J. Kyrle Fletcher.

Cardiff. Notes: picturesque and biographical online

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To you three I dedicate these notes on the City
of Cardiff. To my Wife in memory of the happy
days we two have spent there. To my boys,
because it is an attempt to record something of
the history and the associations of the Capital
of your Mother Land.


THESE notes on the history, scenery and biography
of the City of Cardiff, are written by one who is
neither a native of the City, or even a dweller on
its confines ; but merely a friendly observer from
the rival port of Newport. Still, I have pleasant
memories of days spent in Cardiff, when with more
youthful steps I trod its streets, and wandered in
its pleasant by-ways.

For the sake of those happy days I have a
genuine affection for Cardiff, and as I have so
many friends living there, I feel that I can write
with some knowledge, and certainly with some
feeling of this City which I believe is destined in
the near future to be even greater than it is to-day.
These are days of change, and the old landmarks
are soon blotted out ; so these notes may serve
to remind some reader of a place or person already
half forgotten, and yet worthy of remembrance.
If I have accomplished this I shall have done all
I set out to do.









7. I^ANDAFF - 52








from Original Drawings by B. T. A. GRIFFITHS.




facing Chap. IV.



[See Chap. 12],


I was in the City of Gloucester, on a hot June
afternoon, and, having half an hour to
wait while changing trains, I strolled down
to the Northgate Street. Thinking of the
long and weary journey before me I turned to a
book shop for something to read. It is folly to go
into a bookshop in a hurry, with the thought of the
time of the train in the back of your mind, for
here you want to browse and nibble quietly, with
no thought of time. So I took the first book I
saw with a familiar author's name, and passed
out quickly and back to the station. Seated in
the slow train to Cardiff (that is the name the
Railway Company call it by) I opened my book ;
it was Robert Louis Stevenson's " Edinburgh."
When I had finished the book, which I read
through at a sitting with a fiery glow of enjoy-
ment, the thought came quickly to my mind
why has not the story of Cardiff been told ?
Why are the tales and fancies which have made up
her past, and which have shaped her present,
allowed to be forgotten ? So from that slow


railway journey these lines took their shape
and meaning.

The ancient town and modern City of Cardiff,
the premier city of the Principality of Wales, lies
wide-spread in the level valley of the Taff River,
a mile above its junction with the Severn Sea ;
or rather did in its early walled days, for now
the city spreads out from the river mouth away
to the distant Penylan Hill and secluded Llandaff.

To come into Cardiff by the main Great
Western Line is like going to the back door of a
house. For a long mile on either side of the line,
beyond the waiting rows of coal trucks, are to be
seen the back yards of squalid houses with the
family washing bravely flapping on clothes lines,
with occasional peeps into the squalor of Adams-
down and the East Dock neighbourhood. So
that the visitor has a deep impression of the
seamy side of the City before having even one
glimpse at one of the fairest cities of the Isle of
Britain. To get the right and fair impression of
the Capital of Wales, the traveller should come
by the road from Newport, either by motor or by
the char-a-banc which hourly plies between
Newport and Cardiff. The charm of village
scenery on the way will have set the mind in a
humour to enjoy that prospect of the City from


Rumney Hill. There the whole panorama of the
City lies before you. The long perspective of the
Newport Road, is lost in the groves of trees
round Roath Court ; beyond that, the glittering
dome and pointed clock tower of the City Hall, the
slender Gothic lines of the tower of St. John's
Church and the grey battlemented towers of
Cardiff Castle. To the left, the forest of masts
and funnels of the world-famed docks, with
a reek of smoke going up from iron works and
copper works, give to the scene that air of life and
animation which belongs to a great commercial
centre. Beyond the docks stands the church-
crowned cliff of Penarth Head, and you get a
glimpse of the Bristol Channel, with tiny ships
that from the distance look like toys, and which
are the tramp steamers that take the rich steam
coals from the hills of Glamorgan to the distant
parts of the world. If the day is clear, you may see
beyond the castle and the spires which form the
centre of the wide landscape, the twin Garth Moun-
tains standing like sentinels at the entrance to the
coal-bearing regions, and on the right, below the
villas which peep from fair gardens on the slopes
of Penylan, catch glimpses of Roath Park, the
largest of Cardiff's verdant breathing places.

This road from which we look is the famous
Via Julia, the Roman Way, built by the great


master builders, who for three hundred years
held the island in bondage, and changed its face
from trackless woods and plains to a land of broad
roads and stone-built forts.

What an endless procession of people have
passed this way since the sandal of the Roman
soldier, in his brazen armour, first led the way t
The Norman Adventurers, under their keen, strong
leader, FitzHamon ; the monks and pilgrims in
procession, journeying to the shrine of distant
St. David's; the Bishops of Llandaff, with their
armed train of followers, passing from the Bishop's
Palace at Llan-Cadwalader, near Newport, to the
Cathedral at I4andafT. Norman Kings pass on
with knights and pages to sign treaties with
wild Welsh chieftains ; or Owen Glyndwr comes
up the hill, leaving Cardiff in smoking ruins behind
him. Welsh squires, with their stout men-at-arms,
have come up this way, too, to meet Harry Tudor
and fight 'neath his Dragon Standard at Bosworth.
King Charles, with his Cavaliers, has ridden down
this same road in a vain endeavour to make peace
with the turbulent men of Glamorgan; and the
great General Cromwell rode down the hill, with a
thunder of hoofs from those heavy-armed Iron-
sides, riding against time to crush the rising in
West Wales.


One of the first questions people are fond of
asking is, " What is the climate of the city ? "
The outspoken reply would be " moist," or
4t very wet," because the strong Sou-west wind
which so often blows up the Channel, brings the
rain drenching into the valley of the Taff. But
it is not a cold, chill rain ; it is warmed from the
Atlantic, and is clean and invigorating. But after
many days we sometimes weary of it and sigh for
clear skies. Then, on a day, the change will come
suddenly, and May or June in Cardiff is a season
of delight, when birds sing in the trees which
adorn many of the roads, and the sweet scents of
lilac and hawthorn fill the air.

It is pleasant then to get away to some point
of vantage, and, in the evening, from the high
slope by L,landough Church, watch the daylight
fading away. Then, one by one, the winking
lights gleam out, till the docks and the yards
round the docks lose their familiar aspect and look
like a fairy garden. The only reminder of the
busy life down below is the constant hooting of
many steamers which, at change of tide, move
into the coaling berths, or pass out to twinkle
for a while in the broads at the mouth of the
river, and then proceed round Penarth Head,
outward bound.


The contrast of the place with the life and toil
below are startling. In the lane by the old
Church you may meet some village gossips, and,
lingering by the farmyard beyond, you may hear
the milkmaid calling home the cows in a strange
language. She stands at the open gate, a typical
girl of Glamorgan, with plump figure, brown hair,
and laughing brown eyes ; she looks across the
long meadow and calls "Dere! Dere!" and the
cows come slowly lowing into the foldyard. Then
you are suddenly reminded that you are in Wales.
You may have passed through the streets of
Cardiff by day for a week and hardly heard one
word of Welsh, unless you happen to mingle
with a crowd of colliers by the Taff Station, for
Cardiff has a veneer of English thought and
speech, below which Cardiff is intensely Welsh,
ardent, patriotic.

I well remember that I had lived in Cardiff
a whole month before I heard the speech of Old
Wales, and that is the most interesting thing about
this old language which so many people are
striving to keep alive. Here, on the hillside, within
sight and sound of this very modern city, the
milkmaid still calls home the cows in the language
which the soldiers of Julius Caesar must have heard
on the same spot. Old Rome has gone, its glories


are past, but the beautiful language of these
Western folk still remains, unchanged after a
thousand years.

The question is sometimes asked, " What is the
good of it all ? " Of what practical good in this
commercial age is the preservation of the Welsh
Language ? What has it ever done to deserve
such efforts to keep it alive ? All of which
sounds convincing on the surface, till we remember
the undying literature of Wales. Those who have
been privileged to gain even a smattering know-
ledge of the written language, must confess to its
beauties of expression and subtle meaning. It
was an old Bishop of LlandafT who is mainly
responsible for the preservation of the language ;
for if Bishop Morgan had not translated the
Bible into Welsh, during the reign of Elizabeth,
it would most surely have died out as the language
of religion.

The world still waits for a genius who shall
translate into other languages the matchless
beauties of Dafydd ap Gwilym, the master poet
of old Wales, and the greatest nature poet of all

This old language has helped to mould and
shape the thought and character of the people.
Poet and preacher have kept it alive. It has


played its full part in the storms of Welsh politics;
and the man with the golden speech of Old
Mother Wales on his tongue has been able to hold
and thrill thousands of toilers from the hills of
Wales. Yet many of these men are the descen-
dants of Englishmen who came into the hills,
over a hundred years ago, during the period of
the birth of Welsh industry. The man who
would seek to make Cardiff an English City
is missing the point. They dream in Cardiff
of their city as the Metropolis of Wales,
and in this, strangely enough, all parties and
creeds are united. The Tory and Radical Press
both make a special appeal to be Welsh and to be
national, and the dividing line between chapel
and church, which has been the curse of Wales
for generations, wears very thin when they come
together to work for the future of Wales and its
chief city, Cardiff, at Cymrodorion or Eisteddfod.

Natives of Cardiff and dwellers in the City are
justly proud of the City as the chief coaling port
of the world, but they are prouder still of Cardiff
as the Capital of Wales.


[See Chap. 2.]


From the Bute Monument, by the Great
Western Railway Station, to the Castle, nearly
half a mile away, runs a broad straight street,
the widest and, historically, the most interesting
street in the City of Cardiff.

It is named St. Mary's Street, after a famous
old church which once stood at the Monument
end, but in the year of the Great Flood,
1607, the river, which in those days ran just
behind the street whereas it now runs in its new
bed two hundred yards away bursting over with
its flood water, tore down the principal church of
the borough of Cardiff. But though the church
has gone, the street still keeps its old name. At
one point, near the Castle, it changes its name
from St. Mary Street to High Street; but I'm
never quite sure where High Street ends and
St. Mary's Street begins, or vice-versa. It is a
wide, windy thoroughfare, and if you want to taste
the East wind in all its fulness and fierceness, you
want to meet the arch-fiend in St. Mary's Street,
where he'll buffet you, and play pranks with your
hat if you are masculine, or your skirts if you are


old-fashioned feminine ; for if you are new-
fashioned feminine well, you'll have so little
skirt that the east wind will probably pass you by
after giving you a stinging kiss on the cheek
which will drive you into one of the numerous
arcades. For just as Chester is famous for its
Rows, so Cardiff is equally celebrated for its
arcades, long and winding covered ways, with
glass roofs, full of toy-shops and milliners, where
model hats from Paris are shown to admiring
crowds. And I must say this, that the Cardiff
crowd is the best dressed crowd in the world.
I've heard Birmingham people say that you can
see all the fashions in Corporation Street, Birming-
ham, but the ladies of " Brumegem " must hide
their diminished heads, for they are far behind the
times. And, besides, one can meet with more
types of feminine beauty in half an hour's walk in
Cardiff than you would meet in Piccadilly and
Bond Street in a week.

So this must be " some " City.

The fairest way to prove this bold challenge
will be to promenade St. Mary's Street and its
sister thoroughfare; and the reason is not far to
find. It is because Cardiff is such a cosmopolitan
centre, made up of tall, hardy folk from the
Tyneside, with a solid sprinkling of Scots' folk;


Devonshire and Somerset have lent a large pro-
portion of its population ; Ireland has added some
keen business men and some very attractive
ladies ; the world in general has scattered its
inhabitants over the town, and underneath and
over all is that lively harmonious foundation and
superstructure of Welsh people. The mixture,
which is very happily blended, is labelled Cardiff.
And this reminds me of the Police Force, or
rather, was it the sight of the stalwart policemen,
resplendent in dark blue and silver, which served to
remind me that the Cardiff Police Force is the
finest in the world (so Cardiff people assure me).
I may be forgiven if I believe it, and so will
you be, for you will never meet with a finer body
of men; and by their accent, one can tell that
there is a large percentage of Highland Scotch and
broad West-country in the Force, which forms an
excellent blend. But all this is mere casual con-
versation, and the broad street remains to be
walked from end to end. Here, by the Monument
of I/)rd Bute, the grandfather of the present peer,
let us make our start.

This Lord Bute has a full right to stand here
and look up the street at his Castle entrance,
for he was the maker of modern Cardiff. He saw
its possibilities even in those early days, when the
coal came down the canal in barges to a tiny basin


at the mouth of the Taff, and he poured his
wealth into the scheme for building docks to
meet the future trade which was to make Cardiff
the chief coaling port of the world, and the port
with the largest export trade.

Across, on the other side of the canal, near the
Monument, is the wholesale quarter of Cardiff,
which has a combined odour of onions and oranges.
This was a dark quarter in the old days. It was
known as Whitmore Lane, where vice and shame
went boldly flaunting up and down, but the
wise City Fathers of years ago swept the whole
quarter away. The houses were knocked down,
and in their place whole streets of warehouses
were erected near the antiquated-looking Customs

Once upon a time St. Mary's Street was made
up of the town houses of the local gentry. Lewis
of the Van, Mathews of Llandaff, Basset of Beau
Pre, each had their office and town residence to
which they could come during the winter months.
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, these local
gentry were constantly fighting in a right royal
manner. Then the bell-man of Cardiff would
ring his bell and order all the Queen's loyal
subjects to go to their homes. This was
usually the signal for much window breaking, a


stab or two with a dagger, and then the sequel, a
long drawn out case in the Star Chamber. But
of those houses not a trace remains, the builder
has been always a busy man in Cardiff. The old
Town Hall has gone ; its heavy, gloomy corridors
and pillared doorway will no more echo to the
tread of the Sheriff's stout javelin men. No rosy
judge goes by to the criminal court to try the evil-
doers of the town and country ; no longer do
jolly-looking barristers hang round the entrance
to the Civil Courts telling the latest joke picked
up on the South Wales Circuit. No more do
stout Aldermen and equally stout Councillors
turn this way to seek the rest and creature com-
forts of the Mayor's parlour. No more Police
Court squabbles are settled there, for all has
changed, and to-day a high imposing building
proclaims to all and sundry, by its shining brass
plates, that this is the home of the Wholesale
Co-operative Society.

Near here was at one time the office of Wm.
Morgan, of Coed-y-Gorres, lawyer and under-
sheriff, and here his kinsman, David Morgan,
worked as a clerk before he turned his steps to
Ivondon and became a barrister of the Inner
Temple ; then, when, in those far-off Jacobite
days, the '45 came round, David Morgan left his
home near Cardiff to join Bonnie Prince Charlie


at Manchester. He became the Prince's secretary,
and was one of those who urged him to march on to
London, but the cautious policy of retreat to
Scotland prevailed, and David Morgan in disgust
left the Pretender's Army, saying, with prophetic
wisdom, that he would sooner hang in England
than starve to death in Scotland.

In 1746, on Kennington Oval, he was hanged,
drawn and quartered as a rebel in arms. He died
gallantly as a true Welsh gentleman, believing that
he gave his life for a good cause. So here's to
his memory ; may we never lack for men to join
the forlorn hope.

Beyond, in the centre of the High Street, stood
that quaint structure, the Market House, with
Court House above. This was a relic of the early
days, and has been swept away many years. The
little chapel which stood near it had gone before.
It was here on this spot, in the intolerant days of
Queen Mary Tudor, that Rawlins White, a simple
fisherman, a native of Cardiff, was done to death
burnt at the stake by the fanatics who hoped to
revive the old religion by such cruel deeds.

And I think it would be on the same spot that
Father Evans, a Jesuit Priest, was also martyred
by the rival fanatics who tried to kill the old
religion by bloody deeds. It has taken us long


years to learn the lesson of tolerance, Catholic
Martyr and Protestant Martyr each dying the
heroic death for the faith he believed to be the
true one. Yes, Cardiff had a Puritan Martyr, too,
one Christopher Love, a Puritan preacher, who
dared to raise his voice against the growing power
of Oliver Cromwell, and he ended his brief life on
the scaffold not here in Cardiff, but in the
City of London.

There is a fine big Market Hall on the right-
hand side, and huge Drapery Emporiums, with
real Welsh names over the doors, proving to the
world that the Welshman is clever as a business-
man, whether he sells drapery, milk or tin plates.
Yes, he belongs to a keen race, and here in his
Capital he deserves to prosper. You know as well
as I do, that no one ever got on in the world
without exciting some spark of jealousy in the
hearts of his neighbours. So it is with Cardiff.
There are rival towns on either side, and sometimes
Swansea thinks, and Newport is sure, that every
cause which is supported by Cardiff is just meant
to be one great advertisement for CARDIFF.
Well, as this is a business city, run on keen business
lines, personally, I think, they are entitled to use
all legitimate means of making the City known
farther and wider, for I'm sure that Newport
or Swansea, under the same circumstances, would


follow the self -same policy, if they were wise.
There is nothing like success to make the neigh-
bours talk. Well, a Cardiff man might say, let
them talk, it is all advertisement. Talking of
advertisement reminds me that St. Mary's Street
is the centre of newspaper activities in Cardiff..
By the Bute Monument is the chief office of the
" Western Mail," founded for Lord Bute by that
excellent journalist the late Mr. L,ascelles Carr.
Cardiff people are very proud of the* 'Mail"
it represents the progressive spirit of the city.
Its well-known cartoonist, Mr. J. M. Staniforth,
has made merry a long generation of Welsh folk,
and the genial editor, Mr. Willie Davies, is a past-
master at stating the facts of the day from
the Welsh " point of view," and quite in-
dependent of Party Politics. Farther down
the street, on the same side, are the offices of
the " South Wales News," still owned and carried
on by the Duncan Family, who founded the
paper in mid- Victorian days. This is the Radical
Press ; the keen but courtly rival to the
" Western Mail." Pressmen must have changed
since Dickens wrote his "Pickwick Papers, " for I
can't, in my wildest dreams, imagine an encounter
between Mr. Read of the " South Wales News,"
and Mr. Willie Davies of the "Western Mail." Shall
we say they fight their battles on a higher plane?


But these two rival newspapers, each with a huge
circulation all over Wales, both loudly advocate
the claims and advantages of the City of Cardiff
from this, our local Fleet Street. May they
be so engaged in friendly rivalry for many
years to come. New parties are rising in Imperial
politics, but so long as Cardiff has dreams of
greatness, may she still have these friendly rivals
to champion her cause, and to throw down the
gauntlet to all who are so blind that they fail to
recognise the greatness of this City.


St. John's Church is the most beautiful old
Church in the whole ^of South Wales. Its tall
tower, with delicate perpendicular tracery, is a
land mark from far away, but the Church does
not stand well for general inspection.

The best way to view the Church is to look
down Church Street from St. Mary's Street.
According to the old i6th century map of Cardiff,
the Church of St. Mary was at least twice as large
as this Church of St. John, but since the


destruction of old St. Mary's, St. John's Church
has become the premier church of the town.

The fine tower of the Church is said by
historians to have been the gift of the
Countess of Warwick. It is a type usually
found in the West of England. The principal
church at Taunton is a sister church in style
of building, evidently designed by the same
Architect. It is a pity we so seldom know the
JKfi^j names of the artists who designed these true
Bnglish temples of worship.

There is something exquisitely soothing to the
mind to enter one of these busy churches. The
mind instantly turns to the thought of the
generations of worshippers. The sight of the
outward reverence in the crowded congregation,
the organ notes pealing out through the sculp-
tured building, the sweet voices of the singers ;
all these help to turn even the most casual visitor
to a real spirit of worship. On the walls
are carved monuments to some of the
Herbert Family, who were Stewards of the
Castle during the great Civil War. One of
them fell at Edgehill fighting for the King.

Many an old Cardiffian had a deep love for
this old Church. I have seen the wills of old
inhabitants of Cardiff in which they request


that their bodies may lie within the spikes in
St. John's Church. This curious expression is

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