Whitchurch Library Gardens

Whitchurch Library Gardens occupies the triangular plot of land at the junction of Merthyr Road and Velindre Road. This land was acquired by the Parish Council in 1899, following which the Council approached the Carnegie Trust for a grant to build a public library on part of the site. The application was successful and the library building was completed in late 1904. It was designed by Messrs. R. & S. Williams and built at a cost of £2,000 by Mr. W.T. Morgan.

The remainder of the site was developed as a public garden. Mr. H.R. John was appointed to the combined post of Librarian and Park-keeper at a wage of eighteen shillings per week plus living accommodation.

Whitchurch Free Library

Whitchurch Free Library c.1904[1]

Whitchurch Free Library

Whitchurch Free Library c.1910[1]

Whitchurch Free Library

Whitchurch Free Library after 1945[1]

Whitchurch Free Library

Whitchurch Library & Gardens c.1950  ©The Francis Frith Collection

Jubilee celebrations took place on December 14th 1954.[2]

Responsibility for Whitchurch Library and Gardens was transferred to the Cardiff Council in 1967 under the Cardiff Order 1966.[3]

When the Cardiff Parks Department took over responsibility for the Gardens there were old lime trees around the perimeter, possibly planted in the early 1900s when the site was laid out. These were all found to be in a dangerous state and were removed. The existing lime trees along the west and east sides are replacements planted in the 1970s. There were also some old Cherry trees which have now gone, and at north east end, two unusually large Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) also now gone, and London plane trees which are still present. There were shrub borders along both sides of the gardens.

At the south end of the gardens, behind the library, was a (Gentlemen's) toilet building, a tool shed and messroom for Parks staff, and a glasshouse. The glasshouse was demolished soon after the Cardiff Council took over and a corrugated steel toolshed/store put on the site. There was another toilet (for Ladies) at the north east end. Both toilet buildings were of brick with pitched roofs, and they were thought to be the same age as the library building. They were still in use in the early 1980s but were later closed and demolished around 1990.

In the 1970s and 1980s there were many flower beds at the south end near the entrance, most of which have since been removed because they could not be maintained. Seven existed when the Cardiff Council took over:

The Parks Department subsequently added more: three large circular beds where the flagpole is; two beds outside the gates and alongside the access road; and four large triangular beds on the traffic island.

Other new planting in the 1970s included two large shrub beds at south end of the lawn near the library. These were removed and grassed over around 1990 when they could no longer be maintained.

Trees planted in the 1970s and still present include:

The thorn hedge along the east boundary was planted in the early 1980s to replace an Elm hedge that had died of Dutch Elm Disease in the 1960s. As there were many woody weeds in the hedge, it remained green long after the Elm had died, but was eventually removed when the rotten stumps were declared dangerous.

The central area has always been a grassed open space, without sports pitches. It includes a childrens' playground where there have been various changes of layout and equipment. One of these was opened in July 1996.[4]

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Sources of Information

Historical information about the origins of the library is taken from Edgar L. Chappell, Old Whitchurch: the story of a Glamorgan Parish, Priory Press, 1945, pages 79-80. Information about the development of the Gardens is via personal communication(TD).

Other sources are:

  1. Photograph from the Cardiff Library Local Studies Collection
  2. Whitchurch Parish Council. Whitchurch Library Jubilee Celebrations, 1904-1954, 14th December, 1954 at the library : [invitation card and programme]
  3. Meeting of the Libraries Committee 7th March 1967
  4. South Wales Echo July 26th 1996