By Jeffrey Mansfield
Foundation stones are time machines. The dignitaries named in the inscription seem to come to life: a genteel lady in fox fur stole and full-length skirt; a bewhiskered gent in bowler hat, waistcoat, starched collar, and gold chain.
I’m outside the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff trying to decipher the art-deco inscription on the foundation stone, just to the right of the main entrance, between the two square pillars of Portland stone ashlar. It’s difficult to read, but worth the effort:
THIS FOUNDATION STONE
WAS LAID BY
THE HON. THE VISCOUNT HALIFAX KG
LORD PRIVY SEAL
ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF APRIL 1937.
What was it like in Cardiff that day?
Several documents were buried in a container under the stone: a list of council members of the Welsh National Memorial Association; a list of committee members of the Welsh National Council of the League of Nations Union; and a copy of the Western Mail from that day, which luckily we have on microfilm. So let’s take a look at ‘The Western Mail, the National Daily of Wales and Monmouthshire, April 8th 1937, One Penny’.
The advert on the front page is hard to miss. David Morgan’s is offering a new range of ladies’ hats, ‘styled for the matron…a becoming model in light navy straw trimmed with ribbon velvet and flowers at 49/9’. I wonder how many of Cardiff’s ‘matrons’ bought one?
The Greyhound Racing at Cardiff Arms Park starts at 7.30pm, while Cardiff City and Cardiff Rugby are having their usual ups and downs.
There is an advert we wouldn’t see today: ‘73% of the doctors in Northern Ireland prefer a mild cigarette – Kensitas the MILD cigarette, Just what the doctor ordered’. O tempora, o mores!
A page is dedicated to the occasion on the foundation stone. In an article by Lord David Davies, founder of the Temple, he sets forth the meaning of the Temple and emphasises the importance of the League of Nations. He clearly believed in peace through power as much as through prayer.
The keynote speaker was Lord Halifax, former Viceroy of India, Knight of the Garter, Lord Privy Seal, eventual Foreign Secretary under Chamberlain and Churchill, supporter of the controversial appeasement policy and later Ambassador to the USA.
Lady and Lord Halifax
He dedicated the new building to two great purposes – national health and international peace – and expounded on the nature of peace. International good will and conciliation of the conflicting interests of nations were the basis for true peace.
Quite how he and Lord Davies got together isn’t clear. After all, one was a Liberal peer and the other Tory. Maybe it was their shared dedication to international peace, maybe their shared love of horses and hunting.
Davies was not a pacifist, and Halifax, despite his involvement with appeasement, did support re-armament and resistance to Hitler when it became clear that appeasement had failed. For some, however, he remains a controversial figure.
Once the ceremonies were concluded, the assembled worthies made their way to the nearby City Hall to be entertained by the Lord Mayor on behalf of the City Council. The paper doesn’t tell us what was on the menu but we can bet it wasn’t bubble n’ squeak.
It’s sad to think that the world was plunged into the horrors of the Second World War soon after the stone was laid, though the Temple’s values survived that conflict and remain pertinent today.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of the Temple, why not come along and join one of our Temple Tours. You might even meet up with a real time traveller.