Cadoxton is a village with a past. It has a feeling about it, not brought about by its residents, but by its character.
In the early 19th century, if they were not satisfied with their lot, agricultural workers would leave their employers and travel to Cadoxton, which had a huge common that had not been enclosed. If they could erect a hut between sunset and sunrise, light a fire and have smoke coming from the top (with perhaps a little help from local villagers), they were then entitled to live there. These people were very independent and had a saying that "Jack is as good as his master".
These dwellings were known by a number of names, such as "Bwythyn Bachs" (little cottages), Ty'n Nos (House in a night), and "Y Garddinos" (the one night garden).
Prior to the construction of the docks, Cadoxton Village could boast of St. Cadoc's, (the old village Church), and three non-conformist places of worship, one with its own graveyard. There were two wheelwrights, two blacksmiths, a lime and stone merchant, a number of dairies, and two shoemakers. One of the shoemakers, named Day, served his apprenticeship in Penmark, and later moved to Oddfellows Row. When work began on the docks he opened a shop where he employed 12 workers. Later, Arkell's brickworks, which produced quality hard faced bricks, and two pop factories, Crystal Springs and Woodlands, opened. The Woodlands factory was later used as a soap factory.
Walk around the Old Village Church and up the hill to Cassy Common. References to the common in the early 19th century refer to it as Castle Common. At one time before housing development around the surrounding area took place, from the top of Cassy Common you could see most of the places that were sacred to its inhabitants. Merthyr Dyfan, St. Andrew's, and St. Augustine's Churches could be seen, and when fires to celebrate particular events and festivals, or as warnings were lit, they could be seen by the most of the residents in the surrounding area.
Romanies seemed to have found Cadoxton to their liking as over the years many came here as travellers and settled in the area. Many still carried on in their old traditional ways, as fortune-tellers, seers and palmists, but many settled down, took other work and intermarried into the community.
A number of years ago when an old gypsy resident died, his caravan was taken to the common and burnt in keeping with the old Romany tradition.
When work began on the building of the docks, workers arrived from all over Britain and settled in Cadoxton, and it became the boom town of Glamorgan, rivalling Merthyr Tydfil in the variety and nationalities looking for work. At one time so many families came from the West Country to live and work here that visitors to the area listening to conversations taking place and hearing the West Country burr could be excused for thinking that they were in either Somerset or Devon.
When developers began building a new town they choose Cadoxton to start. Vere Street had two banks, three estate agents, a post office, two corn and hay merchants, wine and spirit dealers, three auctioneers and surveyors, a jewellers, numerous butchers, bakers, grocers and greengrocery shops, tailors, bootmakers, chemists and saddlers shops.
Council meetings, coroner inquests, and the local magistrates all held courts in the Wenvoe Arms Hotel (now the Admiral). The Catholic Church used the Picnic Rooms in the hotel for Sunday services. The first Masonic Lodge (The Barry Lodge No. 2357) was consecrated in the Public Hall, Vere Street in September 1890.
A number of houses in Cadoxton were built with the prospect of being sold to the professional class, such as doctors, architects, bank employees and managers. Every third or fourth house in the street was built of three storeys to give accommodation for servants who would be employed in the home.
Many hotels were built by speculators in the district but were disappointed when they failed to obtain a licence to sell alcohol. Cadoxton Conservative Club took over the Osborne Hotel, the South Wales Bible College took over the Queens Hotel, and EOS (Audio Visual) took the Cadoxton Hotel.
The next most important streets in Cadoxton were Main Street and Barry Road. Main Street (part of which was named Iddesleigh Street) had two tin Churches, a theatre, pawnbrokers, a newspaper office and printers, a police station, a sweet factory, numerous grocers and greengrocers, and bakers. For non-drinkers and visiting preachers the Shaftesbury Temperance Hotel was available, and for others who liked their pint, the Wenvoe Arms or the Royal Hotel was their destination.
Opposite the Royal Hotel was the headquarters of the Sons of Temperance, a society that opposed the granting of licences to hotels in the area.
Barry Road had its fair share of butchers shops, bakers, grocers and greengrocers, plus a wine and beer merchant, newsagents, photographers, fish and chip shops, doctors, dentists, funeral director, chemist shop, numerous boot and shoemakers shops, tobacconists and general stores.
Looking around Cadoxton today one could be excused from thinking you were in "Bed-Sit Land". Most of the shops have been converted into flats, but there are many shops remaining who give good personal service and prices, and remain open until late at night, which to those working shifts is a Godsend.
© T. CLEMETT 2003