The main road through Maindy crosses the old Taff Vale main line
and heads north as a dual carriageway fronted by Cathays High School.
In the sixties this was the hotbed of one of Welsh lit's early flowerings
when Geraint Jarman banged out pre-Alfred Street verse in English
and D A Callard was his acolyte. At that time Wales meant something,
for a long time after didn't, but now does again. Fickle cycle. What
goes around comes around. Today there are pubs in Cardiff named after
Free Wales Army bombers. In the sixties his army-surplus glad irregulars
marched on Llandaf Fields. Fellow-travellers had rounds bought for
them in the Conway. Jarman was a fan. Said he was. Not now. In 1969
in The New Ely someone showed me a set of knuckle dusters. Metal things
like stair rod clips. Said he was going to Caernarfon to help sort
things out. Need to raise the cash for the fare. I gave him half a
Opposite the Porsche Garage, next to the old weighbridge now restyled
as Nice'N'Tasty Burgers (closed), Parkfield Place runs at right angles
down to the river. This is working class Cardiff from the first great
mid-nineteenth century boom. Here were once Patent Fuel Works, Wagon
Builders, the Crown, the Star and Anchor factories. Sheds where men
cut metal, sliced timber, pressed coal dust into pitch to make burnable
briquettes. Caps, collarless shirts, arms and faces black as miners.
Two up, two down, street facing terraces, tin bath on a hook out back.
Today it's all university accommodation. Student lets, houses with
sinks full of unwashed plates and rivers of lager can flowing down
As it drops through this rich cultural mix Parkfield Place becomes
LlysTalybont Road falling towards the line of the old Glamorgan Canal,
the tarmaced Taff Trail and the dark river itself. In this place once
stood one of Glamorgan's oldest mansions - Llys Tal Y Bont, The
Court at the Head of the Bridge - no crossing now, the bridge
long gone. Llystalybont is a magic name in Welsh history. In our wet
country where nothing lasts this place goes back to the early dawn.
Home of Ifor Bach. Court of the chieftains who followed him. Seat
of the Welsh princes from the Roman period right up to the feudal.
Power centre for a swath of land that ran from Soudrey in the south
to Whitchurch, Llanishen and Lisvane up north.
As a place of significance Talybont had rights. It had its own monastery
at Mynachdy. The Lord was entitled to receive waifs, estrays, goods
of felons, deodands, treasure trove, escheats, fines, forfeitures,
amercements, and perquisites of court, double rent on death or alienation,
avowries, suits of mill from copyholders and a penny per head for
any cattle impounded. It's all listed in the scrolls. The power of
ancient bureaucracy backed, naturally, by ancient sword..
In the Welsh way of things this was no great Elizabethan house, of
course, for the building pre-dated that English monarch. It was instead
a short row of cottages - stable attached, converted, incorporated.
Photographs show the building still standing, thatched, as late as
1901. When I get there the path in has a new name - Bevan Way - and
the site is surrounded by concrete student flats and a pressed metal
quick-build sports centre. Oak and plane tree soften the contemporary
intrusion. Llystalybont is still here, at least a version of it is.
Re-roofed, new stack, new pots, new windows, new sills, new frames,
new doors, lean-to demolished, walls rendered inside and out, white
painted, floors replaced, carpets put down. Powell Duffryn used the
place as a pay office in the fifties, Manpower Services had it in
the seventies. In 1984 a Cardiff City Council community programme
"upgraded" it. There's a small red plaque on the wall which
tells us so. The past has been smoothed off, layer by layer, until
nothing remains. It's a training centre now. The manager, intrigued
as to why I'm photographing it, shows me around. Anything old left?
No. But the walls are thick. 18" to two foot. They've got to
be ancient, he tells me. No walls are that thick today. And Oliver
Cromwell slept here. Cromwell certainly got around.
Up the Taff Trail beyond stands one of Burges' adornments of the
Bute Estate, the Park Keeper's lodge, now converted to private use.
Nineteenth century looking so much older than Llystalybont. History
once more wiped. We do this so often, so thoroughly, so well.
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