The Students Union, Dumfries Place, Cardiff

Designed by Manchester architect, Alfred Armstrong, this building on the western side of Dumfries Place originally housed the Cardiff Proprietary School – also known as Cardiff College.   Established in 1875 and accommodating 300 scholars, it offered ‘a sound and liberal education at a moderate cost’, aiming to prepare boys for university, the naval, military & civil services, and also for scientific, professional and commercial pursuits.


The school seems to have run into financial difficulties at a relatively early stage.  By 1886, the governors sought to transfer it to a local educational charity while, in 1891, parents were advised that, ‘owing to the want of support’, the school would close on 31 July that year.  Following an extraordinary general meeting in October 1892, the company was wound up and the building sold to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.

Initially, the University appears to have used the premises for art classes but, by 1895, it was a Technical School, continuing in this role until the First World War.  From 1916 until about 1950, it housed government offices, including the National Health Insurance Commission, Welsh Board of Health, and Ministry of Pensions.

During the 1950s, the Students Union moved here from 51 Park Place, and remained in occupation until their Senghennydd Road building was erected in the 1970s.  Following demolition, the Dumfries Place site is now occupied by a modern office building known as Haywood House.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/5]
  • Cardiff Borough Building Regulation Plans, plan of Proprietary School, Dumfries Place, 1875 [BC/S/1/901021]
  • Cardiff Borough Building Regulation Plans, plans of Cardiff Technical College, Dumfries Place, 1895 [BC/S/1/10923.2; BC/S/1/10923.1]
  • Cardiff Times, 30 May 1874
  • South Wales Echo, 18 November 1886
  • Kelly’s Directory of Monmouthshire and South Wales, 1891
  • Western Mail, 11 May 1891
  • The London Gazette, 25 November 1892, p. 6937
  • Wright’s Cardiff Directory, 1893-94
  • Various Cardiff directories, 1908 – 1964
  • Stewart Williams, Cardiff Yesterday, vol. 11, image 156