OLD WHITCHURCH FROM END TO END
Thomas Ernest Broad
Approaching Whitchurch from the South we come to the boundary in the form of a brook, then a garage on the left. Opposite is the entrance to the Manor Way motorway which at the time I am narrating was a plot of market garden tended by a lady Mrs. Howells. Next, we come to Violet Place where I once lived prior to the 1939-1945 War. This street was badly hit by the bombs of German aircraft with fatal casualties. It may be of interest to know the reason that I left Violet Place was that the rent of the house was fourteen shilling’s a week. I think that explains it. At the corner of Wauntreoda Road was a butcher’s shop which is still there. The house next door was used for the register of births and deaths. Opposite on the corner of Birchgrove Road was the house where Richard Lougher, the village Blacksmith lived. He and his wife walked to St. Mary’s Church every Sunday morning always wearing black, and Mr. Lougher in a top hat. On the opposite corner was a bakery run by Mr. Keeping, noticed for his good baking. Further along was a newsagent shop run by a Mr. Loveluck Jenkins, this shop is still there. As we approach the common we come to Flays Farm where they kept shire horses to pull the big dust carts for the refuse of the village. At the beginning of the Common on the left was Rosedene, the only house at that time on that side. On the right was Ealing Dean where lived Mr. Eli Rees whose son built most of the Greenclose Estate. On the other side stood the Three Elms public house, the name of which was taken from three elm trees which stood outside Ararat church wall. Between the Three Elms and the Whitchurch brook, the Blacksmith’s shop of Mr. Lougher stood, at the side of which was an opening to the brook in which was an iron plate used to fit the iron bands on cart wheels as required. At one time the Baptist Minister used to use this opening to baptise his flock in the brook. Over the College Road bridge and alongside the brook was Island Cottage Private School where people who could afford it, sent their children. This was run by a very able schoolmistress Miss Evans. Island Cottage was so called because the brook ran both sides of it, fed by a watercourse at the top of a onetime waterfall. This same watercourse ran down to the Little Mill driving the wheel of the mill. At the back of Island Cottage was a 14-acre field called the polo field where polo was played. There was a Pavilion where refreshments were provided to the polo players. Where the Funeral Home house stands was the house where Mr. Jones, who cared for the stables of polo ponies, lived. At the back of the stables there were cow sheds which housed cows belonging to Mr. Fred Hale, a local farmer. To digress, trying the readers patience, Miss Evans the schoolmistress, had two bachelor brothers who lived with her. One was going grey of hair so he dyed it black. Something was wrong with the dye because it turned out olive green and was like it for years. On the left-hand bank of the Whitchurch brook is the old sweet factory. It was first started by the Jupp family who took the name of Cecil Sweets Ltd. At first it was an old army hut erected in the lane behind Brook Road. They sold the sweets they made there to all the children in the village. Later, the present factory was built by Edwin Williams, and the firm expanded their sales to the Rhondda and Wye valleys. Down the lane across the road, alongside the brook, were the workshop and yard of Edwin Williams and Son, a builder of no mean repute. His works include Tabernacle Chapel, two house on Brook Road, four houses on Merthyr Road. He also built a row of houses in Glandwr Place, which is at right angles to Merthyr Road. His biggest job was the mansion called Coryton, now used by the Post Office. It was built for Sir Herbert Cory who lived there for many years. Another two of his major jobs were the Parish Council offices in Bishops Road and the Old Police Station in Llandaff City. Part of Church Road was also built by him. It was the firm I was apprenticed to, which was to my advantage to learn a good trade. Incidentally, Tabernacle Chapel had one of the first suspended ceilings ever installed, the whole of the ceiling consisting of two inch by one inch wooden battens. Next but one to the Merthyr Road Premises of Mr. Williams was the farm house mention before. There was a dairy at the rear with stables for the milk cart which was driven by Isabelle, Mr. Fred Hales daughter who ran the farm. This house was converted into two shops which are there at the present time. Further up the road on the left was a lane leading to a large yard owned by Mr. Fred Hale. In the yard was a large open barn to stack hay and corn. Also, large stables with farm horses used for ploughing etcetera. This is now Blandon Way. As we approach Bishops Road on the opposite side is the Post Office. This was a farm run by Mr. Tom Samuel whose cows used to cross the road into Bishops Road and on the right-hand side were the fields they would graze in. Another grazing ground were the fields at the back of the farm where the grammar school now stands. The shop where Seconds now is, was a grocer’s shop kept by Mr. Richard Day, which also had a bake house at the rear. In the lane at the back of this were several large sheds where there was a taxi service with one taxi, a Ford, with the number B.O.500, this was plied by Mr. Stockford. In one of the sheds was a hansom cab which was also for hire. This was driven by Mr. William Hill, who also ran a haulage business. I recall an amusing incident related to this. Mr. Williams the builder hired Mr. Hill to haul some heavy timbers to Radyr Electrical Sub-station. The timbers were required to make a gantry to lower a transformer into the sub-station. Mr. Hill had a large white mule to pull the cart which was flat bottomed. On seeing the heavy load Mr. Hill hired a gypsy’s horse from where they were camping on the Common. The gypsy insisted on going as well. They started out from Merthyr Road and myself and a labourer went on our cycles by a short cut over the river bridge. On arriving we expected a quarter of an hour wait, but this wait lasted much longer. Mr. Williams turned up and asked where Mr. Hill was? We didn’t know, so he asked me to go on my cycle and see if I could find him. I found him at the bottom of the steep hill into Radyr. On enquiring, what was wrong Mr. Hill said they couldn’t pull the load up the hill. So, I suggested he unload half it and then come back for it. He said he would have another try by galloping along the flat before the hill. Now the gypsy’s horse was harnessed in front of the white mule so they started off. Half way up the hill the front horse stopped and the mule landed on top of him. Whereupon Mr. hill and the gypsy came to blows. When all this fuss had calmed down they decided to unload half the timbers and return for them. Upon eventually arriving at the sub-station, Mr. Hill asked me to loan him tuppence for a packet of cigarettes as he only had sovereigns in a pouch. I don’t think Mr. Williams made a lot of profit out of that job. The lane at the rear of Merthyr Road which housed all the available transport for the village, is now a car park. On the left-hand side of Merthyr Road and the right from Bishops Road up to St. Mary’s Church were a series of houses, cottages and shops. First on the left were a row of very nice houses with veranda, porch and very long back gardens, this is now Kwik Save supermarket. Next to this was a grocer’s shop run by Mrs. Keirl. The shop next door was a ladies’ millinery shop on one side and the first Post Office on the other, in charge of two ladies with the title of Messrs. Gibbon and Gee. Then a few houses to the main Butcher’s shop, Mr. Griffiths who had a slaughter house at the rear. The butcher had a son Howard, who moved to the Vale of Glamorgan with his father to open business there. This shop had a cellar where the acetylene gas to light the gas was generated. One day, Howard went into the cellar to operate the gas and there was an explosion which badly injured him. After the butchers was a shop, which was the premises of Mr. Hentych whose son was a hairdresser. When Gibbon and Gee gave up the Post Office, Mr. Hentych took it over. He managed this until the 1914 Great War. When this started, it was taken away from him owing to his German origin. It was then sited in Bishops Road. Next to the Post Office were a row of cottages with gardens at the front reaching to the main road. On the corner at the crossroads at Church Road stood another grocers shop called Edwards Stores, this was in business for many years. On the right-hand side of Merthyr Road where the Chinese Takeaway now is, was a cottage with the front door in the lane which leads to the car park. This was followed by two cottages then a few shops, including MR. Whitsun’s hairdressing establishment, which is now a general shop. Further on is Forest Farm Dairy, so named because it was opened by Mr. Spence Thomas who lived at Forest Hall and ran Forest Farm and Melingriffith. I must tell another story to brighten up this narrative. There was a bad fire in the big garage attached to Forest Hall. The tank used to keep paraffin oil caught fire which spread to the cellars where the drinks were kept. These cellars were actually above ground being the old coach houses. I had the job of measuring up the damage to renew it all. Going into the cellars I found many boxes of wines and spirits unopened, so I informed Mr. Spence Thomas of the fact. He said throw them out, they must be all ‘furred’ with the fire. Preparing to throw them out a case became opened. I thought it looked alright in the bottles, so I tried one, it tasted alright to me, so I stacked them to one side. When we started to rebuild the cellars, we were not very sober going home after work. When I was a lad, three friends and I decided to go bird nesting at this same Forest Farm. There were some very high fir trees there with many crow’s nest on them. The method used to get the eggs was to climb the tree, take an egg from the nest, putting it in your mouth enabling you to descend the tree with two hands. One of my friends was half way down when he slipped and fell landing on his shoulder and his jaw, breaking them both. What a mess, blood and egg covering his face. We had to wait in one of the farm cottages all the afternoon for an ambulance to take my poor friend to hospital. The Forest Farm Dairy is now managed by the Miss Jones sisters who have been there very many years. It is a haven of refuge for a good many people who are never turned away. The Royal Oak public house is close by, where once upon a time the back room or saloon was a holy of holies where only the Upper Crust were welcome. Against the Royal Oak was Ducks the Chemist, where now is Boots the Chemist. There was a big conservatory on the right hand-side of the shop where exotic plants were grown. Next door in the first of the small cottages was a miscellaneous shop in the front room kept by Mrs. Fishlock. I would be sent there when I was a naughty boy to buy a penny cane with which I was deservedly punished. After the small cottages was Barclay’s Bank, which later became a fish and chip shop. The owner did a book making business on the side. As you know, the Plough Hotel is the next premises. I have seen fights outside the Plough been settled by one a Sergeant Arch who stood over six feet tall, by the simple method of banging their heads together and told to go home and behave. Over the road opposite the St. Mary’s Church was a wool and linen shop managed by Miss Evans. Higher up where now stands Lloyds Bank was the butcher’s shop of Mr. Sam may who also took bets on the side. He had a slaughter house at the back where I often watched him kill pigs and begged him for the pigs bladder to use as a football, he never refused. Higher up the road lived the village undertaker Mr. Tom Evans, whose son, Mr. Harry Evans, carried on the business of Undertaker and Builder after him. The coffins were made in his workshops at the rear of Barclay’s Bank, and he had a pair of magnificent black horses to pull a glass hearse. A friend of mine, Mr. Tom Phillips, work for Mr. Harry Evans as a mason and pall-bearer. One day he was given the job to open a vault in St. Marys churchyard. He removed the stone slab entrance to the vault the day before the funeral. That night it poured with rain. On the funeral morning Tom Phillips and another bearer took the coffin to the vault, Tom going down the steps backwards, as he went down he found himself getting colder and colder and discovered that the vault was half full of water. When they placed the coffin on the stone shelf and released it, it floated of the shelf so they had to weight it down with heavy stones. Another job that Tom Phillips was given by Mr. Evans was at Beulah Church in Rhiwbina. This was a very old churchyard, and the job was to open a brick grave ready for internment, Tom did this, then on the day of the funeral he covered the bottom of the grave with sawdust as was the custom. Watching for the coffin to come from the church, as he saw it coming he went back to the grave and to his horror saw the sawdust moving, he jumped in the grave to level it thinking it was disturbed by water, but as he landed he saw two large grass snakes moving the sawdust. Jumping out with terror he saw one bag of the sawdust he had not used, this he poured on to the snakes, and unbeknown to the mourners the coffin was lowered on top of them. To come back to Penlline Road, half way up on the right-hand side there was a very large house named Plas y Lan, this was owned by a man called Ignatius Williams. It was eventually demolished and the cul-de-sac Plas-y-Lan is now there. Over the road stands the very fine Vicarage. Higher up the road opposite the Methodist Church was a grocer’s shop started by a Mr. Gummer, which supplied the top end of the village. It is now a select gown shop called Jennifer’s. On the other side is the library with the park at the rear. This park was used at weekends in the 1930’s by all the jazz bands formed by out of work colliers from the valleys and they made great fun and entertainment. In the first house opposite the park on Park Road lived a man called the ‘Whiskey Man’ because of his capacity for drinking Whiskey. One day a workmate of mine went to the house to do a job of work. The whiskey man asked him would he like to see his ducks. Thinking they were in a pond in the garden, my friend made to go outside. ‘Not that way’ said the whiskey man. ‘They are up stairs’. My mate followed the man up the stairs and there were two live ducks floating in the bath. No doubt too much whiskey. At the end of the Park Road opposite the gates of Whitchurch Hospital was the Post Office, in charge of Mr. Marsden, this served the north of Whitchurch. At the top of the hill at the extreme end of Park Road was a Cardiff Railway Station Halt. Although this line went to Cardiff Docks, Sir Henry Cory, living in Coryton House, preferred to walk to Llandaff Station every morning to take the train to his business at the Docks. Every year there was a fete held in the grounds of Coryton, attended by all the well-known Melingriffith Band. It was a very well attended occasion with the two beautiful daughters of Sir Herbert giving pony rides to the children. If we go back down the hill from Coryton, on the left is the Hollybush Inn, an old established Inn. We have proceeding north for nearly two miles in a straight line. I now intend to branch off at College Road. On the left-hand side by the Whitchurch brook were the barns and cowsheds belonging to the Waun Farm, now used as a builders yard. Lower down the road is a cluster of cottages which we knew as the dolls houses, so called for their peculiar shape and size. These houses had to have low walls built in front of the front doors to stop the water entering when the brook overflowed. These walls are still there. Further down were fields where the cattle from Waun Farm used to browse. There was a bad outbreak of foot and mouth disease at the farm and a pit was dug in the field and the cattle were killed and burnt there. Opposite the fields were a row of houses named Taff Terrace where every tenant worked on the Taff Valle Railway. I think they were Company houses. I remember an eccentric family living there who kept a donkey in the kitchen, they eventually emigrated. Back to Brook Road, the first cottage had a pump at the back of the house which supplied them with all their water. One day two neighbours quarrelled and one threw a bucket of ice cold water over the other, you can imagine the commotion. At the corner of Beatrice Road, the first house was occupied by an undertaker’s manager with the unusual name of River Jordan, who walked to work in Cardiff every day in a box hat and frock tail coat. A few doors away lived a Mr. Jones who kept six ducks. The ducks spent the day on the brook, but at night they walked they walked through the house to a shed in the back garden. Up the road to Bishops Road. On the corner is the previously mentioned Hay and Corn shop, managed by Mr. Tom Samuel’s son, now N.S.S. newsagent. Further on is a building which was used to cut chaff and mangoes for cattle fodder. Next to this was a public convenience now done away with. Then came the Parish Council Offices, the upstairs was used for Council business and the downstairs housed the Whitchurch Fire Engine, all the firemen were voluntary at that time. After was the Post Office mentioned before. Across the road is the Police Station where once lived a well-loved Keeper of the Peace who was Inspector Bennet at that time crime in the village was almost nil. All law breakers were duly taken to task by Inspector Bennet and were birched at the Police Station. These were rare occurrences, it was mostly a clip around the ears with a police cape, which really hurt, and the words ‘Don’t do it again’. At that time if you told your father ‘The policeman hit me,’ your father would also give you a good hiding. On now to Church Road, where all the upper-class lived. In one house on the right lived Dr Wayne Morgan retired, who kept horses in the stables with which he and his daughter used to ride to hounds. He was a real gentleman. Lower down the road was a Dr Sewart with strange medical ideas, he told one patient’s wife, whose husband had pneumonia, to give him an ice-cold bath. For all that he was a good doctor. At the end of the road in a very large house lived Miss Pooley, a spinster, whose father had been a sea captain. I did many jobs for this lady, and one day when we were upstairs she opened a large drawer and showed me her trousseau that had lain there for fifty years. Her father had forbid her to get wed but she kept her trousseau. She had a parrot and six Pomeranian dogs kept in the stables. Those dogs were very old and all blind. Half way down on the right was Doctor Dover’s surgery, he was one of the finest doctors of his time. He came to Whitchurch as a young man with a cycle. As his practice grew he bought a motorcycle. Late on he purchased a dark blue motor car, this car was eventually so old it turned red with age. In his middle years, Dr Dover was invited to take over the whole of the workers at Melingriffith Tin Plate Works, which he did. He then had a house built on Penlline Road which is now the Conservatives headquarters. There was nothing too much trouble for this Doctor, everyone was treated to the best of his ability, which was great. Into Heol Don Road now starting at Benton, where lived Mr. Morgan Rees a Magistrate who owned a Wire Ropes Works at Caerphilly Road which was built by Edwin Williams and Son of previous mention. When sitting on the bench he was known as ‘Old Fourteen Bob’, because that was the usual fine he doled out. The large house next door was named Vaynor, which stood in its own fine gardens. Next door again was Flowergate. The son of the owner of this property was nicknamed the Prince of Wales on account that he aped in dress everything the then Prince of Wales wore. This was the Prince that became Edward the Eighth, later to abdicate the throne. The gentleman from Flowergate was getting wed to a Miss Sampson who lived almost opposite, This lady’s mother put on a big show, having a red carpet laid down the steps from the hall. She also gave Mr. Williams the builder the job of painting the drawing room ceiling an eggshell blue. The painter, when he arrived, was surprised to see the bride’s trousseau spread out on the settee, he asked the bride to be’s mother, who was an eccentric lady with only one eye, what he should do. Mrs Sampson said ‘Get on with it’. In the process of painting, some very small spots of eggshell blue were flicked onto the pink underwear on the settee. On seeing this the painter said to me (I was doing some other work there at the time) ‘What shall I do Ern’, I said forget it! It will look like ‘shot silk’ in a short while. Anyhow, nothing was ever mentioned about it. So the painter was very happy. After this marriage, the couple took an upstairs flat in Cathedral Road. One day I was sent down there to do some work. I climbed the outside staircase at the back of the house and knocked at the door. Miss Sampson, that was, opened the door. She was weeping. I said, ‘What is the matter dear’? She said, ‘Oh I am in awful trouble’. My husband has shot next door’s parrot. It got on his nerve with its squawking on its perch in the next-door garden. I told her he could buy them another parrot that could not squawk. I never knew the outcome of this drama. To come back to Heol Don Road at the end of the road is one of the oldest cottages in Whitchurch where the village midwife Nurse Green lived. Her husband met with a very tragic end. At one-time he played cricket for Whitchurch Cricket Club and in one match the ball struck him in the throat causing him to lose his voice. He had a workshop opposite his cottage where he used to repair shoes. One day the paraffin heater caught fire turning the wooden workshop into a blazing inferno, in which Mr. Green lost his life. Turning the corner to the left from Heol Don Road we come into Velindre Road. The first building was the Electricity Depot, next to this was the Council Depot where vehicles were kept. Then came the first row of council houses to be built in Whitchurch. The rent when they were first built was fourteen shillings a week and most of these were four bedroom houses. These houses were tenanted by folk whose roots were in Whitchurch and I knew every one of them. Going down the hill turning to the left was the Melingriffith Works, so called because it started as a flour mill, the name giving a clue, that is Griffiths Mill. The stones which ground the flour can be seen down by the Glamorgan Reservation. After the flour mills closed, it was taken over by the Tin Plate Works, at one time the aforementioned Mr. Spence Thomas was manager there. My grandfather was the yard foreman for years, and his son, my uncle Cliff, followed in his footsteps. At one time, there were as many ladies as men working there. You would see them walking from Whitchurch and Llandaff North wearing white tough aprons and clogs on their feet. There were many accidents in the works, it was a very tough job. For the minor injurie’s someone in charge of the casualties invented a salve called Melingriffith Wax. It consisted of a lump of brown substance like sealing wax, which was made to run at the application of a match or taper. This was applied to a cut or burn and it would heal very quickly. The worst fatal accident I can remember was to a chap we called snowball, this was owing to his snow-white hair. There was a steel catwalk over a very large acid tank used to clean the tin plate. Snowball was walking over it for some reason with his studded boots on. To everyone’s horror he slipped and fell into the acid. Needless to say, he did not survive it. There was a single railway line running from the Works to the Tin Plate Works at Taffswell at the Ynys. This line passed Radyr weir on the River Taff. This was used to drive a very large power wheel by water. His wheel turned at a very fast rate, and on one night shift, the steel band on the edge of the wheel parted. It flew in all directions causing many injurie’s. My uncle Claud who was working in the power shed at the time was so shocked that he ran down the canal bank and did not realise where he was until he got to the Gabalfa lock. This same canal carried all manner of materials from Merthyr to Cardiff. My uncle Tom George drove a steam barge on it. But it was mostly horse-drawn barges. At Gabalfa lock which is now Gabalfa Avenue, there was a dry dock where Mr. John James made and repaired canal barges. After straying a little from the main issue, let us get back to Tyn-y-pwll Road. Half way down is St. Francis Road which led to the Whitchurch Cricket Ground. This flourished for many years, at one time they had a full-time groundsman by the name of Mr. Solley. He had previously played for Surrey County Cricket Club. My grandfather once was Captain of the Whitchurch Cricket Club. Opposite St. Francis Road there was once a farm, owned by Mr. Billo Davies. The cows pastures were where St. Francis Road now is. At the end of Tyn-y-Pwll Road was a large house named the Pines. Here lived at one time the Squire Phillips. At Christmas time the village boys and girls would go there to sing carols. They would be given a bag of sweets and a penny for their trouble. Later on this house was occupied by Mrs. Harris who kept several ponies in the stables. After, this was a shop and large bakery owned by Mr. William Evans, who sold the bread and cakes that were made to the whole district. As children going to the Boys School opposite we would gaze at the cakes in the window of the grocer shop, sometimes entering to buy a Chester cake made with bread and dried fruit. This premises is now a Freezer Centre. In Old Church Road at the corner by the Boys School stood the village pump, on the other side was a butcher’s shop managed by a Mr. Tilley. After the row of terraced houses came a large house approached by a drive, which is opposite the Victoria fish and chip shop. This was tenanted by a Mr. Haddock. It is now flats. Next was a pawnbroker’s run by a Mr. Povey. Then came a hairdresser, Mr. Horatio Thomas. This gentleman had a club foot. When he left the hairdressing business, he became a private investigator, how he concealed his club foot I do not know. There were also two shoemaker shops in this road, also a wet fish shop. In the lane off the road stood first a general shop which has been in the Merrey family for many years. This shop did a good trade with the patrons of the Whitchurch Cinema close by. The Cinema built by Mr. Bennett was first called the Whitchurch Palace, later the name changed to the Rialto. The entrance fee to the Saturday Matinee was two old pence and on occasions there was a stage show and everyone had a bag of sweets given them. This is now also flats. Retracing our steps up Old Church Road we come to the start of Tyn-y-Parc Road. On the right stands the Catholic Church, St. Teilos. This is the first established Catholic Church to come into being in the village. Behind this there was a fishery in the brook where trout were bred. After this church was an old building about thirty yards long by sixteen feet wide. This was the old school which my father attended. The schoolmistress was called Miss Meyrick who was very strict and most lavish with the cane. Then came the public house The Fox and Hounds, so named owing to the foxhounds meeting there when the village gentry went to hunt. Over the road once stood the ancient White Church from which the village derived its name. There were some magnificent tombstones in the cemetery. One very unusual one in the fact that it was surrounded by heavy iron railings which were six feet high. This was the resting place of the Booker family who once lived in Velindre House which stands in the lower grounds of Whitchurch Hospital. The old cemetery is now a ‘Garden of Rest’. Continuing on the side of the Church, we are in Heol-y-Forlan, which was first named New Station Road owing to it leading to Whitchurch Railway Station. At the beginning of this road were three low barns in which Mr. Charley Smith plied a Hay and Corn business. Next to this has been built the Post Office sorting office. On the other side of the road was Mr. Poyners Milk Dairy. At the back was a large field where once there came a fair. I visited this fair when I was about years old with two boy, friends and a girl. We decided to have a ride on the Chair ‘O’ Planes. I sat in the chair behind the girl. As the machine gathered speed and height the girl started to slip out of the chair. Seeing the danger, I swung forward and gripped the girl around the waist. As the thing went at more speed my arms grew tighter, this had the effect of pulling her clothes up and showing her underwear. I held on for grim death until the attendant seeing what was happening stopped the machine. When I released the girl and she left the chair, she turned around and saying ‘How dare you!’ and slapped my face. Upon seeing this her boyfriend said ‘Fancy doing that to someone who has just saved your life’. When I pass this lady in the village, she always gives me a sly grin. As I have mentioned before, Heol-y-Forlan leads to Whitchurch Station. As a boy at the time of the 1914-18 Great War, it was a gathering place after school. One of my friends and I used to watch the ambulance trains coming in carrying the wounded soldiers from the front line. These casualties were then taken by ambulances to Whitchurch Hospital, which had been made part of a Military Hospital at that time. When these boys were on the mend they would stroll about the village and we boys would be told lurid tales about the fighting in the frontline. Several girls in the village married some of these wounded soldiers. One chap by the name of Joe Simpson was shell-shocked, this being an injury to the mind caused by constant shelling by big guns. He was from Birmingham and his sister came to visit him for a week. She stayed with us at our home in Chapel House. Upon seeing how ill her brother was her visit lasted over a month. We, at that time, kept Bantam cocks in the backyard. One day one of them flew onto her head, getting his feet entangled in her hair. She ran about screaming ‘The Germans are here’ much to our amusement. Her brother used to attend the church service on a Sunday evening, and when it was time for him to be back at the hospital, he would stand up and say ‘I am sorry but I have got to go back’. When Joe Simpson recovered from his bad state, he returned home and went to work at his trade as a glass-blower. He sent me a big box of glass marbles he had made. He was one of the lucky ones, as some of these shell-shocked casualties never recovered. Back to the end of Heol-y-Forlan, there was an old gravel road which went over a bridge. This led to the Whitchurch Golf Links. In the middle of the links there was a large pond full of frogs and newts, it was also from time to time filled with stray golf balls. As lads we used to paddle into the pond to retrieve these balls, and the golfers would give us sixpence each for them. This was a small fortune to us then at that time. At the end of the golf links was a large farm in Pantmawr Road whose pastures reached to Tongwynlais. It was so prosperous that my aunt was once employed there as a seamstress. This farm is now a builder’s yard. Towards the Merthyr Road stood a large house called Llywn Celyn (Hollybush). At one-time it was the residence of the Mossfords who were Monumental Masons. I always remember the Great Dane dog they owned who used to gallop down the drive like a racehorse. We shall now retrace our way back to Tyn-y-Parc Road. At the beginning there stood the house Minavon which was severely damaged by a land mine that dropped in the old Whitchurch Rugby Club ground which is opposite. This mine when it exploded lifted the roof off the nearby school building, by a miracle, it settled back down one inch out of line. At that time, there lived in Glanynant Terrace a gentleman who was a little deaf. He used to sit close to his wireless set, and said to his wife ‘I think the aerial must be down, I will go and look’. He went down the garden and came back to his wife and said ‘Those dratted boys have pushed a big metal drum over the wall and it has broken the aerial down’. This drum was a land mine that had not exploded. When the first mentioned land-mine dropped that also did not explode on impact, but was later dealt with by the Bomb Squad. When its arrival was known, all people within a radius of a mile were evacuated from their homes. My wife was having a bath when she was told she was to go to the Beulah Chapel until it was all safe, we were living in Chapel House at the time. When the mine was exploded it brought down a plaster ceiling rose about fifteen feet in diameter from the Chapel ceiling. Over the crossroads from Minavon (this is now Manor Way) was the first of many farms in Tyn-y-Parc Road. This was Mr. Roberts farm whose daughters used to deliver the milk. Next on that side was a farm was a farm on the side of the Masons Arms Hotel. Over the road was Mr. Victor Skeats farm, through which the a public footpath ran. This footpath is still in existence. Further along the road on the right where the Gospel Hall now stands, was a very large stone archway. From this archway ran a high wall as far as Pantmawr Road. The archway led to a very large farmhouse and stable. The tenant was a Russian noble, Count Lucovitch. I saw then Count and his sister ride to hounds many times and they made a magnificent pair. Later this residence was tenanted by a farmer named Mr. Harmer, who farmed extensively around Whitchurch. Proceeding up the road we come to the Monico Cinema. On turning left we are on the road to Rhiwbina, which is a part of Whitchurch. Down the bottom of the hill to the left if the old Beulah Chapel, behind is the Public Convenience which is built over the Whitchurch Brook. Down the lane opposite were the workshops of Mr. Ben Thomas, a well-known Rhiwbina builder. Higher up the road is the garage of Mr. Smart, whose father started the business there after the Great War. At the rear of the garage he had Tea Gardens where trippers to the Wenallt could refresh themselves before climbing the hill, which many people did, making a picnic of it at holiday time. There were also some pets in the Tea Gardens to amuse the children. Further up at the start of the very long hill stood the farm of Mr. Ivor George, who farmed the land at the bottom of the Wenallt hill. This farmer was a bit tight with his purse strings. One day one of his sheep was caught in a hedge at the bottom of the underground reservoir. Failing to get it out he hailed my brother-in-law and his mate on the reservoir to come and help him. Upon the deed of extricating the poor sheep, Mr. George gave them tuppence for their trouble. Up the road at the side of this farm where now stands a Hotel, is the Wenallt Reservoir. The materials for building this were carried on an overhead skip railway from Whitchurch Station. There was a double track which enabled one skip to deliver and one to return. Returning to the Deri Farm of Mr. George, on the junction of the Wenallt Road, stood a very old oak tree, hence the name The Deri. This spot was at one time the terminus of the bus service. Going higher up the hill just before the Pantmawr Road junction on the right is a lane which leads to a bridge of the brook. The brook at this spot was called by the local inhabitants Nant-y-Waelydd, which translated I am told years ago, means The Bloody Brook. It will be seen by the following passage why it was so-called. Over the brook bridge is a steep field where at the top is a very big mound. History has it that a battle was once fought here. After the battle, the dead soldiers were piled on top of each other, then a wide trench was dug around and the earth was shovelled on top of them. This hollow ditch can be seen to this day. Old tales have it that so many men were killed in the battle that the blood ran down the hill into the aforesaid brook. The name of this large mound is The Twmpath. There is another old wives tale about this mound. Many years ago there was a cobbler coming down Rhiwbina hill with a sack of shoes on his back, which he was going to repair. As he got to the lane leading to the Twmpath there was a great flash of lightning. When he opened his eyes which he had shut from the glare of the lightning, he saw standing in front of him a huge man who was carrying a great shovel of earth on his shoulder. This image spoke to him and asked, ‘How many chapels are there in the Rhonnda Valley’? and the cobbler asked ‘why’? The apparition then said ‘I am going to dam the Taff River with this shovel of earth to drown the too good people there’. Now sensing that he was being confronted by the Devil, the cobbler said ‘It is a very long way to walk there’. ‘How far?. Asked the Devil. Upon this the cobbler turned his sack of shoes onto the ground and said ‘I have worn out all these shoes walking from there’. Hearing this the Devil said ‘Much too far’ and with that he threw the great shovel of earth onto the field where now is the Twmpath. On passing the reservoir on the right we come to another farm. This was the Bassett farm. Further along on the right was a stone quarry worked by Mr. Llewellyn. A mile or so along the road is a sharp left-hand bend. You travel through a beautiful forest downhill until you reach a wonderful fairy-tale castle which is Castell Coch. This is the beginning of the north of Tongwynlais which once came under the care of the Caerphilly Council. Later it came under the care of Cardiff Rural District Council, but now it is the sister to Whitchurch. Down the hill from the Castle on the left are council houses, at the back of which ran a brook, in which wonderful beds of watercress grew. Lower down were kennels, which housed the pack of Green meadow hounds. A few yards further on was the Band Hall, built to accommodate the Tongwynlais Band. In the start of the band practising here they had a very smart Bandmaster, a Mr. Evan Jones, who was a sanitary inspector. He looked magnificent with his black and gold uniform marching in front of the band. Along the road coming to the junction at Merthyr Road there are three public houses, The Lewis Arms, The Cardiff Castle and the Old Ton Inn. Travelling down the Merthyr Road we pass the Parish Church. Then on the right is the Tongwynlais School. On the side of this is Ironbridge Road, so named because there was an iron bridge over the one time Glamorganshire Canal. Going over the bridge on the right-hand side there stood a Mill. I can remember the big mill wheel working, driven by the brook which ran down underneath it. This ground is now built on. To the left are the long woods, which end at Melingriffith. There was once a well in these woods and a ghost of a ‘Lady in White’ was reputed to have been seen there. Back to Merthyr Road on which crossing you come to the entrance of a large house called ‘Greenmeadow’. There lived at one time Colonel Henry Lewis, the squire of the village. He had the reputation of being a kind and feeling man. My Great Grandmother at that time was District Nurse for the area, and she was in attendance at the birth of one of the Lewis’s children. There are two children of the family who are buried in the old ‘White Church’ cemetery in Whitchurch. They both died very young. At one time one of the females of the family was courted by Mr. Disraeli who was at one time Prime Minister of England. He would travel down to Llandaff North and would reside at the Cow and Snuffers Hotel. This is commemorated on his headstone which is fixed above the front window and can be seen there today. He would proceed up to Greenmeadow to pay his respects to the lady, whom he did eventually marry. It was believed there was a ghost at Greenmeadow, and having heard of it my son, who was about sixteen at the time, went up to the house which had been vacant for some time. On reaching it in the light of the full moon, he watched for the ‘ghost’. For a while he saw or heard nothing. Then coming home in great fear he told us he had heard the loud sound of galloping horses, which really scared and deafened him. He saw no sign of figures but heard the sound of many hooves quite close to him. He did not visit there again. At the mention of ghosts may I relate a very strange occurrence which happened at my home in 82 Merthyr Road, Whitchurch, about forty years ago. My son, who was in his teens, slept in the back bedroom. At that time he was training for cycle racing against Reg Harris the Racing Cycle Champion. Sometimes he was away all night at his training, going many miles. Well we would go to bed in the front bedroom. In the early hours of the morning the handle of the large rim lock on the door would turn making a scraping ‘noise’ owing to it being very old. Then the door would slowly open. Getting out of bed, thinking it was my son, there would be no one there. Going into the back bedroom, I would find the bed empty, which meant my son was training again. This strange thing happened for a year or more, then one afternoon my wife was standing in front of the dressing table in the front bedroom. She was combing her hair, looking in the mirror. As she did this hand gripped her free forearm, which was bare. This grip tightened until she let out a scream. There was nothing to be seen of any presence or person anywhere in the house. When I came home from work, she showed me her arm on which there were the bruise marks of four fingers and a thumb. The bruise did not come out for a week. After this scaring event we were not troubled at all again. In my school days there was not such a thing as secondary education in Whitchurch. You either had to leave school at fourteen or pay or win a scholarship to Penarth County School, Caerphilly Technical College, or pay to go to a University. It was just before the 1939-45 War that High School and Grammar School were built. The grammar school on Penlline Road was built by an eccentric builder by the name of Jack Makin, who used to ride to his various building sites on an old cycle. He had a habit of sliding down the scaffold poles to surprise a lagging workman. This habit was cured at the building of Whitchurch School by the simple act of driving in halfway a few large headed lath nails. He had a school friend of mine working on the school. One day he said to him, ‘You can go home now’. My friend said ‘Why’? Jack Makin said ‘It will pay me better’. That was the way he gave my friend the sack. At one time in my teens there was a small eisteddfod held in the fields where the Whitchurch Grammar School now stands. Many choirs, singers and reciters entered this affair. The different bands of choirs were placed in all the skittle alleys of the public houses, and in the various side halls of the many chapels in the village to practise the pieces they would be giving at the eisteddfod. There was also a competition among the surrounding schools for the pupils best handwriting. I entered this event and received the second prize. My headmaster was so proud that he paraded me around the Whitchurch Old Boys classrooms for what he said was ‘To show an example of good handwriting’. This headmaster was named Mr. Samuel Jones, who was the son of a Neath miner. He once taught me how to make brickettes out of small coal, which added to the life of a coal fire. The small coal was sprinkled with a little cement the mixed with a little water. Placed in a wooden mould it would dry into a hard brick which when placed on the fire would burn slowly with the coals. This method was taken up by a few firms who made the fuel the shape and size of a large egg. They marketed it under the name of ‘Patent Fuel’. I must make mention of a very fine young Methodist minister who came to Tabernacle Chapel to preach the Gospel before the 1929-45 War. He and I were friends being both about the same age. When I was discharged from the army in 1943, he did much to rehabilitate me at that time. Shortly after this he joined the army as a Chaplin, serving with an Anti-aircraft Battery, as I had done. While he was on service in Italy he took hundreds of Italian prisoners unarmed as he was. They must have come to his Field Service. Also out in the firing line he wrote a small book entitled The Victorious Cross. He autographed one and gave it to me. This I highly treasure. He married a Whitchurch girl. The last I heard of him was that he held a high position in a Religious College in North Wales. He must be retired by now. Before I end this epistle to Whitchurch, I would like to mention The Parade which runs above the railway line near Llandaff Station. There are many fine houses in this road which leads to a steep hill. At the bottom of this hill turning right you come to a steep drive which leads to a large house called ‘Great House Farm’. Here lived a family whose son David Anthony was my uncle. His father kept many carthorses with which he had the job of hauling all the materials used to build Whitchurch Hospital. My uncle used to tell me of what they thought was a ghost at his home. It was the sound of a lions roar. Taking down a crumbling stone wall, they came across an iron door they did not know existed. Upon prising open this door there was a roar like that of a lion. When they filled in the doorway of the wall , the ‘ghost’ was not heard again. Well I have written from end to end of Whitchurch, leaving out the streets of least interest. Now I should like to relate one of my wartime experiences of 1943. I had been discharged from the army and was working at repairing War damage for the firm of Hewitts in Talygarn Street, Cathays. One night the air raid siren started, and my Aunt, my Wife and Son and myself went down stairs to the middle room and took cover under the Norrison Table Shelter. When the enemy planes came roaring overhead, it became like Hell let loose. The ground was shaking with the amount of bombs that were being dropped. About four o-clock, the all clear sounded. After a few hours’ sleep I got up to go to work. Mounting my cycle outside Chapel House, I proceeded down the main road towards Cardiff. Upon reaching what is now the beginning of Manor Way Carriage Road, I had to dismount my cycle owing to the fact the was about three inches of earth and rubble on the main road. This had been thrown up with the blast of a bomb that had taken two pairs of semi-detached houses clean out of a row of houses at the side of the main road. Trudging through this earth and rubble with the cycle on my shoulder, I went about fifty yards before I could remount my cycle. On reaching the Cross Inn Hotel, I met a friend of mine who was also in the building trade. I asked him where he had been, he said ‘Digging them out in St. Agnes Road’. I said ‘Was it bad’? He said ‘Most of the road has been raised to the ground’. Pedalling down to Whitchurch Road I had to dismount my cycle again, on reaching Maitland Street, there was about two inches of glass across the road as far as the Barracks fields, which is now built on. When I reached Mr. Hewitts yard where I worked as a foreman, I was informed that Allensbank Crescent had been badly hit with bombs. I went around there to see what I could put right. Most of one side of the street was in ruins but two of the houses were only roofless. Getting a ladder I went up to the roof of the first of the houses to see what materials I would need to repair them. Looking next door I could see a large tombstone resting on the ceiling joists. It had been blown up from the cemetery about a hundred yards away. It had to be removed by crane. It was a very hard and sad job on War Damage at that time. I have tried to give the reader a bit of History of Whitchurch years ago ‘From end to end’. Also I hope I will be forgiven for a little autobiography.
Thomas Ernest Broad
They say that ‘What is nearest to the eye is farthest from the mind’. This must be the reason for me omitting to write anything about The Malsters Arms Hotel. It is situated near the brook and only a stone’s throw from where I live. At one-time it had a plain whitewashed front with no bay windows or projecting flat roof. There were iron rings set in the wall at the front which were used to tether the horses ridden by the customers who visited there. Also, there were two pillars of stone against the front wall which were used as mounting blocks for the horsemen who visited there. At the side of the public house were two thatched cottages where once the beer was brewed, thus the name the Malsters Arms. These cottages had oak flooring boards twelve inches wide and an inch thick. These were supported by a large oak beam which I think is there to this day. The shop in the front, facing Merthyr Road, was once a draper’s shop owned by Mr. Jack Lewis, who lived at Summerfield close by. When Mr. Lewis gave up the business, it was taken over by Mr. Dan Phillips, who ran it for many years, employing three lady assistants he was that busy. In about 1930 he purchased three terraced houses opposite his shop. These he turned into shops. One was occupied Mr. Dan Morgan a butcher, the second was Prangleys a wet fish shop, and the third was a Chinese Laundry, whose name I have forgotten. I have a well-travelled friend who tells me ‘I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world but Whitchurch’. It has a friendly, kindly and good neighbourly atmosphere you will not find in many places. That is why it is a much-desired residential area.