Howard Gardens is no longer a public open space, and devekopment of the site for student accommodation is in progress in 2019.
It was one of several "town square gardens" created by the Bute Estate in the 19th century at the same time as housing development, and its name was probably derived from that of the 3rd Marquis of Bute's wife, Gwendolen Fitzalan-Howard. These gardens were conveyed to the Cardiff Corporation on December 28th 1889, and they were opened to the public the following spring. At just over an acre, Howard Gardens was one of the largest and it included a tennis court. In March 1890 the Parks Committee agreed that the Higher Grade School Tennis Club could use a tennis court in Howard Gardens on the same terms as the previous year as long as there was no interference with the right of the public to use the space.
In July 1891 the Parks Committee agreed to accept the gift from the Bute Estate of a piece of land adjoining Howard Gardens at Moira Terrace and this was incorporated in March 1892. A caretaker's shelter/toolshed was built in September 1891. Ordnance Survey maps show it to have been placed at the north west end of the Gardens.
A description of Howard Gardens was given in the Evening Express in a special edition marking the opening of Roath Park on June 20th 1894:
"These gardens are bounded by Newport-road, Moira-terrace, and Grove-road, Roath and are laid out something after the same style as Loudoun-square. There is a main walk parallel with the railings, and shrubs are a feature because they are far better grown here than in the other open spaces of the town. A number of flower beds occupy a large portion of the space, and in these all bedding and herbaceous plants will be found flourishing. The space measures about two acres."
Howard Gardens was the original home of the statue of Lord Aberdare: the Council agreed in October 1897 to a temporary site in Howard Gardens while Cathays Park and the new University building there were under development. In 1915 the statue was removed from Howard Gardens and placed in Alexandra Gardens, Cathays Park, facing the University, of which Lord Aberdare was the first president. The statue is the work of Herbert Hampton.
There was no bandstand at Howard Gardens but the Parks Committee engaged bands to play there, as in other parks and open spaces from 1902 onwards.
In January 1908 it was decided that two tennis courts would be provided in Howard Gardens. The bowling green was opened by the Lord Mayor in the presence of the Parks Committee on June 13th 1914. An article appeared in the Western Mail in June 1914 describing the popularity of lawn tennis and referring to the provision of courts and the formation of a tennis club at Victoria Park.
In January 1915 the Parks Committee agreed to a request from the War Office authorities for the whole of Howard Gardens to be taken over and temporary hospital buildings erected. This required the consent of the Marquis of Bute under the terms of the conveyance dated December 1889.
The Parks Department Inventory of Parks Buildings and Equipment, compiled for insurance purposes in April 1938, included the following information:
During the 1939-45 war the bowls pavilion was occupied by ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Wardens. In 1941 the City Engineer reported that instructions had been received to create emergency static water supplies in several parks and gardens including Howard Gardens. A 1942 aerial photograph seems to show a water tank in Howard Gardens that was not present in an earlier photograph taken in March 1941. By May 1946 this had been removed: the Director of Parks reported to the Parks Committee that all emergency water supply basins had been removed and he had made a claim for restoration of the sites to their original condition.
In 1979 £26,000 of Welsh Development Agency money was used to create a kick-about area at the south end where there were Plane trees, effectively leaving Howard Gardens split between the bowling green and this area.
From 1981 the Howard Gardens bowling green was an established venue for disabled bowlers. In June 1984 the Leisure and Amenities Committee accepted a grant of £850 from the Sports Council for Wales, to convert the tool shed and mess room into a club room for use by disabled bowlers.
In 2013 the Council proposed that several bowling greens be closed to save money, Howard Gardens among them. (The others were Maindy, Trelai, Llwynfedw Gardens, Pentwyn, and Grange Gardens.)
In September 2015, the Cardiff Council received for approval a proposal to dispose of all the land comprising Howard Gardens open space. The site comprised three parts: the former bowling green which closed in 2013, the Adamsdown Play Centre and a small public open space. Plans for construction of student accommodation on the site were approved in 2018. Building work was in progress in 2019 with completion expected in September 2020.
Sources of Information
In general, the information in this section is taken from A. A. Pettigrew. The Public Parks and Recreation Grounds of Cardiff. Volume 2, Chapter on Town Square Gardens & Volume 4, Chapter on Tennis
Other sources are: