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The Secret Cells in Cardiff Pubs, by John F. Wake

6 Sep 2019

In this street in Rat Island 150 years ago was an alehouse. A cell was dug out at the rear of the building under a ground floor room, it had hidden grills to let in air from the outside. A false ceiling was put in which could be bolted from the inside. The cell was big enough for 8 men to lie down side by side. No standing. In this position for days men lay there. The conditions were atrocious with bodily functions just done as they lay. Food and water was put in the cell with them.

The landlord of the pub was a middleman for a local organisation who helped stowaways and escapers from their ships. He was paid to hide the men in the cell and release them when police enquiries had died down. The landlord was caught and for one of his deeds was fined £20 or, on failure to pay,  prison / hard labour. His was not the only pub with a purpose-dug cell...

Photos Courtesy of John Briggs


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