Tiger Bay

For other uses, see Tiger Bay (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 51°27′29″N 3°10′12″W / 51.458°N 3.170°W / 51.458; -3.170

Cardiff Docks

Tiger Bay (Welsh: Bae Teigr) was the local name for an area of Cardiff which covered Butetown and Cardiff Docks. It was rebranded as Cardiff Bay, following the building of the Cardiff Barrage, which dams the tidal rivers, Ely and Taff, to create a body of water.


For more details on this topic, see Cardiff Docks.

The development of the Cardiff Docks played a major part in Cardiff’s development by being the means of exporting coal from the South Wales Valleys to the rest of the world, helping to power the Industrial Age. The coal mining industry helped fund the growth of Cardiff to become the capital city of Wales and contributed towards making the docks owner, The 3rd Marquess of Bute, the richest man in the world at the time.

In 1794, the Glamorganshire Canal was completed, linking Cardiff with Merthyr, and in 1798 a basin was built, connecting the canal to the sea. Increasing agitation for proper dock facilities led Cardiff's foremost landowner, The 2nd Marquess of Bute, to promote the construction of the West Bute Dock, opened in October 1839. Just two years later, the Taff Vale Railway was opened. From the 1850s coal supplanted iron as the industrial foundation of South Wales, as the Cynon Valley and Rhondda Valley were mined.

Well-appointed residential areas were created in the 1840s and early 1850s, centred around Mount Stuart Square and Loudoun Square (between West Bute Street and the Glamorganshire Canal) to house the growing numbers of merchants, brokers, builders, and seafarers.[1]

Exports reached 2 million tons as early as 1862, with the East Bute dock opening in 1859. In 1862, 2,000,000 tons of coal were exported from Cardiff Docks; by 1913, this had risen to 10,700,000 tons. Frustration at the lack of development at Cardiff led to rival docks' being opened at Penarth in 1865 and Barry in 1889. These developments eventually spurred Cardiff into action, with the opening of the Roath Dock in 1887 and the Queen Alexandra Dock in 1907. By then, coal exports from the South Wales Coalfield via Cardiff totalled nearly 9 million tons per annum, much of it exported in the holds of locally owned tramp steamers.

By the 1880s, the wealthier residents had been able to move away to the new Cardiff suburbs. Butetown (particularly the area around Loudoun Square) became crowded, as families took in lodgers and split up the three-storey houses to help pay the rents. The area became known as "Tiger Bay" after this time.[1]

By 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression which followed the 1926 United Kingdom general strike, coal exports had fallen to below 5 million tons, and dozens of locally owned ships were laid-up. It was an era of depression from which Cardiff never really recovered, and despite intense activity at the port during the Second World War, coal exports continued to decline, finally ceasing in 1964.

Creation of Tiger Bay

Sir Hassan Suhrawardy speaking to the audience during the civil opening ceremony of the new Mosque in 1943

As Cardiff's coal exports grew, so did its population; dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled in neighbourhoods close to the docks, known as Tiger Bay from the fierce currents around the local tidal stretches of the River Severn.

Migrant communities from up to 45 different nationalities, including Norwegian, Somali, Yemeni, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean, and Irish, helped create the unique multicultural character of the area.

Tiger Bay had a reputation for being a tough and dangerous area. Merchant seamen arrived in Cardiff from all over the world, only staying for as long as it took to discharge and reload their ships. Consequently, the area became the Red-light district of Cardiff, and many murders and lesser crimes went unsolved and unpunished, the perpetrators' having sailed for other ports. However, locals who lived and stayed in the area describe a far friendlier place.[2]

After the Second World War most of the industry closed down.

In literature and slang

In Victorian times, Tiger Bay bore a distinctly rough reputation. The name "Tiger Bay" was applied in popular literature and slang (especially that of sailors) to any dock or seaside neighborhood which shared a similar notoriety for danger.[3]

In movies

Tiger Bay (1934 film) is a British film starring Anna May Wong.

Tiger Bay (1959), a British film starring John and Hayley Mills, includes many scenes shot in the docks area and at Newport Transporter Bridge, 12 miles from Cardiff.[4]

In music


The album Tiger Bay (1994), by indie pop band Saint Etienne, is named after the 1959 film of the same name, which was filmed at the Cardiff docks.


"Tiger Bay" is a song by The Hennessys

On her album The Performance (2009), Shirley Bassey sings the semi-autobiographical "The Girl From Tiger Bay", written by the Manic Street Preachers and David Arnold.

Tiger Bay is mentioned as one of the locations in Ian Dury & the Blockheads' song "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick".

In television

The television drama Tiger Bay (1997) is based in the area.[5]

Notable residents

Tiger Bay's most famous native residents have been singer Dame Shirley Bassey and rugby league stars Billy Boston, Colin Dixon and Roy Francis.

Light heavyweight boxer Redvers Sangoe was born and lived in Tiger Bay.


The Tiger Bay Brawlers are a roller derby league founded in April 2010.

Cardiff Bay

For more details on this topic, see Cardiff Bay.

In 1999, the area was redeveloped by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. This redevelopment focussed around the building of the Cardiff Bay Barrage, one of the most controversial building projects of the day but also one of the most successful,[6] that impounds the Rivers Taff and the Ely to create a massive freshwater lake. This resulted in the equally controversial renaming of the area to "Cardiff Bay".

HMS Tiger Bay

Main article: HMS Tiger Bay

During the Falklands War, the Argentine Z-28 patrol ARA Islas Malvinas GC82 was captured by the Type 42 destroyer HMS Cardiff. Brought into service with the Royal Navy, the crew subsequently renamed her HMS Tiger Bay. Stationed in Portsmouth Harbour for a period, she was sold for scrap in 1986.

See also


  1. 1 2 Evans, Catherine; Dodsworth, Steve; Barnett, Julie (1984), Below the Bridge: A photo-historical survey of Cardiff's docklands to 1983, Cardiff: National Museum of Wales Cardiff, pp. 23, 43–44, ISBN 0-7200-0288-5
  2. "Wales - History - Themes - Family history". BBC. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  3. "Districts - Streets - Bluegate Fields [article by reader of www.victorianlondon.org]". Victorian London. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  4. "Tiger Bay (1959)". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  5. ""Tiger Bay" (1997)". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  6. "Report on Cardiff Bay". Newswales.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
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