The history of the Cardiff park which opened in 1894. as explained by local historian and former librarian Anne Bell.
Loved by many people who frequent the parks of Cardiff, Roath Park has a rich history of attractions throughout its existence.
It officially opened in 1894 and since then has had a special place in the hearts of the people living in the capital city.
Local historian and former librarian Anne Bell gave a special talk to the Friends of Roath Park last week in which she went through the history of the park.
She has kindly spoken to Wales Online about the history of the park from its opening to the present day.
Anne said: “The council was looking for somewhere to provide recreation for the people of Cardiff . The town was growing and there had been an active Parliament telling local authorities to provide parks and recreation for the people of the town.
“They started looking for a site for a public park for Cardiff. They initially approached Lord Tredegar for a site near to St Margaret’s Church and then they decided on the park where Roath Park now stands.
“They approached the Marquis of Bute to donate the land which he agreed to do. He was the majority landowner in the area as well as Lord Tredegar and the Lewis family.
“The land was donated and construction started in 1887. The council then employed various contractors to carry out the work. They started the Recreation ground end and the Pleasure Garden.
“The second construction was the Botanic Gardens. There was a bit of shallow area where the land was formed so they had to build a dam which became the Promenade.
That was completed in 1893 and the lake was formed in December 1893. The Botanic Garden was laid out at the same time. The park officially opened in June 1894.”
Anne said: “The Wild Garden were created later and it was decided this would be mainly natural.
“It wasn’t to be too cultivated and not to have exotic plants. That was completed in 1896.”
A 1909 postcard of the view of the Bandstand in Roath Park
Anne said: “A lot of features came along later such as the Bandstand in 1903.
“Before this there were a lot of popular entertainments and a band used to perform on the promenade and people would hire boats on the lake to enjoy it.
“They were so popular the park attendant recommended a Bandstand and it was constructed just below the promenade. That remained until the 1940s.
“As popular as it was, it was superseded by a large concert pavilion, which was built in 1921. Hundreds of people attended these entertainments.
“In the early 1950s, the pavilion was found to need some repair work and they looked at it and found it was fairly unsafe. It was knocked down in 1954.
“That left the area pretty open as the pavilion and bandstand was gone.”
The children’s play area was put in during the 1970s and 1980s.
Anne said: “There was a refreshment house called the Roath Park Cafe on the western end of the Promenade which was built in 1899-1901.
“It was leased out to tenants for three years at a time, to provide refreshments there.
“That remained until the 1960s. It had a bit of work done on it but it was in need of extensive repair.
“It was demolished and a new cafe was built. The Terra Nova cafe was built in 1970 and named after Captain Scott’s ship.
“It had some modernisations in 1994. It started off with a flat roof but the present roof was put in 20 years later.”
Anne said: “There was an aquarium that would be considered fairly obscure these days and it was knocked down in the early 1960s.
“The initial concept was to provide something educational and to produce fish to keep it well supplied for the anglers.
This was in the botanic gardens from 1900 to the early 1950s but it was not a great success. The fish did well for a few years but fishing became less popular in the 1920s.
“It was pretty much abandoned for a lot of its lifetime.”
Anne said: “The Botanic Garden originally had lots of plants laid out in natural orders according to their scientific identifications and it was an important botanic garden.
“It was also known as the students’ garden for people interested in horticulture.
“It remained like that until the Second World War when large parts of Cardiff parks were taken over for allotments and that was true of most parks. Half of the recreation ground was taken over for vegetable growing.
“The Rose Garden area in the modern day park used to be a specialised botanic garden.
“It was a garden of national importance but sadly that’s long gone.”
Anne said: “There used to be two glass houses in the early 1900s, the Cactus House and the Chrysanthemum House. Both were there until the 1970s when they were demolished to make way for the present day conservatory.
The conservatory now provides an educational experience that the founder of the park hoped the aquarium would be.
“The conservatory is somewhere where school parties can go to view plants and fish in the pool. It’s a focal point and has lots of school trips to see it. It provides a service which was originally envisaged a 100 years ago.”
Anne said: “The park is immensely popular. It’s changed a lot but it’s still a lovely place to go and it’s very popular on the weekends when there are throngs of people there.
“The park has important trees called champion trees. Roath Park has got 14-15 Great Britain champion trees and a number that are really quite rare.
“Cardiff has got the most municipal trees in the country and Roath Park has got the second largest amount. It has the best collection of trees in a public park.
“We have got boating on the lakes, tennis courts, a bowling green on the Pleasure Garden and the recreation ground is still there providing pitches for football.”