"A diverse and compelling online resource that makes the city’s rich history accessible to everyone" - Who Do You Think You Are? magazine

"For a wonderfully comprehensive chronicle of Grangetown history since those drunken monks turned up..." - Dan O'Neill - South Wales Echo

Grangetown Local History Society usually meets every month in Cardiff in the Llynfi room at Glamorgan Archives, Leckwith on the first Friday of month (2pm-4pm). All are welcome to come along, and bring photos and stories if you have them. Next meeting: ** Due to the continuing coronavirus restrictions, our meetings are cancelled until further notice ** We hope to hold some virtual talks via Zoom in the next few weeks - email us if you want to join in. Follow our Twitter feed @GLHS1 for updated

Grangetown Local History Society holds its meetings at Glamorgan Archives in Leckwith. There is a carpark, there is also parking at the nearby Cardiff retail park close to Cardiff City FC. The No 1 city circle bus has a stop close to the Archive opposite the Cardiff Bus garage, with the bus running down Grange Gardens (13.30 and 14.00, eight minutes) via Corporation Road, Clare Road and Cornwall Street. The No 2 City Circle returns by the same route (15.23 and 15.59 outside the bus garage). Lifts from centre of Grangetown can be arranged via the chair and secretary.

We are a group of people interested in local history, many Grangetown born and bred, but others who have come to live in the area. We also welcome visitors, including people from overseas on a visit back to their roots! Email: grcarinfo@yahoo.co.uk

Click on the images in the map above for an online history of Grangetown

Click here for older Grangetown Local History Society news and photos

Displays: The society displays photos, slideshows and audio memories at local community events and fairs, including the annual Grangetown Festival in June. It has also taken part in local and family history fairs and exhibited at the local library.

Audio history: We are involved in an ongoing audio history project, collecting memories from Grangetown people of times and people in the past. If you would like to take part - home visits can be arranged - contact us below. We are particularly interested in hearing from people with connections to north Grangetown/Saltmead.

Archive: We are always collecting photos and memories to build up our growing archive of Grangetown history. We are currently starting to digitise our archive and files of photos, which is quite a long term task. We are always interested in hearing from people with old photos. Even some old family photos can sometimes reveal something about the local area or a particular time. We can arrange to scan and return photos, as well as take digital copies. Thanks to the diligent work of society member Brenda John, the old files of documents and photos have been collated, sorted and properly archived and the Grangetown local history archive is now available to view online

Grangetown and World War I and II: We created an online version of the Grangetown War Memorial, to mark the centenary of World War I. It involved researching the details of the men on the memorial - as well as other casualties with Grangetown connections who were not recorded. A separate website has been created - www.grangetownwar.co.uk and is being updated as the project progresses. We now have a book out, It Touched Every Street based on our research and telling the stories of the men and women who died. See below for more details. Research is under way on a similar project to mark the 80th anniversary of World War Two and the Cardiff Blitz in 2020/21.

Books: It Touched Every Street which tells the story of Grangetown's war memorial and the men and women who died in World War One was published in 2018. It is available for £ 14.99 from Wordcatcher Publishing, Amazon and via the society. A book Old Grangetown Memories Book Two was published in 2013. Copies are sometimes available on eBay. Old Grangetown Memories Book One was published in June 2011 and quickly sold out. There are two other books Old Grangetown Shops and Memories and Old Grangetown Memories Book Two which have also sold out but both should still available to borrow from the Central and Grangetown libraries. Due to changing fashions/costs, we no longer produce a calendar.

Visits: We undertake occasional visits - the most recent one was to Port Talbot transport museum. Others have included the Island Farm prisoner of war camp near Bridgend, Cardiff Museum, Glamorgan Archives, Margam Abbey, Risca Museum and the Cardiff Bay Barrage. Members have also joined in research projects involving the early history of Cardiff docklands and how it came about, with the Glamorgan Archive and Parlimentary archive.


Unexploded bomb tragedy story uncovered

The story of a war-time bomb explosion in a suburb north of Birmingham, which killed 13 people, has been uncovered, 80 years on, during research on a young soldier from Grangetown.

Seven men with a Royal Engineers bomb disposal unit were killed when three bombs exploded at the back of a house in Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham, on the afternoon Sunday 25th August 1940.

Five of them were from south Wales. Six local civilians also died when the delayed-action devices detonated.

Due to wartime censorship, few details of the event were published – with only a mention of the deaths of the seven Royal Engineers, but not what had happened or where.

The incident happened at the back of 117 Welwyndale Road in Sutton Coldfield – part of a number of recently-built houses, on the edge of the Birmingham district of Erdington.

The soldiers were digging down to the bombs when they heard a fizzing sound, which one water board official attributed to a burst main. But the bombs exploded.

Records indicate that a 45-strong unit, led by a Lt Campbell, had been sent to Birmingham a month before to deal with the aftermath of air raids. Problems included delayed action bombs, which were designed to explode up to 80 hours after landing.

There had been an air raid on Birmingham on the night of Saturday 24th and the Birmingham Mail reported on the Monday that there had been “delayed action bombs over a wide area.”


A pre-war map showing the area, while the new housing was being planned.

“During the morning several of them exploded but there were no casualties reported as, in every case, the police had taken stringent precautions and had cordoned off all these districts and evacuated the tenants of houses and premises in the immediate vicinity.”

But the paper went on: “The danger of these bombs, it is pointed out, is very great and exemplified by the fact that casualties were caused by one which exploded yesterday afternoon while efforts were being made to render it innocuous. Spectators had narrow escapes.”

On the 25th, the bomb disposal unit war diary reads: “Explosion of three bombs during removal killed seven other ranks, one died in hospital subsequently. Four were injured. All the casualties were from No 68 section.”

Who were the seven men who died?

William Fergusson, 19, from Penarth Rd, Grangetown, Cardiff was a driver. His elder brother Thomas would die three years later serving in Italy in a battle with the German Tenth Army.

Cpl Arthur Haines, 22, of System St, Adamsdown in the city - was the youngest child of the late Charles and May Haines; his parents had died by the mid 1920s and he lived with a family in Daisy Street, Canton, while going to Lansdowne Road School. Arthur, a carpenter with a shop fitting firm, had already volunteered with the Royal Engineers in the territorials in the spring of 1939 and was promoted to corporal at the start of the war.

William Henry Thorne, 27, of Dogfield Street, Cathays, Cardiff. He left a year-old son and a pregnant widow Winifred.

William Ward Davies, 20,was the second son of dairy farmer John William Davies and mother Agnes Hamilton Davies, of Kincoed Farm, Oakdale. He died in hospital the same day and was buried in a churchyard back at home.

Mervyn Tasse Andrews, 20, was the son of Frederick W. Andrews and Jane Andrews, of Clydach near Abergavenny. His father, 76, a retired quarryman had also served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers during World War One.

Norman Cryer, 37, of Barnoldswick, Lancs, left a widow, a son and three daughters, of Green End Road, Earby. He was a weaver before the war.

Arthur Rabinowitz, 21, also known as Knight, of 67 Wavertree Vale, Liverpool. His obituary said he was very popular in Livepool amateur dancing circles.

The civilians who died were: ARP warden Tom Hatton, 59. He lived at 86 Berwood Farm Road, having formerly lived in Aston and Arthur Road, Erdington. He was the husband of Providence Martha Hatton and father of seven children. His nephew was with him and also died. Albert Hemming, 24, was with the Home Guard.

Albert Montague Bird, 61, a shopkeeper from Southend-on-Sea, who seemed to have retired and moved to nearby 78 Berwood Farm Road, another new house, with his wife Julia.

Thomas Blake, 49, lived at 76 Welwyndale Road, Erdington. Husband of C. Blake.

Another Home Guard man was Leslie Arthur Maddox, 31, who was also a St John’s volunteer. He lived at 72 Berwood Farm Road and was a cash register mechanic. He left a widow Mary Elizabeth – they had been married nearly five years – and two young daughters. He was the son of Ada E. and George Maddox, of 27 Upper Thomas Street, Aston. His father, a firewatcher, would die in an air raid at this home on 30 July 1942.

The youngest civilian to die was John Squires, 19, a bank clerk and only son of John Walter James, bank manager, and Maud Mary Squires, of 843 Chester Road, Erdington.

Thanks to Ted Richards of Roath History Society. Details have been passed to Sutton Coldfield History Society, although they were unaware of the tragedy before.

BOOKS ABOUT GRANGETOWN

There have been a number of books published about the history of Grangetown. Most are still in print, available online or on eBay and also some copies may be available by arrangement from Grangetown Local History Society.

Urban Development in the Victorian Era: A Case Study of Grangetown, Cardiff, 1100-1900 by Ray Noyes, 2020. Tracing the development and building of south Grangetown from early times and particularly detailed on its Vicotorian growth. Available from Wordcatcher Publishing, priced £15, and also on Amazon.

Island in the City by Ray Noyes (Wordcatcher, 2019, £15) A memoir of childhood growing up in Grangetown and the story of the suburb's growth. Available on Amazon

It Touched Every Street by Steve Duffy (Wordcatcher, 2018, £15) Stories of the soldiers, sailors, and civilians from Grangetown who served and died in World War One, based on research of the men on the war memorial in Grange Gardens. Available direct via the history society, via Wordcatcher Publishing and also via Amazon

Grangetown by Barbara Jones (Vol 1, Images of Wales series, Tempus, 1996) Mainly pictoral tracing the history of Grangetown in photographs. Available on eBay and Amazon

Grangetown The Second Collection by Ian Clarke (Vol 2, Images of Wales series, Tempus, 1999). Available on eBay and Amazon

Old Grangetown Memories Book Two was published in 2013 by Grangetown Local History Society. Copies are sometimes available on eBay and there are some available directly from the society, when arrangements allow. Old Grangetown Memories Book One was published in June 2011. There is also a book Old Grangetown Shops. Copies are also available at Cardiff and Grangetown libraries.

Victorian Grangetown, prone to flooding

Here is the story of two high tides, which in Victorian times saw Grangetown very vulnerable to flooding with its then lack of defences.

The Ely burst its banks after continual rain one Thursday morning on July 15th 1875 causing "widespread devastation" in Canton and Upper Grangetown. The Cardiff Times reported it vividly and also underlined how semi-rural Grangetown still was at this time: "The Grange, principally occupied by working men and their families, is completely surrounded by water to the depths of at least four feet, the highway to Penarth at seven o'clock in the evening being only passable to vehicles and horsemen. On the right of the highway the large field extending northward to the Great Western Railway resembles an inland lake, varying in depth from 4-7ft, and the water is just beginning to overflow the roadway opposite to the Grange Hotel.

"The streets which seem to be in imminent danger of being undermined by the swiftly rising waters are Thomas and Rosemary Street. The houses appear to be toppling over. Most of the furniture has been removed from the upper rooms, but a number of sick persons could not be removed in the ordinary way. A number of young men volunteered to procure a boat from the adjoining river Taff, and had succeeded in getting it partly on the way when darkness set in.

"Another group of men were cutting through the bank at the bottom of a field on the left side of the roadway, in order to admit if the water flowing into the Taff, In this they were successful to a considerable extent. About 30 head of cattle were saved from the adjoining field just before the water rushed through the gap in tremendous volume. The cutting of this gap reduced a portion of the large body of water from John's brick yard adjoining, and prevented the overflow on the other side from sweeping down in Lower Grangetown. The Taff Vale Railway, carried cross country by a high tip or embankment, has by its massive proportions saved this suburb from being at once twept away. Ascending this embankment and looking westward, the whole country for miles on each side of the Ely is under water.

"Floating hay-stacks thickly dot the surface, as well as hay-cocks of smaller size. Looking again to the eastward, through the cross streets of the Upper Grange, all kinds of vehicles are in requisition, getting loaded from the upper windows of the houses facing the Great Western Railway, partly dragging them and partly swimming. Some were fortunlate in reaching the main road, others, coming in contact with submerged goods in turning the corners of the streets, threw their goods into the foaming and eddying torrents - drivers, men and horses.


Hairdresser Sam Thomas drew this sketch of flooding in Ludlow Street in October 1883.

The report continued: "Willing hands were not wanting to cut the traces of the horses, and help the men, who otherwise would have been carried away and drowned. Scores of men we saw carrying their little ones towards Cardiff, and two men we noticed had what appeared to be aged females in their strong arms, carefully wrapped up in coverlets and blankets.

"Our reporter, who visited Upper Grange at 11pm, says the left side of the main roadway to Penarth opposite this place is completely submerged to an equal extent with the meadow, lands and fields on the opposite side, the water having increased fully three feet. The only drain pipe, said to be nearly nine inches in diameter, the entrance being opposite the Grange Hotel, is choked up with hay swept into it from the adjoining field."

The Cardiff Times concluded that there was "great anxiety" for the safety of the tenements "at the rear of the village" towards the Great Western Railway, as the "full force of the enormous weight of water is swaying them inwards towards the remaining buildings. Some people are reported missing, bnt it is expected that when the bustle is over they will be found."

Then on the evening of October 17th 1883, another high tide - with gale-force winds - saw water burst through the sea dyke opposite Kent Street, reaching a height of between 4ft and 7ft at around 8pm. A man rushed into the harvest thanksgiving service in Ludlow Street shouting "the flood is coming," Sam Thomas recalled. The preacher reportedly urged calm, before promptly fainting!

Flood water almost reached the first floors of houses, while people were wading up to their waists. Livestock was lost, with the whole area said to resemble a lake. Newspaper reports from the time give a long list of shopkeepers in Holmesdale Street who sustained losses - from shoemakers to grocers, nine pubs were affected including the landlord of The Plymouth (in Clive Street) who claimed he was down £200 after water flooded his cellar. Mr Edwards the grocer in Oakley Street lost £100 worth of stock. A third of homes lost their back walls between the streets. Those living in Kent Street were said to have suffered the greatest loss in terms of "spoilt furniture."

Schoolmaster James Buck - a small man - was carried to his home through the torrent by a visiting preacher - and much taller man - at Windsor baptist hall in Holmesdale Street.

Alfred Fish, a teenager during the flood, said Grangetown people were "somewhat superstitious" and some had read Mother Shepton's Prophetic Papers, which foretold the end of the world in 1881. "I remember as a lad how terrified the people were as they looked at the sky - black and streaked with white patches..in the early evening the water burst through the tide bank and rushed down the streets."

"I was caught up in the flood, about 12 houses from my home," he recalled as an old man in the 1950s. "I was soon up to my waist in water but presently a tall, strong woman named Mrs Perrott rushed into the middle of the street, picked me up and carried me into her house, took off my wet clothes and put me to bed. She was a customer of my mother (Sarah), who kept the grocery shop on the corner of Sevenoaks Street."

The flood also hit the old Iron Room church, which was also holding its annual harvest festival service. "We were assembled in church - a packed congregation - for the annual harvest thanksgiving service," recalled a bell-ringer 20 years later. "Presently we heard a commotion at the doors. A wild-eyed man had come to seek his daughter, for he verily believed that the whole populace of the Grange were in danger of their lives. Before anything could be done the water came percolating through the cracks in the flooring. Many sped from the building into the streets, where the water was rushing hither and thither and rising higher and higher as the tide rose."

"I myself and other youngsters amused ourselves by catching shrimps and minnows - a strange pastime in church. Meanwhile, the hymn For Those In Peril On The Sea was given out, and considering that by this time most of the adults in that congregation thought that they themselves were in dire peril, for the water was still rising steadily, they sang those thrilling words with a calmness that spoke of brave and trusting hearts within." The Western Mail reported that some women and children from the harvest festival were rescued in a huge furniture van. But it reported that several police officers standing near to Grangetown police station were "exceedingly uncomfortable" and "pretending to be busy" when faced with the unfolding drama, despite being driven on by an exasperated sergeant.

The following day, bread and cheese was distributed to residents, who could not reach the shops. "Mud and filth had been carried in large quantities into every house." People waded through the receding water "some in fun, some in grim earnest," while the postman delivered his letters, with his trousers rolled up to his knees.

The waters had receded two days later when Lord and Lady Windsor visited to survey the damage. The Western Mail reported that in Butetown, women "screamed and fainted" and residents kept to their upper floors of homes on Windsor Esplanade. Chairs and tables floated down the street, as the strength of the floodwater broke locks and hinges, although it conceded that the greatest damage was "undoubtedly felt" in Grangetown, and the loss of property was "impossible" to estimate.

A few days later, Henry Marshall, a builder from Kent Street, wrote: "Having visited about 190 houses in Lower Grange, and the greatest portion of the houses in Upper Grange, I can bear testimony as to the disastrous results of the flood. The result is that the homes of the working men are to a great extent broken up, in most cases the best of the furniture being entirely spoiled. In many houses the piano or harmonium has gone to pieces, and in nearly every house the week's provisions and a large proportion of wearing apparel have been rendered useless, so that many families are left quite destitute, and are also suffering much from the cold and damp that follows such a flood, not having the means at their disposal to get coals etc, to dry their things and warm themselves."

Mr Marshall, along with local councillors, was one of those involved in raising awareness of the issues with town officials. Afterwards, damage was estimated at around £3,000 while £540 was collected in donations within a few days through public subscription, including from shipowners and other businessmen. There were also calls for the embankment and sea wall to be raised.

A system of clay banks or dykes (on the 1883 map above left) was not enough to solve the problem when either the River Taff or Ely rose to exceptional heights at high tide. It would be a century before the flood defences were adequate - while the building of the Cardiff Bay Barrage also helped reduce major incidents.


Harold earns Arctic Convoy medal

The last surviving veterans of the so-called Arctic Convoys have received medals to mark the anniversary of the final naval escorts of World War Two.

They include Grangetown-born Harold Boudier, 94, who was on the last wartime supply voyage to Russia from a naval base in Scotland 75 years ago in April.

Harold, a long-time member of Grangetown History Society, signed on for the Merchant Navy in Cardiff in 1944, aged 18.

On 18 April 1945, then 19, he was on board aircraft carrier HMS Premier when she joined the escort JW 66 in what proved to be the final Arctic Convoy to the Soviet Union.

The convoy encountered some drama on its return voyage from Murmansk, when one ship was attacked and Harold's own ship suffered an accident when a plane crash landed trying to land.

"It was entangled in the stern and the engine caught fire but very fortunately the three men in the crew managed to crawl free and the aircraft was disentangled and ditched," said Harold, recalling the events at his home a few weeks ago in Penarth. Due to coronavirus, all surviving veterans - around 500 are estimated - received their medals from the Russian Embassy by post.

Harold, whose ship arrived back in Scotland in time for VE Day, went back to sea briefly before a career as an industrial chemist.

He remains very modest about his war service. After the end of the Cold War, he visited Murmansk and kept up links and correspondence with the people he met there, who still value the contribution to keeping vital food supplies open during World War Two.


Artists chosen to help commemorate Blitz in Grangetown

Grangetown Local History Society and partner Art Shell have selected three artists for The Night-time Blitz Experience, which will mark the 80th anniversary of the Cardiff Blitz.


Bomb damage on the corner of Clive Street - corner of Ferry Road

The project, backed by Heritage Lottery funding, will explore the impact of the Blitz on Grangetown, a neighbourhood particularly hit by the World War Two bombing.

The artists and 10 young people will be commissioned to make work at sites locally that were directly affected by the bombing.

We hope to present the resulting work on the 80th anniversary of the Blitz, Saturday January 2nd 2021, as part of a night-time tour.

There was a fantastic response to the call for applications from artists from all over the UK. The artists selected are: Jason and Becky: Swansea-based collaborative artists who work in audio-visuals and installations, as well as engaging with local people, and who are hoping to tell the stories of the impact of the Blitz on Clydach Street with local residents and school pupils.

Alec Stevens: A Bristol-based fine artist, sculptor who wants to help tell the story of Hollyman's bakery, involving the stories of different individuals around the tragedy.


Secondson playing the halldorophone at the Temple of Peace. Photo: Tessa Salt.

Secondson - Leon West: A Butetown-based musician and record producer - who will be looking at creating a soundscape, using recorded and archive, and colloborating with a visual artist on two billboards near the Hollyman's bakery site, now Clarence Hardware in Corporation Road, exploring the story leading up to the bombing.

"My performance will focus on the tension and anxiety the community would have felt in the days and hours in the lead up to the blitz, I will use the halldorophone as a tool to amplify and manipulate the sounds, the instrument itself will resonate and respond to the audio that will be controlling it, creating a unique, one-o? performance."

He added: "The Grangetown community plays a large part in my day to day, a place very familiar and relevant to me and my work, with my studio is a mere stones throw across the Clarence Road bridge in Butetown. I am most grateful to be involved in this commemorative event with Art Shell and Grangetown Local Historical Society.”

"We’re really looking forward to working with Art Shell on what we hope will be an engaging, creatively exciting and poignant commemoration of the 80th anniversary of one of the city’s most historic events,” said Steve Duffy, leading the research for Grangetown Local History Society.

“We began nine years ago collecting stories and audio memories of World War Two from Grangetown residents, some of whom are no longer with us. The importance of recording personal and family histories – and piecing together events which were often otherwise lost to wartime censorship – became apparent back then."

"We feel the proposals are a fantastic way of telling what were dramatic and life-changing events for many people – 165 across Cardiff were killed and 6,000 made homeless in one night - right at the heart of the neighbourhood which was worst hit.

"As well as connecting with older people, we will be working with schools and looking to connect with young people creatively on relating the Blitz and its effect on the local landscape and community."

The society will also separately be publishing a book on Cardiff and the Blitz later in 2020 and organising pop-up events leading up to the anniversary. We are still looking for any family stories or memories.

You can read more on the Artshell website and we will be keeping you up to date with progress.

We are keeping an eye on the developing coronavirus situation in case some aspects have to be amended but are still very hopeful we can mark the anniversary.

Grangetown Local History Society was behind a project making the centenary of World War One, which included an exhibition, book and postcards being sent to homes where local casualties once lived.

It is now also researching an online memorial for World War Two casualties and will also be publishing books on Cardiff and the Blitz later in 2020 and Grangetown's War later in 2021.

Young RAF hero whose luck ran out

Thomas Gosling was one of the early RAF losses, who went missing only days after an heroic return following his aircraft suffering serious damage during a mission over occupied Norway.

Thomas was just 23 when he died on 15th April 1940. He was the eldest son and one of seven children to fitter's labourer Thomas and Margaret Gosling, of 48 Wedmore Road, Grangetown.

Only days before Flight Sergeant Gosling returned from a reconnaisance mission over occupied Norway, which saw him return safely on one engine for 350 miles after his plane was shot at and badly damaged.

He was one of four young aircraftmen from 224 Squadron - often involved in anti-submarine missions from RAF Leuchars in Scotland - who went missing that day.

Stories appeal for World War Two project

Following the success of our World War One centenary project, the society is busy researching for a project to mark the 80th anniversary of World War Two in Grangetown and the Cardiff Blitz.

The first part of the project, Cardiff and the Blitz is in 2020 and the start of 2021 to mark the anniversary of the worst air raid in January 1941.

It will have a special focus on Grangetown and the experiences of its civilian population, but also feature events which happened in Riverside, the Docks and another areas of the city. It will culminate in a book and a commemoration event. There will also be engagement opportunities with schools, young people and drop-in events - details of what we hope will be an exciting anniversary event will follow.

The second part of the project in 2021, Grangetown and the War will draw on stories of experiences of those who served, as well as people living at home.

It will also for the first time create a roll of honour for those WW2 casualties from Grangetown. So far we have researched more than 280.

As well as researching war casualties, the society also wants to tell stories of civilian experiences - from rationing, evacuation, life at school and in factories, as well as the Home Guard. We are collating memories we have already gathered with local people - but want to record more memories and details of family members who served in different capacities in the war.

A second book will be published later in 2021, including a memorial section - a companion to the book published in 2018 about Grangetown and World War One. We have already been gathering stories - in addition to many collected over recent years. But we would still like to hear from more people - even with only fragments of information or experiences.

We are already starting to link up with schools and would be interested in hearing from other groups in 2020.

We would be particularly interested in hearing from people with family stories of being a prisoner of war, women in work, or experiences of the Blitz.

Anyone who has any family stories or casualty details or knows someone from Grangetown who remembers the war, please get in touch on grangetownwar@yahoo.co.uk or come along to our monthly meeting.


Society notes: March 2020 meeting

22 people were present at Glamorgan Archive

Night-time Blitz Experience: Jo Hartwig of Art Shell was welcomed to the meeting. She described the artistic work that would be commissioned from local artists to complement the focus on four bomb sites in Grangetown that would feature in the blitz commemorations in January next year, a joint project with the Society and subject of a £29,000 Heritage Lottery award. The sites being looked at will be Corporation Road (near site of Hollyman’s bakery), Clydach Street and Jubilee Street and the corner of Ferry Road and Holmesdale Street. Steve Duffy pointed out that much research had gone into these sites and a lot had been discovered of the people who lived there, and the stories of heroism involved in saving some of those involved. Recruitment of helpers and artists would begin and run into April. September and October would be spent in further research including giving talks at local schools. These would include Ninian School, Grangetown, St Paul's and hopefully other local schools. Jo said that WW2 artefacts are now needed to complement the above commemorations, such as gas masks, wardens’ helmets, etc. Pop-up events will also be planned for the Archive and Pavilion, as well as going to sheltered housing at some point.

Cardiff Blitz and Grangetown at War Steve Duffy has been commissioned to write two books, the first later this year on Cardiff and the Blitz; the second will be on Grangetown At War, and include a memorial of local WW2 casualties, to follow in 2021. Work on both is advanced.

VE Day The Society had been contacted by ITV Wales asking if they could use some of our photographs for a programme they are doing on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two. The meeting agreed to the request, in that all our archive is available to the public now that it is in the care of the Glamorgan Archives.

Cowbridge school heritage The Society had also been contacted by a group of people from Cowbridge, asking the Society to sign a petition against the development of the site of the Cowbridge Girls’ School. The meeting thought this inappropriate since the Society is ignorant of the issue and any signatures would be ignored because our addresses would not be in Cowbridge. It was pointed out that the Cowbridge History Society had declined to support the petition too.

Medal award Helen had been in contact with Harold Boudier and the Russian Embassy concerning his latest award by Russia of an Russian Convoy medal. Harold’s ship took part in one of the last convoys. Steve Duffy had also interviewed him. It seems that the medal may simply be posted to him, in which case it was the Society’s wish to be able to congratulate him in some way. Helen and Steve are to co-ordinate a suitable ceremony if Harold wishes it.

Future talks It was agreed that Ray would give a talk on the history of Grangetown along the lines of similar public talks he had been giving. A suitable date will have to be arranged.

Grangetown Pavilion Although we had made general enquiries as to the probable cost of using a room at the Pavilion for a public talk on our work, it has not been possible to find out the cost. The manager has asked instead that we book a specific date for such a thing and then the cost, if any, would be decided. Thus far, the Society hasn’t decided which date would be needed and what kind of event it may be. It was thought that an evening meeting/talks would be popular amongst residents of the area and perhaps attract new members.

Techniquest. A further meeting with Techniquest had recently been held. Its objective was to offer guidance and suggest materials for a display in the newly expanded building. The expansion coincides with the removal of the Welsh Assembly’s financial support for Techniquest and the realisation that to survive and thrive commercially it must focus more on attracting adults rather than only children. It was decided that the display should focus on the importance of coal to Cardiff Docks and on the history of the site of the Techniquest building when it was once the workshops of the dry docks alongside it.

NOTICE Due to the risk presented by the Coronavirus, especially to those over 60, it was decided not to hold our next meeting until further notice. The secretary will contact members when a decision has been made concerning the date of the next meeting.

Grangetown School Scroll: Chairman Doug Knight has an "emulation ladder" scroll, which showed his mother Dorothy Richards's class at Grangetown National School in 1919/20. There is a list of the 47 girls in the class and how they ranked based on performance.

The names are: Ethel DAVIES; Gladys LINK; Lily GILLESPIE; Edith UMPLEBY; Lily ROACH; Emily HITCHINGS; Winnie SHAW; Lily BROWN; Lily OWENS; Kitty SMITH; Laura LONG; Laura NOWELL; Gladys NOAD;;Clara GREENWOOD; Elsie GILMORE ;Winnie WOODGATE ; Kitty LEWARNE; Nelly POPE; Maud STONE; Miriam BUSSELL; Jane or Janet? and Belinda? (left) and Hilda WHITE; Gladys BRUCE; Winnie BILSON; Lily DILLON; Beatrice WILLIAMS; Violet NEWBERRY; Susie WESTACOTT; Irene APPLEBY; Jessie KENDALL; Gladys THOMAS; Maggie PRITCHARD; Ivy PHELPS; Veta LEWIS; May JAMES; Gertrude HARRIS; Ivy PATTERSON; Doris COOPER; Ada CORNELIUS; Rose BRINKWORTH and Flossie GLOVER (right hand side)


A review of 2019

Compiled by Ray Noyes, secretary

  • A WW2 research project was proposed, aiming to complete the research for the spring of 2020 so that a book may be published
  • Zena sent a resume of the history of our society for inclusion in the magazine of The Royal Army Medical Corps.
  • The closing of the Conservative Club had been announced. Photographs of the inside of the club had been taken and any documents of historical interest will be saved if possible.
  • Grange Gardens was granted Centenary Fields status which protects it in perpetuity. The bowls pavilion had been demolished and plans announced for the construction of a sizeable new facility there.
  • Steve had been asked by the organisers of the Voices of War and Peace Great War Legacy Project to give a presentation on the Society’s WW1 project at the Community School in Ely in July.
  • A number of original WW1 POW letters from soldiers had been donated to us.
  • An illustrated presentation entitled The Voices and Images of the South Wales Jewish Community was given by Mr Stanley Soffa.
  • During excavations for the new Grange Pavilion on the site of the bowling green, some interesting artefacts had been unearthed. It was agreed that the Society would finance the purchase of a suitable display cabinet for them.
  • During our work for the WW2 project, some 260 local casualties have so far been identified, including civilians who died in the Blitz. It was agreed that an arts project of some kind be undertaken in order to bring the people of Grangetown together and remember the 80th anniversary of the worst night of the Blitz in January 2021.
  • The Society remembered the passing of Mr Alan Barnett who had once been a Society member and president of the Grange Albions.
  • In July, Zena, assisted by Don Gerrard (Cowbridge History Society), gave an illustrated talk on the paupers of Grangetown. Zena offered us fascinating details of Grangetown families who were on the paupers’ list, covering the principle streets in which they lived. Click on the image above for more information.

  • Ray Noyes signs the handover document

    Grangetown Local History Society officially handed over the contents of its archives to Glamorgan Archives for safe-keeping. The idea is to ensure its continuing legacy and also to improve public access. The filing cabinets of photos and other documents are already kindly stored by the Archives in Leckwith, where the society holds its meetings. But this will ensure the contents are linked to the wider collection and also guarantee that they will be preserved for the future. The society's secretary Ray Noyes signed the handover document prior to the meeting. The donation includes our digital archive as well as the contents of our cabinets, all of which will now be conserved and catalogued. The archive remains our property. The Society expressed its thanks for the help given by the Archives staff and agreed to make an annual financial contribution towards their work.

  • In August, we remembered with great sadness the passing of our dear friends Ray Shaw and John ‘Dusty’ Miller. Ray had been a founder member of the Society with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Grangetown. His steadfast work in support of the Clive Street Baptist Chapel was particularly acknowledged. Dusty was an energetic supporter of the cadets in Penarth.
  • Messrs Purchase and Grey from the Ebenezer Chapel reminded us that the chapel would be holding its 120th anniversary on October 5th and 6th and invited us to contribute to information on its history.
  • An illustrated presentation was given by Brenda John and Keith Fruin describing the work that had been done to straighten out the River Ely, prior to the construction of what is now a retail park and previously a waste tip. Using maps and numerous photographs the meeting discussed the topic with some enthusiasm.
  • In September, Mr Brendan Bowles described the history of the Bowles Sand and Gravel Company Ltd which began in 1893 in Harrowby Street. The company once had a fleet of 25 ships, some operating off the continental coast. It was taken over by British Dredging. Mr Bowles was attempting to record the details of the company’s past and to produce a publication on his findings.
  • The last funeral had been held at St Pauls’ Church prior to most of it being converted into apartments.
  • The society had a bus trip to the Port Talbot transport museum in October.

    Those of us who went had a most amazing, enjoyable afternoon viewing the many items collected by Harold Wilson and also viewing some wonderful sculptures using recycled slate. Those who didn’t go missed a wonderful treat.

  • A new book on the history of Grangetown had been published, entitled Urban Development in the Victorian Era, a case study of Grangetown, by Ray Noyes.
  • Ray gave a talk on Grangetown to students at the Welsh School of Architecture. Grangetown is being studied as part of their degree in urban development.
  • A site visit to the new Grange Pavilion took place on 1st November to see progress. Mike Farr particularly enjoyed it, offering him the opportunity of wearing his hard hat.
  • Zena announced she was researching the many brides who had been married in Grangetown for a possible talk.
  • The application for a Lottery grant was being made, in order to finance the intended commemoration of the 1941 Cardiff Blitz.
  • A successful Christmas lunch was held at the Cedar Tree Restaurant to end the year.

New book traces how Grangetown was built

Grangetown author and local historian Ray Noyes has produced a new book, which charts the history of the neighbourhood's development - with particular emphasis on its rapid growth in the Victorian era. Ray was born and brought up in Grangetown but his career in engineering took him away from the area, including abroad. He is secretary of Grangetown Local History Society.

Q How long did it take to build the Grangetown we now know? Most of Grangetown was built over 30 years, with some houses along the Taff and Avondale Road area added in the twentieth century once flood defences had been built along the Taff. Corporation Road was once a flood barrier which is why it is slightly higher than the houses and Grange Gardens on one side.

Q When and where did it all start? Construction started in 1857, at the same time as Penarth Docks. Grangetown was intended to house workers at Penarth harbour and docks as well as in an iron works and the gas works. With no public transport until 1873, workers had to live near their work. Penarth was easier to get to than Cardiff and Grangetown belonged to Penarth. It could have been name Clivetown after the Windsor-Clive family who built most of it.

Q How many of those original houses survive or were rebuilt? The vast majority of the original small terraced houses still exist, except for the very earliest ones that were on Oakley Street, Knole Street and Hewell Street. The National School and police station have also gone, they were some of the earliest public buildings.

Q Where does your own particular fascination with construction and engineering come from? My fascination with the history of Grangetown as an engineer is in its construction techniques. Discovering it was once a marsh on a thick bed of clay made me wonder how on earth it was done. It was not the best place to build anything and for centuries no-one dared. During construction, foundations and even entire buildings (Such as the main school) began to sink. As an engineer this caught my imagination, knowing that all had to be done by hand, without machinery. Even the roads and drains began to sink and eventually 22,000 tons of gravel had to be used to stabilise them, all quarried, transported and broken up by hand. The Marl Field is named after the clay beneath it which was quarried there in a large excavation so big it was used as a stadium.

Q Are there any buildings in the area you're particularly fond of? The buildings I am most fond of may come as a surprise. I love the many stables and cart sheds that were built at the time and are now mostly used as garages but some have been converted into small houses.

Urban Development in the Victorian Era: A Case Study of Grangetown, Cardiff, 1100-1900 is available from Wordcatcher Publishing, priced £15, and will also be on Amazon. Ray, who is secretary of Grangetown Local History Society, is also happy to order copies which he can bring along to our monthly meetings.

Read more about Grangetown streets here


Death of Ray Shaw, 1937-2019


Ray on the left at a meeting a few years ago.

We have heard the sad news of the death of a founder member of the society, Ray Shaw, aged 81.

Ray was a member of Grangetown Baptist Church and an expert on its history and archive. With a family hailing from Hewell Street, he was a fount of knowledge about Grangetown people and its characters. He will be much missed - and was a regular at meetings from his home in Dinas Powys with his wife Margaret, despite bearing with a long-term illness over the last few years.

History society member and former chair Zena Mabbs said: "Ray was a staunch supporter of all our activities over the years until his illness prevented him from participating. He always helped to sell our annual calendars, and was present every year at the Grangetown Carnival, and supported our talks and presentations.

"We all valued immensely his knowledge of Grangetown and his wonderful ability to always be on hand to help anyone he could. Some of his Grangetown memories are preserved in one of our Grangetown books and in our oral history archive.

"His presence will be sadly missed by all of us who knew him for so many years," she added.

Ray had run a greengrocer's business in Barry Island before he retired. After a committal at Barry crematorium on Wednesday 17th July (11am), there will be a celebration of his life at Grangetown Baptist Church at 12.30pm. Donations to Parkinsons UK are requested instead of flowers. The society sends condolences to Margaret, his son and family.


The future of the society

This topic was discussed at recent meetings. A number of questions arose, principal amongst which were: (a) Are we a group that is seriously researching the history of Grangetown, or are we a group of people who meet because our personal histories just happen to stem from being born in or associated with the area?
(b) If the former, then shouldn’t each meeting address a specific history topic that has been researched, rather than (as now) being a rather large committee meeting discussing the business of the society?” (Shouldn’t the business of the society be discussed by an executive group at another time and place?)

There appears to be a limited number of options open to us as follows:
Option 1) Continue as we are, as an informal group of Grangetown friends, with the inevitable diminution in numbers as we age; Observations: This ‘do nothing’ option would see the demise of the Society.
Option 2) Transform society meetings so that each deals with a specific history topic, as in today’s meeting, making our meetings less like committee meetings - which ought to take place separately anyway. Observations: this solution requires many more members to undertake research and make presentations of their findings, and/or drawing up a comprehensive list of external speakers – with their associated costs, perhaps requiring us to charge a membership fee. If hiring external speakers, who will do it?
Option 3) Try and recruit new, younger members, by holding our meetings in a public place outside working hours. Observations: There would be costs involved in this too, which may require us to charge a membership fee and it would require diligent planning and organising – who will do it? It was felt that these days younger people are no longer interested in attending groups such as ours and would prefer using social media to maintain contact with others. There is so much of interest on line that we have to compete with it.
Option 4) Bearing in mind that the language of younger people is now the language of social media, shouldn’t we be speaking their language and consider a more active online presence such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook? Observations: We would face the problem of who would do this technical work and maintain it. There continues to be just a tiny number of members who do all the work, notably any research, so that any options requiring more effort should be judged in that light.

It was agreed to discuss this topic again once members had thought about it.

End of an era as Grangetown Cons Club closes its doors

Grangetown Conservative Club has closed its doors - just short of its 125th anniversary.


Julie Biggs has been stewardess since 2012. Pictured with committee member Mario Felices and Terry Woodroff, treasurer and acting chairman.

The club has been in its current home in Corporation Road, close to Grange Gardens, for more than 110 years. Grangetown Local History Society heard of its imminent demise a few weeks ago, and went along to take a few photographs, as well as receiving some archive material.

The original "Grangetown Conservative Workingmens Club" was founded in May 1894, on the corner of Holmesdale Street and Ferry Road. Previously it had been the location for a local rope manufacturers.

The association had been set up in the year before - described as a "rallying call for Grangetown working men", with membership numbers rising in that time from 60 to 300. Subscription back in those first days was four pennies a year and the chairman was Sidney Herbert Nicholls, at the time living in Pentrebane Street.


A drawing of the original club - and William Baird, who was steward of the club with his wife Alice in the 1930s and 1940s.


A committee photo from 1936. Back row left to right: E Addicott, FD Bradford, JW Bryant, JH Robson, H Smale, JE Townsend, W Long, AJ Cusse and PE Jeans. Front row: W Roberts, FS Moore (treasurer), LW Mountjoy (secretary), H Sheppard (chairman), T Llewellyn (vice chairman) and J O'Brien.

By 1908, it had moved to Corporation Road - its present home. The old building back in Ferry Road was later converted into flats in the early 1930s and then bombed during the war.


Rugby photo preserved

A rare photo of a Grangetown rugby team winning a trophy nearly a century ago has been partially restored and placed in our archive.

The photo was bought from eBay but was in a poor state and disintegrating but has now been patched up and preserved by staff at Glamorgan Archive.

It shows Cardiff Gas Athletic RFC - the Grangetown gasworks team - who won the Mallett Cup in 1922-23. They beat Cardiff Welsh 11-5 at Cardiff Arms Park, after losing the final the previous year. The Cardiff and District rugby cup competition is the second oldest in the world and this is the only time the gasworks side won it.

It has special significance to one of our members, Keith Fruin, whose grandfather Arthur Fish - a war veteran and also ex-Cardiff City footballer - played in the game. Keith has his medal from that game but had never seen a photo before. Arthur, a carpenter who was a sporting all-rounder, also played baseball for the works side until in his 50s.

The team line-up: P Sullivan (trainer), J Snell, A Keay (vice capt), W Snell, W Silver, T Donovan, W Davies, HS Bartlett (Sec)
P Roach, A Giles, RP Jones, A Brockway (capt), A Fish, R Podd, TAL Richards
I Dunscombe, R Wyatt

Grangetown archive catalogued


Click on the image above to view the catalogue.

The documents and photos of old Grangetown collected by the history society over the years have finally been catalogued and properly archived.

The growing archive, made possible from donations and copies of originals, has been kept in filing cabinets by the society.

Thanks to the diligent work led by society member Brenda John, the bulk of the old files have been collated, sorted and properly archived and the Grangetown local history archive is now available to view online and also downloadable in Excel format

This version has already been updated - and will continue to be so as the archive and the project progresses. We hope to link to some of the images we are storing digitally in the future. It will be really useful for local people researching aspects of Grangetown or their family's history.

Grangetown history fact sheets

Ray Noyes, society secretary, and Zena Mabbs have been involved in producing some fact sheets on aspects of Victorian Lower Grangetown. Another has now been added by Ray on the building of some of Grangetown's churches and chapels and Steve has contributed one on the history of The Grange pub to mark its re-opening and 160th anniversary, while Zena and Ray have put together the presentation on Penarth alabaster, which is a feature of so much local architecture.

These have been created to print off - and have been handed out at recent meetings - and now we're starting to put some of them up on the website here, for wider interest. Click on the images above to download the PDFs . The second fact sheet on street names has been reproduced instead as a webpage here, as it is too large a document to download.

Click here for archived Grangetown Local History Society news and more photos

The Society was founded in 1995 and has a committee; there is no membership fee and it is open to anyone who has an interest in local history, particularly, living, working or having been born or brought up in Grangetown. Doug Knight - chairman; Email: grcarinfo@yahoo.co.uk Michelle Derby-Charles and Helen Stradling - email queries; secretary - Ray Noyes; treasurer - Alan Collier. The society cannot undertake family history research but please inquire as we may be able to help on an ad hoc basis. Websites: grangetownhistory.co.uk and grangetownwar.co.uk

Postal address for mail order or to send photographs (please include your details): Grangetown Local History Society c/o 28 Llanmaes Street, Grangetown, Cardiff CF11 7LQ

Pubs

"A wonderful online resource that the society is building up: a series of outstandingly good and carefully researched articles on the history of the area" - Who Do You Think You Are magazine?

"For a wonderfully comprehensive chronicle of Grangetown history since those drunken monks turned up..." - Dan O'Neill - South Wales Echo

There is already a good online history of Grangetown on the Grangetown community website, including its medieval origins, Victorian growth and wartime and post-war memories, as well as sport, business, schools and churches - click on the photo icons above for more. See also: grangetowncardiff.co.uk community website.

There are also two published illustrated books in the Images Of Wales series by Tempus publishing, Grangetown (compiled by Barbara Jones) and Grangetown The Second Collection (compiled by Ian Clarke). Copies can be found in the local library, bookshops and you should be able to find copies on eBay or order via Amazon. Society member Ray Noyes has published a book Victorian Grangetown which looks at the building of south Grangetown, including detailed examination of construction and plans for homes, industry and notable buildings. There is also a Tales Of Old Grangetown DVD, by Ian Malcolm, which is available in local bookshops and from the central library.

Cardiff Library members can now access Victorian newspapers online from home, including the Western Mail from 1869 to 1899. You need to log on to the Cardiff e-library with your membership number and password. You can also access Ancestry.co.uk through your library membership log-in. The local studies/archives have now been re-homed in the refurbished Cathays Library. (You can reach it best by taking No 8 or 9 buses heading for Heath). Grangetown Library in Havelock Place has a selection of Cardiff history books. You can also research local history online with the National Library of Wales' free Welsh newspapers online site, for pre-1910 daily and weekly papers, with an excellent search facility.

The Cardiff Museum at the Old Library building in The Hayes opened in 2011. There are quite a few Grangetown elements to it - including stories, objects, photos and a map which shows the changing nature of the area. The museum is very hands-on and interactive and well worth a visit. It houses regular local history exhibitions, amongs other shows. It's also trying to gather memories and photos for its ongoing Collecting Cardiff project.

There is also the Glamorgan Archives, now in purpose-built facilities near to us in Leckwith, close to the new Cardiff City stadium development. You can call in to use the large reading room and users can also register for a card (bring ID). The purpose-built development has temperature-controlled archive space for documents, parish and estate records, original plans for houses and other buildings in Cardiff, as well as local directories and maps. You can also access censuses up to 1901. There are lockers for personal belongings, bring pencils not pens.

Other useful links or interesting sites for local or family history include the Glamorgan Family History Society, which is useful for those both with family connections in the area or those with just an interest in history; Cardiff Heritage ancestry.co.uk (subscription required for most services); GENUKI Cardiff, abandoned communities has details of old Temperance Town and Newtown in Cardiff. There is also a wonderful history of Penarth Docks. There's also a good blog of Keith S Robertson's 1980s photos of mostly east of the city Cardiff Before Cardiff Meanwhile, the National Library of Wales has tithe maps in its Places of Wales website here

Other local history societies in Cardiff: Llanishen Rhiwbina Civic Society Roath Rumney and there is also Butetown History and Arts Centre

© Grangetown Local History Society 2020. Updated October 10th

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