This history of Rhoose is largely taken from a report written in 1970 by the Glamorgan county planning department, which was intended to increase awareness and awaken interest in the historic heritage and character of designated conservation areas in the county. A full copy of this report is held in the society archive.
Rhoose is a coastal village lying some 3 miles west of Barry and 11 miles from Cardiff. It is within the parishes of Penmark and Porthkerry with Station Road forming the boundary between Penmark to the North and porthkerry to the south. The village lies on agricultural land sloping from a 200ft (60m) plateau to the north of the settlement (upon which Cardiff airport is now built) to the 100ft (30m) cliffs facing the northern coast of the Bristol Channel.
Information gleaned from maps dating to the 16th century indicate that the name of the village has gradually evolved over time. On maps of 1578 and 1610 it is called Rowse. In 1622 Roose, in 1839 it appears as Roos, but by 1878 it was again called Roose. It seems to have derived it’s present spelling, Rhoose, by 1898. In Welsh it is called Y Rhws.
Origins of the village
The original settlement was centred around three large farms located at what is now the eastern end of the village. Prior to the 20th century these farmhouses and their associated outbuilding formed the core of the hamlet. Due to the small size of the original settlement, little reliable information concerning it’s past history is recorded. Although this area of South Wales was colonised by the Romans and there is evidence of settlements at Nurston, Penmark, Fonmon and East Aberthaw, there are no records of any remains in Rhoose. The nearest community was probably at Nurston on the northern edge of what is now Cardiff airport.
There is little conclusive evidence of when the first inhabitants settled in the area. The hamlet was probably established between the 13th and 16th centuries. James Mathew, fifth son of Morgan Mathew of St-y-Nill and descended from the Mathew family of Llandaff, married the daughter of Sir Thomas Bawdrip and settled in Rhoose. The Bawdrips were the original holders of Penmark Place (the anciently recorded Odyn’s Fee). This residence was sold to Sir Edward Lewis of Llantrithyd in 1615 from where it passed to the Kemys-Tynte family. It was probably a decendant, Charles Kemys who was shown on the tithe map of approximately 1840 as owner of much of Rhoose. By 1840-42, when the tithe map was produced, the land owners were Charles keymys and ‘Lady Mary’ (no other records of her seem to exist). Charles Keymys owned Lower Farm and Lady Mary owned Rhoose Farm and some other parcels of land. In fact, the name Kemeys or Kemys is also linked to the Kemeys Hotel (now Rhoose social club). Records of the Mathews family continue for at least 10 generations in Rhoose, supplying the county with a sheriff in 1618, 1667 and 1693. On a map from 1876 the Mathews house was listed as ‘The castle’, but it was probably little more than a simple family home. There are no remains of this building as it was demolished for the building of houses on Station Road.
The first Ordnance Survey maps of 1876 are more detailed than the tithe maps and give a more complete picture of the hamlet in the nineteenth century. They show a number of orchards, lime kilns and quarries in the area. The original hamlet of Rhoose appears to have functioned as an agricultural centre with lime kilns in the vicinity. There are also lime quarries to the north and south of the village. The hamlet grew up around the convergence of routes linking Nurston, Penmark and Llancarvan to the north with Barry to the east and the old port of East Aberthaw to the west. The port of East Aberthaw was thriving from the 14th to 17th centuries, trans-shipping agricultural produce and limestone from the Vale of Glamorgan to other South Wales ports and to the South West of England.
Early 20th century Rhoose
Until the start of the 20th century the hamlet appears to have remained as a small compact community. At the end of the 19th century industrial development started to make an impact. In 1897 the Vale of Glamorgan Railway was built to link Bridgend with the docks at Barry essentially for the purpose of carrying coal for export. The line ran parallel with the village and a station was built 200yds south of the village centre. The improvement in communications initiated the mushrooming of Rhoose from a small hamlet to an extensive village with industrial associations.
By 1920 the local limestone that had previously only been exploited locally became the raw material for the Aberthaw and Bristol Channel Cement Works. The first kiln was built and associated quarries were opened in 1919. In 1935 the Turners Asbestos Cement Company factory was built next to the cement works south of the railway to form a substantial manufacturing development. In 1941 the Royal Airforce built an airbase at Rhoose, which later became Cardiff airport, and in 1950 the Coleg-y-fro was established in the village under the auspices of the YMCA.
During this period of expansion several churches were built. A Methodist chapel, built in 1887, was sold to the Wesleyan Methodists in 1938, an Apostolic church was built in 1904 and a Presbyterian chapel in 1931. A County Council school (Rhws County Primary school) was constructed in Fontygary road and opened in 1931. Together with these various developments, local Authority housing was constructed to accommodate workers and their families. Eventually, Rhoose village spread westwards to envelop the village of Fontygary and northwards to the border of Fonmon. By the 1990’s the Rhoose point quarry had been depleted and the industrial area was closed down and cleared. It is now a housing estate and nature reserve.