Roath Park's original Refreshment House (also sometimes called the Refreshment Rooms) was built on the high ground at the northwest end of the Botanic Garden beside the Promenade and the Weir (or Cascade). The work, estimated to cost £1300, started in 1899 and was completed by March 1900.
When it opened in 1901 the Refreshment House was not allowed to operate on Sundays, despite Sunday being one of the busiest days for visitors to the Park. This became a contentious issue, with several proposals being put to the Council to allow Sunday opening (and on Good Friday and Christmas Day). For example in April 1903, 645 ratepayers signed a petition in favour of the idea, but it was opposed by the Churches and defeated in a Council vote in July.
In 1903 a gas supply was laid on to the Refreshment House by the Cardiff Gas Company and gas lighting was provided.
The Refreshment House was a regular target for break-ins and thefts, as were the chocolate machines provided outside. In June 1909 the Parks Superintendent reported that the refreshment rooms were broken into on a recent Friday night and that this was the tenth such occurence. In August 1910 there were two break-ins within a week and a considerable quantity of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes were taken.
The Council finally agreed in 1913 that the Refreshment House could open on Sundays. Although there was again opposition on religious grounds, the view prevailed that "it would not be a black mark on their history to make provision by which the worn and the weary could have a cup of tea at the park on Sundays". In 1914 the Parks Committee invited tenders to build a glazed annex to the Refreshment House and in May accepted a tender for £152.
In November 1921 it was decided to place two captured First World War guns on grass plots in front of the Refreshment House. At the next Council meeting there were protests and the guns were removed to the obscurity of the workmen's yard.
Throughout its existence the Refreshment House was operated by contractors who were granted short term tenancies. In December 1944, on the expiry of one such tenancy, it was suggested that the Council should take control of the refreshment operation directly but this was not approved and a further tenancy was agreed until 31st December 1949. This was subsequently renewed until 31st December 1952.
In 1947 alterations to the Refreshment House costing £300 were required to comply with a new Public Health Act, and the Welsh Board of Health approved construction of an Ice Cream Parlour and Manufacturing Kitchen.
By the 1960s the cafe (as it was now called) required extensive repairs and in view of the building's age the Parks Committee decided in 1964 that it should be closed. At the same meeting a plan was approved for a new cafe at the south west corner of the lake beside the boat shelter. In the event a tender (costing £325) for the demolition of the old cafe was not approved until 1967.
In 1971 plans were approved in principle for the new cafe adjacent to the boating stage and provision was made in the 1972-73 estimates for the building cost of £18,000. In late 1973 the new building was nearing completion and terms for a tender for the catering rights were discussed. The new cafe was officially named Terra Nova in memory of Captain Scott's ship in March 1975.
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 3.
Other sources are: