In 1900 Windsor Road – named of course after the Windsor Family who built the Penarth Docks and Penarth itself – looks as if it’s been there for ages.
In fact most of Windsor Road in this photo is fairly new. In 1868 there had only been 3 buildings on the whole street – the St Fagans Pub, the Police Station and the Windsor Pub . By 1878 17 more buildings had been added and by 1900 it looked more or less as it does today.
Barclays Bank now occupies the site on the left hand side of the picture . What is now Santander – next door – was the original Penarth Post Office and opened on July 14th 1881.
Much of the (albeit newish) property in Windsor Road had been built as private houses with front gardens, but the creator of Penarth , Robert Forrest – chairman of the Penarth Local Board (forerunner of the town council) – knew that if Windsor Road was to become Penarth’s shopping centre it needed to be wider – and the gardens would have to go.
In 1893 he proposed that gardens on the North side ( on the right of the top picture) would have to become pavements and the gardens on the left would have shop frontages built on them.
However this scheme did not go down well – especially when local property owners and leaseholders discovered that they were going to be charged for the work.
Some 20 “owners and ratepayers” wrote an angry letter to the Penarth Local Board objecting to the scheme:-
“Gentlemen – Windsor Road, which is the main entrance into the town of Penarth, a seaside watering- place, is now beautifully laid out with wide causeways and planted with trees. It will in our opinion be utterly spoiled, and give visitors a first and injurious impression of the town, now universally admired for its beauty, if the scheme proposed to be carried out, and which has attained the consent of the Local Board, is adhered to.”
” …Many of the proprietors and leaseholders object to be compelled (unless they are content to be utterly eclipsed by their neighbours) thus to go to expense in alterations which they do not want, and cannot afford. We wish to ask you whether the board can compel us to waste the money which has already been expended and put us to a great additional expense”
The scheme went ahead none the less – and that’s the reason why the right hand side of the Windsor Road (as per top photo) looks different from the left – and why only the ground floors of the shops on the left (the South side) project out. It was the right-hand gardens that became pavements and the left-hand gardens that became shop-frontages.
The last hold-out against the garden-grabbing was small plot of enclosed land into front the St Fagans Hotel. In 1900 the owner handed it over to the council – with the condition that he wouldn’t have to pay for paving it over.
The three-storey block which includes what was “Premier Restaurant” and the current Lloyds Bank and Windsor Arcade (designed by Edward Webb) was added later – in 1898. The restaurant was where in 1907 a “Penarth Tutorial Schools” team entertained a “team from Spain” after a rugby match in Penarth. The Spanish team was said to have “ a large following” and had “returned from the field chanting their National Anthem” .