"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 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: Friday 1st November 2019, 2pm.

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.

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.


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

Visit to transport museum

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.

Research starts for World War Two project

Following the success of our World War One centenary project, the society has started research for a project to mark the 80th anniversary of World War Two in Grangetown.


Bomb damage on the corner of Clive Street - corner of Ferry Road; click on the image to how it looks now.

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 to air raids. We will also be telling stories of men and women who served. We will be 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.

The eventual aim is for an exhibition and a book to coincide with the anniversary of the Blitz in Cardiff - with Grangetown and Riverside the two worst hit areas in January 1941.

We already have details of 230 Grangetown casualties, including civilians, who died between 1939 and 1945. We may discover more. There is no list of names on the Grangetown war memorial, unlike for World War One, but we hope to create an online memorial to mark all those who died.

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: October meeting

Donation to Glamorgan Archives: We have been thanked by the Archives for our donation of £100 which, in the last meeting, we agreed to make each year in recognition of the extra work the donation of our archive represents.

Archive transition: Brenda John has had meetings with staff at the Archives to discuss how our material will be absorbed into the Glamorgan Archive collection. Nothing will change until the first week of December when the Archives will close and our collection be dealt with. Brenda’s catalogue has been enormously helpful in this and the system she created will be reflected in the referencing of our items once in the official archive. Our Dropbox collection of digital material will be dealt with at a later date. Our thanks to Brenda for the enormous amount of work she put into our catalogue and the thoroughness with which it was done. It has made the transition from GLHS archive to public archive a smooth one.

WW2 project: Work is continuing and Brenda mentioned how much censorship she realised had been exerted in the public reporting of wartime damage. Steve is conducting interviews and going through our archive interviews to add to the information already gathered.

New book: Copies of Ray's newly published Urban Development in the Victorian Era – a case study on Grangetown were available at the meeting and more copies are on order. (see above)

Parama2 presents Tic-Toc Childhood games: Daisy Williams briefed the meeting on the upcoming performances of this musical at Chapter Arts Centre from October 30th to 1st November inclusive. Featuring a close-knit group of women friends who worked at a factory, it had once been performed at the Millennium Centre which some members attended. Doors open at 7:30, tickets available from 02920 304400. After these performances the musical will tour South Wales)

Research training: A free tuition course on the use of microfilm for finding newspaper information is available at Cathays Library on 17th October at 11 am. Attendees need to phone for a booking on 02920 785580 or on cathayslibrary@cardiff.gov.uk.

Christmas lunch: It was suggested that this issue be discussed and finalised at our next meeting. Names and deposits would have to be taken.


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.


Recent news

Grangetown paupers history talk: Zena Mabbs, assisted by Don Gerrard (Cowbridge History Society), gave an illustrated talk on the paupers of Grangetown in June (click on the image above for a copy above of the presentation). Don covered the history of the poor and the legislation to deal with them, whilst Zena offered us fascinating details of Grangetown families who were on the paupers’ list, covering the principle streets in which they lived. Zena thanked Don, Aileen Thyer and the staff of the Archives for their help and support.


Ray Noyes signs the handover document

Archive handover to Glamorgan Archives: Grangetown Local History Society is officially handing 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.

Future of the Society: This topic was also discussed at our last meeting. 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.

WW1 Prisoner of War Letters: A small number of original letters from soldiers had been donated to us. They were passed around for inspection. They need to be conserved. Copies may be consulted in our Dropbox under 1914-18/Families. Copies will be made and we will ask Glamorgan Archives if they wish to conserve the originals, for safe keeping.

DATES FOR THE DIARY:

Cardiff Castle: Brenda recommended members consider booking for history lectures at Cardiff Castle. The remaining dates and topics are: October 29th and 30th: ‘1939 and All That. Cardiff Castle in the 2nd World War.; November 4th and 5th: ‘Cardiff Castle and the Marquess of Bute’. (Book launch and celebratory lecture.) Tickets to these talks cost £8.50, available either through their web site cardiffcastle.com or by phone at 0333 666 44 66 Most take place in the Education Centre although the November ones may use the banqueting hall (no disabled access).

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 member Aileen Thyer has offered to help with limited requests, where time allows - queries email: aileenthyer@hotmail.com

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 2019. Updated October 8th

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