Cathays Cemetery

Cathays Cemetery, originally known as New Cemetery, occupies land between Fairoak Road, Whitchurch Road and Allensbank Road.

It was initially formed from 30 acres of arable farmland, purchased on the 7th March 1859 from Wyndham William Lewis of the Heath, at a cost of £4,500. It was consecrated 28th October 1859 by the Bishop of Llandaff. The general engineering works including roads and approaches were superintended by Mr Thomas Waring. The three chapels all designed by Mr R. G. Thomas of Newport were:

The Church of England and Nonconformist chapels were built at the Fairoak Road entrance in 1859 at a cost of £5,200. They are twin decorated Gothic style chapels with a central bell tower, and they appear identical though the Church of England chapel (right-hand side viewed from the Fairoak Road entrance) is more ornate. The Roman Catholic Chapel was north west of the other two, located fairly close to Allensbank Road. It was blessed on the 2nd November 1859. This building was demolished in 1986 and its bell put into storage.

Cathays Cemetery Entrance (Fairoak Road entrance) c.1905

Fairoak Road entrance c.1905[1]

Cathays Cemetery front view of the chapels c.1905

Front view of the chapels c.1905[1]

Cathays Cemetery rear view of the chapels c.1905

Rear view of the chapels c.1905[1]

Cathays Cemetery (Roman Catholic Chapel) c.1905

Roman Catholic Chapel c.1905[1]

Cathays Cemetery (Roman Catholic Chapel) c.1905

Roman Catholic Chapel being demolished c.1986[1]

Cathays Cemetery (Superintendent's office and house) c.1905

Superintendent's office and house c.1905[1]

The Cemetery was extended several times in the 19th century and a section near the present day Cathays Library was used as a recreation ground for a short period between 1881 and 1895.[2]

Ordnance Survey maps indicate that between 1880 and 1900 the cemetery expanded southwards into the area that had been a temporary recreation ground. The northerly half of the present day cemetery (north of Eastern Avenue) was developed firstly between 1900 and 1920 and extended further north between 1920 and 1940 at which point its boundary was the gardens of the houses in Heathwood Grove.

The two halves of the cemetery were separated by the Taff Vale Railway line and now by Eastern Avenue. The 1920 Ordnance Survey map shows that a bridge allowed access betwen the two sections.

In May 1943 a bomb fell in the cemetery near the junction of Allensbank Road and Whitchurch Road, causing extensive damage to the graves there.[3]

In 1962 it was reported that the cemetery church spire had been found to be out of plumb, was structurally unsafe and should be taken down. The cost of demolition and rebuilding with new stone and bronze binders was estimated at £1,700. The Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee considered alternatives to this and approved a scheme to build a 25 foot timber framed spire with copper cladding at a cost of £1,350.[4]

In the 1960s there was still a bridge joining the two halves of the cemetery and in 1968 the Parks Committee approved work to repair it costing £3,295.[5] By the early 1970s the railway line had been replaced by a new road, Eastern Avenue. Expenditure for the demolition of the connecting bridge over Eastern Avenue was approved in the financial year 1970-71.[6]

A high stone wall enclosed the cemetery, probably from the late 19th century until the mid 1990s, when it it was declared unsafe after a section colapsed owing to deterioration of the black mortar.[7] In approximately 1996 it was reduced to about knee-height and ornamental railings were added, improving visibility and creating views of the interior.[8]

Today the cemetery covers approximately 110 acres and it is managed by Cardiff Bereavement Services which is part of City of Cardiff Council.

In 2016, under the direction of Cardiff Bereavement Services, both chapels were sympathetically renovated with a view to them being used for weddings, funerals and other events. The roofs of both chapels were replaced and the interior of the walls taken back to stonework and lime-washed. A raised oak wooden floor has been installed, window glass has been removed in favour of perspex and the chapels are now heated. The central bell tower was refurbished and there are plans to restore the bell clapper which is currently missing.

Other links

Cathays Cemetery (Superintendent's office and house) c.1905

The Camera Series, Western Mail, Ltd., Cardiff.
(postmarked 1904)

Cathays Cemetery (Roman Catholic Chapel) c.1905

W.H.S. & S. Grosvenor Glossy Series
(postmarked 1908)

Sources of information:

  1. Photograph from the Cardiff Library Local Studies Collection
  2. Cathays Cemetery Cardiff on its 150th aniversary, published by Friends of Cathays Cemetery [2009] ISBN 978 0 9562786 09
  3. Dennis Morgan, Cardiff - a City at War, published 1998, page 68
  4. Meeting of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 24th September 1962 & 23rd September 1963
  5. Meeting of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 19th February 1968
  6. Meeting of the Parks Committee 8th June 1970
  7. Personal communication (TD)
  8. Cathays Cemetery Green Flag Management Plan 2015, City and County of Cardiff, section 3.1