We are delighted to present a guest blog by William Howells, the former County Librarian and a native of Cardigan.
A quick glance at John Speed’s 1610 map of Cardigan confirms that the basic layout of the High Street and principal side streets of the town have not changed in over four hundred years. However, consideration as to the usefulness of various buildings have ensured that changes have occurred over the decades.
The earlier photographs were taken by J. Turnor Mathias towards the end of the nineteenth century. An attempt has been made to repeat the process, to confirm their location and show what can be seen from the same viewpoint in 2020. I am grateful to Keith Ladd for his help with the photographs.
Click on the images to enlarge.
If you stood on the old town bridge looking north, for much of the nineteenth and early twentieth century you would have seen (1A) a row of houses situated directly in front of the castle walls and stretching from the bridge right up to the current Castle entrance. This was called Bridge Parade. The man on the bicycle is outside the Liverpool Arms which was number 6 (buildings are numbered from left to right in this photo). The licence of the Liverpool Arms was held by Hannah Davies, 1891–6; Benjamin Lloyd 1896–98; and Sarah Williams 1901–23.
Today (1B) you are able to look at an unobstructed view of the Castle Walls.
Moving left, the next photograph shows Argyle House, number 3 Bridge Parade. (2A)
In 1838 this was the home of John James Jones and his family. John, the father was an ironmonger, and a deacon at the town’s Bethania Baptist Chapel and mayor (in 1870); his son, David Owen was born here in 1836 and followed in his father’s footsteps as an ironmonger and deacon. He died on the 8th of March 1924.
Interestingly, David Turnor Mathias and family lived at 4 Bridge Parade between 1877 and 1891.
John Turnor Mathias (the photographer) was born in 1859, and later moved to Quay St. He was listed as a commercial merchant’s clerk in 1881 and mercantile clerk in 1891. Here then, he was taking a picture of his birthplace. By 1911 John Salmon, bootmaker, worked here and then Jenkin Arthur Griffiths between 1914 and 1926.
Today, again (2B) it is the Castle Walls that are prominent.
In the middle of this photograph (3A) stands London House or Bridge House (taken c. 1935). Most of the houses surrounding the entrance to the bridge were demolished c. 1933, mainly to improve access for road traffic across the old town bridge. The houses to the left were still there (as empty shells) in the 1960s.
Although access to the old bridge is now much improved (3B), the heavy volume of traffic has meant that a second bridge has been built upriver and opened in 1990.
The houses of Bridge Parade once followed up to the top of the hill in front of the Castle walls. (4A). Their removal now means that a clearer view can now be seen of the historic warehouses on the other side of the Teifi (4B).
At the top of Grosvenor Hill looking towards the Castle entrance is Green St. (5B) The buildings on both sides still stand and now form part of the entrance to the recently renovated Castle. 1 Green Street was formerly the Half Moon Inn (1830s–c.1913); no. 2 was formerly the Castle Inn (c.1840s–90s). On the right-hand side is no. 3 (Tŷ Castell) occupied in the 1860s by Asa Johnes Evans, solicitor. In the 1960s it was the home of Pritchard, Griffiths & Co., accountants (5A).
From the Castle entrance look north towards the town clock (6B) you will notice that several of the buildings on the left hand side have been demolished, no. 1 a second-hand bookshop run by Mrs Frances Mason in the 1960s, no. 2 was Volk’s the bakery. On the right is now Brioude Gardens. (6A)
If you then walk a little way down Quay St and turn round to face the Castle, this is what you will see (7B). The shops which previously stood here have been demolished (7A).
Proceeding along High St, but before reaching the Black Lion, turn round to face the bridge once more and you will see the Shire Hall which dates from the eighteenth century. It then developed as a commercial centre where many shops housed here have been and gone over the decades. Between 1926 and 1947 it housed S. T. Jones’ garage. (8A). The buildings/shops on the right side, including the Three Mariners public house have been demolished. They now form part of the Brioude Gardens mentioned previously (8B).
If you then walk towards the Shire Hall but turn down left into St Mary’s St, carry on down to the bottom until you reach the road that heads towards the bridge, turn round and look back up St Mary’s St you will see this view. (9B)
In the earlier photograph (9A) (left hand side) can be seen the noticeboards outside the Tivy-side Offices at no. 39. Where the figures are standing is the turning to the Strand. Opposite is the White Hart Inn no. 11 (1703–1932). The buildings on the right side were demolished during the late 1960s to widen the road for through traffic approaching the old bridge.
On the left is the Strand and a familiar scene of flooding during high tides on the nearby river Teifi (10A). The modern photograph, a little further along, shows further 1960s clearance to make way for traffic (10B)
Behind the Guildhall, head down College Street until you reach the car park behind the Guild Hall. The house on the right has been demolished to allow entrance to the present car park. (11A). The houses on the left still stand today (11B)
This view is taken from the far right of the car park looking back towards these houses. This is Greenfield Square. It shows the jumble surrounding the Mwldan stream (12A). The area has now been cleared and houses the car park behind the Guildhall (12B).
The house on the far left in the previous photo (12B) is shown between the rows of houses here (13A). This was Mill St; the mill was nearby. The houses on both sides have been demolished (13B)
Head back towards Theatr Mwldan, turn right up to the main street (Pendre) you will see this shop on the corner. (14B)
The earlier photo (14A) shows Will Pantcoch holding the horse’s head. The man with the white beard and hat was Thomas Griffiths, the shop owner (grocer). In 1871, he was a married man of 39 years old, with a wife Eliza, and 2, later 3 sons. Evan (Ianto) their youngest son, with moustache and cap, is in the doorway.
Opposite the shop once stood the Board school (where the current Health Centre stands), demolished in the early 1970s. The children enjoyed watching Thomas throwing a daily bucket of India corn for the pigeons. John Davies opened his shop in 1908. His son Alwyn was responsible for the shop in 1962 and the shop closed on 2 February 1985.
Further along, where the one way system begins leading along Feidrfair, on the right hand corner is this shop (15B). In the 1960s, Mapstone the Greengrocers stood here. The postbox is still there. (15A)
Carrying on northwards towards the Cenotaph, you will see a large 1960s building, housing the local Job Centre (16B). This used to be part of Lion Terrace (16A). The road leading away is Napier St.
If you walk on pass the town Cenotaph on your left you will reach the junction leading to Gwbert (17B). The empty field on the right (behind the hedging) was filled with the present day Catholic Church, officially opened in 1970 (17A).
If you turn round 90 degrees you are looking along Gwbert Road (18A). On the right hand side is the Bowling Club, opened in 1980 (18B).
William H. Howells