Nonpareil Market, James Street, Cardiff

Over the next few weeks our blog will once again highlight a collection which helps to record the changing face of Cardiff and south Wales.  In June 2014 Glamorgan Archives received a very interesting and unique deposit from Mary Traynor, a Cardiff based artist who, since the late 1960s, has tried to capture buildings in Cardiff and the surrounding area which are at threat of demolition.  Her work has been displayed in various exhibitions over the years and highlights many buildings that have since been lost.  The collection contains her sketchbooks and loose works, some of which had previously been framed and on display.  These sketches and paintings complement many other series of records held in the archives, providing a valuable source to those researching the history of buildings in the area.

Glamorgan Archives volunteer David Webb has been using these records to undertake research into the histories of some of the buildings featured in Mary Traynor’s works of art.

The Nonpareil Market stood on the corner of James Street and Louisa Street, in Cardiff’s Butetown.  It was 48 & 49 James Street until about 1905 when the street was re-numbered and it became 27 & 29.

d1093-2- 025 Non Pareil Market, James Street_compressed

A carved stone plaque above the third storey of number 27 (formerly 49) reads ‘The Nonpareil Market 1889’ and this is something of a mystery.  The premises were already in existence prior to that year – approval to add the third storey was sought as early as 1871.  In 1889, Frederick Ward, a butcher, received building approval for alterations to both 48 and 49 so it may be assumed that the plaque was installed as part of this work.  However, the reason for doing so remains unclear.  Nonpareil is a word of French origin, meaning unequalled or unrivalled, but no record has been found of the name ‘Nonpareil Market’ being used either as an address or business name there.  Ward’s business was based at number 49, while 48 was a grocery shop operated by the well-known entrepreneur, Solomon Andrews.  Since Andrews was also engaged in the building trade, it is tempting to speculate that he might have been behind the erection of the plaque – but no evidence has been found to that effect.

Ward & Co, Shipping Butchers were still listed here in Kelly’s 1972 Directory – having, by then, expanded into Solomon Andrews’ former shop, but Mary Traynor’s drawing shows that the premises were bricked up by 1980.  The building was subsequently demolished as part of a larger-scale redevelopment. Some of the site was taken for road widening, while the remainder is now occupied by modern flats fronting onto Louisa Place.  The ‘Nonpareil Market’ plaque has been re-installed close to its original location, in an archway over a footpath into the new development.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/20]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan of alterations to 49 James Street, 1871 [BC/S/1/90569]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan of alterations to 48 & 49 James Street, 1889 alterations [BC/S/1/7416]
  • Butcher’s Cardiff District Directory, 1882-83
  • Kelly’s Directory of Cardiff, 1972
  • http://wearecardiff.co.uk/2014/04/18/100-days-in-cardiff-the-non-pareil-market/
  • Williams, Stewart, Cardiff Yesterday, vol. 31, image 69