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The 100 year history of Parc Cefn Onn
100 years ago a gardener called Tom Jenkins was appointed to begin work on a new garden – the ‘Dingle’ in north Cardiff. Twenty-five years later, on October 31st 1944, the area passed into council ownership and is now celebrating 75 years as one of Cardiff’s finest parks – Parc Cefn Onn.

The Grade II listed park, which is one of 12 Green Flag standard parks in the city, has recently benefited from £459,000 worth of National Lottery money, part of which was used to improve access to the park – but 100 years ago the area was in private hands.

The land now known as Parc Cefn Onn was originally acquired by Ernest Prosser, Director of the Rhymney Valley Railway in 1910. A widower, he envisaged the land as the site for a new home for him to live him with his son, Cecil - whose birth in 1896 was sadly followed shortly after, by the death of his wife.

After serving in World War One, Cecil was diagnosed with tuberculosis and returned home to recuperate - in a garden which now contained a swimming pool and summerhouse, to aid his recovery.

Unfortunately Cecil died in 1923, but his father continued to develop the garden – although the planned house was never built.

When Ernest himself died, the land passed to a nephew who lived in London, but Tom Jenkins, the gardener, stayed on to look after the estate and continue to tend to the garden.

Eventually, in 1944, the land was put up for sale. Tom Jenkins tipped off a friend of his about the sale – that friend was Bill Nelmes, the chief Parks Officer for Cardiff Council.

Bill contacted two Senior Councillors, one of whom, Alderman George Williams, purchased the site for £7,500 and a few days later, sold it to the council for the same amount he paid for it, with the estate formally passing into Council ownership on 31 October 1944.

The parks’ story doesn’t end there – in 1952 a new entrance was constructed from Cherry Orchard Road, providing access to the new southern section of the park that had been planted with choice species of trees, Rhododendrons and Azaleas.

During the 1970s and 1980s the park was famed for its ‘Azalea Walk’ which linked the upper and lower parts of the park.

The original swimming pool, built by the Prosser family, is still in situ and now forms the main pool in the Dingle – which, although no longer 7 feet deep as it was, has been partially de-silted to reveal its original form.

The summerhouse has also been partially restored, with new carved lintels reflecting the story of the park. The initials of Ernest Prosser, his son, nephew and gardener Tom Jenkins are also carved into the adjacent stone wall – probably the work of Tom Jenkins himself!

More recently the Grade 2 listed park has benefited from £459,000 of National Lottery funding that has resulted in a number of improvements for visitors including better access, improved signage, improvements to the ponds and waterways. Further improvement works, including upgraded toilet facilities, are expected to take place next year.