Splott Park - History

The formal transfer of ownership to the Council of the ground that became Splott Park was completed on May 14th 1902. At its June 1902 meeting the Parks Committee instructed the Superintendent to prepare plans and estimates for laying out the new park. The proposals approved on 27th October that year were estimated to cost £2,300 and included fencing, levelling and draining the land; laying out paths and planting grass, trees and shrubs; and building two conveniences, two shelters, a park keeper's shelter, a bandstand and a drinking fountain.[1] There were additional costs for the construction of surrounding roads and sewers, such that the total amount to be borrowed with the sanction of the Local Government Board was £6,800 to be repaid over 25 years.

The work proceeded slowly, partly owing to some controversy about the waste material to be used for levelling the ground, which was already being used for recreation. A children's playground was established in 1904, as were the first cricket pitches. In 1905 the bandstand was erected. In December 1904 the Superintendent reported that a total of £1228-15s-6d had been spent on making and erecting railings, levelling ground and making paths and roads. A bowling green was laid down in early 1906, a quoits pitch in 1907, and tennis courts in the same year.

The Western Mail of July 28th 1906 published an article under the headline The Public and the Parks describing a Tour round Cardiff's Pleasure Grounds. This included Splott Park, and in addition to describing the park's features it noted the fine views in all directions - the Bristol Channel, Flat Holm & Steep Holm, Clevedon, Machen Mountain, the Newport Transporter Bridge, and Twm Barlwm & Caerphilly Mountains.

At this stage the park was not yet completed. In October 1907 the Parks Superintendent reported that "the whole of Splott Park had been filled with ashes. The ground not yet laid out but would be ready for forming this winter."[2] A.A. Pettigrew presumed that the work was completed in the winter of 1907/8 but this is not recorded and there was no formal opening for Splott Park - possibly because the public had been using the space for recreation ever since the Council acquired it. A formal opening did take place for the bowling green on June15th 1906, the same day on which greens at Roath Park and Grange Gardens were also opened.

In June 1909 a drinking fountain was added, one of several presented to the Council by the Samuel family.

In January and February 1910 the Great Western Railway Embankment overlooking Splott Park was planted with forest trees. There were over 900 trees consisting principally of birch, mountain ash, and oak, all transplanted from the Crystal Woods, in the Heath area of Cardiff.[3] In March 1910 a tender was accepted from Messrs. Tucker Bros.to build two shelters in Splott Park at a cost of £79.[4]

Splott Park was the starting point for Ernest Willows' flights across Cardiff in his airship in June 1910. His first flight on a Saturday morning left Splott Park at 06.50 and arrived at City Hall seven minutes later, flying at 300 feet. After landing in Cathays Park on the open space near the Tredagar statue and remaining there for half an hour, Willows returned to Splott. The following Tuesday evening Willows made another flight over the city. His course took him over the Infirmary, along Newport Road and Queen Street, then over the Castle, to land in Cathays Park in front of the University College. While flying above Queen Street Willows dropped a letter addressed to the editor of the South Wales Daily News, announcing his successful flight and claiming the prize which had been offered for the first airman to fly across the city.[5]

Pettigrew recorded that the first Punch & Judy show took place in Splott Park on 2nd June 1913.

During the 1914-1918 war six acres of the space allocated to sports pitches in Splott Park were converted to allotments to grow food.[6] After the war the allotment holders were allowed to retain their holdings until 31st December 1920, meaning that recreational space could not be restored to the pre-war position until after that date. Also after the war two captured guns were placed in Splott Park[7] beside the bandstand, and they remained there until 1929, by which time a general reaction had set in against the presence of guns and tanks in the parks. In 1937 the Parks Committee decided to dispose of these, and similar guns placed in other parks.[8]

During the 1939-45 war ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Wardens were based in Splott Park occupying the bowls pavilion.[9] There were also decontamination, cleansing and rescue centres and a public air raid shelter.[10] Although not in use for bathing, the open air swimming bath was kept filled to serve as an emergency water supply.[11]

In March 1942 the Parks Committee was informed that a site in Splott Park had been requisitioned by the military authorities.[12] This was very probably for the barrage balloon shown on the southerly section of the Park in an aerial photograph taken in June 1942. The northerly part of the Park was set aside as allotments and this is visible in the 1942 aerial photograph. After the war the land was not immediately returned to recreational use - as is shown by the continued presence of allotments in the 1948 aerial photograph. Barrage balloons were removed from all the parks in early 1945 and the sites were restored to "their proper condition".[13]

Some wartime buildings were retained after the war ended. As early as April 1945 the rescue centre was in use as a dressing room for the sports fields.[14]

In 1959 a small plot of land at the South Park Road end of the park was transferred to the Health Committee for the purposes of a health clinic[15].

Between 1965 and 1979 Splott Park was home to Jessie, a steam engine retired from the nearby steel works.

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 2.

Other sources are:

  1. Meeting of the Parks Committee 27th October 1902
  2. Meeting of the Parks, Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 28th October 1907
  3. 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.
  4. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 30th March 1910
  5. Cardiff Times and South Wales Weekly News, Saturday June 11 1910 page 10
  6. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 5th February 1917
  7. Meeting of the Parks Open Spaces and Burial Board Committee 22nd November 1921
  8. Meeting of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 8th June 1937
  9. Meeting of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 5th March 1940
  10. Meeting of the Air Raid Precautions Emergency Committee 17th October 1939
  11. Meeting of the Air Raid Precautions Committee 10th January 1941
  12. Meeting of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 10th March 1942
  13. Meeting of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 9 January 1945
  14. Meeting of the Air Raid Precautions Committee 6th April 1945
  15. Meetings of the Parks, Baths and Cemeteries Committee 26th January 1959 & 26th May 1959