Victoria Park, Cardiff 3370

Wales

Brief Description

Victoria Park is a small but intact Victorian public park laid out between 1894 and 1897. It retains most of its original layout, a fine drinking fountain, some planting and Cardiff's first municipal bowling green.

History

The land was acquired in 1891, and the first railings were installed in 1894. The park was opened on June 16th 1897.

Visitor Facilities

This is a municipal park for general public use.

Detailed Description

Victoria Park comprises about 7.7 hectares of flat land at an elevation of about 7.5 to 8.0mOD located at the western end of Canton, Cardiff. The area is about 400 metres in length north-south and varies in width from about 130 metres in the south to about 280 metres close to the northern end.

It is bounded at the south end by Cowbridge Road East in the west by Victoria Park Road West, in the north by Thompson Avenue and in the east by Victoria Park Road East.

Cowbridge Road East is served by Cardiff Bus Services 1 (westbound), 2 (eastbound), 12, 13, 17, 18, 62 (westbound) & 60 (eastbound). Service 61 passes the eastern end of Thompson Avenue where it joins Romilly Road West and Chargot Road.

The park, which was opened in 1897, contains many well-kept ornamental flower beds as well as open grassy areas. It features many mature bushes and trees and its original layout remains substantially unchanged. The park attendant apparently still lives in a bungalow on the north-east corner of the park

Major refurbishments were undertaken with a donation from the Heritage Lottery Fund and were completed in 1997. The park was awarded a Green Flag in 2003.

The park contains the following features:-

• Cast iron bandstand - original dated Feb 1897, fell into disrepair by the 1950s but a replacement recast replica was installed around 1998 on the original site.

• Cast iron fountain canopy made by Walter Macfarlane & Co of Glasgow, presented by I Samuel Esq in memory of his brother, L Samuel, MP in 1908. This was formerly located at the north-east corner of the lake. It has been restored and was put in its present location at the centre of the formal flower beds at the south-east end of the park in 1986.

• A large children's playground.

• Refreshment kiosk.

• Public toilets (2).

• Park attendant's kiosk.

• Multi-use games area.

• Basketball and tennis courts.

• Bowling green and pavilion.

• Paddling pool constructed around 1961 on the site of a former lake.

• 'Billy the seal' - sculpture created by David Petersen unveiled 21st June 1997 (Commissioned by Cardiff County Council through Cardiff Bay Arts Trust and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Statue is 2 metres in length constructed of forged mild steel, galvanised and painted and mounted on a 1.2 metre high block of stone).

Features
  • Pool
  • Description: Paddling pool.
  • Bandstand
  • Description: This is a replacement recast replica, installed around 1998 on the original site.
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  • Bowling Green
  • Earliest Date:
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  • Fountain
  • Description: Cast iron fountain canopy.
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  • Sculpture
  • Description: Billy the seal, created by David Petersen and unveiled 21st June 1997.
Bowling Green Pavilion
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

This is a municipal park for general public use.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Canton
History

Detailed History

The early history of the park was well documented by A A Pettigrew and later information has been gained from the cardiffparks website and is briefly summarised below.

Victoria Park was developed on land formerly called Ely Common. Forty acres of land had been acquired by the Council for the sole intention of providing a prestigious park for the west side of Cardiff of similar quality to the existing Roath Park on the east side of the City. However, eventually only about half the land was used for the park, whilst to offset costs, the rest was set aside for housing development. Plans for the park were agreed in 1891 but work did not start until 1894 when the perimeter railings and embankment were erected by contractors G Kyte & Co.

The original layout of the park, the work of A A Pettigrew, involved filling marshy ground and a shallow pond on the site and did not include a lake, as it was thought that an existing spring on the site had insufficient capacity to maintain a lake during the summer months. The residents of west Cardiff objected to the loss of the pond that was already present on the site as it was used for skating during the winter and doubtless felt that as Roath Park had a lake, their park should also have such a feature.

After much deliberation and strong representations from local residents it was decided that a lake be included and that a water supply was to be secured to supply it. The lake, which included two fountains, was completed in 1896 and the park was opened on June 16th 1897 by the mayor, Alderman Vaughan and was named in honour of the Queen's diamond Jubilee. Cardiff Mechanics Band conducted by Mr D Moore was in attendance to provide music for the occasion.

It had apparently always been the intention to house birds and animals at the park and in 1900 a small aviary was built. Two bantam storks were the first residents and two monkeys were soon added. There were frequent gifts of other creatures during the next few years and the accommodation quickly became inadequate. The assistant superintendent of London Zoo came to visit the park to advise on accommodation and animal welfare issues, as a result of which 27 new animal ‘dens' were constructed in 1908, at which time there were 58 birds and mammals in the zoo. These included an ostrich, golden pheasants, an antelope, a mongoose, two South American owls and an Australian owl.

In 1912 a young seal, which had apparently been caught in a trawler's net off the coast of Ireland, was put in the lake. He was named Billy and became a great attraction. During World War 1, food was in short supply and the cost of feeding the animals became an issue. Many were dispersed to other accommodation and those that remained were put on half rations. There was talk of Billy having to be destroyed, but locals supplemented his diet with scraps and he survived.

In the floods of 1927, when the area was inundated, Billy escaped from the lake and was found in Cowbridge Road on his way to town. He was returned to the lake and remained there until his death in 1939. His body was taken to the National Museum of Wales for autopsy, where it was discovered that ‘he' was in fact a female. Billy's skeleton was preserved and is still on display in the museum. During and shortly after World War 1 the zoo also accepted several goats and a raven, which had been regimental mascots. At the onset of World War 2 the animals and birds that remained were transferred to Bristol Zoo and that was the end of Victoria Park's menagerie.

In 1904/5 Cardiff's first municipal bowling green was laid in the park and was opened 10th June 1905. It was only constructed with meadow turf and lacked proper foundation. In 1910 the bowling green was reformed with a 3" ash foundation and turf from Splott Moors. At about the same time a shelter was erected by the green. This was provided as a place were people could change their shoes but was too small to use as a place to serve tea after matches and a larger shelter was therefore built in 1922, at which time the green was resurfaced apparently with turf from Ely Moors. A new bowling pavilion was built in the 1960s.

Grass tennis courts were added and a section of lawn was also set aside for croquet. These facilities were opened on June 14th 1906. By 1930 there were 10 grass courts and 6 tar macadam surfaced courts in the park.

A gun from the Crimean War, a tank and two guns from World War 1 were located in the park at various times. All were removed together with the railings surrounding the park and melted down at the onset of World War 2.

In the 1920s slides and see-saws were installed in the park but after a serious accident these were removed in 1927. In the 1950s a new children's play area was built on the site of the old zoo. The northern part of the lake was converted into a children's paddling pool in the 1960s. The southern portion was filled in and grassed over and by the 1970s was used to site a children's play area. The play area on the old zoo site was removed in the 1990s when a new children's play area was constructed adjacent to the paddling pool.

Two original shelters, which were located north-west of the bandstand and adjacent the north-east corner of the lake, were destroyed by fire in separate incidents and have been removed.

A sketch plan of the park as it was around 1940 is shown on the images page.

Associated People

People associated to Victoria Park, Cardiff

Contact

Telephone

01443 336000

Official Website

Click Here

Other websites

Owners

  • Cardiff Council

    Heath Park, King George V Drive, Cardiff, CF14 4EP
References

References

Contributors

  • Michael Statham

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