The Newtown Association was formed some years ago by people who lived in Newtown, which was situated between the Docks and Splott – an area on the fringe of what is now called Cardiff Bay. The people of ‘Newtown’ were dispersed and their houses and their church (St. Paul’s) demolished over 30 years ago to provide space for industrial and commercial development.
This classic Irish community can be traced back to a small crowded area of narrow streets and ‘courts’ which offered a haven to refugees from the Great Famine in Ireland (1845 – 1849) and to Irish immigrants who followed them to Cardiff during subsequent decades.
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. By the mid 1870’s St. Paul’s School had been built and a small church had been erected. A new and larger church was built soon after. Cardinal Vaughan, Archbishop of Westminster and Primate of England and Wales, preached at the Pontifical High Mass on 29th August 1893, the day of the official opening. 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 and immense.
The Chair of the Newtown Association, Mary Sullivan, recently announced that a grant of £10,000 had been allocated by Cardiff Bay Development Corporation towards the development of a Memorial to the Newtown Community. The Association is working closely with Cardiff Bay Arts Trust. Local Artist David Mackie has been appointed to design the memorial and is expected to produce detailed design drawings by the middle of February 2000. Tarmac have promised to provide an appropriate site for the memorial within the old Newtown boundaries. It is hoped that the project, estimated to cost in the region of £35,000, will be completed in 2002. In the meantime an application will be made to the Arts Lotteries Board; sponsorship will be sought through local businesses and numerous fund raising events will be organised.