PART THREE: Here is Grangetown history covering memories from the 1940s and 1950s onwards, including schooldays. Please email us with any stories, memories or photos. Return to Part One or Part Two

Nature alongside the Taff and Rhymney

By Jack Payne

When I was a young lad I used to collect birds eggs, consequently I knew the countryside within and around Grangetown like the back of my hand.

Sadly, most, if not all of this countryside as I knew it, has now disappeared. There was a large area to the left of the Mile Road bordering the River Ely known as the Long Banks. This area of lush grass was once tide fields but unlike those bordering the river Taff, which was criss-crossed with gullies which filled when the tide came in. This area only had one gully leading from the Tar and Oil Works in which nothing lived at the bottom and the sides were caked with black oil.

The Long Banks themselves differed. The Lower Grangetown side had no easy access because of the factories bordering Ferry Road. Access could only be gained from the top end of the Gasworks Lane. Because of this inaccessibility and the fact that the river no longer flooded this area, it was a haven for wild birds breeding. Over time I collected snipe, lapwing, sandpiper, dunlin, redshank, curlew and skylark eggs in this area. The opposite side of the Long Banks had cattle and sheep grazing all year round, so consequently with the exception of the skylark it was not a nesting site.

The other area of importance to wildlife was The Droves located between the Mile Road and Leckwith Road.The Droves consisted of numerous grass trackways with ditches and hedges on both sides forming borders for small fields. One must suppose that in medieval times by its name it was used for droving horses and cattle. Wildlife of all kinds were in abundance: Rabbits, hares, foxes, pheasant, partridges, moor hens, coot, wild duck and close to the Cardiff football stadium (Ninian Park) was a marshy area with very large flat stones under which could be found frogs, toads and small lizards. At the Leckwith end was a permanent Romany Gypsy encampment, where you could see them sitting around a fire making clothes pegs and flowers from wood taken from the hedgerow.

1950s: School days - baby boomers, 'Basher' Beynon and the G stream

By Ken Payne
Being born in 1947, I was part of the baby boom after the end of World War II. Having done a little research with friends I can safely say that the average class size throughout my term in school was approx 38 pupils. Starting off in Grange National (The Nash) as a five year old, where you spent your early years in the infants. The head mistress was Mrs Macarthur, I can also remember a Miss Lewis.Those early years seemed tc consist mainly of play, sleep and story telling. Reading, spelling, times tables and mental arithmetic were all to follow.One thing that strikes me now looking back, is the order in the classroom,with in the region of 40 pupils in the class,the order was immaculate with only one teacher. Consequently with that size class some prospered and some fell behind. I can distinctly remember the class being sorted so that the brighter pupils sat next to the slower learners. The object was to encourage the slower learners to get help and encouragement off their peers.I don’t know how successful the system was but it certainly was employed as an aid to the teacher.

"The Nash" school was next door to Clive Street Police Station.

Another memory of the Nash is the open fireplaces in all the classrooms.There was no such thing as central heating. A coal fire behind the teacher was it. In the winter time the bottled milk would be placed around the fireplace to warm. When it was time for your milk break the teacher would ask questions,and the first person with right answer would get the chioice of the warmest milk. Again looking back it amazes me that no one got scalded or injured in these everyday events.

Every week there was one afternoon dedicated to sport.The class would be put in pairs in the playground, the most trustworthy at the front and the rear ,the not so reliable near the middle of a line formed by the pairs. We were always instructed to hold your partners hand as we walked. We would then go out the school gates and walk down Clive Street to the junction with Holmesdale Street and Ferry road.we would be seen across the road by the teacher,and then on to the Marl playing fields. Here we were separated into group - boys and girls, athletic types and not so athletic.The athletic boys would be organised into football or baseball teams,or even into running events.The girls would also play baseball or be given other exercises to do. The remainder,not so athletic, would be made to walk circuits around the perimeter of the park until it was home time.

At home time you were left to your own devices as how to get home, easy for me as I lived right by the Marl. School in those days started at 9am,with a playground break at approx 10.30am for 15 minutes, then dinner was from noon till 2pm. Afternoon break was at 3.15 pm then the schoolday finished at 4.30pm. I went home every day for dinner (no such thing as lunch) as did most of my friends. It would be a quick meal and then out playing with my mates till it was time to go back to school.There was no gymnasium at the Nash so the PE classes would be in the playground (weather permitting). There was no such thing as gym kit -you did your exercises in whatever you wore to school. Great fun though. In the playground as we got older was where we learned to play “strong horses". This involved three or four boys going up against the wall and making a formation. The rest of the boys would then proceed to vault on to their backs,endeavouring to land as hard as possible, until the formation collapsed in a heap of arms and legs. The team holding the most boys being the winners.

Also there was whiplash: This is where you formed a line, and all held hands. The biggest and strongest acted as the centre point, he would start rotating round and round,the boys on the outside of the line would eng up running full pelt until they let go or fell over. I tried this in later life during football training exercises, and it was really difficult to stay on your feet.

The wall along the side of the playground backed on to Clive Street police station, the holding cells right next to the wall. I remember now expecting to see prisoners with arrows all over their clothes, a general perception of criminals.

The teachers seemed to be quite well known to your parents and were given great respect. If they said or did something it must be for your benefit, the teacher was always right. The school headmaster was Mr Fred Parkin who was quite strict.

I can recall "mitching" off school with my brother to watch England play Wales on a Wednesday afternoon. We had just got our first black and white television, and the game was on. However word got round that we were watching the match, and six or seven other boys turned up at our house to watch it. This was fine until school the following day, we all had our excuses ready,however the first boy they asked why he was off school. "I was round Kenny Payne's house watching the football" came the reply. Boy after boy then relented and said they were at our house. The end result was six of the best for me and my brother in front of the whole school. Painful memory.

I was now at the age to sit the dreaded 11 plus, which I passed. This meant a change of schools though I really didn’t want it. Some of the boys who passed decided to stay at the Nash, while others were drafted to various schools around the area - Fitzalan, Canton High, Cardiff High for example.

I was selected to go to Ninian Park School on Sloper Road. Here the Council had implemented a new system called the "G" stream. Because of the high number of passes there wasn’t enough room for all at the High Schools, so this was an additional class to take you through to O'Level. Looking back I think we were used as a test to try the system. The boys that made up the “G” stream came from several different areas. There were about 15 from Ely, 10 from Canton, six from Riverside, the rest from Grangetown, making a class of 38.

I still recall the monotone reading of the register every day: Appleby, Bolton, Bridges, Capel, Corsi and so on. This new school took some getting used to for this class. For a start we were all strangers to each other. Also we were the only class that had to wear uniform,a system that for a while alienated us from the rest of the school.

The rest of the boys in our age group being put into three different class groups, A, B and C. The theory being that the brighter members of the A class could graduate into the "G" stream, and the other boys go up and down the classes depending on their ability.

There was in total upwards of 120 boys of the same age spread over these four classes.

The other thing I think about is the teaching. The same teachers taught all four classes, so their range of pupils were in the extremes,not something you would get at a conventional high school. At first we were the "posh" kids because of the uniform, but eventually we were accepted as just pupils in the same school.

Discipline at this school was much tougher,some of the teachers had reputations to hold. Basher Beynon, maths teacher, Moggie Slater P.E teacher, "Spud" Reynolds history teacher, were a few that would give you the cane at the first excuse.

However there were compensations, such as the sports side of the school, which was excellent. Ninian Park prided itself with the accomplishments of the soccer and baseball teams.

The intermediate team was run by Mr Gough, the art teacher,who had the uncanny knack of producing a team - a side that played as a unit. I had the utmost respect for Mr Gough and my involvement with the football team helped my integration into the school. Football games were played on Saturday mornings in those days. We would have a team meeting Friday dinnertime to make sure all the boys were available (I was never ill on a Friday), you were then issued with your school football shirt. There was no such thing as substitutes in those days,so it was ten outfield shirts and a goalkeepers jersey,and everyone was expected to turn up,otherwise you played with what you had.

Away games were organised at these meetings,we would make our way to the central bus station individually, here we would meet Mr Gough outside Asteys. Then it would be a bus trip to Whichurch,Llanrumney or which ever district we were playing. We had to provide our own bus fares,there was no school funding for this. After games we would catch the bus back to the Central Station,and then make our own way home.

One of the benefits of playing for Ninian Park,was the occasional free pass to watch Cardiff City on Saturday afternoons. We were a very successful side going through the season winning all games,doing a league and cup double.

We also managed to win a "Tiger" football - this was the comic that introduced Roy of the Rovers to the nations schoolboys. They had a monthly award for the most successful teams at intermediate level, age 11 to 12, which the school team won. I thoroughly enjoyed my football experiences in school, and still see some of the old players around Cardiff.

Classwork at the school was a different matter though. I struggled with the change of teaching, the different classmates,and the homework. Whilst at the Nash I hadn’t done any homework. This new intrusion on to time out of school was difficult, especially as all my mates at the Nash wasn’t doing any.

Also at Ninian Park I was average at most things where at the Nash I was one of the brighter pupils. This all made me struggle with the classwork. I wasn’t alone with this as the majority of my new classmates seemed to be in the same boat. Obviously some of the boys prospered and coped better than others but on the whole a lot of us were not happy with our classwork.

Disruption in the class was rife with lots of misdemeanors and general bad behaviour. I’m sure looking back that the root cause of all the problems was the size of the class. I’m convinced that the class should have been split in two and therefore give each pupil more time with the teacher. However I battled through school lessons and achieved some level of success in exams, but not what I would have liked to achieve.

I think now that my own appraisal of those days is could and should have done better. In general though I can look back and say I enjoyed the majority of my days at school.

1950s: School days - spare the rod, spoil the child

By Graham Goode

Unlike the restrictions placed upon parents and teachers today the maintenance of discipline in the classrooms and sometimes in the homes seemed to be based upon the Biblical dictum: spare the rod and spoil the child. Mam could and did infrequently resort to using a wooden spoon to bring me to order if I was were overstepping her generally tolerant responses to boyish behaviour. My Dad, on one occasion I remember, took me over his knee and strapped my backside with the belt he wore to keep up his trousers. This happened despite the protestations of my mother as, "He needs to be taught not to let good food go to waste."

It was the custom on a Sunday for Dad to cook the Sunday dinner ('lunch' was for the posh). Proud of his organic gardening the wide range of vegetables were cooked and served. Inevitably I baulked at eating cabbage and on this occasion I declined to clear my plate. "Too many sweets before a meal," was the usual reason put forward by adults for children turning up their noses to good wholesome fare. But the continuing rationing of sweets and chocolate hardly allowed for confectionary bingeing. So the remains of the meal were served up at the next meal but I had refused to, 'clear my plate.' Exasperated, my father applied the belt with gusto and I found it more comfortable to stand awhile before being sent to bed without supper. This was a rare occurrence for me although my brother testified to many more corrections of that kind and at a time when Dad had even more energy to lay on the strap. I now eat cabbage without a murmur. A slap across the backside or a clip across the ear was sometimes used to rein in any of my obstreperous behaviour. No hard feelings developed. The punishment was dished out and taken without harping on the degrees of justice or injustice that had occurred.

This kind of correction was part and parcel of growing up in the mid-20th century. Being able to judge the likelihood of swift retribution for stepping out of line became second nature. When our finely tuned survival antenna failed us we were compensated by the pervading atmosphere of family care of which chastisement was just another manifestation for 'your own good.'

Generally I accepted it as such. School was a different kettle of fish. My local school was originally built as a Board of Education School maintained by the Council at the end of the nineteenth century. It was inevitably referred to as 'The Council' as opposed to the nearby Church or National School of about the same age which was always called the 'Nash'.

In the 'Infants' the teachers were all women and the classes were a mix of boys and girls. There was just one vivid memory of a lady teacher taking a girl in our class across her knee to apply a slapped bottom. We boys were keenly interested in this event as we felt ourselves to be positively discriminated against in terms of corporal punishment. A girl about to be disciplined in this way was unique in our experience and I would like to think it was this uniqueness which was the cause of our keen observance of the event. But I believe it was the method of administering the punishment which captured our rapt attention, for the teacher, an otherwise kindly grey haired lady, proceeded to lift the girls skirt to reveal a rather worn pair of faded and stained black knickers with a hole in them. The slight protuberance of pink skin through the hole and this unsolicited glimpse under a girl's skirt caused a collective intake of breath rendering us seven year olds helplessly trying to contain breathless mirth at this unfortunate girl's misery as she endured a slapped bottom. In the time honoured way of countless generations of heartless schoolchildren the poor girl was for a long time subject to catcalls of "old peepy pants" - either from our seeing part of her bottom peeping out of her drawers or a general reference to their staining.

The passing of water in a deliberate fashion did lead me and several of my friends into the kind of trouble we were definitely not keen to be communicated to our parents. Receiving any punishment at school was not to be broadcast by one's self because it usually led to a supplementary slap by parents who generally believed that the standards of the school reflected the standards of the home in terms of behaviour or that was the general impression given. I tended to believe that the behaviour at school warranting the physical punishment was considered to impinge on the honour of the family in some way - like the Samurai of the comic books it may have been more honourable to commit hari-kari rather than admit to the incident which led to our public humiliation in front of the whole Infants school. It was a particularly nasty schoolmate who split on his or her friends by bellowing the misdeed and punishment out as they passed your mother hanging washing on the line. It would, of course, have been poetic justice if old peepy pants had spilled the beans.

This particular incident was really down to the teachers who, believing in the virtues of self-constraint refused to let us go to the toilet during lesson times. After all, "Break times were for those kinds of personal matters." This was in direct contradiction of the belief of active young boys. Why should we waste precious break times on the mundane matters of relieving ourselves and thus forfeit the chance to be in the thick of the playtime hurly burly?

This particular day the period between morning break and lunchtime seemed to drag. Not coming from the Land of Big Bladders my friend and I were dying to go to the toilet. Kept back for a few minutes to aid the teacher in some clearing up task we danced about, were admonished for not going at playtime and finally let free. We hared across the playground to the only toilets heading straight into the boys' urinal. There we met with two or three other boys much practised in the art of relieving themselves in intermittent jets of urine in the same manner as the explosive spurts of water obtained by squeezing the end of a hosepipe. We joined in blasting the urinal wall clean of any algae but then raised our sights higher. Now the Boys' Toilets were red brick built with a sloping roof. Between the roof and the wall which was about six or seven feet high there was a gap of about two feet presumably to allow fresh air to ventilate the toilets. It was a sunny spring day and the girls had the habit of talking, and eating their sandwiches whilst sitting in the playground leaning against the southward facing walls of both boys' and girls' toilets. Others tucked their skirts into their knickers and perfected handstands against these walls. The temptation was too great to resist. We stood back and directed our jets at the inviting gap. The reaction of the girls was not immediate as the spots of 'rain' were at first, far from torrential. As our aim improved so did the deluge and it suddenly dawned on our unfortunate victims that this was not due to the usual vagaries of the weather. Screaming with disgust they charged into a teacher on duty, who, seeing the by now dwindling streams of water dribbling down the outside of the toilet wall, marched unabashed into the urinal. To be caught in delecto was as frightening as to be caught at all. The only females to have clapped eyes on our intimate boyhoods were our mothers or inquisitive sisters. The outraged young lady teacher drove us, fumbling with our flies, across the yard to the headmistress's office.

The trails of our offence were carefully avoided by gloating boys and girls who flocked behind us to the school entrance. Ears and rears burning we were tongue-lashed in front of the whole Infants school and suspended from lunchtimes for two weeks. Our parents were supposed to be appraised of what was a capital offence and to foot the laundry bill for the girls' dresses. We kept quiet about it. Strangely the school did not kick up an almighty fuss - maybe there was no desire for an admission that supervision of the yard was deficient in that respect. For a fortnight we subsisted on next to nothing at lunchtimes as we met in the nearby park passing the time as inconspicuously as possible trying to ignore the resultant stomach pangs and hoping our parents would never find out. Being the 'top dogs' of the Infants we experienced none of the kind of taunting meted out to old peepy and the squatters' rights of the girls to the sunnier side of the playground were irretrievably forfeited much to the delight of some of the boys who admired and, I gather, tried to emulate our celebrated bladder control.

To move from the Infants' to the next stage of education - on the same campus - was something of a shock. The education system was under historic review as a result of the Butler Act of 1944 and the stages of schooling were about to be redefined as primary (which could be further subdivided into Infants and Juniors) followed by secondary schooling of either grammar school for about 15% of the school population or secondary modern school for those who did not pass the entrance examination known as the 'scholarship' to go to grammar school. At the time I moved up into the 'junior' stage of my education that part of the school was still being run as a boys' elementary school where boys between the ages of seven and 14 received their education.

Upon reaching 14 years of age they left school to take up occupations mostly in the skilled apprenticed trades or other, unskilled, work. Careers in the professions and further education tended to be the prerogative of grammar school pupils who stayed on at school usually until the age of 16. Within two or three years the changeover would be complete - the remaining 14 year olds had moved into the wider world and the junior school was inhabited by seven to 11-year olds. It was during the intervening years of the changeover that I found myself like all the other seven year olds to be the small fry in a sea of big fish.

All the teachers I came across in the 'junior' stage of my education were men many of whom had endured life in the trenches of the First World War and some had served in WWII. They had been young men 'under discipline' and some seemed to want to impart this experience to their charges with liberal use of the cane for any and every transgression in and out of school if the latter came to their notice. They were both feared and respected. If you can imagine the pressure they must have been under to control classes of boys as large as 40-50 pupils sitting in rows of desks as well as facing change which proved difficult for some to accept it was no wonder that patience was at a premium. The cane ruled supreme. This was not to suggest that we lived in constant fear - in fact, the earlier experiences of physical discipline had in some ways inured us to the fear of corporal punishment. True, it was best avoided and unpleasant, but the pain was no worse than having your teeth drilled and filled without anaesthetic by the glass-eyed Scotsman who masqueraded as a school's dentist in the nearby newly instituted National Health clinic. As well as being the sincerest form of flattery imitation is also a great tool of learning.

So it did not take long for us small fry to pick up the requirements of the almost military discipline which attended our learning and movement about the school. When the whistle was blown by the teacher on duty in the yard at five to nine we stood stock still and then formed up in twos in our classes on the next whistle. The 14-year olds marched into the main entrance and keeping in step to the commands of, "Left, right, left, right," they marched up the several flights of well worn stone steps to the top floor. The rest of the school wheeled about in their forms (known as standards) to follow on in descending order of age. It was usual for each standard to mark time at the foot of the stairs marching on the spot and increasing the foot worn indentation in the slab of Welsh slate that fronted the doorway. It was always an orderly entrance, all in step, and wheeling left or right into the appropriate classrooms for registration. It took no time at all to feel a certain pride in being part of such a regimented system of movement - after all we had been brought up on stories of wartime service and here we were aping what we thought were the smart barrack square gyrations of our fathers and brothers.

I say it was always an orderly entrance but I do remember a time when, caught short just as the whistle went, I marked time with my class of seven year olds only to have the abject humiliation of noticing and being noticed that my army surplus short trousers were giving off a strong smell and feeling distinctly uncomfortable. In the kind of humane gesture reserved for the putting of horses and dogs out of their misery the duty teacher pulled me out of line and sent me home to change my soiled pants. I was not the only little boy to have this experience. We just did not have the gumption to interrupt the clockwork precision which attended the beginning of the school day. Besides, school toilets were no longer my forte.

About the only time I can remember a teacher offering what might have been interpreted as an apology for giving me the cane was when I could not stand still in line when he was addressing me. The conversation, conducted in one-sided decibels went something like this:

"Stand still when I'm speaking to you boy!"

"I am standing still Sir." "You are distinctly moving. Do you have St. Vitus' dance?"

"My sisters like dancing Sir but I haven't learnt yet."

"You are being impertinent (I did not know the meaning of this word any more than I knew who St. Vitus was but his clipped pronunciation gave me his drift) and you are not standing still."

"But Sir I am standing still it's my shoes."

This was too much for him. I put out my hands as ordered and was promptly caned (we called it 'cut') across both palms. Gripping both open hands under my armpits in the time honoured way of relieving the sting I rocked not so much with pain as with the unbalanced movement of my soles. The distress on my face must have prompted the teacher to inquire about the relationship between my shoes and my inability to stand stock still. My closest school mate tried to help. "His shoes are tired Sir." Well, what he said sounded like 'tired' but it could hardly have been pronounced in any other way because he knew that, in the ways of so many make-do and mend fathers, the soles of my shoes had been 'tyred' that is reshod with strips of bicycle tyre. Stretching and nailing the tyre pieces to the soles could never quite remove the rounded part of the tyre which lay lengthwise along the soles and it was this that made it nigh impossible to keep your feet firmly on the ground and induced a sideways rocking motion.

The teacher, broke off from upbraiding my pal about the absurdity of insomniac inanimate objects - a reference to shoes and to him - and both exasperated and curious, ordered me to show him the soles of my shoes. I gingerly gripped one ankle and, hopping uncontrollably on the spot, smarting from the cuts across my hand, rocked on one foot to show him the evidence of my Dad's workmanship.

He actually hooted with laughter, called another teacher across but then, unbelievably, told me to congratulate my father on his initiative and said he might be able to supply tyres from his motor bike to improve my situation. On top of this back-handed compliment he said he may have acted a little hastily in his use of the cane but in any case I should have known who St. Vitus was and thus avoided the stupid remark about my sisters. The free use of the cane was a harsh motivator. I learnt who St. Vitus was and many other more useful things like chanting the arithmetic tables from twos to thirteens without error in order to avoid the cane.

At least once a week the whole school assembled for table chanting. At least that's what we called it. The headmaster called it arithmetical aptitude. We all had to have arithmetical aptitude otherwise life would be a closed book to us. Many unfortunates did not even have a closed book to call their own. They were usually kept down a standard for lack of aptitude in the teachers' terms. This meant that some standards contained a few poor souls who had not reached the 'standard' for their age and were kept down a year.

Most of the teachers had given up flogging a dead horse let alone their hides and hands and they were condemned to be the 'hewers of wood and drawers of water' as I learnt in one assembly with a hint of religious flavour.

Yes, I had witnessed boys being caned for getting the answer wrong to such questions as, "What is the product of seven and six? (No answer from the victim) I shall rephrase that: what are seven times six? This of course is the same as six times seven." Seeing the myriad of upraised hands in the assembly all straining to show their arithmetical aptitude the unnerved pupil stammered out an answer which was inevitably wrong because the head had chosen a boy who had failed this interrogation last week.

A public caning usually of one or two strokes resulted. In my imagination I could see that at some time the victims would be seized up to the blackboard and the cat o' nine tails taken from its bag and applied 42 times across the unfortunate miscreant's back. If such displays of corporal punishment were intended to encourage the others they certainly had some effect on accelerated rote learning.

One incident that has stuck in my mind took place in my final year of junior schooling. Having been warned several times for talking out of turn by my scholarship class teacher I was called to the front of the class to be caned for persistent chatting. I hasten to add that I really liked this teacher (Mr Stan Stuckey) who was one of the old-stagers and had an enviable reputation at getting his pupils through the scholarship.

It was my second year in his class as I had been promoted a standard (yes you could go up as well as down in this system) at nine years of age but had been too young to sit the grammar school entrance exam the previous year.

He stood no nonsense but seemed to be all too aware that his pupils, who were by then a mixture of primary school boys and girls, were the crème de la crème in a district school which still found that grit could be turned into pearls. Taking his avuncular mien somewhat for granted I had tried his patience once too often. It was a wintry day and the caretaker of the school had lit the coal fires which still existed in most classrooms. The teacher took the cane out from behind his blackboard and flexed it for use but the ends of the cane were flayed into strips.

To add insult to impending injury the teacher told me to put my coat on, gave me a tanner (not the cane itself but sixpence!) and sent me to the local shopkeeper who provided the school with canes. This corner shop had cornered the market in these instruments of torture and a further twist was that the shopkeeper still nurtured an outstanding debt from my mother who, like everyone else, had several grocery items 'on the slate' until payday. Seeing me shopping in the middle of the school day caused him to remark, "It's good to see your mother has given you a special errand to pay off what is owing."

Taken aback I blurted out that it was Mr Stuckey at the school who had sent me to buy a cane for him I added that I was to be the first recipient of its favours. The disappointment at non-settlement of my mother's bill was replaced by a wide grin as compensation for my lack of financial fruitfulness. He brought to the shop counter a rather apt cane basket containing a variety of more lethal canes. With deliberate and dramatic painstaking he selected and rejected several canes remarking that Mr. Stuckey liked greater flexibility and length or that he liked a more open hooked handle.

He lovingly explained that Mr C. another teacher of more sadistic bent preferred the short stubby thicker version, that Whacker W. preferred a stiff rod-like one and Basher B. liked a thinner, whippier variety. Generations of schoolchildren including my own father would testify that, of all the teachers, Mr C. was universally feared when on yard duty.

He carried his short, stubby cane, about the thickness of an adult thumb, in his coat pocket so that about nine inches protruded on show to all who passed near him. It was particularly painful to be rapped across the knuckles with it or, even worse, cut across chilblained hands in cold weather.

My father who attended the same school once told me that after doing this to one young boy during the first War the boy's older brother, on leave from the Navy, stormed into Mr. C's classroom and floored him with one punch for, "Splitting our kid's chilblains with his bloody stick." This rather direct intervention may have had a salutary effect for a while but by the end of his career he was still wielding his stick with the same old relish.

At last the shopkeeper chose what he called, "The right kind of cane for old Stan," made an ominous swishing noise as he clove the air with it, took the proffered sixpence and hoped it would repay his careful selection for the teacher. I left the shop with the cane carefully wrapped in brown paper but with the crooked handle left uncovered.

There was still about an hour to the end of school and there was no way I could justify a 10 minute walk from school had taken all of 60 minutes. There looked like no chance to delay the inevitable but, perhaps an outside chance that I could be waylaid and my oddly wrapped piece of shopping forcibly taken from me came to mind.

Rather than walk back by the main road and streets leading to the school I would take the ever present lanes - those alleyways of noisy games playing and the alien territory of gangs based in the houses that shared these common routeways.

For once, the Boardie must have had an impact or the cold weather had curtailed operations for the rival gang members who may all have been in school. I returned to school unmolested by older boys of the Dick Turpin kind and wondering where there was a footpad when you most needed one.

On entering the classroom there was a solemn hush. The ritual would begin. The sacrificial lamb had arrived bearing the rod of atonement. My hands were cold, my tongue dry and my sphincter muscles tensed.

Old Stan unwrapped the cane in a way that suggested he was about to whisper endearments to a willowy mistress but instead he thrust the end into the glowing embers of the fire. This sudden and unexpected turn of events gave me a glimmer of hope that Mr S. had seen the light and was to eschew the ways of physical correction for eternity. Fat chance.

Removing the tip of the cane from the fire he snuffed out the singed end with his sausage like fingers. Ever keen to impart knowledge old Stan explained to me and, by implication the attentive class, that by carrying out this procedure he had hardened the tip of the cane to reduce the chances of it splitting in the way his previous implement had done. So the gods of the fire could have saved me my errand of tribulation.

The cane duly cauterized, Mr S. magnanimously gave me the choice of having it struck across my hands or my backside. No good pleading mitigating circumstances and partial redemption by being an assiduous runner of errands. Two strokes were to be administered. My hands were still cold. I chose to have the strokes addressed to my tightly clenched buttocks. At least there was the covering of my khaki ex-army shorts. As was the custom I was made to touch my toes, the hardened end of the cane was scrolled over the seat of my trousers to check for irregular body armour and the strokes deftly and unerringly laid across the same spot to maximise effect.

At least I was spared the humbug of, "That hurt me more to do it than it hurt you to receive it."

Instead I heard, "You chose a fine cane there my boy - should see me out to retirement."

No pain no gain. That was the last time I was caned during my primary education.

I am a Grangetown Boy by Jack Payne

South Clive Street just after the war

I am a Grangetown Boy
Born in Pentrebane
When two we moved to Amhurst Street
Next to Earl Street Lane

The rooms were dark and damp
The owners surname Craft
I wore short trousers then
In winter thighs were chafed

My father's name was David
Known locally as Dai Payne
I later used this pseudonym
Instead of my real name.

It was the days of great Depression
Dad was rarely working
Men queued hours for jobs then
No money if found shirking.

Men gathered on the Marl
For pitch and toss flutter
Wives stayed home,not out to work
Marbles played in gutter

The Forge Pub across the road
was held with great affection
Because Mam played the piano there
For a welcome penny collection

I remember an election then
Anger, noise, great fervour
Casenave for labour then
Beat Shute the failed Conserva

Our next move was to Clive
Just near the Baptist Chapel
My school then became the Nash
Lunch, dry bread annd an apple

Empire Day in school
Proud flags of Britain waving
Came the threat of war
Austerity, no waste, more saving

Our future then took a turn
and life became more merry
A new house built in South Clive
A street leading to the Ferry.

We played in street
and on the Marl
Rode bikes down the subway
Swam in Taff
Built dams of mud
and jumped off Windsor Slipway

Then came the war
German Bombers over head
Spent many nights in shelter
Than risk our death in bed

Sid Radford Special Constable
Guarding entrance to the Ferry
Was caught receiving bets
His mind was not on Jerry

The night of Jan the second
Destruction, fire and terror
Hollymans, and Grange Mansion house
Destroyed and gone for ever

We moved then to Oakley Street
On a coalman's horse and cart
To rooms dark and dingy
Not what you'd call smart.

Our home was then a room
Adjoining Smithymans stable
When horse kicked the wall
Plaster fell on table

Vinegar in barrels
Carried by horse and trailer
Blocks of salt two feet square
Sold by Salto Taylor

Pugsley walked the streets of Grange
Shouting Echo, Echo, Echo
This was the paper of the day
But his voice was none to mellow

Sid Lewis the Bookmaker
Took bets on horses racings
Runners on street corners
Were there to collect his takings

The subway under the Ely

Bombs fell down, incendiaries too
For many it was scarefull
For me it was exciting time
As long as I was careful

Since I moved away
My call up was the sever
But though I now live far away
I'll be a Grange boy ever

This street party in Allerton Street was in the summer of 1981 to mark the royal wedding between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer. The elevated view was from the Elizabeth flats, which have been demolished and replaced by new homes.


By Rita Spinola (nee Stevens)
I have lived in my house in Llanmaes Street for 69 years. When I was a little girl, we had many happy times with bus outings to Aberavon beach, and street parties. The one I remember was the Coronation in 1953. We had tables in the road and the adults brought out food and their own chairs. We would have races, fancy dress and a piano to sing and dance to all night. The men would put flags up and they also made a "bar," calling it the Elizabeth Inn!

When I grew up, was married with three children, my friend Dolly and I decided to run bus outings in the August holidays. We had two for children - to Porthcawl and Weston-super-Mare and in September for the adults. Dolly and I did 13 street parties - each time they got better and better, with bouncy castle, cakes, tea, fancy dress, buffet and dancing til midnight.

Pictured above, top left- a street outing, possibly from 1949 and right of that, the "Elizabeth Inn," a makeshift bar for the Coronation celebrations. Pictured below left is the VE anniversary party in 1995, then below centre is a trip to Weston in 1996. Below right is the most recent street party in 2002 to mark the Queen's golden jubilee - children and adults wore specially-printed T-shirts with Llanmaes Street on them.


Dennis Courtney, now living in south Australia, sends this photo (left): "It would be in the late 1940s - Mr Whickham's class at the Grangetown Council School. Most of the boys would be in their late 60s or early 70s now. The building in the background is the two classrooms they built in the school yard. They used to be Mr Stuckey's and Mr Thomas's.

Not long after, Graham Ayres sent us this photo of the school's baseball team (right), with trophies, in Grange Gardens in 1949. He's back row, fourth from the left. Click on the photos for larger versions - let us know if you're in the photos and have any memories!


By Jack Payne

I believe it was in the 1920s that the subway was built underneath the river Ely connecting Grangetown with Penarth Docks. I think it was made to enable dockworkers from Cardiff to access the newly formed Penarth Docks.

Prior to the war our family often frequented the area beyond South Clive Street leading to the subway because for some time my mother Peggy was the pianist who played in the Red House pub. Whilst my mother and father, (who played drums) were in the pub I with my brother and sister played on the slipway behind the pub.

During the war access to this area was denied to all who but those working in the area and Special Constable Sid Radford, who had a shop in Paget Street, was posted there along with one other to police the access. When the war finished this area along with the subway was opened for public access.

The subway was used as a quick route around the rocky coastline to Penarth beach and pier. Initially there was some person on guard at each end of the tunnel, which sloped very steeply from the Grangetown end to an "S" bend at the bottom and a more gradual rise to the Penarth side. There was a naked 60-watt light bulb in the roof about every twenty yards.

The ceiling and walls were always dripping with water and when it was first opened after the war there were plenty of stalactites and stalagmites. The guards were there ostensibly to stop persons riding their bicycles through the tunnel. After a few months the guards at the entrances were removed and youths using the subway took out the light bulbs and threw them to the bottom causing a loud explosion.

For a while the authorities replaced the light bulbs but as they were continually getting smashed they eventually gave up. This plunged to tunnel into complete darkness and at the bottom one could not see their hand in front of their face.

As there was nobody to stop them persons began riding their bicycles through the subway and as they had entered in daylight they had no lights. Consequently anyone walking in the subway had to keep a sharp ear for the sound of swishing tyres as the bicycles would be travelling at a fast speed.

Running along the side and full length of the subway was a large pipe about a foot in diameter. If one heard a bicycle coming, jumping onto this pipe was the only safe refuge.

Sundays in Cardiff in the late 1940s were dead as the proverbial Dodo. Shops, cinemas and pubs were all closed. The only places open were churches and other places of worship. Then the Marina concert hall on Penarth Pier opened with live talent contests for singers, comedians and musicians.

When the tide was right, you could walk around Penarth headland from the subway to the pier. This meant there was a steady flow of teenagers using this route on a Sunday evening. the term used by the teenagers was "Going over the border". When the tide was up the train from Grangetown Halt was used.

Jack's younger brother KEN PAYNE adds his memories of the Subway from the 1950s: "This in essence was a metal tube under the River Ely, very often it was in complete darkness.We would venture through the darkness untill we could see the little halo of light appear telling us we were nearing Penarth Dock.Once up in the dock you could cross the dock gates and walk down to the pebble beach. Penarth dock had several World War Two ships that had been mothballed which carried a great deal of interest to us.The little pebble beach at Penarth was quite popular on nice summer evenings. There would be lots of people taking a dip here. One of the things that I found intriguing then were the metal stairs that used to wind down from the cliff top,only to come to an end halfway down where they’d fallen into disrepair. These stairs must have been a hair raising experience even whilst in good order.When it was quiet we would pass our time hurling rocks at the cliff face to try and bring it down, we would be delighted at any small rock fall."

"We would also spend our time roaming around the dock looking for scrap metal. This would consist of old nuts and bolts, off-cuts of metal plate and any metal object we could carry. Once we thought there was a sufficient weight it would be a case of lugging the metal back through the subway. Then it was down to Bill Ways' scrapyard to see what we could get. Generally we would be given a half crown or two bob - a pretty miserly return for half a day dragging metal from Penarth to Cardiff, but we were happy."

Under the river - the Grangetown subway

The Grangetown subway under the River Ely being built in 1897

ZENA MABBS looks at the Grangetown subway, which ran under the River Ely from late Victorian times. It's still there of course, if closed off.

Work began on the subway in 1897 using a trench and cover technique from the Ferry Road, Grangetown end under the river at the same point as the ferry crossing. The lowest section of the tunnel lies 11 feet below the river. The decision to construct the Ely River Subway was made by the chairman of the Taff Vale Railway, Arthur E. Guest. George T. Sibbering, chief engineer of the Taff Vale Railway designed the subway. The tender sum was £36,203 submitted by Tom Taylor, a mining quarrying and civil engineering contractor from Pontypridd. The first cylindrical section of the tunnel was laid on 5th July 1897 and the last on 15th September 1899. It was opened the following year on 14th May 1900 by Mrs. Beasley wife of the railway's general manager, replacing the earlier rowing boat and steam ferries operating across the river. A toll keeper collected a penny for each pedestrian but police and postmen were exempt from charges. It cost twopence for a bicycle and fourpence for a perambulator. Horses were allowed through but no one remembers the charge. Tolls were abolished in 1941. The subway carried the hydraulic power line from the power station to the coal tips at the harbour and a high pressure water supply to fight fires at the oil storage area.

My footsteps returned to the Grange today
The landmarks I sought had vanished away
Regretfully, I reminisced
For the Grangetown I knew was not like this

With youth renewed I wandered at will
Over the tide fields and the red hills
Past the Red House to the old subway
Searched for a penny toll to pay

I looked at my hands
They were wrinkled and old
Suddenly, I felt quite cold
For the spirit of Grangetown that used to be
Only exists in my memory.

There is a fantastic website on the history of Penarth Docks, which includes more details about the Ely subway and how it was built.

Grangetown's front line of defence?

Michael Griffiths, a former Grangetown resident recently sent the Grangetown Local History Society a photograph of this pill box, off Penarth Road, asking "is this going to be saved?"

Although Michael lives in Scotland he is a frequent visitor to Grangetown and to his Grangetown family. The pill box can be found off Stuart Close, before Penarth Road reaches the link-road fly-over. Michael also remembers it being used as a bird hide.

Around 28,000 pill boxes were built at strategic points across the UK, during World War II - sited at places such as road junctions and waterways. It is estimated that 6,000 still remain today. There's a great website devoted to the study, record and preservation of pill boxes as well as a pill box study group. There don't seem to be any listed for our part of south Wales, apart from at the old aircraft base at Llandow in the Vale, so the society is going to contact them.


By Jack Payne
The building of the houses in South Clive Street began in 1937. Our family then consisting of Mam and Dad, sister Hazel, eight, two-year-old brother and myself aged five, moving into number 81 in the spring of 1938.

To facilitate the move we used a handcart hired from the Gas Works, the type used for carting coke. All the furniture we owned was piled onto this handcart. For the first few weeks of living there we slept on the bare floor boards. At that time along the whole length of the street houses were in various stages of construction. Some were at the basic foundation stage, others were half built or completed but awaiting interior decorating whilst about 20 were already occupied.

No. 81 was a three bedroom semi-detached house, the other half - number 83 - was still being completed, with interior doors and the like still to be fitted. The other side of us, no 79, was still at the first level stage of being built whilst directly opposite the family of O'Connors - children Billy, Dolly, Eddie, John and Betty had been in occupation for some months.

VE Day celebrations at the top end of South Clive Street in May 1945. Pic: Jack Payne.

Having moved there from living in rooms this was an area of wonderful excitement for boys of my age and there were many of them. At first there was no watchman on the site and as Cowboys and Indians were the in thing bows and arrows were required. The site offered large quantities of wooden laths and string enough to supply all the boys in Grangetown.

At the same time, as families moved in they helped themselves to sand and cement to build garden paths for their homes. This soon resulted in a watchman, Eli, being employed to cover from 5pm until work started the following day. The houses were being finished at quite a fast rate and families were moving in daily. No1 the Vernacombes, Graham later played as goalkeeper for Cardiff City; at 2 the Olsens, withson Alfie; No 4 the Buleys,Tom and Leon; 6 Barnets Alan; 8 Fearnley, no children but Charlie helped to run Cardiff Gas Boxing Club. 10 Lovell, Alan, opposite side Kazeras, Blakeys, Imperato, Leonard, Ryan, Shaw, Preece, Sanders, back odd number side Lucas, Graham, Nicholas, Graham, Grady, Parfit, Morgan, Parsons, Corner of Beecher Avenue, Bulpins Trevor and Vera, Balch, other side O'Shea Paul, 63 Attley, (inserted by Emery family:) 65 Emery. "We moved out of South Clive Street in 1950 to 5 Ludlow Close. Uncle Ned Rodd used his horse and cart to help move us all. My aunt Thelma Adams lived at 120, with husband Albert and son John." 67 Rodd, 69 James Mavis, 71 Gill, 73 Fearnley Craig , opposite Cornish, Greedy, Perkins Malcolm and Cedric, Coles Josey, O'Connors referred to above, James, Shelley Sylvia and Maureen, Bevan Teddy, Stubbs Jean, Pearce Ronald, back on odd side 75 Parry Gordon and Dennis, 77 James, 79 Alloway Sylvia, Dorothy, Pam, Valerie, 81 Payne, 83 Chiplin Gladys, Irene, Thelma, Sylvia. They had an evacuee named Rene Grinewald during the war. 85 Born, 87 Evans, 89 Swan, 91 Leigh, Maureen, they left and a family named Hall Raymond and Tom moved in. 93 Young 95 Saunders Dennis, 97 Williams Chrissie, 99 Davis "Curly" 101 Andrews Billy he had six fingers on one hand and Stanley "Ikey". Opposite side Guppy Graham, Johannison, Roach, Binding Barbara, Bellamy Celia, Batten, Kennedy and others I cannot at present remember. These were the first people to take up occupation between 1937 and 1940 many families later enlarged by having more children.

When all the houses were finished and occupied early 1939 they built walls all along the fronts of the houses and topped these walls with a wrought iron fence about 18 inches high. Each house was also provided with a wrought iron gate to their front path.. The pavement was laid in large concrete slabs and the area between the pavement and road about five feet in width was laid with turf. No trees were planted at that time. Soon after the war started the gates and wrought iron fences were removed as scrap for the war effort.

As the families moved in and removed the builders rubble from their front gardens, the majority laid the front garden to lawn. Turfs of sea grass were dug from the tide fields. These turfs made a lawn of strong wearing really tough grass. I know it was tough because it was my job to cut it with a pair of shears. No lawn mower in those days. The depression era of the 20s and 30s spawned a generation of hardened street wise kids in Grangetown. A large number of these were domiciled in South Clive Street already toughed to withstand the shortages and perils of the coming war.


By Jack Payne
In the late 1930s Wales was still in depression with thousands out of work, so the prospect of travelling away for a holiday for the working class was remote. Consequently people looked closer to home for their recreation. The nearest place to the sea for many Cardiffians was the tide fields at Grangetown at the mouth of the river Taff. So during the weekends and evenings of the hot summer months large numbers of families made their way to the tide fields.

In order to put this in perspective I need to describe the location as it was then, because in the post war years the area has changed dramatically.

Bordering on Ferry Road and Channel view was a large open space of reddish earth called The Marl. As one crossed the Marl and became nearer to the sea, the Marl changed from a flat area where baseball matches were played to a series of small hillocks.

Just past Bowles Sand and Gravel Dock the ground dropped away about 10-12ft to a narrow beach of shells gravel and pebbles about three feet wide.

Click on the image above for a larger version of a sketch map from Jack on how The Marl and area looked between 1938 and 1945.

Behind the beach now was an earth sea wall and towards the sea was a large area of tide fields, sea grass with numerous gullies one or two feet deep crisscrossing the whole area. Nearer the river the sea grass changed to an area of mud with banks dropping down 15-20ft to the bottom of the river at low tide.

Just to the seaward side of Bowles stuck in the mud was the skeleton of an old schooner, known as “The Old Louisa”. I do not know if this was the true name of the ship. This was a favoured place to play digging in the mud around the wreck searching for treasure. At low tide these mud banks became a place of enjoyment for children. We had many long hot summer days and the sun baked and cracked the mud so that it resembled a large area of crazy paving.

At the lowest tide a boy of 10 years could stand in the river with the water just reaching his knees so there was no danger of drowning. The caked mud would be lifted off exposing the slimy wet mud beneath. This enabled a slide to be made down to the water with the cracks in the mud beside the slide giving toe holes to climb back to the top.

On a fine day there may be as many as five or six slides on the go. As the tide became higher the children retreated to the tide fields. The gullies in the tide fields filled first with seawater and great attempts were made by children to build dams in an attempt to stop the flow. Nearer to the beach there were no gullies and at high tide this was a safe area for small children to play in the water just covering the sea grass. The beach area was a place where families lit fires and had picnic.

At high tide older boys crossed the tide fields to the Windsor Slipway Pier. This pier which projected out over the river had been disused for many years and many of the planks were missing or rotten.

By walking close to the side-rail, you could reach the end safely. The boys would then jump or dive into the sea and swim the 30-40 yards back to the shore.

Once the war started families stopped going to the tide fields, but older boys continued to frequent the area. Boys' paperbacks of the day, like Rover or Hotspur always had stories of Germans coming ashore from submarines or dropping by parachute on the shoreline, so we thought we had better keep a look out.

We went across the tide fields to the Ordnance Depot, helped ourselves to small spades, water bottles and water bottle carriers stored just inside the wire fence, went back to the sea wall and dug a number of small caves from which to keep a look out, and used the bottles for storing water.

Needless to say we didn’t spot any Germans or submarines.

Whilst we were digging the caves we dug up a small silver cup. There was argument in our gang about nine in all as to who should have the cup. Billy Andrews the eldest of our gang took the cup home, chopped it up with an axe and gave us a piece each.

Some 20 years later my youngest brother found a Roman coin not far from where we dug up the cup.

Between the sea wall and Channel View was a large depression. It extended from Beecher Avenue to the end of Channel View about 100 yards, it was about 20 yards wide and 10-15ft deep. It was oval in shape had a pond at each end. The floor seemed to consist of cinders.

Both ponds, which were not very deep, had newts and as it was a suntrap the weeds grew to about 5ft high. This was another place where children came to play and fish for newts. The weeds, which grew here, were of the very thick stem kind and could be used for making a shelter.

At the end of the war this depression was used as an infill site for household rubbish. It was then covered and used as a football pitch. It now has flats built over it.

On the night of the big air raid when the Mansion House opposite the Plymouth pub was destroyed with a heavy loss of life, a land mine was dropped near the barrage balloon site at the end of South Clive Street. It severely damaged the last five or six houses in the street. Stick of bombs also landed on the tide field near the Pier. The stick of bombs which I believe were intended for the oil depot, left three large craters in the tide field and filled with sea water when the first tide came in, making three small lakes.

There was an amusing incident regarding these lakes. My friend Calvin made a canoe and I went with him to launch it.

He decided to try it out first in one of the craters instead of the river and asked me to get in. I declined, so he got in and the canoe immediately snapped in the middle and sank.

A railway line ran along the far side of South Clive Street terminating at the Oil Storage Depot just short of the Penarth subway.

During the war an anti-aircraft gun was towed along this line by a train and used to fire at enemy aircraft during raids. Although the windows of the houses were criss-crossed with sticky paper and lead this gun caused more windows to crack than any bomb or shrapnel!

Shop-keepers, street vendors, bookies runners and living next door to the fish and chip shop

Thanks to JACK PAYNE for letting us publish this extract from his unpublished autobiography on growing up in Grangetown during the Great Depression.

I was born in Pentrebane Street, Grangetown in 1933 during the Depression. Our family also lived in rooms in Amherst Street, Oakley Street and Clive Street, before moving to South Clive Street in 1938. Thousands of men were unemployed, families living in Grangetown were poor and shops in the area were of a type that catered for people without much money.

Bruton's other Grangetown shop, in Clare Road. This is featured in the 2008 Grangetown Local History Society calendar

There were many shops in lower Grange but I will only mention those I feel were a bit different or had something special about them. Opposite the Plymouth pub in Holmesdale Street, was Warren's. A dark little shop with bare wooden floors, and bare wooden counter that sold mainly vinegar and bread. I think Mrs Warren kept her bread covered in damp cloths to extend its life. The bread was always damp and had a slight mouldy smell.

The next nearest shop to sell bread was Brutons, three quarters of the way along Holmesdale Street. Olive Bruton wore her hair in the style of flapper girls of the 20s. Queues formed outside this shop at 6.45am in the morning and by the time the shop opened at 8am the queue would be about 50 yards long. The shop had sold out by 10am.

Going back along Holmesdale Street was Udry’s the first "open all hours" shop, the only shop to open on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Thomas’s on the corner of Amherst Street was a newsagent who sold sheet music of the popular songs of the day. My mother Peggy was a pianist and played in pubs and clubs all over Cardiff. I was sent to this shop to buy sheet music. Between Amherst Street and Kent Street was a shop that sold beef and pork dripping and faggots and peas. You had to take your own basin. If you were buying faggots and peas you had to have a cloth to hold the hot basin. This shop also sold large marrow bones, which were purchased for stew. These bones were the leg bones of oxen, cows or horses and were served up with the stew. The marrow was extracted by using the handle of a spoon or a piece of stick.

A. Plain's grocery and fishmonger's shop at No 21 Corporation Road in 1932 - and 75 years later.

Opposite Brutons was Tarvers, the only true grocery shop in this area, and run by a brother and sister. I think they liked their own produce, as they were the only obese people in Grangetown during the war! There was also a house in Knole Street, which unlawfully sold herb beer. This was very alcoholic and cheaper than the beer sold in the pubs. One had to be careful carrying it home because the pressure inside made the bottles burst easily or the cork to blow off.

Just beyond the Iron Rooms in Paget Street was Joyce’s Pie shop - this was the predecessor to Clarke's Pies. I think the pie shop at the beginning of Clare Road was also Joyce’s, which was eventually taken over by Clarke’s. In those days if you went into a fish and chip shop and wanted pie and chips, customers always asked for a "Joyce’s pie."

Next door to The Forge pub was Johnny Wright’s Fish and Chip shop. Johnny had a nose that looked as if a steam roller had run over it! Opposite Johnny’s was a stable and we lived in one room next to the stable owned by Mrs Smithyman. The horses would kick the walls and plaster would fall off in our room. Next to us was Whitings Fish and Chip shop. As children we could not afford chips but we could go in and ask for a bag of scrumps. This was the pieces of batter that fell off the fish. We would be given this free in a triangular paper bag.

This is Sally Whitcombe's shop in Holmesdale Street. She's pictured in the centre and Edna Clode, who worked there, is on the right. Photo: David Lee/Martin Whitcombe.

There were many vendors plying their wares around the streets of Grangetown during this time, and there were some very colourful characters. Most colourful of all was the flypaper seller who was dressed in top hat and tails and had sticky flypapers pinned all over his clothes. He carried a cloth bag with his wares and sang at the top of his voice “those dirty old flies, I’ll catch them alive those dirty old flies. Come and buy my flypapers we’ll catch them alive those dirty old flies!"

The rag and bone man had a handcart with jars containing a goldfish hanging from the handles..He tried to waylay children to go into their house and bring out some rags for a goldfish. The parents always wanted money for their rags. Salto Taylor had a horse and flat bottom cart ,carrying large blocks of salt, four of five foot square, and he used a saw to cut off salt for his customers. At the back of the cart were barrels of vinegar sold by the half-pint. He had a dirty old tarpaulin sheet that he used to cover the salt if it rained.

Miss Cazenave, the milk lady, had a horse and cart with large aluminium milk churns. Milk was purchased in your own container and a long handled measure of a half a pint was ladled out of the churns. The milk lady later progressed to an electric handcart with milk sold in bottles.

The Irish dancers came once or twice a year playing music from bagpipes and dancing gigs. The men and women wore kilts and the daggers in the men’s socks fascinated me. There was a man who sold hot bread rolls from a tricycle with a large insulated box at the front. The rolls were usually sold in blocks of six, but you could buy two for a halfpenny. There was Pugsley the newspaperman who walked the street morning and evening shouting "Echo!"

The man who sold shoelaces and polish carried three suitcases, one in each hand and one tucked under his arm. His wares cost no more than a penny or two pence each but he must have made a living from it. The Johnny Onion man who came from Brittany he had a bicycle laden down with strings of onions. The fresh fish man who had a handcart with fish covered with piles of ice.

Sid Lewis was the local bookie at that time - unlawfully taking bets on horse and dog racing. He had bookies runners standing outside the Plymouth, The Forge and the Bird in Hand Pubs taking bets. I was often sent with a piece of paper naming a couple of horses and a bet of 3d x 6d or 6d x 1/-d - never any more. If Dad had won on every horse he backed I don’t suppose he would have won more than 10/-d but this would have been a fair sum in those days. I was not the only child doing this, as we were less likely to be spotted approaching a runner by plain- clothes police who were always trying to arrest them.

There was also the one-man band that came along the streets. He played a flute, had cymbals attached to the inside of both elbows and knees, and had strings attached from the heels of his shoes to a base drum on his back.

There was an old lady whom children thought was a witch who walked around the gutters picking up odds and ends and putting them in her bag. She wore a black Welsh hat, had long grey hair, a black flowing coat long black skirt, long laced up boots and had a large alarm clock hanging from her belt.

Finally there were the local men who having travelled about the city seeking work in the morning congregated on the Marl in the afternoon to play Pitch and Toss. This was a game where bets were placed on a number of coins tossed into the air as to what number came down heads or tails. As many as 20 to 30 men would take part in these games trying to win a few shillings. Lookouts were posted along the edge of the marl because the police often raided the games.


ZENA MABBS, formerly of Kent Street, writes about her grandfather's time at Thomas and Evans grocer's at 189 Penarth Road.

My grandfather David Thomas Davies worked in this shop for most of his life, eventually becoming the manager before he retired. This was the sort of shop with sawdust on the floor and huge slabs of butter waiting to be cut into the weight you wanted. Muslin covered the large bacon joints resting on the counter until they were sliced up on the hand-driven bacon slicer. Unfortunately, for my grandfather, at one stage in his life he inadvertently sliced off the little finger of his left hand while operating this machine. No health and safety rules in those days!

On Saturdays, my mother, my sister and myself would walk up to the shop from our home in Kent Street to place the weekly grocery order with Grandpa. There he would be behind the counter, with his long white apron on, his hands always red with the cold. Everything that was ordered was placed before us on the counter and then neatly packed in a large, brown paper bag for the delivery boy to bring to our house later in the day.

At the end of this transaction, my grandfather always gave my sister and I a small bar of Fry's Chocolate Cream. How we looked forward to this treat each week.

Sometimes if the delivery boy did not turn up, Grandpa despite being the manager, and even when he was over 60, would pack up the cycle with as many orders as the carrier would hold and take to the road. How the bicycle remained upright was a miracle.

After serving in the shop every day, Grandpa had to write up the books and this was done in a little sort of cubby-hole at the back of the shop. But Grandpa had many talents, woodwork being one of them. One Christmas, he made a miniature shop for us to play with. It had tiny bottles on the shelves containing small quantities of all the sorts of things he sold in the shop. Needless to say, we ate the contents of all the bottles that contained sweets but left the ones with split noodles.

The shop was J R Roach's post office and ironmonger's from 1899, then E D Evans', who added a stationer's to the business between 1910 and 1920. Then in 1929 it was P L Doddington Grocers before being known as Thomas and Evans from 1949 to 1952. They had numerous stores. The shop is now Yang's Chinese restaurant.

Grangetown Local History Society have published "Old Grangetown Shops and Memories" (2009); a further book is planned for 2011.