Just over 100 years ago in July 1908, a woman was handed a baby in the Royal Arcade and told that its mother lived in another of Cardiff’s arcades, the Wyndham Arcade, before leaving never to return. The lack of information about the child’s mother meant that there was no option other than for the child to be housed at the workhouse while the police attempted to find the mother.
The extent of the newspaper articles on the subject of this baby in the online newspaper archive of the National Library of Wales suggests that the story captured the public interest and the reports show an interest from numerous people wanting to adopt the child. The readers did not have to wait long for an explanation as the mystery of the baby’s origins was solved soon after.
It was reported in the August 1st edition of the Weekly Mail that the person who had agreed to foster the child had abandoned it in the arcade after receiving the money offered to her in return for taking care of the baby! Luckily, however, the father of the baby was eventually found to be a ‘respectable’ man who was willing to look after the child as long as it was able to be housed at the workhouse for a short period of time while he prepared his home for the baby’s arrival.
Aside from being an interesting story in itself, the various articles surrounding the case of Cardiff’s ‘Royal’ baby are relevant as they indicate how people used the arcades in their daily lives. The fact that the foster mother of the baby chose the Royal arcade as the place to try and dispose of the child suggests that the arcade was a busy public space full of people. It also indicates the significance of the arcade’s city centre location. With shopping and carrying out other leisure activities in the arcade comes a certain amount of anonymity which would not have been available to people in more close knit communities, allowing the woman who left the baby to hope that she would go unnoticed and unremembered.
A free tour of Cardiff’s arcades is taking place as part of the BAVS Conference on Thursday 1st September. You can sign up for the tour here: