The Heritage & Cultural Exchange

The Community of Tiger Bay

Children at play with bogies

Children at play with bogies

Moslems' Pilgrimage to Mecca procession in Butetown

Muslims' Pilgramige to Mecca procession in Butetown

South Wales coal was what oil is today – the fuel that powered the world. At their peak, the docks in Cardiff were exporting around 11 million tonnes of coal a year. Over a 70-year period Cardiff docks were always being extended to give more capacity for greater numbers of ships, which were in turn growing from small sailing vessels to much bigger steam ships. These ships sailed all over the world and brought the world to Tiger Bay from the coal stations and ports of the world. Men joined the ships and fetched up in Cardiff Docks, and on arrival some stayed in Cardiff mainly in the area that became known as Tiger Bay, creating a rich mix of multi-racial communities and businesses. People from more than 50 nations made Tiger Bay one of the oldest and most diverse multicultural communities in the UK.
Tiger Bay was a thriving industrial hub and community, home to thousands of people from different parts of the UK and around the world. No one knows where the name Tiger Bay came from but the name became legendary. Many foreign sailors or workers from Africa, Asia the Middle East, Norway, Spain, Italy and the Caribbean, as well as rural Wales and Ireland, settled there and married Welsh women. Tiger Bay stood out as a multicultural community in the 19th and 20th century.

Children growing up there remember a huge sense of community and the joys of a multicultural upbringing, while those from outside saw it as a rough, poor and even dangerous area. The many black inhabitants of Tiger Bay were confronted by racism and suspicion. The race riots of 1919 show the escalation of these tensions. 
The regeneration of Tiger Bay began in the late 1950’s and continues with the development of Cardiff Bay. As happened in so many cities in the 1960s and 70s the community was broken up with the demolition of the houses. Very few of the former community came back to live in the high flats that now stand in Loudoun Square, but so many are still active in keeping the memory of the Tiger Bay community alive.