Houses in Dumfries Place, Cardiff

Dumfries Place is named after the Earl of Dumfries – a courtesy title used by the Marquess of Bute’s eldest son.  There is, though, a difference in pronunciation; the Earldom of Dumfries rhymes with peace, while Cardiffians rhyme the street name with peas.

Residential development was confined to the eastern side of the street, backing onto the Taff Vale Railway.  It comprised some 24 substantial houses, dating from the 1870s.  Most formed a single terrace running from Queen Street, with five pairs of semi-detached villas at the northern end.  Applications for building approval suggest that the properties were built on a speculative basis by a number of local builders, including James Purnell and Samuel Shepton (who actually lived with his family at 2 Dumfries Place in 1881).

Number 1 Dumfries Place appears never to have been a private house.  Initially, it was occupied by the Glamorgan Club.  Formed in 1874, the Club had about 150 members, principally professional men of the town.  However, it lasted only until 1895, when the building was taken over by the South Wales Art Society and the Cardiff Medical Society.  Later, it housed the Welsh Industries Association before becoming the office of an insurance company.  The remainder of the houses appear to have been family homes, though several were occupied by doctors or dentists who might also have used part of the premises for professional consultations.

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Drawing D1093/2/8 depicts 3, 4 and 5 Dumfries Place while the properties appearing in drawing D1093/2/9 are numbers 14, 15 and 16, together with a small part of 13.  Contemporary records suggest that most houses changed hands every few years, but there is evidence of longer term occupation by some families.  One such example is George Prince Lipscombe – variously described as a commercial clerk, cashier, or accountant – who lived at number 3 with his wife, Emily, and their children.  He is listed there in an 1875 directory and was still there when the 1901 census was taken.  The 1881 census shows that Lipscombe’s neighbour, at number 4, was seventy-four year old Elizabeth Rundle, the widow of a local bookseller and stationer.  Elizabeth died in January 1889, but her daughter, Emma Rundle, still lived at the same address in 1911.

Although he was in Dumfries Place for a relatively short time, another resident is worthy of note because he figures in one of the odder occurrences of Cardiff’s history.  Number 16 in Mary Traynor’s second drawing has the shopfront of Saunders Lambert, Estate Agents.  In 1881, this was the home of Samuel Chivers, a vinegar brewer, who later expanded into the manufacture of pickles and jams – production continued at his Ely factory until about 1970.  In April 1883, one of Chivers’ legs was amputated following a road accident.  He had the leg buried in Cathays Cemetery, presumably intending to be re-united with it in due course – the burial register entry reads ‘Leg of Male’.  In the event, though, when he died in January 1917, Samuel Chivers’ body was interred in a family grave, elsewhere in the same cemetery.

When the 1901 and 1911 censuses were taken, no residents (or just caretakers) were listed at some Dumfries Place properties, suggesting that its transition to business premises had already begun, and this seems to have been largely complete by 1920.  The houses were demolished to accommodate the widening of Dumfries Place and construction of a multi-storey car park, in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/8-9]
  • Cardiff Burial Board Records, burial register, 1859-1886 [BUBC/1/1/1, p.209]
  • Cardiff Burial Board Records, burial register, 1875-1922 [BUBC/1/4/1 p.67]
  • The Weekly Mail, 21 April 1883
  • 1851 – 1911 censuses
  • England and Wales National Probate Calendar, 1889
  • Webster & Co’s Postal and Commercial Directory of the City of Bristol and County of Glamorgan, 1865
  • Worrill’s Directory of South Wales and Newport Monmouthshire, 1875
  • Wright’s Cardiff Directory, 1893-94
  • Kelly’s Directory of Monmouthshire and South Wales, 1895
  • Western Mail Cardiff Directory, 1897
  • Various 20th century Cardiff directories
  • Friends of Cathays Cemetery, Cathays Cemetery Cardiff on its 150th Anniversary
  • Friends of Cathays Cemetery, Newsletter, June 2011


The Drill Hall, Dumfries Place, Cardiff

Funded by trustees of the third Marquess of Bute (who was then a minor), the Drill Hall in Dumfries Place, was erected in 1867, primarily as a base for the volunteer force (predecessor of the Territorial Army).

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Designed by London architect, Alexander Roos, who was also one of the Bute trustees, it was built of coloured bricks after the Byzantine style.  At 148 feet (45 metres) long and 66 feet (20 metres) wide, the central hall could accommodate a standing audience of more than 4,000.  Subject to the volunteers’ operational needs, it was made available for events such as concerts and public meetings, and served for many years as the home of the Working Men’s Flower Show.

Located alongside the Taff Vale Railway, the building was fronted by a parade ground and faced south along Dumfries Place.  Demolished in the 1970s to make way for dual carriageways in Stuttgarter Strasse and Dumfries Place, its approximate site is now represented by the office blocks known as Dumfries House and Marchmount House.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:


YMCA and Cory Hall, Station Terrace, Cardiff

The YMCA and Cory Hall were next-door neighbours in Station Terrace, opposite the entrance to Queen Street Station.  Both dated from the period around 1900.

The YMCA traces its origins to 1844, when a group of London drapery workers, led by George Williams, formed the Drapers Evangelistic Association.  It soon changed its name to Young Men’s Christian Association and broadened its purposes to introduce an educational element.  Other associations quickly opened across Britain and around the world.

Cardiff YMCA was founded in 1852 in St Mary Street.  It occupied various sites during its first half-century before erecting purpose-built premises in Station Terrace. Designed by local architects J.P. Jones, Richards & Budgen, the building had five storeys and a basement.   As well as living and boarding accommodation, it provided a gymnasium, lecture theatre, classrooms, a library and reading room.  The ground-floor frontage included two shops – one of which was originally designed as a restaurant.  Its foundation stone was laid in 1899 by Sir George Williams and it opened the following year.

The Cory Memorial Temperance Hall was built at a cost of £5,000 and presented to the temperance societies of Cardiff by John Cory (1828 – 1910), as a memorial to his late father, Richard.  Richard Cory (1799 -1882) had founded the family’s shipping and coal mining businesses.  He was a leader of the Methodist movement in Cardiff and supported various social, educational, moral and Christian activities in the area.  As the temperance movement developed in Cardiff, he is reputed to have been the first to sign ‘the pledge’.

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By the 1970s, plans were afoot to redevelop the area bounded by Queen Street, Churchill Way, Station Terrace and North Edward Street – now the Capitol Shopping Centre.  In anticipation of this, other premises in the area had closed and were becoming rundown.  The Cory Hall was subject to a lease of 99 years from 1896 and, with rising overheads and running costs, the trustees decided to sell.  The Cory Memorial Trust Fund invested the proceeds – £72,262.88 – which they continued to apply to causes in the Cardiff district which were in line with the original founders’ vision.  The charity was de-registered in 2001.  The YMCA also moved from Station Terrace.  In 1974, they purchased a former convent school in The Walk, to continue their youth and community work and, subsequently, to develop a hostel for students and young workers.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/4]

Cardiff Borough Building Regulation Plans, proposed YMCA, Station Terrace, 1898 [BC/S/1/13196]

Porter Family of Cardiff and Somerset Papers, Cory Memorial Trust Fund report, 1974-89 [DX416/2/1]—John-Cory–1—-/


Guest Stables, Merthyr Tydfil

With plentiful local supplies of iron ore, limestone, timber and coal, Merthyr Tydfil was an important early centre of iron and steel making.   The Dowlais works, founded in 1759, was the first of four major ironworks which would flourish in the town, making it an important centre of the industrial revolution.

John Guest was appointed manager of Dowlais works in 1767 and later became a substantial shareholder.  However, the plant enjoyed its heyday under Guest’s grandson, Sir Josiah John Guest, between 1807 and 1852.  The works later became part of the Guest Keen and Nettlefolds group who moved the main operation to Cardiff, which offered easier access to imported ore.

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The stables were built in 1820 to accommodate horses working at the ironworks. The preserved range appears to have formed the main frontage of a quadrangle.  The large first-floor rooms were used as a boys’ school until the Dowlais Schools were built in 1854-5, while soldiers were stationed in the building for several years after the Merthyr riots of 1831. The stables ceased to be used in the 1930s and lay derelict for several decades until bought, in 1981, by the Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust, who undertook restoration work.  In 1989, the building was converted, by Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association, into flats for the elderly.  There is also housing in the former stable yard.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer


Melingriffith Pump

When the Glamorganshire Canal was constructed in the 1790s, it drew water from the River Taff at Radyr Weir, through the same feeder channel as the existing Melingriffith Tin Plate Works.  To avoid depleting Melingriffith’s supply, the Act of Parliament authorising the canal’s construction required its operators to extract their water downstream of the works, after it had been used to drive machinery there.

Historians disagree over both the designer and exact date of the pump, but it was installed between 1795 and 1807.  Technically a “water lift engine”, it was driven by an undershot waterwheel linked to two cylinder pumps which lifted Melingriffith’s waste water into the canal feeder.  It seems that it did not wholly overcome Melingriffith’s water supply problems since ongoing disputes led to a further agreement whereby the canal company was required to limit its extraction from the River Taff during times of water shortage.

The pump is known to have operated until 1927, and may not have been finally abandoned until 1942 when commerce on the canal ceased.

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Since the date of Mary Traynor’s drawing, efforts have been made to refurbish the pump.  During the 1970s and 80s, restoration work was undertaken by volunteers from the Risca-based Oxford House Industrial History Society in conjunction with the South Wales branch of the Inland Waterways Association, but it subsequently fell again into disrepair.  Further restoration, funded by Cardiff council and Cadw, was undertaken between 2009 and 2011.  Following this, it was again possible to operate the pump – albeit by electrical power.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:


Bridgend Town Hall

In the expanding town of the 1840s, it was thought desirable to replace Bridgend’s old town hall, which stood on arches over the marketplace, with a new building large enough to hold public meetings and courts.  Designed by a Swansea architect named Rayner, the building was erected on land donated by the Earl of Dunraven and is reported to have cost £1,450.  The Justices of the Peace of the County of Glamorgan contributed £300 so that the basement storey could be fitted out as a Police Station House, while the remaining sum was raised through voluntary donations.  A foundation stone was laid on 13 September 1843 by the Rt Hon John Nicholl, MP for Cardiff, and HM Judge Advocate General, and the completed building was handed over to the subscribers on 1 May 1845.  The major internal space was a hall measuring 65 x 38 feet.

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The building was used for a variety of purposes – court hearings, banquets, concerts, dramatic performances, political meetings and meetings of the townspeople.  When Glamorgan County Council was established in 1889, the County Surveyor’s office was initially based there.  The changed pattern of society after the Second World War robbed the building of much of its usefulness.  As a result, the structure fell into disrepair.  Despite a ‘Save the Town Hall’ campaign, it was demolished in 1971.

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‘The Town Hall Fund’ remains active as a charitable trust.  It administers income from the proceeds of the Town Hall’s sale, which may be applied for charitable purposes for the general benefit of the inhabitants of Bridgend.  During the five years 2009 – 2013, it generated an average annual income of around £570.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/1-2; D1093/2/6]
  • Bridgend Town Hall Management Committee, minute book, 1845-1941 [DXS1]
  • Bridgend Town Hall Management Committee, agreement to build Town Hall including specification and plans, 1843 [DXS4]
  • Old Bridgend in Photographs (Commentaries by D. Glyn Williams) Pub. Stewart Williams, 1978


Interior, The Exchange, Cardiff

In 1882, at the request of several gentlemen of influence and position connected with Cardiff, local solicitor Frederick De Courcey Hamilton formulated a scheme for the establishment of an Exchange, which would provide convenient offices and a meeting place for merchants, ship owners, brokers and other gentlemen connected with maritime pursuits.

Agents for the Marquis of Bute agreed to lease a site in Mountstuart Square and The Cardiff Exchange and Office Company Limited was established for the purpose of erecting the building, designed by local architects, James, Seward & Thomas.  A contract for the first phase was awarded to Mr C Burton at the end of 1883, the remainder of the building being constructed in stages over a number of years.  The Exchange opened for business in early 1886.

Coal owners, ship owners and their agents met daily in the trading hall where agreements were made by word of mouth and telephone.  During the peak trading hour of midday to one o’clock, the floor might have as many as 200 men gesticulating and shouting.  It is claimed that the world’s first million pound business deal was made here in 1901.  And, reflecting the international significance of the South Wales coalfield, this was once where the world price of coal was determined.

In 1911, the already grand trading hall was re-fitted with an oak balcony and rich wood panelling, as seen in Mary Traynor’s drawing.

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As Cardiff’s coal trade declined, the Coal Exchange ceased operations during the 1950s, though the building continued to serve as offices.  Harold Wilson’s government offered it a new lease of life as the home of a proposed National Assembly, but those hopes were dashed when the Welsh people voted against devolution in 1979.

In subsequent years, the building has been used as a concert venue and occasional film location, while tenants gradually vacated the office space.  In 2013, it was closed indefinitely for safety reasons and there were serious concerns about its future.  Now, though, the Exchange is being refurbished into a luxury hotel.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted: