Monday, 17 October 2011

Life in Halket Street

While I was waiting for an appointment to turn up this morning, I was doodling around an obscure corner of my family tree when I came across a new connection. My great-uncle Patrick O'Brian had a sister-in-law, Margaret, with an, er, interesting history. In 1888 she was had up for selling beer illegally, and two years later charged again with selling beer illegally - this time on a Sunday! Finally a few years later she was "done" for not sending her children to school...
Fascinated by these lively details i looked for where she was living, which turned out to be Halket Street in Canton. You won't find it on a modern map, as it was later renamed Avon Street, which has in turn been reincarnated as the car-park behind the north side of Cowbridge Road East between Wyndham Crescent and Severn Road. Poor old Halket Street has well and truly been wiped off the map.
Along with parts of adjoining Wyndham Crescent, where Margaret and her sister's family had a grocer's, it was completely settled by Irish immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century, a kind of Canton Newtown.  But I still wondered why Halket Street had been so thoroughly suppressed - until I found a photo from the Cardiff Library archives on the internet.
This was taken in 1892, exactly when Margaret was selling her beer and maybe trying her best with her children. Take a look at the pitiful little boy and girl on the left. Now I think I can begin to understand what life was like for that distant part of my family, and thousands like them...
p.s. (The next day) I see that a small street in the new development on the site of Lansdowne Hospital is called "Clos Halket" - a delayed resurrection?  Meanwhile, things it seems got worse for Margaret, as by the 1911 census she is in Merthyr Tydfil Workhouse. However by the time she died in 1944 she was back living more comfortably in Cardiff

1 comment:

  1. Although I lived in London I used to stay regularly in Avon Street with my Aunty Mary Davy and her two children Steve and Veronica. One year, I think it must have been 1953, I was there for quite a time. My aunt sent me to Severn Road School which was not far away. It was a very nice school. Mrs Edwards was the teacher and was far more relaxed than the nuns at the convent that I attended in Fulham London. I had a number of relatives in the local area. My Uncle Tom and Aunty May lived a few doors up. They had three daughters and a son who were my cousins. My fathers sister lived not far away in Orchard place. I have very happy memories of my time there and I like to think that in this age a community would not be destroyed by turning their houses into a car park. They were in much better condition than this photo shows and could easily have been modernized.

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