Rumney Hill Gardens was developed in the mid 1950s. Part of the space had formerly been designated a burial ground and it was shown on the 1940s Ordnance Survey map as Rumney Cemetery, though it was apparently never actually used as such. In March 1940 the Cemeteries Superintendent reported that the Rumney Burial Ground, comprising 0.75 acre, had come under the control of his department in April 1938 and no burials had yet taken place. As the ground could not be extended without purchase of additional land, and as the Council was already negotiating for a plot in Caerphilly Road for a new cemetery, the Superintendent asked the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee to consider handing the ground to the Parks Department to develop as an ornamental garden, or as wartime allotments. The Committee decided to take no action, but the wartime aerial photograph below shows that on March 1st 1941 the ground was being used for allotments. The small building at the entrance to the cemetery is still present. The site to the left of the Gardens was a bakery and later became a police station. At the bottom of the picture is the Rhymney River.
The brick building at the entrance to the site was originally to be the cemetery mortuary. During the war the Rumney Allotment Holders Association sought to use it for storage of fertilizers, etc. In 1942 a static water supply basin for the use of the Fire Service was placed at Rumney Cemetery.
In 1946 the Rumney Ratepayers Protection Association made a formal request for the Council to appropriate the burial ground as an open space, and the Parks Committee agreed that the Town Clerk be asked to take the necessary steps. The Town Clerk reported to the Committee in July 1947 that "a Petition of the Corporation to the Lord Bishop of Monmouth for the use of Rumney Burial Ground as a public recreation ground and open space would shortly be submitted to the Chancellor of the Diocese."
Development began in 1952 with the decision to provide tennis courts and a bowling green at Rumney Cemetery. At that time the site was occupied by allotment holders, who were to be given notice to quit by September 1953. The bowling green was put down on the land which had previously been the cemetery.
On the 1950s Ordnance Survey map the cemetery area, along with additional land to the south and the south-west, was shown as Rumney Hill Gardens, and tennis courts, bowling green and paths were marked on the map.
In November 1955 the Cardiff Council received offers of government grants for the development of various recreational spaces, including £780 for Rumney Hill Gardens, towards a total cost of £2,600. Construction of a bowling green was already in progress, having been agreed earlier, in November 1954.
In October 1956 the Parks Committee approved a scheme to provide a bowling pavilion, at a cost of £3,375. At the same meeting the Committee received a request from the Rumney and St Mellons (British Legion) Bowling Club for permission to play on the bowling green when it opened. A decision was deferred while enquiries were made to discover whether a local club was likely to be formed to make regular use of the green. In February 1957 the newly formed Rumney Bowling Club applied for permission to use the green on Wednesdays,Thursdays and Saturdays in the coming season. The Committee also learned that the Rumney and St Mellons Club had joined in the newly formed club, and permission was granted for use of the green on same terms as for other clubs using district greens. A book detailing history of the Rumney Bowling Club has been researched and written by Bob Watson.
The following month the Director of Parks reported that no changing facilities existed for the tennis courts and bowling green, which were due to open in the summer of 1957. The proposal to provide such facilities had been deleted from the estimates and therefore he was considering options for temporary accommodation. No progress had been made when the Director reported again in May that a Ladies Bowling Club had been formed and was using the new green, but there was no lavatory accommodation.
In September 1957 the Committee approved provision of a sign directing the public to Rumney Hill Gardens.
It was not until 1958 that a new proposal was approved for a bowls pavilion - it was included, at a cost of £5,800, as a high priority in the parks building schemes for 1958/59. A tender for the work costing £5,397 was awarded in March 1959 to Blakemore & Knight Ltd. Building work began on May 11th and was completed at the end of the year. The Parks Committee congratulated the City Architect and the Director of Parks on the layout of the pavilion and the gardens. The Lord Mayor accepted an invitation to open the pavilion officially on April 30th 1960, and to mark the occasion the Parks Committee granted a request from the Bowling Club for the installation of a flagpole on the site, and the addition to the pavilion of a clock with a suitable inscription.
The 1960s Ordnance Survey map shows the pavilion to have been built between the tennis courts and bowling green, and tree planting to have taken place since the 1950s.
In the 1960s Rumney Hill Gardens was noted for its rockery section. The herbaceous borders won an award - the Cambian News Challenge Cup - in the Wales in Bloom competition in 1980.
The modern Gardens contain a short, pleasant wooded walk, a well kept bowling green, a pavilion and tennis courts. In recent years, economies have resulted in simplified planting schemes.
Sources of information