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.

D1093-1-2 p17

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.

D1093-1-2 p5

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.

D1093-1-3 p5

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

The Ocean and National Magazine, 1936: Reminiscences through a Time-book at Bute Merthyr

The Ocean and National Magazine collection is an amazing resource for discovering what life was like for people living in the south Wales coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Published by the Ocean Coal Company Ltd and United National Collieries Ltd, with contributions by and for the workforce, this magazine series contains a wide variety of articles on the coal industry and its history, including industrial relations, employees, technology, culture and sporting events. Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers has recently completed the indexing of this fantastic collection. This is the final article in a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.


D1400-9-9-3 Cover

Cover of Vol 9, No.3, March 1936, D1400/9/9/3

Stories from individual collieries also feature within the Ocean and National Magazines. In 1936 a series of articles attributed to ‘I.B.’ discuss the contents of an historical time-book found at Bute-Merthyr Colliery. The author describes:

…wiping away the quarter inch of grime that encased its front cover…an accumulation of 20 years… [and opening] up a field of reminiscences.

D1400-9-9-3 page 93

Reminiscences through a time-book at Bute Merthyr, D1400/9/9/3, p.93

The articles talk about people whose names appear in the time-book, including some men who were still alive at the time of writing. He first notices the name of David Timothy, who was a Tipper, and tells us that Mr Timothy …is still alive and well at 93… and that he was still working at Bute-Merthyr at the age of 79, drawing the dole in the 1921 strike. Long service is also commended in the case of Thomas Griffiths, a Pumpsman whom the author recalls being told had the longest record of service at Bute-Merthyr, followed by his brother Dai Griffiths. Mr W.D. Jones, otherwise known as ‘Billy Jones, Reading Room’, is also mentioned for long service, working at Bute-Merthyr for over 50 years.

D1400-9-9-7 page 236

W D Jones, long serving Bute Merthyr employee, D1400/9/9/7, p.236

The author also uses the time-book to draw attention to the role of the Bute-Merthyr workforce in the First World War, noting that 157 joined His Majesty’s Forces during 1914-16. In the May edition, a focus was put on those who had served in the First World War. The author recalls a number of men who went to serve, including John Candy. At 18 years of age, Candy, who had lost an eye and had a bullet track in his left arm, came back from the War and in October 1916 was registered as a weigher. The author then observes the names Peitre Arents and Louis Popilier within the time-book, commenting that these were …hardly names one could expect to see on a Time-Book associated with Welsh Collieries. This prompted a reminder that Belgian refugees lived in the area during the War.

In the April edition the time-book also prompts memories of deaths and accidents.  Seeing the name of Walter Durrant, a Pumpsman, revives memories of his death as a result of a snowstorm in 1925. Another name found is that of Thomas Llewellyn, who had been a drift workman, and the author is reminded of a tragic accident that befell Mr Llewellyn in 1896. A group of people had obtained detonators and powder which exploded, which cost Mr Llewellyn two fingers from his right hand.


An example of a Pay Book from Bute Merthyr Colliery within the Glamorgan Archives collection, Jan-Nov 1926, D1411/2/1/16/1

These articles offer an interesting look at how historical documents can be used to prompt memories and tell the stories of those featured within them. The time-book that is referred to in this article does not survive at Glamorgan Archives, however other pay books from Bute Merthyr Colliery and other collieries can be found in the collection and are available to consult in our search room.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The Ocean and National Magazine, 1935: Why Doesn’t Someone Localise our ‘Snakes and Ladders’ Board?

The Ocean and National Magazine collection is an amazing resource for discovering what life was like for people living in the south Wales coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Published by the Ocean Coal Company Ltd and United National Collieries Ltd, with contributions by and for the workforce, this magazine series contains a wide variety of articles on the coal industry and its history, including industrial relations, employees, technology, culture and sporting events. Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers has recently completed the indexing of this fantastic collection. This is the eighth of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.


In 1935 The Ocean and National Magazine printed a series of articles with the question ‘Why doesn’t someone…?’ In August the subject of this article was the idea of a localised version of the board game Snakes and Ladders. A plan of the board is shown on one of the pages, and there were also 20 locations with instructions as to what to do when they arrived there. Anyone who knows the area around the Rhondda valleys might find the locations and their instructions quite amusing.

Snakes and Ladders_edited 

  1. Stag Hotel – Hard to Start. Must score six or ask for a glass of water. Otherwise miss two turns.


  1. Red Cow – Meet a friend and stop. Miss one turn and go back to 1.


  1. Swamp – Save sheep’s life but run over goose. Jump over one (number).


  1. Lungi’s Ice Cream – Forget the game, discuss Abyssinia and have a cornet. Miss two turns.


  1. Pentre Police – Absent-mindedly wish the Sergeant ‘A Merry Xmas’. Go back two.


  1. Prudential Office – Arrested by agent who pushes you back three steps – for life.


  1. Bridgend Hotel – Meet old friend who tells you about his operation. Miss four turns.


  1. Ystrad Station Exit – You are run over by an ‘Echo’ boy. Go back six to get your breath.


  1. Estate Office – You pay your ground rent before time. Leap 4 for joy.


  1. Ton Co-op – Mistaken for football coupon-seller. Arrested for three turns. Move back to No.5.


  1. Windsor Hotel – Stop to recover. Withstand temptation to have a ‘Corona’ and move forward three steps.
  2. Ton Police Station – Miss three turns through forcible attendance at court. Details censored. Go back two, and watch your step.


  1. Ton West End – Invigorated by odour of river. Move forward three – quickly.


  1. Pentwyn Hospital – Make detour down the marble steps. Meet young probationer. Lose twelve turns, but take short cut to No.3.


  1. Nantymoel Junction – Withstand temptation to take a girl-friend along new road. Skip six.


  1. Cwmparc Junction – Invited to a pithead bath. Shock entails loss of four turns.


  1. Ocean Offices – Mistake it for a Salvation Army headquarters and miss two turns reviving.


  1. Pengelli Hotel – Enter in error. Fall in river (hidden trap) and go back to 14.


  1. Surgery – Having plenty of time you sit to wait for your next bottle of medicine. You are taken back to 12 feeling better.


  1. Park & Dare Institute – Home at last! Fall asleep. See Mae West and call and see her some time.


Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The Ocean and National Coal Magazine, 1934: Reflections on Armistice Day

D1400-9-7-11 Page 375

The year 1934 marked the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and for the November 1934 edition of The Ocean and National Coal Magazine, a large section was devoted to thoughts on that war and on the prospect of war in the future.

D1400-9-7-11 Page 371

The magazine opens with a guest editorial by Lord Davies of Llandinam, the patron of the magazine (Davies normally only wrote editorials at Christmas).  This piece starts with Davies’ recollections of how the War was dealt with at the time. Lord Davies likens the idea of going to war to a time when disputes in civilian life were solved by fighting, either in a duel or a battle. He then points out that in civilian life these had been replaced by the principles of law and order, but that there appeared to be no such system for disputes between nations, until the creation after the War of the League of Nations. However, not even that organisation was immune from criticism from Lord Davies, who claimed that …we have helped to turn it into a debating society.  He predicted that there would be another war in Europe, which would come with no warning, and could only be stopped by both a Tribunal and a police force.

Photo 6-Bombs were dropped and no damage was done

Over the next few pages, employees of the collieries owned by Ocean and National gave their recollections of the War, all with the intent of persuading the readers that peace was a better option than war. Some photographs are also printed, two of them showing buildings in London that had been bombed. One poignant photograph shows a collection of dead soldiers under the heading ‘Crisis Over!’ In addition to the photographs a pair of newspaper articles, reprinted from the Daily Express and Le Matin, refer to the horrific events that took place during the War.

Photo 7-War Fever Crisis Over

The final section of this dedication to the War begins with a cartoon depicting a giant man labelled ‘War’ being zapped by aircraft belonging to the International Police Force. The cartoon is titled ‘A Direct Hit!’ with the cartoonist, Mr Dick Rees, commenting, Sooner the better!

The final article of the anti-war feature is titled ‘The Oldest Racket’, subtitled ‘Wanted! – A New Police Force’, where the case was made for the formation of an International Police Force, either as a replacement for the League of Nations …or its effective reinforcement by the addition of the power which enables the Council to enforce its decisions. This proposed Police Force would be discussed in detail in the December 1934 edition.

Cartoon 4-A Direct Hit

From this point until the final issue in the collection at the end of 1936, the magazine adopted an anti-war rhetoric. Although the Second World War had not happened by then, 1936 had seen the start of the Spanish Civil War and before that the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and the Japanese invasion of the Manchurian region of China in 1931.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer