,
now the Cheshire Home, and Bryn Teg, the residence of Radyr’s first doctor,
which later became the Radyr Arms. St John’s Church was restored in 1869 and
Christchurch in Heol Isaf, a splendid example of neo-Gothic architecture, was
built in 1910. New chapels, a school and shops provided for the differing needs
of a growing population. The cricket club, established in 1890, and a beautiful
golf course, opened in 1902, added to the appeal of Radyr as a desirable place
The splendid 18th century farmhouse at Ty Mynydd was
transformed into a Gothic mansion by George Fisher, deputy chairman of the Taff
Vale Railway. In 1918 Harald and Sofie Dahl with their six children, including
Roald aged two, moved to Ty Mynydd with its acres of farmland and a very large
staff. The family only lived there for two years, as Harald Dahl died in 1920
and Sofie moved to Llandaff. The house was demolished in 1967 after vandals had
started a fire in the empty building.
Until World War Two, Radyr continued to grow
steadily but in the 1960s an extensive housing programme began to the west of
Heol Isaf. Later the Danescourt Estate, though it lies within the electoral
division of Llandaff, was built on land surrounding Radyr Court. Under the
nearby shopping centre and the garden of Radyr Court, which is now a public
house, lie the foundations of the old manor. Radyr became a suburb of Cardiff
in 1974 and, despite the urbanisation of the last 40 years, which is still
continuing with a new housing development at Radyr Farm, it remains one of
Cardiff’s most attractive suburbs.
& Morganstown New Horizons History Group Twixt Chain and Gorge (Radyr & Morganstown New Horizons
& Morganstown New Horizons History Group Memories of Radyr and Morganstown (Radyr & Morganstown New