Children's playgrounds have over the years been constructed in several locations in Roath Park. Other than the account given by A.A. Pettigrew, the main evidence of their existence is Ordnance Survey maps. The 1940 edition is the earliest OS map on which a playground is specifically marked in Roath Park - this, as noted below, was on the western side of the lake.
In May 1914 the Parks Committee accepted a donation from a Mr W H Seager who gave £10 to pay for children's swings to be provided in Roath Park, but it was not reported exactly where these were placed. In 1917, after a serious accident it was decided that the swings should be used only under supervision, so they were kept secured and unused except during the summer school holidays, when attendants were present. The Chief Officer reported in April 1919: "Last season the swings in Roath Park were open for use only during the school holidays....Events have shown that their use is unsafe, except when in charge of a caretaker". Pettigrew stated that in 1921 the swings were "quietly removed".
In 1921 the Parks Committee accepted a tender amounting to £90 for twelve children's hobby horses from Messrs. H. Hunt & Son, Liverpool. These were to be placed in Roath Park but the exact location was not given.
The 1938 Inventory of Parks Buildings and Equipment indicated the presence of a rocking horse somewhere on the banks of the lake.
A.A. Pettigrew referred a number of times to a children's play area in the Botanic Garden, near the bandstand.
In October 1920 the Chief Parks Officer (who was A.A. Pettigrew) reported that in Roath Park a space adjoining the concert enclosure was reserved for young children's play, and here they had a roundabout. This was purchased in 1914 at a cost of £115 from Messrs. A W Gamage, on the initiative of William Pettigrew, the Parks Superintendent at the time, after he had seen a similar roundabout in use in a park in Paris. It was said to be 14 feet in diameter, consisting of twelve donkeys and two motor cars worked by hand from a wheel in the centre. Children were charged one half-penny per ride and it was very popular.
Pettigrew further reported that elsewhere in this section of the park no play was permitted.
The roundabout was probably present until 1951 - in that year the Parks Committee decided that the children's roundabout should be removed from Roath Park, and it was sold for £40.
There is a modern day children's playground in the Botanic Garden roughly between Lake Road East and the Bye-wash, beside the southerly slope of the Promenade.
Lake Road West
The 1940s Ordnance Survey map showed Lavatories at the bottom of Highfield Road and immediately to the north a children's playground which jutted out into the Lake. A paddling pool existed here in the early 1930s: in 1933 the Parks Committee approved an extension to the paddling pool. The public convenience opposite Highfield Road was provided because of the popularity of the enlarged paddling pool. The Ordnance Survey maps for 1954, 1962 and 1970 all showed this area with a playground, paddling pool, shelter and lavatories. Model boats could be sailed in the paddling pool, while the playground equipment included a slide, a rocking horse (made by Wickstead) that could seat five children, and a long swing known as a swing-bob, also able to accommodate a number of children.
In 1959 a coin-operated rocking horse was installed at the boat stage for a trial period and was very popular. As a result the Parks Committee agreed to purchase one, and install it on a pre-payment basis (i.e.coin-operated), the Council to receive one third of the income.
In April 1912 the Parks Committee agreed that a small site be reserved on the western side of the Pleasure Garden as a Babies Playground, and notices were to be fixed at the entrance indicating that the site was set aside exclusively for babies. Later this was the location of a tennis court. In October 1920 the Chief Parks Officer reported to the Parks Committee that it had not been thought necessary to provide space for children in the Pleasure Garden, owing to the proximity of the children's space in the Recreation Ground. Noting that all of the eastern side of the brook either was, or would be, laid out for tennis and bowling, he referred to "the plot previously ear-marked as a babies playground", where the Parks Committee had now decided to place a tennis court, and suggested that this could be used for a playground, if a fence were erected alongside the brook. In the event the Parks Committee in December 1920 proposed "that the grass plot at the north east side reserved as a tennis court, be in future set apart as a playground for small children" and this was implemented.
A place at the southern end of the brook had been used for children's paddling from an early date. In 1927 the northern end of this part of the brook was cleared and a wooden weir fitted to create a paddling pool.
On the 7th May, 1914, the Chief. Officer had been instructed to report "as to the cost of providing one dozen children's see-saws for use in the public rec. grounds". He recommended that these should not be installed, as they were likely to result in more accidents than swings and giant slides, and the risks were too great unless an attendant was appointed to supervise.
In October 1920 the Chief Parks Officer reported that at the north end of the Recreation Ground there was an area of about 2 acres reserved for young children, and here were swings, a giant slide, and a sand bath. See-saws were also about to be added. Pettigrew stated that in 1920 various gentlemen presented giant slides and see-saws for Roath Park Recreation Ground (and also Splott Park and Victoria Park). Caretakers could not be provided to supervise these to prevent accidents, and in April 1922, the Chief Officer reported to the Parks Committee on recent accidents involving children playing on the see-saws and giant slide at Roath Park. He was instructed to "cause sand to be placed near the see-saws, etc" but accidents continued and the see-saws were removed a few months later. The giant slides remained.
There is a modern day children's playground at the south end of the Recreation Ground.
Sources of Information
The information in this section is taken from A. A. Pettigrew, The Public Parks and Recreation Grounds of Cardiff, Volume 6.
Other sources are: