"And you won’t find any epitaph or a plaque set in the walls to say that this was Newtown, the parish of St Paul’s".
These words taken from a poem, written by Tommy Walsh, himself a "Newtown Boy", inspired a group of former Newtown residents to set about putting that right. The Great Irish Famine during the 1840's caused many thousands of people to flee their native land to avoid starvation and destitution. During that time the town of Cardiff was undergoing rapid development and the Marquis of Bute made arrangements to bring a large number of Irish families to Cardiff in order to provide the necessary labour for the building of the Docks.
Most of these families came from west Cork. He settled them in purpose built housing in an area near the docks. This area was known as Newtown. The men of Newtown became, essentially the builders of Cardiff Docks. The docks developed rapidly and by the late 1800's Cardiff was the greatest coal exporting port in the world. The involvement of the people of Newtown did not cease when the docks had been built. The men continued to work as dockers as the port expanded and developed into one of the leading ports of the world. The men and women of Newtown also worked in the industries which developed and thrived around the docks. It is not an exaggeration to say that the families housed in Newtown by the Marquis of Bute in the 1840's were a vital part of the bedrock on which the prosperity of Cardiff and of the South Wales valleys was built.
The diligence and hard work of the people of Newtown was not expended entirely on the docks and its associated industries. There was a strong sense of community, underpinned by the loyalty of the people to their Catholic faith. The people of Newtown were not alone in causing their Catholic faith to develop and flourish in Cardiff and South Wales but their contribution was vigorous.
A group of former Newtown residents and founder committee members photographed at the launch of the Newtown Association and a 'A Bit of A Do' at St Peter's Hall, Roath Cardiff in April 1996
The Newtown Association was formed in 1996 with the essential aims of recording the History of the Newtown community, of keeping its memory alive, and of providing the people of Cardiff both with a source of educational archive material about the Newtown community, with a permanent memorial to the significant part which the people of the community played in the development of the city.
The archive material and the memorial will be of wider interest not merely because the prosperity of Cardiff was vital to the prosperity of Wales as a whole, and particularly to South Wales, but also because the history of Newtown will provide a striking example of the ability of people with a strong sense of community to endure heartbreaking injustice, poverty and discrimination, with courage, determination and dignity and to rise from adversity and make an outstanding contribution to society.
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Any photos, stories or photos gratefully received and promptly returned.
Please use the CONTACT Page to send us the info. or send by mail to the Newtown Association (address is bottom of page).
Newton Association - 11 Wasdale Close, Penylan, Cardiff CF23 5NY