Population: 8,330


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.

            By 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.


Further Reading:


Gabalfa Parochial Church Council. A History of the Parish of Gabalfa (St Mark’s

Parish Office 1989)

Lee B. Cathays, Maindy, Gabalfa and Mynachdy (Chalford Publishing Company