Chrysanthemum and Cactus Houses

In February 1905 the Parks Committee received an offer of a gift of cactus plants from a Mrs Watson of Whitchurch, the widow of Mr James Watson.[1][2] The gift consisted of 500 plants of different varieties, thought to be worth between £250 and £400. It was necessary to provide a special "show house" to accommodate the collection. The Cactus House was built at the southern end of the Botanic Garden, at a cost of £121-10s. It was opened to visitors in May 1905.[3]

A large glasshouse was placed next to the Cactus House in 1907. It measured 100ft by 20ft by 11ft and cost £400. In November and December 1907 a chrysanthemum display was held there and attracted some 12,000 visitors.[4] This became a popular annual event, and the new glasshouse became known as the Chrysanthemum House. The Parks Superintendent reported that during November and December 1908 it received 14,931 visitors.[5] The annual display was still a feature of the park in 1940.[6]

Ordnance Survey maps up to the 1940s showed a large and a small glasshouse in the position of the modern Conservatory. The 1954 map indicated that the larger one had been widened, and on the1965 map only the larger was shown. Although no postcards have been located showing the historic glass houses, a photograph of the Chrysanthemum House appeared in Cardiff Yesterday No 12[7], along with a photograph of the “present Tropical House” said to have replaced it in the early 1970s.

Sources of Information

  1. Meeting of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee 27th February 1905
  2. The City, Port and District of Cardiff: an illustrated handbook for visitors. Issued under the auspices of the Development Committee of the Cardiff City Council by the Western Mail Ltd, Cardiff, 1930. 5th edition page 60
  3. Meeting of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee 26th April 1905
  4. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 23th December 1907
  5. Cardiff Parks Superintendent's Report Bookpdf(pdf) A handwritten book covering the period January 1908 to October 1912 inclusive, currently in the care of the Cardiff Council's Parks Service.
  6. Western Mail and South Wales News Wednesday November 27th 1940 page 5
  7. Stewart Williams' Cardiff yesterday. Book 12. Barry : Stewart Williams,1985