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Tredegar Estate

Prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066, Splott and the neighbouring Tremorfa were rural areas, with the open moorland being used for arable and cattle farming.

Splott's lands were sold and resold over the centuries, until eventually becoming a part of the Tredegar Estate in 1676.

The lands at Splott were worked by Upper and Lower Splott Farm, whilst Pengam Farm covered the what is now Tremorfa. Farming was the main industry right up until the mid 19th century.


In the late 1890's, urbanisation took hold in a major way when East Moors became home to a number of commercial entities, including the Dowlais Steelworks.

Dowlais was originally based in Merthyr and was partly responsible for the eventual closure of the Melingriffith Company in Whitchurch (and associated iron works in Pentrych).

[Click / tap image to enlarge]
Map of Splott and Tremorfa in 1922.
Source: OS

As iron ore was increasingly imported from abroad at this time, production costs rose considerably and the need for more modern methods of steel production were required.

Lord Bute donated land in Tremorfa (near to his ports in the docks) and on this, the East Moors Steelworks was built, and opened on 4 February 1891.

The parent company remained at Dowlais in Merthyr, and during the early twentieth century, the merging of Dowlais and various other companies led to the formation of the industrial giant Guest Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN).

Steel production rose to record levels during the First World War and even during the depression years, East Moors flourished, with GKN investing 3 million in the works in 1935.

This resulted in a plant capable of manufacturing half a million tons of steel a year.

Housing and Parkland

To accommodate the workers at the steelworks during its prosperous years, houses in Splott were built in Sanquar Street, Splott Road and Habershon Street.

Portmanmoor Road and Moorland Road were next to be developed and by early 1920's, there was a rail link to Roath Dock.

Lord Tredegar donated land to the Town in 1901, and this became Splott Park which opened in the same year.

The park had a wide variety of recreational facilities to appeal to all ages, but over the years, many of the facilities have been removed due to vandalism and under-use.


The earliest school to he built in the area was Splottlands, on Splott Road, which had 1,500 pupils when it opened in 1882.

The school was demolished in 1971, and the STAR (Splott, Tremorfa, Adamsdown and Roath) Centre has occupied the site since.

Even today, there are old pupils who still come to Splott Road to shop, and reminisce about their old school.

Moorland Road School became renowned for its sporting reputation and was also the school a two-year-old Shirley Bassey went to when her family moved to Portmanmoor Road.

The Splott University Settlement (SUS) was founded in 1901 to promote education and recreation for the people of the district, moving in 1906 to the building on Walker/Courtenay Road.

The section of Walker Road between Splott Road and Moorland Road, was renamed in 1915/16 to Courtenay Road after the second Lord Tredegar, Courtenay Morgan.

Shortly after the First World War, the Splott University Settlement building became St Illtyd's College (1923-1964), the first Grammar School for Catholic Boys in Wales.

After the Second World War the school moved to new premises at Quarry Hill, Rumney.

Ernest Willows

Ernest Willows, the famous Welsh aviator and airship builder, had a large shed constructed on the open spaces of East Moors.

He built his first successful airship, the Willows No. 1, in 1905 when he was aged 19. By 1910, Willows had constructed an airship capable of flying across the English Channel.

Not only did he become the first person to fly from London to France, he was the first to make the journey at night as well!  Willows died on 23 August 1926 in a balloon accident in Bedford along with two passengers.

A High School, built on the land where Willows' shed originally stood, bears his name, in addition to the Wetherspoons pub at the bottom of City Road.

Pengam Airport

Pengam Farm closed in 1936 and in the mid 1940's, a major housing programme made use of the lands which had been farmed for centuries.  In 1930, Cardiff's new municipal airport was opened on Pengam Moors, near the farm.

Also known as Cardiff Aerodrome, Pengam Moors Aerodrome and Pengam Moors Airfield, were originally tide-fields in Tremorfa.  Following the acquisition of the farmland from Lord Tredegar, Pengam airport was given the go ahead.

In December 1931, Pengam Airport flooded as a result of high tides and 2 months of very bad weather this put a halt to the flying and it wasn't until April 1932 before flying could resume.

By 1937 it was decided that Pengam would become the base for the 614 County of Glamorgan auxiliary air force and renamed RAF Cardiff.

Its short runway, lack of night flying facilities and proximity to residential areas led to the closure of the Airport in 1954.

There are still many former hangars in Seawall Road being used as workshops and factories even today.

Winding Down of Industry

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MAGNIFYEast Moors Steel Works
East Moors Steelworks in Tremorfa.  In this image from 1978 - the year it closed - the skyline is dominated by the huge industrial development.  My grandmother once told me how her washing was sometimes covered in a fine red dust, which had been belched from the steelworks chimneys as a result of the iron smelting process.
Source: Unknown

The 1950's and 60's were a difficult time for Cardiff's manufacturing sector, many of which were based in Splott and Tremorfa. The Rover Car Company set up a factory at Tremorfa in 1963, but it only operated for about 20 years.

In 1978, thousands of jobs were lost when the East Moors Steelworks ceased production.  The closure of the plant was primarily due to obsolete equipment not being upgraded, and overseas competitors having cheaper workforces.

Steel production still continued in Cardiff at Allied Steel and Wire which unfortunately went into receivership on July 10, 2002.

It had run into trouble as market conditions in the steel industry worsened, and almost 1,000 people lost their jobs.  Spanish firm Celsa Steel UK bought the plant in 2003.

Only 450 people were able to gain employment in the new company, while the remainder of ex-employees continued to fight for their pensions until 2007, when a final rescue package was unveiled by the Government.

Splott Market and Commercial Developments

The famous Splott Market started trading in 1980 and was originally based at Bessemer Road.

However the building became unsafe, and many of the stalls were relocated to the new site off Lewis Road, where it continues to attract hundreds of people throughout the week.

During the final part of the 20th century, more housing estates sprang up on the old industrial land.  A business park and Tesco superstore have been added to the outskirts of Pengam Green, giving a much need jobs boost to the district.

The Grangetown link-road, which was destined to connect from Ely, via Cardiff Bay, to Rover Way in Tremorfa, presently ends near the Celsa works on East Moors Road.  When driving past, it is easy to spot where the beginning of this ambitious flyover would've started.

After many years of remaining incomplete, the first phase of the construction of the link road to Rover Way will begin in mid 2015, and take around 18 months to complete.  It is hoped that this vital missing link in the ring road around Cardiff will ease the ever increasing congestion on Newport Road.[REF]


Page Updated: 05 January 2015