LOCATION: Splott Road, Splott
The first Jews to settle in Cardiff, Levi Marks and his sons Michael, Mark and Solomon, combined pawnbroking with their clothing, watchmaking and jewellery businesses. In the late 19th Century Jews in South Wales had a virtual monopoly of the trade. A 1901 Cardiff directory shows that 27 out of 28 pawnbrokers were Jewish.
Provided capital could be obtained, pawnbroking was a straightforward business to set up. Owners would be self-employed, and able to close the shop to observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. They could employ their family as the business grew.
One such was that of Barnett Lyons living with his family in 1868 over his shop at 11 Mount Stuart Square.
He had a further shop in Castle Road (now City Road) and the abduction of his daughter Esther became a major court case at the time.
A note from Joshua Abrahamson in 1906 shows that he had two shops, 17 Splott Road (now a bakery) and 65 Portmanmoor Road and was enquiring about rates for third at 147 Cowbridge Road.
Among the many other shops to be found were those of Israel Cohen at 51 Crwys Road and Wolfe Levine at 92 Woodville Road.
Often shown in an unfavourable light some pawnbrokers did take advantage of their clients. There is evidence of unscrupulous dealers forcing clients to take an additional packet of tea and then recording a larger loan on the ticket than was actually paid. A case in the Cardiff & Merthyr Guardian of 1850 against Solomon Bloom of Merthyr resulted in a fine of £2 for having entered 7/6 on a ticket when only 4/- had been paid and compelling the client to take 1/4lb of tea which turned out to be of inferior quality and short weight. This caused honest brokers to advertise that they would provide money but no tea.
Sometimes known as a poor man’s bank, pawnbrokers were often a lifeline for poorer citizens who would otherwise be destitute. A best suit pawned on a Monday and redeemed on Saturday might enabling a family to survive during the week. Provided a pawnbroker was honest and not extortionate he was a respected member of the community.