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Rhiwbina Garden Village

After a great weekend catching up with Tom, Laura, Mark and friends in Cardiff, I visited Rhiwbina Garden Village in north Cardiff. The village layout was designed in 1913 by Britain’s leading Garden City architects, Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin, to the ideals of the Garden City Movement; this championed better living conditions for the working class and aimed to offer a healthy alternative to the poor living conditions of overcrowded inner city slums – simple, well-planned houses, with lovely gardens and plenty of open space, at an affordable rent.

RGV row 690

It was designed in the Arts and Crafts style typical of the period’s movement, which took inspiration from vernacular buildings and achieved harmony by utilising a limited number of design cues and limited palette of materials. The roofs are of small natural slates from West Wales and Porthmadog. The chimneys are tall and establish a strong rhythm in the streets’ ridgeline of houses. The timber windows are multi-paned casements and sliding sash, originally painted Buckingham Green, now mostly white. The walls are of a mellow roughcast render, originally limewashed cream, now mostly painted white. Doors also have a common rustic theme, constructed in timber with small areas of glazing.


The house plans are simple and grouped either into multiple cottages, terraces or semi-detached. These were amongst the first small houses to be built with inside toilets and bathrooms, running water, gas for lighting and cooking, a boiler, a water storage tank and even a dustbin. Hedges, fences and intimate connecting footpaths were built around the houses. The neaby railway station was vital to its success, providing easy access to the centre of Cardiff and the Docks.


pair 690

The village was run as a Co-operative and all houses were rented on a ‘cost-only’ basis with maintenance and repairs carried out in the Co-operative’s own workshop. This continued until the 1960s when the houses were sold, mainly to residents. To preserve its character, the Village became a Conservation Area in 1977 and most of the houses have been listed.

green sash 690

Though the houses were effectively early ‘council houses’, the village was built with no help from the Government. The Co-operative prospered through two world wars and economic depression, and is testament to good investment and a sense of optimism. The movement went on to have a big influence on New Towns and on early council housing in general.

tudor row 690

The revivalist ruralism of the village is in stark contrast to the successful examples of later modernist and brutalist council estates of the mid-twentieth century, which are architecturally more innovative. However, the lovely gardens and parks create a friendly, neighbourly atmosphere and there seems a strong community feel. Though intended for working class families, in the later twentieth century it was often inhabited by middle class professionals and academics, including Iorwerth Peate who founded St Fagans Museum. Former first minister, Rhodri Morgan, also lived here. The village, now surrounded by pleasant but nondescript 1960s suburbia, has become one of the most sought-after places to live in Cardiff.