Avondale Hotel, Clarence Road and Clarence House, Hunter Street, Cardiff

Opened in July 1894, the Avondale Hotel was a venture of local hotelier and caterer, Richard Palethorpe Culley, who already ran the restaurant in the nearby Exchange building, as well as several other businesses in Cardiff and beyond.  Designed by E W M Corbett, it was built by W Thomas & Co.  The hotel was later acquired by Crosswell’s Brewery, which ultimately became part of the Whitbread group.  Subsequently demolished, the site is now occupied by a block of flats named Avondale Court.

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Clarence House, at the junction of Hunter Street and Harrowby Lane, clearly dates from 1896.  Still standing today, it appears to have undergone significant reconstruction since this 1983 sketch.  Most notably, it has lost the ornate pediment which so strikingly identifies it in Mary Traynor’s picture.  In more recent years, the name Clarence House has been adopted for the former Salvage Association building in Clarence Road.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Entertaining Cardiff – 130 years ago this month, April 1889

The playbills for the Theatre Royal throw a fascinating light on what the theatre going crowds in Cardiff were flocking to see 130 years ago.


Pride of place in the first week of April 1889 went to a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. With one of the strongest casts fielded by the company on tour and a new and extravagant set based on the scenery used at the Savoy Theatre no holds were barred for this production. However, the competition was fierce. The Grand Theatre on Westgate Street was drawing in the crowds for an ever changing menu of comedy and drama featuring, in the first week of April, The Fools Revenge, School for Scandal and Faint Heart never won fair lady. There was also competition from Tayleure’s Circus and the ‘prestidigateur’ Professor Duprez and his magical illusions at the Park Hall.

Reports suggest that D’Oyly Carte swept the board in the first week of April. However, the mix of opera and Shakespeare offered by the Theatre Royal in mid-April was far less popular when the crowds flocked to see Muldoon’s Picnic at The Grand described as …a laughable Yankee-Hibernian absurdity.

If you would like to see the playbill for The Yeoman of the Guard at the Theatre Royal in April 1889 it is held at the Glamorgan Archives, reference D452/3/36.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Albert Buildings, Moira Terrace, Cardiff

Albert Buildings was erected in the mid-1870s by Cardiff ship-owning brothers John and Richard Cory, on land leased from the Bute estate along the south-eastern side of Moira Terrace.  Designed by Frederick Cutlan, the block comprised a row of shops, each with living accommodation on the first floor, while the second floor was separately divided into fourteen ‘model dwellings for artisans’.  Some of these were originally provided with balconies, accessed through the bricked-up doorways visible in Mary Traynor’s sketch.

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Soon after completion, formal ownership of the building transferred to Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation Limited – of which the Cory brothers were major shareholders.  And in 1877, an additional, glass-roofed floor was added along the whole length of the block for use as a roller skating rink.

In its early days, the entire venture seems to have struggled commercially.  By 1879, the skating rink had been abandoned and the top floor let to a steam laundry company.  And in April 1880, most occupants, both of the shops and dwellings, quit their tenancies. The company then decided to let out the houses in sets of rooms, with three tenants to each house.  By 1883, the directors recorded that most of the houses and shops were let to ‘a better class of tenant’.  The steam laundry had moved out and, in 1885, the top floor was divided into three units, and re-roofed with slate, with a view to letting as warehouses.

The internal arrangements seem to have been further adapted over the next two decades and, by 1904, much of the block had been converted into flats.  It is, though, apparent from contemporary directories that several units were occupied as homes or hostels run by charitable bodies, including the Salvation Army and Dr Barnardo’s, while business also continued in many of the shops.  In more recent times, one of these housed Lion Laboratories Ltd and a blue plaque commemorates their development here, in 1974, of the electronic breathalyser.

In 1980 Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation sold the building to Adamsdown Housing Association, who subsequently refurbished and modernised the flats, removed the top floor and re-roofed the whole block.  Mary Traynor’s 1982 sketch illustrates the north-eastern end of the block, as it appeared before refurbishment.  In more recent years, the ground-floor shop units have generally been occupied either by lawyers or third-sector organisations.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/2)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, disapproved plans for 11 Proposed Houses, Moira Terrace, 1875 (ref.: BC/S/1/91154)
  • Kernick Family, Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation Ltd Collection, extract of lease of premises in Moira Terrace (ref.: DX69/4)
  • Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation Ltd Records, A History of Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation Ltd (ref.: DX486/8)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • The Western Mail, 7 March 1877
  • The Cardiff Times and South Wales Weekly News, 24 March 1877
  • South Wales Daily News, 1 September 1879

62 Charles Street, Cardiff

Because properties in Charles Street appear to have been renumbered at least twice, it is not easy to trace, with certainty, the history of number 62.  However, the building probably dates from the middle of the 19th century.  A comparison of census and directory details suggests that, between about 1880 and the early 1900s, it was number 52, and might also have been named Llancarvan House.

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The house, as originally built, was probably plainer in its external appearance, since it was only in 1884 that building approval was sought to add the bay windows and porch.  That application was submitted by Thomas Windsor Jacobs, an Alderman of Cardiff, who went on to serve as Mayor in 1887-88.  Records show that he still lived at 52 Charles Street well into the 1890s.

Following Alderman Jacobs’ departure, the property was acquired by the Cardiff Board of Guardians who, until their demise in 1930, housed the Poor Law Union Dispensary there, and also the Superintendent Registrar’s office.  Subsequent occupants have included wholesalers of various products, solicitors, and a charity.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/3)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for additions to house, 52 Charles Street, 1884 (ref,: BC/S/1/4454.1)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for new Registrars Office, Llancarfan House, Charles Street, 1897 (ref.: BC/S/1/12408)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • 1851 – 1911 Censuses