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.
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
- 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