Victoria Buildings, Bute Street, Cardiff

At the 1861 census, Peter Steffano, a 51 year old ship chandler was living with his family at 56, 57 and 58 Bute Street, Cardiff.  The household also included Austrian-born Joseph Brailli, aged 23, a clerk in the chandlery who was married to Steffano’s daughter, Sophia.  By 1871, the business, now operating as Stefano and Brailli, was at 63 Bute Street; the Brailli family lived at no. 65 and the Steffanos at 66.

Peter Steffano died in 1874 and, by 1881, the Brailli family had moved their home to Crockherbtown (now Queen Street).  They appear, though, to have retained the business premises since, in April 1887, Joseph received local authority approval to rebuild 64-67 Bute Street.


The new building was designed by E M Bruce Vaughan and given the name Victoria Buildings.  It included ground floor shop premises with warehouse space in the basement and at the rear of the first floor.  The remainder of the first floor, and all of the second, provided office space.  There was no longer any residential accommodation.

An 1884 directory still lists Joseph Brailli as a ship chandler at the Bute Street premises but, by 1891, the chandlery was run by Thomas Harper and Sons.  Also listed at Victoria Buildings in that year’s directory were Jacobs & Co, outfitters, Foster Hain & Co, ship brokers and James Evans & Co Limited, colliery proprietors.  The Thomas Harper company was still there in 1955, by which time the right hand shop unit housed the local branch of George Angus, manufacturers of industrial belting and a range of other products including oil seals.  The offices continued to be occupied by shipping companies, along with HM Immigration Service.  By 1972, the listed occupants were Reg Oldfield, photographer, Ken Jones, turf accountant, and J. F. Griffiths, builders’ merchant.  Signage in Mary Traynor’s drawing suggests that the latter two companies remained until the building’s demise.

The approximate site of Victoria Buildings now comprises the outdoor areas behind nos 5, 6, 7 & 8 Bute Crescent (Jolyon’s Hotel, Duchess of Delhi restaurant, and the Eli Jenkins public house).

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/32]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plans for rebuilding of 64-67 Bute Street, 1887 [BC/S/1/6250]
  • 1861-1891 censuses
  • Various Cardiff directories
  • England & Wales National Probate Calendar 1874
  • Williams, Stewart, The Cardiff Book, vol. 2 (p.185)

4 thoughts on “Victoria Buildings, Bute Street, Cardiff

  1. Victoria Buildings, Bute Street, Cardiff - Glamorgan Archives

  2. Hello David,

    This is quite a find for us since I am a direct descendant of the Brailli’s (my mothers maiden name, grandfather was Brailli etc. )

    we were very recently trying to pin down the location of their Bute street home/premises since with all the demolition and rebuilding in the area over the years the location had been lost, and we only had a best guess that a 70’s image of the ‘victoria buildings’ (as we now know them) was in fact their building. we also didn’t know of this official ‘name’ for the property.
    I’ve yet to find a better image of the building.

    it’s position seems to be right on the footprint of Eli Jenkins beer garden, the pub’s large incongruous pillared entrance matches victoria building’s own pillars..
    shame it got pulled down really!

    we are not sure when they sold the property but they did have tenants there in 1892 since we have a letter regarding drainage issues etc. – which starts with ‘victoria buildings’ which we had not really noticed until now:

    J Brailli & co, and later R.D Brailli & co worked either from this building or v nearby on Bute street until 1919 as they transitioned from ship owners to insurers as the shipping trade tailed off after ww1. Rudolph Brailli ( i got his first name as a middle name!) went on to be quite big land owner / developer on the isle of man until a premature death.

    The family moved from crockherbtown / queen street home (demolished 1925) to what is now redwell old people’s home on ty-gwyn road ( house was called oldwell ) which was rather grand – but as time went on their wealth dwindled and they sold.
    also my grandfather Peter Brailli who i knew very well talked often of how Brailli & co fitted out (or assisted in doing so) Scott’s ship Terra Nova, how the family met & dined with the protagonists and my mother has a ship’s lamp puportedly from Terra Nova, gifted by a returnee when it got back to Cardiff.

    Thankyou for this research !

    Ben Kolb

    • Hi Ben,
      I’m pleased that you found the blogpost interesting. The Mary Traynor collection also includes a 1987 sketch of Oldwell and your pointer to the Brailli family’s link with that house will assist my research into its history.
      Thank you
      David Webb

    • Hi Ben and David
      Angela Purnell here – the great grand daughter of Joseph Brailli and Sophia. Thrilled to see the research completed on the family history and the new links to Victoria Builldings. Really interested to see the old letter heading and I’m wondering if you have any more ephemera – so interesting to see letters, receipts and invoices etc which can fill in the gaps. Mary Traynor’s drawings are great !
      I hope we can make contact and exchange information.

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