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

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