Nestled between the bustling Western Avenue and the A4119 Cardiff Road, Cathedral Close in Llandaff stands as a quiet enclave that whispers of centuries past. This unassuming spot, often shrouded in an eerie stillness, has earned a reputation as one of the most haunted streets in the UK. Ghost hunters and supernatural enthusiasts frequent this historic area, exploring its stories that stretch back through time.
Legend has it that Cathedral Close, once known as The Road of The Dead, played a macabre role in the history of Llandaff. The road, extending to the River Taf in bygone days, was purportedly a pathway for the somber procession of the deceased. Stories weave a chilling narrative, suggesting that this street witnessed the transport of bodies destined for the now-abandoned graveyard on the other side of the cathedral.
Previously christened one of the UK’s spookiest streets, Cathedral Close harbors tales of “young kids playing, laughing and singing in the area… linked to mass deaths of children during the 1800s.” While some attribute this to the 19th-century cholera outbreak in Cardiff, historian Dr Madeleine Gray casts doubt on such connections. The cholera outbreak indeed claimed lives, both young and old, yet Dr Gray questions the association of Llandaff with cholera-related ghosts. She points to the actual cholera graveyard near St David’s Way and Hills Street, emphasizing that such tales may be more fiction than fact.
Despite its chilling reputation, Cathedral Close itself is a tranquil haven, adorned with picturesque homes. A leisurely stroll takes you past the cathedral, leading in one direction towards Western Avenue and Llandaff Fields. However, in the opposite direction lies a stone bridge beckoning you into a seemingly forgotten graveyard.
Silent and mysterious, this burial ground conceals yew trees at crossroads, their gnarled roots exposed atop circular stone beds. The overgrown graveyard, obscured by thick vegetation, harbors a wealth of history. Old tombstones barely peek above brambles, their inscriptions weathered by time. Some, however, reveal dates stretching back to the mid-19th century.
The graveyard appears frozen in time, untouched by contemporary activity. Save for the occasional wanderer or historian, it remains a haunt for those seeking the paranormal rather than a final resting place for the departed.
A discreet sign next to the bridge shares its origins, stating it was designed by a Welsh architect in 1860. The purpose? To provide access to a new burial ground, known as ‘Transpontine,’ on land acquired from a notable figure by the Burial Board for Llandaff.
Local researchers, including a former archivist for Llandaff Cathedral, have delved into the history of this burial ground. The burial ground became a necessity due to the increasing demand for burials in the churchyard as Cardiff’s population burgeoned in the early 19th century.
Records from the Friends of Llandaff Cathedral in 1988 detail the rising number of burials. In the 18th century, Llandaff averaged 16 internments annually. However, as Cardiff experienced a population boom, burials doubled by 1845 and again by 1856. This trend continued into the mid-60s, reflecting the growing demand for burial spaces.
Upon crossing the bridge into the heart of the burial ground, visitors encounter a central point with paths leading to four distinct sections. Smaller paths branch off from each section, a deliberate design catering to the accessibility of funeral processions. Researchers elucidate, “The reason the bridge is there is because it’s opposite a door out of the cathedral.” This strategic location allowed funeral services to flow seamlessly from the cathedral to the Transpontine burial ground.
Though the graveyard appears forgotten, it cradles the remains of noteworthy figures. As the 1880s arrived, the burial ground reached its capacity, leading to the establishment of a municipal cemetery adjacent to it. Yet, burials persisted in the Transpontine, with some plots witnessing interments as recent as the Second World War.
“There have been burials here within the past ten years,” researchers reveal. “You can still open a grave here, but you won’t get a new one.” Despite the passage of time, Cathedral Close’s eerie enclave remains an intriguing blend of history, mystery, and a touch of the supernatural, inviting visitors to explore its silent secrets.