GABALFA AND MYNACHDY
For centuries Gabalfa was a sparsely populated hamlet in
the parish of Llandaff. The name, meaning “place of the ferry”, is a reminder
of how people crossed the river before a bridge was built at Western Avenue. An
1879 survey shows a few houses along North Road, among them Northlands,
Heathlands and Maendy Lodge. The 18th century farmhouse of Llystalybont lay
close to Mynachdy Farm between North Road and the Taff Vale Railway. The manor
of Llystalybont was once owned by Llantarnam Abbey which may explain how
Mynachdy, meaning “a monastery”, gained its name. The manor became a part of
the Cardiff Castle Estate when the Earl of Pembroke acquired it following the
Dissolution of the Monasteries. The farmhouse off still exists and is now used
by the council as a training and development centre.
St Mark’s Church, built in a Decorated Gothic style,
stood at the junction of North Road and Whitchurch Road. Previously,
parishioners had met in a little schoolroom in North Road and the consecration
of St Mark’s in 1876 was a recognition that Gabalfa was about to become a
parish in its own right The population of the district was less than 500 at
that time and its rural nature is indicated by a contemporary comment that the
new church would be, “an adornment to the beautiful scenery amongst which it is
placed”. The first vicar was John Davis, known as “Sporting Jack” because of
his love for hunting. He made a point of visiting his scattered parishioners on
horseback in an attempt to preserve traditional rights of way.
the outbreak of World War One, the open fields of Gabalfa were already
disappearing and the land as far north as the modern interchange was brought
into Cardiff’s boundaries. The attractive terraced houses built in Whitchurch
Road and around Africa Gardens, known originally as “the colonies”, were built
in the first decade of the new century. In 1922 the entire parish became a part
of Cardiff and the Mynachdy Estate, built on the former farm, was among the
first council housing schemes in the city.
The Glamorganshire Canal, a prominent landmark in
Gabalfa since 1794, passed through the Mynachdy Lock near the Excelsior Works
of D. Morgan Rees. The company came to Cardiff in 1901 and became famous for
its production of wire ropes. When manufacturing ceased in the 1990s, the site
was incorporated into the Western Avenue Business and Retail Park.
The construction of Western Avenue
from Ely Bridge to North Road followed a decision to build an inner bypass for
Cardiff. It was finished in 1933 at a cost of £150,000 but the Ministry of
Transport refused to finance a continuation of the route eastwards. The busy
flow of traffic along North Road, Whitchurch Road and Western Avenue made its
completion essential but 40 Years were to pass before the Queen offically
opened Eastern Avenue in December 1971.
After World War Two, the Glamorganshire Canal was
filled in and a large council estate was built alongside Western Avenue. Though
this district was regarded as a part of Gabalfa, and both the primary school
and the main avenue bear its name, the area is officially in the electoral
division of Llandaff North.
The building of the Gabalfa Interchange had far
reaching effects on the northern boundary of the suburb. Excavations were
necessary to form the new highway linking Western and Eastern avenues. Two
bridges were built above the avenue, as part of a roundabout controlling the
traffic flow along five roads, while a flyover provided a third tier carrying
vehicles directly towards the city centre. More than 100 houses as well as a
number of other landmarks disappeared, among them the local library and the
Regal Dance Hall. The most notable casualties of progress were St Mark’s Church
and its vicarage. A final service was held in April 1968, after which
worshippers moved to their new church a short distance away in North Road.
The modern electoral district of Gabalfa scarcely
compares with the original parish which included districts now in Llandaff
North, Cathays, Llanishen and Whitchurch. Some years ago the population of
Gabalfa, like many inner city suburbs, was in decline but that trend was halted
when a huge campus at Llys-Tal-yBont, almost a village in its own right, was
built to accommodate some of Cardiff’s large student population.
Gabalfa Parochial Church Council. A History of the Parish of Gabalfa (St
Parish Office 1989)
Lee B. Cathays, Maindy, Gabalfa and
Mynachdy (Chalford Publishing Company