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TROWBRIDGE AND NEW ST MELLONS

 

Population: 17,530

 

The Trowbridge electoral division, which includes the southern part of St Mellons, is one of Cardiff’s newer suburbs. Less than 40 years ago it was a rural area of low lying land, across which ran the main railway line to Bristol. It was thinly populated apart from a few farms and its history, with one exception, had been largely uneventful.

            The exception was the worst natural disaster ever to strike South Wales. On 20 January 1607 tempestuous winds in the Bristol Channel created a flood similar to a tidal wave. An unknown chronicler recorded the disaster in a broadsheet entitled Woeful Newes From Wales. He wrote that the waters, four miles wide, swept across the region, “with a swiftness so incredible … that no greyhound could have escaped by running before them”. Houses were destroyed, cattle perished and wild animals, in their fear, no longer preyed on each other. The death toll was estimated at 2,000 as the sea defences, both on the English and the Welsh sides, were submerged. In Monmouthshire alone, 26 parishes were “drowned” and five years were to pass before the soil recovered from its contamination by the sea.

            Amid this turmoil, there were some miraculous escapes. A baby was discovered bobbing about on the waters in a cradle which a cat was able to balance by jumping from side to side. In another house, a little girl was found snuggling up to a chicken in the beams of the roof, where her mother had hastily placed her. Climbing trees did not always save people but one couple, “espying nothing but death before them”, were saved when an empty tub gave them a lifeline as it floated against a tree.

            The whole of Cardiff was flooded but it was the parishes on low lying land east of the borough that suffered most. At Peterston Wentloog to the east of St Mellons, a memorial plaque on the outside of the church, using the old style of dating, commemorates “The Great Flood, January 20th, 1606”. There were to be no more catastrophes on this scale, though flooding continued to be a problem for many years.

In the 1960s the land now comprising Trowbridge and New St Mellons was prepared for domestic and industrial development. In 1964 the postwar housing estate in Rumney was extended to the east, swallowing up the farms of Trowbridge Fawr (Greater Trowbridge) and Trowbridge Bach (Little Trowbridge). As the demand for new homes increased, St Mellons was brought into the city’s boundaries in 1974 and the southern part of this parish provided the land for another large housing programme.

Other areas in the district were allocated to accommodate units of light industry and commerce. The Spring Meadow Business Park, the Wentloog Industrial Park and the Freight Liner Depot are all based on former farmland in Trowbridge. The St Mellons and the Links business parks are set in a pleasant tree-lined environment not far from St Mellons Golf Course.

However, both the Trowbridge and the St Mellons estates have had their difficulties. In Trowbridge particularly, matters have not been helped by the dreary appearance of the shopping centre and some of the early houses, typical of the architecture of the1960s. The quality of housing on the New St Mellons Estate is   better and, at Melrose Park and Cypress Drive, there are some very attractive dwellings. In 1998 local people claimed they were “the forgotten Cardiff estate” and a social services report designated the area as the second most deprived in Wales. There were complaints from residents of vandalism, crime, graffiti, litter and a lack of facilities, especially for youngsters. One person with enough talent to overcome these problems was Craig Bellamy. He was brought up in Trowbridge and his skills as a footballer have led him to stardom with Newcastle United and Wales.

Efforts are being made to improve the environment of this suburb. Street lighting has improved and more CCTV cameras have been installed. Some of the worst buildings, including the shopping centre at Trowbridge, are being demolished and rebuilt. Pockets of anti-social behaviour remain but co-operation involving the council, the police and local residents’ groups is encouraging people to take a greater pride in their area.

 

Further Reading:

 

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

Anon Woefull Newes from Wales (British Museum 1891)