From the records at Glamorgan Archives we know that the owners of Rookwood in Llandaff put the house and estate up for sale in 1917. But who were the owners and why did they decide to leave Cardiff? Light is thrown on both questions by records held at Glamorgan Archives, including a set of family scrapbooks compiled by the Hill family over almost a 40 year period (ref. D1372).
What better opportunity to meet the owners of Rookwood than at the first major wedding held at the house when Constance Hill, the second daughter of Sir Edward Stock Hill, married Walter Robertson Hoare. The Hill family scrapbook captures the event in a series of photographs and newspaper reports for October 1897.
The Father of the Bride
At the time Sir Edward Stock Hill, the owner of Rookwood, was one of the best known figures in south Wales and the west of England. A partner, with his brother, in Charles Hill and Sons, shipbuilders and ship owners of Bristol, Edward had come to Cardiff to supervise the acquisition and improvement of a graving dock and shipbuilding yard on the west side of the east Bute Docks. He built Rookwood in 1866, the year that he married Fanny Ellen Tickle. Although they kept an estate in Somerset, Edward, Fanny and their 7 children lived primarily at Rookwood. In 1897 Sir Edward had numerous strings to his bow. Alongside a successful business career he was the Member of Parliament for Bristol South, Lieutenant Colonel of the Glamorgan Artillery Volunteer Corps and High Sheriff of Glamorgan.
Constance was the first of his three daughters to marry and it was a lavish affair. The ceremony took place on Thursday 28 October 1897, but the festivities started two days before when the family threw open the house and grounds of Rookwood to the people of Llandaff for a grand tea party hosted in the conservatory. The following night a party of 50 family and friends dined and were entertained by the Hills at the house. It is just possible that the ten servants employed in the house at Rookwood were able to cope with the arrangements for the tea party and dinner. However, the staffing must have been significantly augmented on the day of the wedding when two hundred and fifty guests were invited to the service at Llandaff Cathedral and the reception that followed at Rookwood.
The Guest List
Pride of place on the guest list was given to Lord Halsbury, the Lord Chancellor and his wife. The list of those attending read like an A to Z of who’s who in south Wales with family names such as Bruce, Cory, Brain, Crawshay, Insole, Lindsay, Mackintosh, Vachell, Windsor and Turbervill. Although they did not attend on the day the powerful and influential Bute family sent presents.
Constance was no shy retiring young woman when she married at the age of 29. She played an active role alongside her parents in local politics, building up the membership of the Primrose League in Cardiff, an offshoot of the Conservative Party. In addition, she was a key figure and organiser in south Wales for several major charities and, in particular, the NSPCC. She had also travelled widely both in Europe and north Africa and had been presented to Queen Victoria at Court.
Like her sisters, Constance was a talented musician and an actress. Newspapers carried reviews of her performances in amateur productions in theatres in England and Ireland. Her father and four brothers were well known cricketers. Not to be outdone, Constance, who was talented with bat and ball, had captained both the Fairwater and Glamorganshire ladies cricket teams, on one occasion top scoring for the county with 56 runs in a match against East Gloucestershire.
On the day, however, we see her in more traditional attire. The newspapers described the bride’s dress as:
White satin with long brocaded train. Down one side of the skirt and across the front was draped a handsome flounce of Honiton lace (the gift of the bride’s mother) some more of which formed a fichu on the bodice, edging the pouched front of chiffon.
There were 12 bridesmaids, including Constance’s sisters Mabel and Gladys. The bridesmaids wore:
…white striped silk, Eton blue sashes and chiffon fichus held in place by pink heath and carnations and wore blue enamel and pearl hearts, the gift of the bridegroom.
The Mother of the Bride
Lady Hill was the daughter of Lieutenant General Richard Tickell. Like her husband she was a well-known figure in Cardiff, frequently in the news for her work with local charities and the Primrose League. As the mother of the bride she was out to shine and the newspapers reported that she wore:
…a handsome gown of pale mauve brocade with white moire stripes. The bodice was trimmed with straps of mauve velvet and cream lace fell in soft cascades on either side of the embroidered moire full fronted. The bonnet was of mauve velvet and orchids and had a pale heliotrope poplin osprey in front.
The Service in Llandaff Cathedral
The best man and Constance’s brothers, Eustace, Vernon, Roderick and Percy, were fully employed in directing the guests to their places in the cathedral. Nothing had been left to chance. In case of rain covered arcades had been erected from the road to the church doorway, each decorated with evergreens and white flowers. The bride and her father arrived at the west door of the cathedral ‘punctually’ at half past two and processed down the main aisle on a crimson carpet laid for the occasion. The service was conducted by the Lord Bishop of Llandaff supported by the Rev Arthur Hoare, the bridegroom’s father. It would have been an impressive sight, with the cathedral decorated with lilies of the valley, white heather, ferns and palms. In addition, a large section of the cathedral had been set aside for the public and every seat and standing space had been taken an hour before the ceremony, while hundreds of well-wishers stood outside at the west door.
The Newlyweds drive back to Rookwood in an open carriage
As Constance and Walter drove back to Rookwood the streets from the cathedral were decorated with flags and bunting. At intervals along the route, ‘triumphal arches’ had been erected across the road, each woven with evergreens and flowers and dressed with streamers. Each arch carried a motto, including ‘Happy May They Be’ and ‘God Bless You Both’. To add to the effect and, as befitted a military family, cannon were fired at intervals, no doubt by the Glamorgan Artillery Volunteer Corps.
The Reception at Rookwood
The couple entered Rookwood estate through an arch erected at the gate house on Fairwater Road embroidered with two hearts with the initials C and W. Their first duty was to receive their guests and for this the couple stood in the Drawing Room under an artificial floral bell, emblematic of luck, and composed of white chrysanthemums and lined with white silk. There are no records of the fare served that day but Rookwood was well known for holding lavish garden and dinner parties. There are details, however, of the wedding cake. It was made by a Messrs Stevens of the Dorothy, Cardiff and was similar to a cake that the company had provided for her Highness Princess Henry of Pless.
A sketch in the Western Mail confirmed that it was an ornate affair decorated with natural flowers and with panels representing Llandaff Cathedral and Sir Edward’s estates at Rookwood and Hazel Manor. There is little doubt that nothing was spared in catering for the guests at Rookwood on the wedding day.
There is a photograph of many of those attending standing carefully posed by the doorway to the house. It features around 100 people and may, therefore, have been limited to family and honoured guests. Sir Edward Stock Hill is seated next to the groom and his wife is four seats to the right of the groom. Lord and Lady Halsbury, as might be expected, are in the foreground seated between Sir Edward and Lady Hill. Although the gowns worn by the women were reported in detail in the press, little was said about the men. From the photograph we can see that long frock coats were very much the order of the day for men at affairs such as this.
The reception was probably over far too soon for many, with Walter and Constance Hoare leaving Rookwood at 4.30 to catch the evening express from Cardiff to Cornwall. By now Constance had changed and was reported as wearing a green cloth skirt, Russian blouse, pink and green broche and green velvet toque trimmed with pink velvet.
The Wedding Presents
As was the custom at the time the newspapers carried a full list of the wedding presents. Pride of place probably went to the diamond necklace and gold watch given by Sir Edward and Lady Hill to the bride and groom. It is a fascinating list that contains many items unlikely to figure on wedding lists these days, including a letter weighing machine, an embroidered blotter and two sets of muffineers. Let’s hope that the couple were keen ornithologists for they received three sets of books on the Birds of Britain. Finally, no one was excused from the list and it was reported that the servants of Rookwood had presented the couple with a silver salver and toast rack.
What happened next?
Now we know a little bit more about the Hills, the family that built and lived at Rookwood. However, the scrapbooks tell us so much more! To be continued…
Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer
This is one of a series of articles about events at Rookwood from when it was built in 1866 through to modern times drawing on records held at Glamorgan Archives. The scrapbooks compiled by the Hill family of Rookwood can be found at the Glamorgan Archives, reference number D1372.