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.
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
- 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