Despenser Gardens was one of several "town square gardens" created by the Bute Estate at the same time as housing development, so called after one of the Bute family's predecessors as lord of Cardiff Castle. These gardens were conveyed to the Cardiff Corporation on December 28th 1889, and they were opened to the public the following spring. Located in Riverside, Despenser Gardens was a little under one acre in size.
Prior to this transfer the Riverside Lawn Tennis Club had been allowed to play in Despenser Gardens and to place wire netting and posts there. The Club removed these in 1890, having been told by the Parks Committee that exclusive use could not be permitted now that the space was to be used for general public recreation.
A caretaker's shelter/toolshed was built in September 1891. Ordnance Survey maps for the 1900s onwards show the shelter to have been built beside the entrance from Clare Road. It can still be seen in this position in the present day Despenser Gardens. Above the entrance is a weathered crest "Villa Cardiff" with the date "1891".
A description of Despenser and Clare Gardens was given in the Evening Express in a special edition marking the opening of Roath Park on June 20th 1894:
"These ornamental grounds intersect Clare-street, Canton and are about an acre and a third in size. They are laid out with flower beds, and are a great resort of juveniles. By-and-bye these gardens will afford excellent opportunities for young people desirous of becoming acquainted with the names of the commoner plants."
The Parks Department Inventory of Parks Buildings and Equipment, compiled for insurance purposes in April 1938, included the following information for Despenser Gardens:
In February 1949 the Parks Committee authorised the installation of fencing which had been ordered in 1947, so it is probable that the Despenser Gardens railings had been removed during the 1939-35 war.
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 2, Chapter on Town Square Gardens & Volume 4, Chapter on Tennis
Other sources are: