Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Golden Cross: Last Pub Standing

1849 map, Golden Cross, or Shield & Newcastle Tavern, marked with yellow arrow
1892 The view towards The Golden Cross in the same direction as the yellow arrow on the map above. Note the golden crosses in the upstairs windows.
I get shivers when I drink in The Golden Cross.
Why? Because I've spent two years writing 'Notorious: Charlotte Street and the Lane' and The Golden Cross is the only survivor from that time, the only building left standing where the people I've written about drank, sang, laughed, stole and lost their tempers. The Golden Cross is all that remains of these heady years. 
Gone from Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane are The Cornish Arms, The Navigators, The Lame Chicken, The Noah's Ark, The Flying Eagle, The Dinas Arms, The King's Head, The Farmer's Arms, The Crown, The Britannia Inn, The Pembrokeshire Arms, The Newport & Pembroke, The Albion, The Somerset House, The Gloucester House, The Ship Inn, The Six Bells, The Caledonian, The Irishman's Glory, The Welsh Harp, The Sailor's Return, The Jolly Sailor, The Seven Stars, The Red Lion, The Excavators Arms, The Wild Wave, The Ocean Wave, The Golden Swan, The Three Crowns, The Castle Inn, The Globe Inn, The Custom House Hotel, The Ship & Pilot, The Ship Afloat, The New York Tavern, The New London, The Hibernian, The Great Eastern, The Green Fields of Erin, The Amber Bar, The Richards Arms and The Coal Hole. These people were thirsty back then...

People have been drinking beer on this site since at least 1846, that's 171 years of constant drinking! The pub's been called The Golden Cross since 1860 (wikipedia, and everyone else says it was 1863 but this date is wrong). It was rebuilt in 1904 so technically it's not the same Golden Cross but hey, we can't be too picky. In the same way the interior of the Custom House at the other end of Whitmore Lane was gutted in the 1980's and only the facade remains. 

This post will tell the early history of The Golden Cross. It's part of a series on two notorious streets in Cardiff, more can be found here.
The photo above of the 'Whitmore Lane Crossing' dates from a time when Charlotte Street and the old housing on Whitmore Lane had already been demolished a decade earlier. The crowded street scene, with it's sailors, police and local women still harks back to those times though. When this photo was taken Whitmore Lane had been renamed 'Custom House Street' twenty years earlier in an effort to whitewash it's iniquitous history.

Technically The Golden Cross was on Bute Street, but it is often referred to as part of Whitmore Lane. The longer half of it's frontage was along Whitmore Lane and the front door was on the corner of Whitmore Lane and Bute Street.

The Shield & Newcastle

The history starts in November 1846 with the pub called 'The Shield and Newcastle'. It was run by John Platt and his wife Ann. As it was on a street notorious for brothels and prostitution it's hardly surprising that Mr & Mrs Platt would get on the wrong side of some of the sex-workers there. In November 1846 John got a mouth full of curses from the experienced Mary Freeman. In June 1847 Ann Platt has a run in with Rachel Holiday. Rachel Holiday was a prostitute, her two sisters were also prostitutes, and she was going out with Harry Kickup, a thug from Cornwall who features heavily in my 'Notorious' book. After Rachel had been drinking she started to smash the glasses and then hit Ann Platt over the head with a jug:
Not the first, or the last, blood to be spilt in the pub.
The next month in July 1847 John Platt was getting assaulted by one of my Notorious women Kesiah Jones. Kesiah came out of gaol in the morning then went to his pub:

The location given here of the pub on Lewis Street must be incorrect as elsewhere Mary Griffith is recorded as working for John Platt at the Shields and Newcastle.
In September 1847 a milkman parked his cart too close to the windows of the Shields. Ann went out first to try to tip his milk cart over, the milkman shoved her back so John came out he beat him up. Meanwhile the donkey ran off:
On Boxing Day 1847, which was also a Sunday, John Platt was in trouble for being open. A mixture of soldiers, locals and 'girls of the town' including 'Plymouth Eliza' and Ann Perkins (who went on to run a brothel) were drinking in the Shields, which was the usual clientele on Whitmore Lane.
Ann Platt died in the summer of 1849, when the pub was called 'Newcastle Tavern' and John moved to Lewis Street to run a pub there- where he is by the 1851 census.

The Castle Inn

The pub then passed into the hands of Daniel Francis. Daniel lived at 40 Charlotte Street, which was spitting distance from The Shields and Newcastle, there he had run The Jolly Sailor beerhouse from 1842 until 1852.
In 1852 Daniel had dropped 'The Shields' part of the name and the pub was called 'New Castle Tavern'. This name further evolved into the 'Castle Inn' by 1855. It seems to have been a quiet place, supplying spirits to Whitmore Lane and staying out of trouble, until a man almost burnt to death there in 1856:
In February 1859 John Thomas had bought The Castle Inn. He was already the owner of The Griffin Inn on St Mary Street and a theatre in town.
The Castle Inn was the nearest place for the inhabitants of Whitmore Lane to buy spirits. There's a reference in March 1859 to two of Harry Kickup's prostitutes, Ellen Myers and Ann White, going to 'Thomas' gin shop' inbetween drinking at the beerhouses. They picked up a man at the gin shop and then beat the shit out of him afterwards.
Then in July 1859 The Castle Inn was undergoing a re-fit when a horrible accident occurred:
The fact that you could die from a broken leg goes to show the tough conditions at the time!

The Golden Cross

That death came at the same time as the death of The Castle Inn. The Golden Cross was born by March 1860 when John Thomas had the licence officially transferred from Daniel Francis into his name:
We are also fortunate to have a plan of the bar at The Golden Cross, probably the result of this fatal 1859 refit. It is housed in the Glamorgan Archives and was produced for a unused redevelopment of the pub planned in 1899. This is the only floor plan extant of any pub on Whitmore Lane or Charlotte Street:

The top right door is still the way into The Golden Cross today. Note the spiral staircase in the middle of the pub leading to the second floor living quarters. Also there are no ladies toilets. These weren't installed until 1943! (I assume they used the one marked behind the bar next to the outside area). Daniel Francis wouldn't have had to walk far to work either when he owned it as 40 Charlotte Street is top left of the plan.
John Thomas is running The Golden Cross but not living there as the 1861 census shows a bar manager Catherine Bevan and a servant Margaret Crowley or Crowline living there:
Although John Thomas is there when a man tries to pay for beer with fake money:
Catherine Bevan and John Thomas were probably behind the bar when the notorious prostitute Irish Meg went there for a drink in 1861 soon after she'd made a mint in a brothel robbery:
Margaret Crowley was still working there in 1863 with fellow barmaid Emily Price when the notorious thief Stephen Anderson, alias 'Mouse', popped in to The Golden Cross for a drink in 1863, it cost him four years of his life.
My favourite incident is also from 1863 when Billy Shortlegs, a Whitmore Lane bully and boatman who had lost his lower limbs, kicked off in The Golden Cross big style:
An important aspect of The Golden Cross was that it was a licensed public house. That meant it could sell spirits as well as beer- the majority of the 15 or so beerhouses on Whitmore Lane and Charlotte Street at this time were restricted to beer. These two prostitutes enjoy a glass of gin in 1864 then steal one of the glasses....
Selling spirits brought in the customers but it also came with a problem- licensed houses had to be behaved or their licenses would be revoked by the council (the beerhouses didn't have the same problem as they were regulated by Customs & Excise- who weren't fussy about morals). So although The Golden Cross has it's fair share of drunken fights and thefts it is highly unlikely it would have been a brothel in the 1860's as is claimed by some. It would have soon lost it's license and anyhow there were already about 10 brothels open at any given time at the other end of Whitmore Lane and on Charlotte Street.
Theft of items from The Golden Cross was a constant problem with so much poverty around. Stealing and pawning a glass could get you enough cash for a bed for the night. On a cold January day in 1864 three glasses got a young lad a bed for two months in gaol, then two years at reformatory school:

Harry Kickup was drinking in The Golden Cross, where his ex-wife had assaulted the landlady 17 years previously, in 1864. This time he was the victim of violence:
Thomas Yarwood, son of Mary the Cripple, was drinking in The Golden Cross in December 1864 and he claimed he was assaulted by PC Evans when he went out:
The problem with this claim is that Thomas Yarwood and Jack Matthews were both notorious brothel keepers and PC Evans was the policeman responsible for prosecuting the brothels.
The location of The Golden Cross at the intersection of Whitmore Lane, full of brothels, and Bute Street, full of sailors, meant that it was a good place for the working girls to take their marks for drinks, though they would then go on to a brothel. Here Emma Fry and Mary Ann Lee entertain at the end of 1863:
In 1868 the police were called to throw out John Daley, a local rough, who was making trouble (transcription below):
"At 12 Saturday night last found prisoner in the Golden Cross very drunk and riotous and threatening to split our heads- he refused to go out- we were requested by the barmaid and he refused to go we put him out and he struck Lewis (another PC) on the arm with a pewter cup- at the Police Station he kicked me in the privates. 30 shillings and costs or 21 days hard labour."
In 1869 it all got too much for one policeman. With a sick wife and child at home he had to have some shut eye supported by The Golden Cross:
There are plenty more incidents recorded for the years following 1869 - mainly assaults involving sailors, labourers and 'ladies of the pave' and petty thefts but I'll leave those for another time.

The Golden Cross is now a grade II listed building and it's survival is one of those happy accidents of history- it's fancy exterior and interior tiling being it's main saving grace. Nothing survives around it and like Whitmore Lane this end of Bute Street was renamed 'Hayes Bridge Road' and completely demolished in the late 1900's to whitewash the previous connotations of supposed sin.
The Golden Cross is now an island amidst a sea of traffic, glass and concrete and work has started on building Wales' tallest building just across the road from it on the other side of Whitmore Lane. But still, this fine, friendly pub remains- a stones throw from the city centre with some excellent internal and external features together with wet beer and good company and I would heartily recommend a visit.

So when I sit in the corner of The Golden Cross I know I am drinking where Harry Kickup, Irish Meg, Mouse, Thomas Yarwood, Billy Shortlegs and most probably all the other people I'm writing about once drank and it makes me happy that it's still there.


1849 O'Rourke's Map is copyright Cardiff Libraries.
Photograph is 1892 by William Booth. National Library of Wales ID7202/DF000948
GRO PSCBO/1 C.P. Phillips v Mary Freeman 30th November 1846.
GRO PSCBO/1/3 Ann Platt v Rachel Holyday 14th June 1847.
Kesiah Jones: Monmouthshire Merlin 1847 July 31st.
Milkman: Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian 1847 September 18th p.2.
Boxing Day: GRO PSCBO/1/5 J.B. Stockdale vs John Platt 3rd January 1848.

Castle Inn
Name evolving: See Trade Directories for 1849, 1852, 1855
Harry Kickup's girls: see PSCBO/1/23 Henry Tonkin Warren 18th March 1859.
Sewerage: MM April 26 1856 p.3.
Lodger burning: CMG April 5th 1856 p.5.
Police drinking: CMG September 19th 1857 p.7.
License: CMG 1859 February 26th 1859 p.4.
Man death: CMG 1859 July 30th p.5.

Golden Cross
License: CMG March 10th 1860 p.6.
Census 1861 RG9/4033 F60 p3 Cardiff St Mary.
Women's Toilets: Plans are at Glamorgan Archives BC/S/1/34541
2 rebuilds were proposed in 1899 and 1901: Glamorgan Archives BC/S/1/13888 (1899) BC/S/1/14650 (1901) but were never realised.
Irish Meg: CMG April 20th 1861 p.6.
Bad Coin: 1861 Cardiff Times December 13th p.6.
Stephen Anderson MM October 31st 1863 p.2.
William Charles CMG September 18th 1863 p.7.
Girls stealing glass: Cardiff News March 4th 1864 p.3. Theft was a problem- a spoon stolen in 1863 (CMG November 20th p.8.) Three tankards also in the same year (Cardiff Times May 1st p.5.)
Reformatory school: 1864 CMG January 8th p.7.
Henry Warren: Cardiff New April 1st 1864 p.4.
Yarwood: CMG December 16th 1864 p.3.
Emma Fry CT January 1st 1864 p.6.
John Daley: PSCBO/1/50 John Daley 31st August 1868.
Policeman sleeping: Cardiff Times November 6th 1869 p.8.

The PSCBO/1 references are from the Glamorgan Record Office.
Newspaper images from the wonderful Welsh Newspapers Online. 


  1. Excellent stuff. Really love your dedication to the past. I am mentioning Charlotte street etc. in my central library talk on the 19th. Also Mad Jack, but only part of a larger presentation. Looking forward to your book too John

  2. Great- I heard you speak at the archives last year- and enjoyed your book too!