Ray Noyes presents the physical and social development of Grangetown in this fascinating case study of Victorian urban planning. Ray examines the development of The Grange from a small farm to part of a sprawling urban mass, and how this effected Cardiff and its inhabitants. Ray looks at the roles played by the rich families of Cardiff, the Butes and the Windsors, their political struggles and the importance of Grangetown to them.
Ray starts at the very beginning, looking at how that early land formation dictated the Grange’s uses thousands of years later. He investigates the Windsors’ ambitions for Penarth and the fierce competition between Cardiff docks and Penarth docks, their decision to build a town on the marsh and the problems they encountered trying to tame it. He discusses in detail the different stages of development, the decisions made, the materials used, the construction workers, and how local transport methods developed. The conflict between Cardiff and Grangetown is also a recurrent theme, and how Grangetown and the Windsors resisted becoming part of the city until public health issues forced them to do so.
Of equal interest to historians is the research into the people who lived and worked in Grangetown and the social problems they faced. In early Grangetown, damp, unsanitary housing, no electricity and an inadequate sewage system meant illness and death were rife, particularly among children. There were public houses on almost every street and crime was commonplace. A look at Grangetown police station shows what the police had to deal with frequently and the desperate state of some of its inhabitants. Ray also looks at the public building works, constructed to try to improve life in Grangetown, the Board School, the Workhouse, the Library, the ‘Hamadryad’ (the famous hospital ship) and the many churches of the area. Ray also looks at Later Grangetown and how they tried to learn from the mistakes of early construction and began to include social architecture in their designs. This included building larger houses with better ventilation, gardens, a sewage system and electricity, and more public amenities of parks and better transport links.
With the help of many contemporary and modern day photographs, Ray compares the Victorian architecture to its modern equivalent, how it has survived, been used and whether it fulfilled its purpose.
This book is an excellent, in depth look at not just Grangetown, but how people lived and worked in the Victorian era, the social problems faced by the poorer classes and what was done to help them. Urban Study is a study of not only how a town is created and developed, but also of how a community grows and thrives out of the construction and brick dust.
“This book is a magnificent compilation of extensive research carried out by the Author. It examines in depth all aspects of the history of the lower Grangetown area of Cardiff. Its contents are very revealing particularly in relation to the purposes of the developers and the resultant living conditions of the occupants. The narrative is well supported with photographs. This book is a marvellous addition to anyone’s bookshelf; I regard it as my Grangetown Bible!”
Grangetown Local History Society
“Ray Noyes has delved into the archives and produced an excellent, well-researched insight into the development of Grangetown, tracking the expansion of the area during the Victorian period and charting the establishment of not only a place, but a community. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of Grangetown, of Cardiff and of Victorian South Wales.”
Uwch Archifydd / Senior Archivist, Glamorgan Archives, Cardiff