Cathays Park - Games Section - now Parc Mackenzie

The space to the south of University College, between that and the Museum, has been put to various uses since the Civic Centre was built. Until the 1920s it appears to have been left as an open space, though it was for many years the subject of discussion concerning the creation of a Cathays Park recreation ground. Residents in the central part of the city petitioned the Parks Committee in 1910 to provide a bowling green and tennis court in Cathays Park. This proposal was discussed over a number of years between the Parks Committee, Property Committee, Cardiff Council and the Museum authorities. Agreement was reached in the summer of 1914 but the work was not carried out owing to the outbreak of war and there was no further mention of the proposal until the 1920s.

In 1925 the Parks Committee decided to ask the Property and Markets Committee to grant a lease to lay down tennis courts.[1] Subsequently it was decided to build tennis courts and a putting green. Fencing was erected in the winter of 1929/30 and six Griselda (gravel) hard tennis courts were created and opened for play in April 1930. The putting green came the following year and was opened by the Lord Mayor on 23rd May 1931.[2] The 1938 Inventory of Parks Buildings and Equipment included a Caretakers Shelter & Office for the Cathays Park Games Section.

Ordnance Survey maps of the 1940s and 1950s show a putting green and tennis courts. The later (1960) of the two photographs below clearly shows the putting green, though there appears to be a nursery in this space in the 1950 photograph. The Ordnance Survey maps also show a public lavatory building, seen in the photographs below behind the semi-circle of conifers; this still exists but is disused and has been bricked up.

To the south of the public lavatory a vertical wheel can be seen in the 1950 picture. This was a water balance lift that was used in a colliery at Rhymney around the middle of the 19th century. It is shown in this position in this 1960 British Pathé film. Between 1960 and 1962 it was moved to the easterly side of this plot adjacent to Park Place and is visible on the 1962 aerial photograph linked on the Cathays Park home page.


Aerial photograph 13th July 1950


Aerial photograph 10th June 1960

Approximately in the space vacated by the water balance lift, a prefabricated building known as "The Black Box" was placed for the use of both Museum staff and the University Physics and Chemistry departments based in the Main College building. In 1965 the Parks Committee decided that it was no longer practicable to use the land for parks purposes and it should be released to the Museum.[3] The water balance lift was moved again in the late 1970s, to the Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenafon.

Subsequently the Museum was extended northwards, the "Black Box" was demolished (in the early 1990s) and a Museum car park was created.

The remaining space between the car park and the University was left as a green space with trees and was not developed further until the early 2020s, as shown on Google maps. It was reported in October 2022 that work had started on a new park in the city centre that would commemmorate Wales' first female professor, Millicent Mackenzie, who was a professor of education at the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire - now Cardiff University - from 1910-1915. Parc Mackenzie opened in August 2023.[4] Existing trees have been retained, and added new features include natural stone footpaths, a nature-themed play area, sculptures and rain gardens. A rain garden is a shallow area which receives run-off from roads and pavements or other hard surfaces, and contains plants that can tolerate waterlogging, while drought-tolerant plants can be planted at the edges. Parc Mackenzie receives stormwater piped from Park Place.

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 5.

Other sources are:

  1. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 5th May 1925
  2. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 27th May 1931
  3. Meeting of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 18th October 1965
  4. New park opens in honour of Wales' first female professor