Vanished Wales: Residents remember Lower Splott, the area of Cardiff demolished and lost to history

The old streets of Lower Splott can still be seen from the air, a reminder of what once stood for generations. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Tucked away just outside Cardiff’s city centre, Splott feels like a community within a community.

An extension of the docklands that once dominated the city, many of the tightly packed terraced streets date back to Victorian times. 

But 17 of those original streets are missing. 

Today, you can still see the eerie outlines of old roads and thoroughfares that once pulsated with life. They’re echoes of a vibrant community that was displaced during the 1970s.  

The lower part of Splott, once flanked by heavy industry, was a traditional Cardiff district, with close neighbours forming the closest of friendships. 

Alma has the fondest of memories of the area as one of its oldest living residents.

Alma Smith is one of the oldest living residents of Lower Splott. 

She told Vanished Wales: “We had good neighbours, everybody looked after each other. You could depend on somebody all the time.

“We were always looked after and we always had food on the table, even if mam and dad went without.”

The area was dominated by the huge East Moors Steelworks which opened in 1891 and employed more than 7,000 people at its height.

Residents of Lower Splott lived in the shadow of the steelworks.

Geoff Cook was born and brought up in Lower Splott, something that still gives him an enormous sense of pride.

“It’s a generation lost now. What they had down here years ago, nobody seems to have anymore,” he said.

“You had street after street after street, shop after shop after shop, and everybody knew each other.”

In the 1970s, this corner of Cardiff came crashing down, as 17 streets in Lower Splott were bulldozed.

The mass demolition was part of the council’s ‘slum clearance programme’, an initiative aimed at removing poor-quality housing. 

It was a painful time for the community, with many families having to forge a new life for themselves outside the area.

For Margie, what was lost was more than just bricks and mortar.

Margie Stubbs grew up in Lower Splott. Revisiting the site of her former home, now a playing field, she feels like she has had something taken away from her.

“It’s just so hard to believe it’s no longer here,” she said. 

“It’s unbelievable really. To think there were hundreds and hundreds of people living here, going about their business every day. It’s where we lived, where we played.

“It’s all gone now. In a way we are cheated out of our childhood.”

Watch Vanished Wales, Friday at 7pm on ITV 1 Cymru Wales and on ITVX afterwards.


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