The Public and the Parks

The following is a transcription of an article called The Public and the Parks that appeared in the Western Mail July 28th 1906, page 8.

A tour around Cardiff's Pleasure Grounds

More room for municipal effort

The interview with Councillor Chappell, chairman of the Cardiff parks committee, published in a recent issue, has created a deal of public interest in the doings of that committee, and there is reason to believe that some of the suggestions made will receive the hearty support of other members when they are formally brought under discussion.

In order to follow up the subject, and to gain first-hand experience of the extent to which the public take advantage of the city's open spaces, a representative of the "Western Mail" visited the Splott Park, notices on the tramcars having advertised the fact that there was a special attraction in the shape of band music. The visit was an eye-opener, and made one understand to the full the beneficial influence which the provision of such open spaces must exercise over the lives of the masses. Between 2,500 and 3,000 souls had assembled on the ground, and all were unmistakably enjoying the evenings turn-out.

Splott is, perhaps, the largest mixed working class community in the city, and it is by no means attractive in some quarters; but there are signs of great improvement, owing to the development of the Tredegar Estate on generous lines. The park, which is eighteen acres in extent, was given to the city by Lord Tredegar upon certain conditions, and it is going to have an uplifting influence on the population. It commands a splendid view on a fine day. The shipping in the Channel is in full view; the Flat Holm, the Steep Holm, Brean Down Point (Weston), Clevedon, Penylan, Machen Mountain, the transporter bridge at Newport, Twyn Barlwm Mountain (the highest peak in Monmouthshire), and Caerphilly Mountain, are all to be seen, whilst the freshest of pure breezes always favours the locality.

Here the large crowd, of all ages and degrees of life, sported to their heart's content. They had left the streets to expand their lungs in the open. The bowling green was in full swing; the cricket enthusiasts and baseball players swarmed the plots allotted to them. Round the band-stand paraded several hundreds of parents with their children, listening to the excellent performance of the Splott Temperance Band, in their smart new uniform, 34 strong, under the conductorship of Mr Tom Loman. The order maintained during the playing of the band was exemplary.

It was evident that the ground is capable of a deal of development, and the parks committee have already wisely committed themselves to the construction of another bowling green, a tennis court, croquet ground, quoit pitches - all of which experience elsewhere has shown to be remunerative undertakings - and a sand pit for the youngsters. Some of these are now in hand, and by next year Splott Park will have transformed itself. When the shrubs have taken strong root, and the sward has been brought to something like perfection, we shall hear of the Splottites referring to "our park" with as much pride as the whole city now views the delights of Roath Park, with its wealth of Nature's beauties.

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Grangetown Garden

Public appreciation of its pleasures

Need for larger recreation ground

Grangetown Gardens were visited by a representative of the "Western Mail" on the occasion when the Splott Temperance Band provided the musical programme. This open space, off Corporation-road, is just over three acres in extent, and a sum of £2,300 has been spent by the city council in laying it out and carrying out the conditions of the Earl of Plymouth, by whom it was presented to the public. Its limited extent debars the provision of cricket pitches and such large plots for recreative purposes, but every advantage has been taken of the space available to lay out a bowling green and a double lawn tennis court, whilst a quoit pitch is in contemplation and will be arranged for next year. The remainder of the ground is nicely planned and studded with flower beds, and a row of shrubs encircles the band-stand.

As at Splott, there was a large crowd of all ages, drawn from all parts of the district, listening to the music. Whole families were, evidently, out for an airing, for the children were well under control, and, until nine o'clock, when the National Anthem was played, there was a constant stream of paraders on the ground. The bowling-green was alive with players intent upon their pastime, and amongst them, similarly engaged were Councillors Chappell, Smith, and Dixon. Every man on the ground seemed to be personally interested in the good conduct and development of the gardens, "When are we going to have quoits pitches, Mr Chappell?" was the query from one horny-handed working man. "Don't you think we ought to have livelier music for the sake of the children?" asked another father, who was marching a couple of little toddlers around. All appreciated the "musical evening in the gardens."

Grangetown is very congested in some parts, and is in greater need of an extensive recreation ground than any district in Cardiff. The gardens are too small for the purpose, and in order to meet the want to some extent the corporation are renting at £1 and acre, from the Windsor Estate, the plot called the Marl, which abuts Ferry-road. It is nine acres in extent, but is not laid out in any way. This is due to the fact that the corporation, as tenants, are subject to twelve months' notice, and the council do not feel justified in attempting any great outlay, seeing that there is a possibility of the land being utilised in the future for dock purposes. Its prospective value as a recreation ground for the district is small, and the provision of another plot is Grangetown's cry. The district is just the kind of area where public open spaces are of real value to the masses, and the selection of a plot as an alternative to the Marl is what is engaging the serous attention of the ward representatives.

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Roath Park Attractions

Dense Throng at the city's prettiest resort

Notwithstanding the splendid attractions in the Sophia Gardens in connection with the flower show, there was a great crowd at Roath Park when the writer visited the grounds on Wednesday evening, and the stroll over the length of this delightful resort strengthened, if that were needed, the conclusion that the parks committee have under their control assets which are, almost without qualification, the most appreciated of the city's possessions.

The lay-out of Roath Park has been conceived on sensible lines. At the Wellfield-road end the recreation ground - open and extensive - accounts for the majority of unattended children, so that the pleasure and botanical gardens and lake surroundings are relieved of the presence of noisy, sportive youngsters. As at the other open spaces, the bowling greens and tennis courts were in full swing throughout the evening, and Councillors Beavan and Roberts were prominent participants in the games. Councillor Munn's question in the city council on Wednesday morning is an indication of the interest which the provision of these remunerative playgrounds has raised, and nowhere is the innovation more justified than in "classy" Roath.

The scene around the band-stand during the performance of the Cardiff Military Band, under the conductorship of Mr Matthews, was inspiriting. All the chairs, some hundreds in number, were occupied, and the promenade was thronged with gaily-dressed ladies and their friends. Overlooking them was a dense moving crowd on the lake embankment, and during the brilliant sunset the artistic scene was quickened by the truly pretty scene. On the lake every available boat skimmed up and down, and everywhere there reigned a spirit of contentment and relief from the toils of the day. It is probable that there were about 8,000 adults and children within the park enclosure, from end to end, and the attractions were so varied that every type of temperament found its enjoyment there. The natural beauties of the grounds are now at their best, and nowhere are ornamental grounds more judiciously supervised.

Exclusive of expenditure on the roads, Roath Park has cost the ratepayers £61,418. It is 100 acres in extent, 66 of which are outside the city boundaries. There is chair accommodation for 500 people around the band-stand, and it must be doubled if demand is to be met. Other requirements are a shelter for bathers, and a wooden grid sunk under the surface of the lake at the present bathing-place, in order to make it safe for non-swimmers. A small charge for these privileges, as in the case of the bowling and tennis courts, would not be resented.

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Victoria Park

Suggested site of proposed municipal flower show

In Victoria Park Cardiff has an area of nineteen acres, which are laid out most effectively. A feature of this park which is specially attractive to children is the large, round, open piece of good-conditioned sward in the centre. Here hundreds of young people gambol without restraint, and it is here that Mr Chappell desires his committee to hold the annual municipal flower show on the Salford lines which he has in contemplation. No better site could be conceived.

On Thursday evening the well-balanced Cardiff Post-office Band occupied the stand, under the conductorship of Mr Sanson, and again, not withstanding the splendid counter-attractions in the Sophia gardens, the attendance was very large. There was an entire absence of license in the behaviour of the crowd, and yet everyone roamed and rollicked about to their heart's content. The five full-sized tennis courts, the bowling green, and the croquet green are always hard worked, so much so that, as in all other parks, it is becoming a serious question whether regulations must not be made enforcing the wearing of galoshes by the players. At present the heavy boots of the users of the spaces are having a prejudicial effect on the turf, and it is suggested that the corporation should emulate the example of several towns in Scotland and Ireland, where cheap over-shoes are provided and loaned out at a half-penny per game. The "zoo" is of course Victoria Park's speciality. It is intended to lay out another bowling green in the park.

Canton is also served by another twelve-acre open space, which has come to be known as Canton Park, where football, cricket, and such games are freely allowed. The two places have cost the corporation £36,000, exclusive of the road-making expenditure.

Not far away are the Llandaff Fields - 70 acres of delightful undeveloped turf, acquired from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at a cost of £63,404, the Thompson family contributing £6,000 upon certain conditions.

A weeks tour over the parks referred to and the various other ornamental gardens open to the public up and down the city has satisfied the writer that the people of Cardiff greatly appreciate and take full advantage of these charming resorts, and that the parks committee will have every support in their determination to conduct them upon generous lines.

Western Mail 28th July 1906