Loudoun Square in Butetown was built in the 1850s and took its name from the family of Sophia, the second wife of the second Marquis of Bute. A garden was placed at its centre, one of several "town square gardens" created by the Bute Estate at the same time as housing development. These gardens were conveyed to the Cardiff Corporation on December 28th 1889, and they were opened to the public the following spring. At just over an acre, Loudoun Square Gardens was one of the largest.
A fountain was shown at the centre of the Gardens on Ordnance Survey Maps from the 1880s to the 1920s inclusive. This probably originated in the 1860s, in that a design for a fountain in Loudoun Square was approved by the Cardiff Board of Health in February 1862.
In 1890, the Parks Committee agreed to provide fencing and a rockery around the fountain, to make it safe for children. A caretaker was appointed when Loudoun Square Gardens was opened to the public and a brick shelter/toolshed was completed the following year.
A description of Loudoun Square Gardens was given in the Evening Express in a special edition marking the opening of Roath Park on June 20th 1894:
"Loudoun-square is situated off Bute-street, in the neighbourhood of the Docks, and, after the Sophia Gardens, is the oldest open space in Cardiff. It is about an acre in extent, and is tastefully laid out. A fountain placed in the centre, and surrounded by a pleasant rockery, gives the square a very attractive appearance. Four small walks lead off from the centre, and a walk 12ft. wide runs around the space parallel with the railings. Sycamore trees yield a welcome shade on hot summer days in different portions of the square, and refreshing odours arise from eight beds of flowers of all varieties."
In 1895 it was reported that the Gardens had two gates, but the one in the south was kept closed because the caretaker was better able to control the children playing there and protect the plants and shrubs from damage. Ordnance Survey maps indicate that the shelter was built at the north west corner, and was still present in the 1950s.
In the early 1900s in the summer months it was usual for bands to play at Loudoun Square, though a bandstand was never built there. Two tennis courts and a bowling green were constructed and these were opened in the presence of the Parks Committee on June 20th 1914 by the Lord Mayor. Bowling did not prove popular and the need for wartime economies provided justification for keeping the green closed in 1918. In the event, it never re-opened for play, and in 1921 was converted into a playground. In 1926 the whole garden, with the exception of one tennis court, was made a children's playground. A.A. Pettigrew recorded that one grass tennis court remained in 1930, but in 1932 the Parks Committee decided that tennis be discontinued and the entire space be used a children's playground.
The Parks Department Inventory of Parks Buildings and Equipment, compiled for insurance purposes in April 1938, included the following information for Loudoun Square:
During the 1939-45 war there was an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) warden's post in Loudoun Square and protected accommodation for it in the Gardens.
Today only part of the original Garden remains. The north and east sides have been built upon, a development that began in the late 1950s. The Butetown redevelopment plan involved building a block of flats on the Loudoun Square play space. Part of the former canal site comprising approximately 10 acres was proposed as an alternative public space. Plans prepared by the City Architect for the new flats were approved by the Parks Committee in October 1959, while by June 1960 the new open space (now known as Canal Park) had been seeded, planted with trees and provided with a children's play area.
Sources of Information
In general, the information in this section is taken from A. A. Pettigrew. The Public Parks and Recreation Grounds of Cardiff. Volumes 2 & 4.
Other sources are: