Cardiff’s first publicly-owned park is 125 years old this week
125 years ago Roath Park, Cardiff’s first publicly-owned park was opened by the thirteen year old Earl of Dumfries, the son of the Marquis of Bute.  

The event, on June 20th 1894, was celebrated with a procession and aquatic sports on the 30 acre man-made lake.

The park, which was built on former bog land donated by Lord Bute between Penylan Road and what was then Fairoak Farm, was constructed on the back of demand from the public, and the initial plans for the 121 acre site initially included a second artificial lake at the northern end of the park, on the site of what is now the Wild Gardens.

Construction work, including the diversion of Roath Brook to create the Recreation Ground began during 1890 and by the end of 1892 the roads and paths had been laid out, many shrubs and trees planted, and five islands had been created to provide homes for waterfowl.

Material from the excavation of the roads was used to build the dam that now forms the promenade. The lake was filled with water in December 1893 and planting was completed in the months prior to the opening, with many of the plants for the botanic gardens being filled with plants from Kew Gardens.

Before the opening, the name ‘Lady Bute Park’ had been considered but by March 1894 the name ‘Roath Park’ had been settled on.

The whole project cost £70,000 to complete and the park soon became incredibly popular. In the early 1900s the park bandstand hosted regular live music from May to August with 500 chairs available for hire. In one bank holiday weekend in May 1908 between 30 and 40,000 are said to have visited the park.

The performances, which expanded to include choir concerts from 1906, were so popular electric lighting was installed to extend the season and paths were widened to alleviate congestion. In 1921 a concert pavilion was built to give concert-goers protection from the elements and the area (where the children’s playground is now) was designated as ‘lawn for dancing’.  The bandstand remained until 1943 when it was removed and re-erected in its current home – Grange Gardens.

Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, Cllr Peter Bradbury said: “Of all Cardiff’s fantastic parks and green spaces, Roath Park is one of the most iconic and best loved.  There can’t be many locals who haven’t taken a Sunday stroll around the lake, kicked a football around the Recreation Ground, explored the tropical rainforest in the Conservatory or picnicked in the Pleasure Gardens at one time or another.”

“When you walk around this award-winning park today it’s hard to imagine that 125 years ago it was little more than a bog.  The park has been through many changes over the years but I’m sure that Cardiff’s first head-gardener and the man behind many of Cardiff’s parks including Roath Park, William Pettigrew himself would have been proud of the work the team who look after the park today do to keep it looking its best.”

Roath Park is one of twelve parks and green spaces in Cardiff to hold the prestigious Green Flag status which is awarded based on eight strict criteria including horticultural standards, cleanliness, environmental management and community involvement.

The park was named best park in Wales at the Fields in Trust awards 2017.

With thanks to Andy and Anne Bell at