The Parks Committee allocated some £20,000 in the estimates for 1973/74 for a conservatory in Roath Park. The Conservatory was built on the site of the two historic greenhouses - the Chrysanthemum House and the smaller Cactus House. It was also known as the New Plant House and the Tropical House.
In the initial planting scheme suggested by Terry Davies there was to be a pond and planting beds in the middle and staging all around the perimeter to hold a collection of tropical pot plants. The roof and staging were to be supported by purlins which were to be the supports for rampant climbers and vines. This was very like the show house at Wisley at the time. After consideration, this was considered to be too expensive and too labour intensive and an alternative plan was drawn up. In the revised plan there was to be a temperate glasshouse (55 degree winter night temperatures), with a fully landscaped interior including a larger pond and a waterfall. It would be mostly stocked with plants from the castle nursery and it could staffed by a single person.
It is thought to have been opened in the summer of 1975. There was an official ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor. Music was played on a flute by Imogen O'Rourke on the path above the waterfall. The entry charge was set to 5 pence in June 1975.
A photograph of the Conservatory (the “present Tropical House”) appeared in Cardiff Yesterday No 12, along with one of Chrysanthemum House which it was said to have replaced in the early 1970s.
The 25 second, silent video clip below is an excerpt from an unpublished, untitled cine film circa 1974. The person seen walking up the steps inside the Conservatory is Trevor Addis, who was the builder.
In 1989 the original glass windows were replaced with triple polycarbonate. This material was considered safer than the glass windows, which were subject to regular breakages. It was also expected to deliver savings on heating costs and therefore was partly funded from the Council's Energy Conservation Programme. The full cost was estimated to be £40,000, of which £10,000 was energy conservation funding. The anticipated energy savings were estimated be a minimum of 26% annually.
The sundial, with a green pennant sandstone base, was presented in memory of Councillor Gerald Brinks by his family, c.1992. The sundial was removed c.2013 when the conservatory entrance was remodelled.
The installation of the sundial included ornamental paving and flower beds on the south side of the entrance area. In the 1990s there was also a small flower bed, three bricks high, against the main conservatory wall. This was originally for display plants - Cyclamen in winter and often Geraniums in summer - but later there were Fuchsias and Jasmine. These were replaced in the early 2000s by a Cactus collection, which was removed, along with the entire bed, when the entrance area was remodelled around 2013 to create a shop front to sell plants and other items.
In 2005 the admission charge was £1.05 for adults and 55p for juniors, over 60s and students. In 2016 the equivalent charges are £2.00 and £1.00.
Two historic plant lists exist for the Conservatory, for 1980 and for 1993/94. Both are of unknown origin. They have been slightly edited and alphabetically sorted to make them easier to use.
The present day Conservatory, which measures 43M x 19.5M excluding the foyer, is the focal point for the Botanic Garden and fulfills the educational role originally envisaged for the aquarium. It is heated and contains many unusual species of plants and trees. There is also a large fish pond containing carp and turtles.
In 2018 the Friends of Roath Park raised the money to replace the pond liner which had become leaky over time.
Sources of Information