History of Cathays Cemetery

In 1859 when the cemetery opened there were three chapels all designed by Mr R. G. Thomas of Newport: Roman Catholic, Church of England and Nonconformist Protestant.

The Church of England (Episcopalian) 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. In April 1985 it was reported that this chapel had not been used for the last five years and had been subject to vandalism and theft. It was agreed to seek tenders for its demolition.[1] The building was demolished in 1986 and its bell put into storage.

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. 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 originally 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.

In July 1933 the Western Mail reported that about two-and-a-half acres of ground had been consecrated by the Bishop of Llandaff on Monday 24th July. The report stated that "every portion of the land purchased years ago by the corporation for cemetery purposes is, therefore, now in use." The newly consecrated plot was at the northern end of the cemetery and had been let out to allotment holders, to whom notice to quit had to be given owing to the rapid filling of grave spaces in the older parts of the ground. The furure opening of a new cemetery at Ely was also mentioned, as it would ease "the pressure on the Cathays burial ground".[2]

The two halves of the cemetery were separated originally 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.[2]

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 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.[3]

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.[4] By the early 1970s the railway line had been replaced by the new road, Eastern Avenue. Expenditure for the demolition of the connecting bridge over Eastern Avenue was approved in the financial year 1970-71.[5]

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 collapsed owing to deterioration of the black mortar.[6] In approximately 1995 it was reduced to about knee-height and ornamental railings were added, improving visibility and creating views of the interior.[7] This work received a Civic Trust Commendation in 1995.[8]

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

The following maps show the two now completely separate parts of Cathays Cemetery, and are also available as a pdf.

Cathays Cemetery (south) map

Cathays Cemetery (south)
By kind permission Cardiff Bereavement Services

Cathays Cemetery (north) map

Cathays Cemetery (north)
By kind permission Cardiff Bereavement Services

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 was put in, window glass removed in favour of perspex and heating installed. The central bell tower was refurbished and there are plans to restore the bell clapper which is currently missing.

Sources of information

In general, the information in this section is taken from Cathays Cemetery Cardiff on its 150th aniversary, published by Friends of Cathays Cemetery [2009] ISBN 978 0 9562786 09.

Other sources are:

  1. Meeting of the Leisure and Amenities Committee 1st April 1985
  2. Western Mail & South Wales News Tuesday 25 July 1933 page 5
  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
  9. Civic Trust Awards Schemes in Cardiff