Reference was made in 1803 to Pensarnau Well here. In 1831 a reservoir was created at Pensarnau, for which £400 was raised by public subscription. It was piped at the expense of Pryse Pryse, M. P.. Improvements were proposed in 1854. The reservoir ceased to be used in 1863 when a new one was created in the Common Gardens. On 30th May 1879 there were calls to have Pwll Pensarnau enclosed. There were further calls for the pool to be enclosed on 16th February 1883. On 13th February 1885 the pool was filled in with rubble from the demolition of the old High Street Gaol and the site then became a cattle market. On the 1887 O. S. map the site is indicated as a cattle market. On 16th December 1892 it was proposed to move the cattle market to Bridge End, Cardigan.
On 31st March 1897 it was decided at a meeting held in the Guildhall, to beautify Pensarnau to celebrate the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign. With astonishing speed, Victoria Gardens was laid out and was officially opened on 20th June 1897. The trees had been planted by 27th October 1897. On 20th July 1898 Mrs. Morgan-Richardson, the Mayoress, presented a bandstand to the gardens.
On 20th April 1923 the site of the Cardigan Cenotaph war memorial was chosen. On 8th May 1923 a tender of £400 was accepted for erecting it. The memorial was made of Dalbeattie Granite. The final cost was £544. It was erected by Mr. D. J. Jenkins of Cardigan. On 15th June 1923 Earl Haig was invited to unveil it. On 29th August 1923 the cenotaph was unveiled by Major-General Stanley Fielder-Mott, C. B.. The event was filmed.
On 11th November 1923 the first annual Remembrance Day Parade was held here. Closure of the gardens was considered on 24th October 1947, but the scheme was rejected. On 23rd April 1950 a WWII memorial tablet was unveiled here. The bandstand was renovated in 1983. In 1992 the bandstand and the cenotaph were ‘listed’. A remembrance service for VJ Day was held on 20th August 1995. On 22nd June 1997 the gardens celebrated their centenary. In January 2007 vandals removed the WWII plaque and further vandalism followed. Repairs to the bandstand were being considered in early 2013.
The cenotaph and bandstand were described by CADW in 1992:
“…THE WAR MEMORIAL – 1923 War Memorial in grey granite, a reduced version of the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London. Two wide granite steps, then low 2-stage plinth, the upper stage with ‘1914-1918’ in raised numerals, under high base with bronze name plaques and ‘The Glorious Dead’ incised above. Set-back stage above with laurel leaf in relief, as on the Cenotaph, then 3 receding small steps to top ‘altar’ with rebated corners, shallow ridged cap and incised rosette on front.
The Memorial is broader to the front than the sides, unlike the Cenotaph, where the decoration is on the narrower ends.
Chain link low fence around with cast iron spearhead uprights.
BANDSTAND IN VICTORIA GARDENS – 1897 bandstand, cast-iron and sheet-metal on yellow-brick and slate base. Small scale, octagonal with 3 steps up on east side. Eight thin cast iron columns carrying ornate scrolled spandrel brackets, and with mid-height cast-iron hand-rail over sheet-metal panels. Overhanging sheet-metal tent roof with rolled-lead ridges and cast iron ornate finial.
Old photographs show decorative pierced valancing around eaves, since removed….”
A Topographical Dictionary of Wales, Samuel Lewis 1831
Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1879; 1883; 1885; 1892; 1897-98; 1923; 1947; 1950; 1996-2003
O. S. Map 1887 etc.
Photographs – Opening Victoria Gardens, NLW 20/06/1897; Opening of Bandstand 20/07/1898
A Guide to Cardigan & District, William Edward Yerward James 1899
Programmes. – Remembrance Sunday, 11/11/1935; 14/11/1993; 13/11/1994; 12/11/1995; 10/11/1996; 09/11/1997; 08/11/1998; 14/11/1999; 12/11/2000; 11/11/2001
The Gateway to Wales, W J Lewis 1990
Buildings of Architectural or Historical Importance – Cardigan, CADW 1992
Programme – 50th Anniversary of the End of the War 20/08/1995.
© Glen K Johnson 18/06/2013