Skip to main content

Repression, a normal part of its policy was the one side of its tactics. Robberies with violence, murder, drunkeness, gambling, licensed restaurants with music and dancing and mixed marriages were to be no part of the new moral world. The concern became ob- sessive: 'Some of our public vehicles are moving brothels' proclaimed the C. & D.C.U.; whether this sprang from evidence or the impact of Madam Bovary on the non-conformist imagination is unclear! The efforts at repression centred on the fairs held in the city. These were seen as the breeding ground of juvenile crime and immorality and "the stranger population of every nationality as well as the hooligan elements of the city makes these places their resort for evil purposes". In a celebrated legal action the C. & D.C.U. secured the closure of the Bute Street 'World's Fair' in 1917. However the C. & D.C.U. also recognized that "Citizenship involves responsibility for the stranger within our gates", and it put this creed into practice by establishing in 1917 the Cardiff World Mission, with representatives of many religious denominations. This body, in turn, promoted the Coloured Men's Social, Cricket and Benevolent Club which boasted some 250 members from the West Indies, southern states of the U.S.A. and West Africa. It was one of the few attempts at social and benevolent work amongst the coloured population and it was clearly the other side of the C. & D.C.U.'s policy; cricket was to divert coloured men from white girls. Mr. David Williams, Chief Constable of Cardiff argued that this only added to the allure- ments of coloured men. He thought flannels were more revealing than corduroys and made black men more attractive to white girls; he disapproved "of black men being put in flannels and young girls being allowed to admire such beasts".24 Prosperity and flannels, it seemed, led to the supposed horrors of miscegenation. The prosperity of the coloured population was also illustrated by an increase in home owner- ship amongst them. Arabs were said to outbid whites for houses with money derived from the enlarged earnings of seamen; the houses were then (it was alleged) filled with boarders to pay for the investment. Possibly (as was the case in Sparkbrook in the 1960s) it was discrimination in the housing market which forced this pattern of home ownership and overcrowding on the newcomers. Whatever the underlying reason it was a cause of some resentment during the war and was to be fanned into flame in the post war housing crisis." Resentment at increased prosperity, at the houses and girl friends which the war put in the coloured men's way did not in themselves lead to riot. Such attitudes were largely passive until the severe economic depression and housing crisis which coincided with the badly mishandled demobilization of troops and sailors, made them active and querulous. Pre-existing racial stereotypes enabled the multifarious tensions and problems of the post war world to be focused on a convenient scapegoat. The South Wales coal trade had been dislocated and partly re-directed by the needs of the war. Total output of the coalfield had fallen drastically over the six year period TABLE 1 OUTPUT OF S. WALES COALFIELD 1913 56,830,072 tons 1918 46,716,535 tons 1919 46,997,303 tons