Statue of John Batchelor, Cardiff

Statue of John Batchelor, The Hayes, Cardiff

cardiff_john_batchelor_statueThis statue depicts John Batchelor, a businessman and Liberal campaigner who took on the established political order in Cardiff. The inscription “The Friend of Freedom” on the plinth shows how he was regarded by the general population, although he made powerful enemies.

He was born in Newport in 1820 to timber merchant and shipbuilder Benjamin Batchelor. He managed a Canadian shipyard before he and his brother bought a timber and shipbuilding business in St Mary Street (then almost adjacent to the river Taff) in 1843.

He was a Cardiff town councillor from 1850 to 1859, becoming mayor in 1854. In 1852 he was instrumental in ending the “Tory rule” of Cardiff, with Walter Coffin becoming Liberal MP.

In 1856 he was chief promoter of a Parliamentary Bill to build the dock in Penarth which broke the Bute family’s stranglehold on the coal export trade.

In the early 1860s he was evicted from his timber yard in Cardiff docks by the Marquess of Bute. His business continued elsewhere, but he lost heavily in the global financial “panic” of 1866. One of his company’s last ships, SS James Marychurch, was launched in December 1871. Four months later he was declared bankrupt, with liabilities of c.£45,000. (The ship didn’t last much longer, sinking in autumn 1872 while carrying grain from Australia to Ireland.)

In 1873 John Batchelor proposed a merger of competing dock, rail and canal companies to greatly enlarge Cardiff’s docks, with 15 times more wharf space. He envisaged an embankment from Cardiff to Penarth – accomplished when the Cardiff Bay Barrage was completed in 1999 but for leisure and regeneration rather than coal exports.

He continued to participate in local civic life and in 1882 the Crown agents appointed him their Inspector of Coals for “the Colonies”. He died in 1883.

His statue, by Welsh sculptor James Milo Griffith, was unveiled in October 1886 and was repeatedly defaced with paint. The photo, by kind permission of Cardiff Libraries, shows the statue in 1891. You can see another old photo of the statue on our page about Hayes Island Snack Bar.

In 1910 there were plans to move the statue to Cathays Park, to make room for an office where tram conductors could hand in their takings soon after arriving in The Hayes.

Postcode: CF10 1AH    View Location Map