History: Councillor who helped build Grangetown

20 April 2016

The final part of our look at Victorian Grangetown’s first councillors looks at two men – starting with one who can be said to have helped build Grangetown in a very practical sense.

Samuel Mildon was born in St Fagan’s, the son of a miller, who became an apprentice builder in Cardiff before eventually setting up his own business.

He was first elected in the Canton ward in 1886. Despite one defeat in 1892 he bounced back to regain his seat in Grangetown in 1895. He held it until retiring in 1907. The family discovered the reason why Samuel did not become mayor of Cardiff. He had been offered the post in 1899 but was forced to decline because he had typhoid fever.

There’s an interesting snippet in the South Wales Evening Express, when he stood – and was re-elected – as a Liberal councillor for Grangetown in 1898: “Mr Mildon sitting in a chair in the sunshine in front of the schools, and wearing the reddest of chrysanthemums, and the serenest of smiles. He seems to be confident as to the result. {His opponent] Joseph Ames and his supporters, although, perhaps, less assertive, are equally confident. There are numerous conveyances on either side bringing up voters, and both candidates have supporters, all of whom are busily engaged.

“Mr Mildon has a super-abundance of conveyances. Apart from breaks and dog-carts, he has elegantly-appointed carriages lent by Mr Alfred Thomas MP and Mr D. A. Thomas MP, and Radical and Socialistic workmen look especially proud as they drive to fhe polling booth behind livered servants and prancing steeds. Another carriage and pair are expected shortly from Mr Richard Cory.

“When weak is the Socialistic nature when tempted! Mr. Ames, although he has no carriages and pair or liveried footmen, has a plentiful supply of good, useful conveyances, and these are very active just now Mr. Mildon is being assisted by a number of lady admirers. Among them are the two daughters of Councillor Jenkins and the wife of Mr Mildon’s son. All three have a generous display of red, and are busy in fetching up voters. The election literature is as varied as it is profuse. Portraits of the respective candidates are scattered, and each man, according to his own description, is the one friend wanted by the working classes.

“If the electors want the Windsor Dock, reduced rates and taxes, public baths for Grangetown, better drainage and building inspection, they are invited to vote for Mr Ames. Mr Mildon promises practically the same thing—only more so.

“There is the personal poster. One is advised to “vote for Ames, and no twaddle,” and another moment he is recommended to pledge his support to “Mildon. Who knows what he talks about.” “Mildon – and sound commonsense,” and “Mildon of wire-proachable character.” Another poster in glaring red runs: “Grangetown electors, is the rejected of the South Ward good enough for Grangetown?” and the answer is supplied for you in the very next line: “No, then vote for Mildon.” There are posters praising the work Mr Mildon has already done on the council; there are other posters condemning it in unqualified terms.”

He might not have become mayor but like his two Grangetown contemporaries – Brain and Jenkins – Mildon was made Alderman. Although his building experience made him an asset to the public works committee, Mildon was described as an “all round man, throughly acquainted with very department of municipal activity.”

He died at his home at 26 Paget Street in February 1909, aged 66 after being ill for some months. Fellow councillors said in tribute that he was held “in very great esteem, more indeed than the ex-alderman himself sometimes supposed.”

He left 17 properties in Clive Street and Paget Street in his will to his widow and eight children, and an estate worth £6,445.

Doctor, councillor and youngest Lord Mayor

Dr Robert Smith with his twin sister

Another prominent local politician in the early part of the 20th century was the local GP.

Dr Robert Edward Smith was an Irishman from County Cork who came to set up a medical practice in Grangetown in 1898, aged 26.

As well as being a doctor, based in Corporation Road in what later became the Grange Surgery, he stood for the Conservatives, winning a seat in a by-election in 1903.

Described as a man “of unstinting activity,” Dr Smith was a prison chaplain’s son, a Presbyterian, bachelor and a teetotaller.

He had particular interest in health and did much to work with the poorer people of his ward – of which there were many – with concerns over child care and maternity in particular. He and his twin sister Agnes were involved in good works in the area.

Dr Smith also was a proposer of the creating what became Sevenoaks Park.

He became Cardiff’s youngest Lord Mayor at the time in 1915 at the age of 43. He was praised for his “unfailing good humour” and “open, attractive personality.”

He moved to live in Cathedral Road and died in October 1929.

See also ‘Admiral Jenkins’ – Grangetown’s first elected councillor

SA Brain – books and beer

How Grangetown broke free from Canton


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