Roath Park - The Fairoak

The Fair Oak, Roath park

The Fair Oak c.1890[1]

The Fair Oak (Y Dderwen deg) was an ancient oak tree beside the stream at the north east corner of the Pleasure Garden. In recent times it has been known as the Fairoak and it is the origin of the names for Fairoak Farm and Fairoak Road. The Parks Superintendent, William Pettigrew, believed the tree to be some 500 or 600 years old in 1905:[2]

The most venerable of all the living objects in the whole of the Roath Park is to be seen in this section [the Pleasure Garden]. This is the old Oak which is growing close beside the brook in the north-east corner of the ground, the branches of which partly overhang the brook and partly the outside public road..... It has been computed that this tree is between 500 and 600 years of age, and it is a matter for regret that such a beautiful and interesting object is not growing in a better and more prominent position in the park.

The above photograph was taken before Roath Park existed, though Ninian Road and Ty Draw Road were under construction in early 1890.[3] The route of Ty Draw Road crosses at the bottom, left to right, close to the Fair Oak. Fairoak Road is seen crossing the brook via the bridge on the right hand side of the picture. Towards the middle left is the spire of Cathays Cemetery chapel and the white cottage to its right was called Cyndda. The fenced roadway at the bottom right is probably a service road used to build the railway embankment. Fairoak Farm is not visible, but would be off the bottom right of the photograph.

In October 1925 the Chief Parks Officer (A.A. Pettigrew) reported the death of the Fair Oak to the Parks Committee.[4] Pettigrew also wrote that when it was cut down the lower part of the trunk and some branches were allowed to remain at the site as a relic.[5]

In February 1927 the Parks Committee received a report on the condition of the "old landmark in Ty Draw Road" and decided that "no portion of the tree be cut away".[6] This decision was reversed in 1935 when the Committee agreed that the stump of the Fair Oak should be removed to render the junction of Ty Draw Road and Fairoak Road safer for traffic.[7]

The position of the Fair Oak was shown on Ordnance Survey maps between 1901 and 1954, and its stump was still visible in the 1940s.[8] The stump had rotted and collapsed by the 1980s, when a plaque was placed to mark its former location. This can be seen beside the Ty Draw Road railings. As the Fair Oak was said to have been a Quercus robur (English oak), a new tree of this species was planted behind the plaque.

Sources of Information

  1. Photograph by William Booth, c.1890. From Cardiff Library Local Studies Collection
  2. Guide to Roath Park and Catalogue of Plants in Botanical Garden, 1905. page 6
  3. Meeting of the Parks, Open Spaces, Footpaths and Allotments Committee 18th February 1890
  4. Meeting of the Parks, Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 6th October 1925
  5. A. A. Pettigrew, The Public Parks and Recreation Grounds of Cardiff, Volume 3, chapter on Roath Park
  6. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 11th February 1927
  7. Meeting of the Parks, Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 19th November 1935
  8. Personal communication (TD)