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Batchelors Shipyard

Batchelor Brothers Ship Builders

This is a great picture of the Batchelors shipyard in the 1840s. The shipyard was located on land between St Mary's Street and Westgate Street, and Quay Street and Wood Street, roughly where the Royal Hotel and Hodge House now stand. The river Taff flowed down what is now Westgate Street until 1849 when it was moved to its current course in order to create land for the new station for the South Wales Railway being built from Swansea to Gloucester.

The 1840s were an exciting but grim time for Cardiff. Bute West Dock had opened in 1839 and the Taff Vale Railway had connected with the port in 1840. The small town was growing speadily and industrialising fast, but it was not a pleasant place to live. By 1849 the population had reached 12,000 but 383 died from cholera. The Rammel Report of 1850 commented that "Nothing can be worse than the house accommdation for the poor in this town; the overcrowding is fearful and beyond anything of the kind I have ever known of.", but people from all over the UK realised that Cardiff was a town with a future and they poured in, including a young ship builder from Newport called John Batchelor. Apart from building ships, Batchelor's other great passion was radical politics; he had been a chartist and he was bitterly opposed to the grip that the Bute family had over the town. He was elected mayor at the age of 33 and became the vice chair of the Penarth Docks Company. His statue still stands on the Hayes.

Interestingly the Greenwood and Brown restaurant on Quay Street (previously the Model Inn) was once called the Ship on Launch; clearly a reference to the days when ships where built nearby.

 

Thanks to the Facebook page Cardiff Then and Now and Kim Judd for the picture.