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Llys Talybont

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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 crown.

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 the halls.


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.

Llys TalyBont rear

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.

Burges Lodge Bute Park Cardiff


Peter Finch


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Llys Tal
Y Bont

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