Construction of the Millennium Stadium

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In 1878, Cardiff Football Club (later Cardiff RFC) and Cardiff Cricket Club were granted the use of Cardiff Arms Park, at a peppercorn rent, by the third Marquess of Bute.  In 1922, the two clubs amalgamated to form Cardiff Athletic Club, which subsequently purchased the land from the Bute family on the understanding that it should be preserved for recreational purposes.  Until the late 1960s, the northern part of the site was used for cricket and the southern for rugby union, with Wales playing home international matches on the same pitch as Cardiff RFC – though, prior to 1953, some matches were played in Swansea.

In 1968, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) acquired the freehold of the south ground.  Cricket moved to Sophia Gardens and their former pitch was transformed into a new ground for Cardiff RFC.  Work then began on redeveloping the south site to provide a National Stadium to be used solely for international rugby matches.  Constructed in several stages, it was completed in 1984 with a capacity of 65,000, which was later cut for safety reasons to 53,000.

Within ten years, the WRU was exploring options for further redevelopment of the stadium, whose capacity was now considerably lower than those of the English and Scottish national stadia.  Additional impetus came when Wales was chosen to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup.  The solution involved a new stadium on broadly the same site.  However, the purchase of adjacent land allowed the alignment of the pitch to be rotated from west-east to north-south, and capacity increased to 72,500, all seated.  The new stadium would also be equipped with a sliding roof, allowing it to serve as a multi-use venue.

The stadium was designed by Lobb Sport Architecture.  The main contractor was John Laing Construction and the structural engineers – who designed the retractable roof – were WS Atkins.  56,000 tonnes of concrete and steel went into the project, which ran between 1997 and 1999.  In order to provide the required seating capacity and comply with space restrictions around the site, the stands rake outwards as they rise from the ground, creating a dramatic architectural form.

The total construction cost was £121 million, of which £46 million was lottery funding contributed by the Millennium Commission.  This was recognised in the naming of the stadium until 2015.  However, in September that year, the WRU announced a 10-year sponsorship deal with the Principality Building Society; as a consequence, the name changed to ‘Principality Stadium’ in 2016.

As well as rugby union, the Millennium Stadium has hosted a variety of sports, including rugby league, speedway, boxing, a stage of the World Rally Championship, indoor cricket, equestrian events, and Welsh international soccer matches.  Six FA Cup finals and several other important football fixtures were played there while Wembley Stadium was redeveloped between 2002 and 2007.  The UEFA Champions League Final was held there in 2017.

Each year, a number of live music events take place, headlined by major international artists.  Particularly noteworthy was a charity concert held on 22 January 2005.  Organised in just three weeks, it attracted a host of star performers and raised £1.25 million to aid relief efforts following the Boxing Day tsunami in South Asia.

On a more day-to-day basis, the stadium also offers a range of facilities for conferences, dinners, banquets, balls, parties and weddings receptions.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

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Cardiff Yacht Club and Dock Gate

Cardiff Yacht Club was founded in 1900, originally meeting in the Avondale Hotel, Clarence Road, on the site now occupied by Avondale Court.  The Marquess of Bute presented silver cups to the winners of the races held at annual reviews and regattas.

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The clubhouse illustrated by Mary Traynor stood south of the now closed access lock to Roath Basin.  It was built by members from a prefabricated building in 1958 and extended in 1981.

With the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay, the Yacht Club moved in 2001 to new premises at the western end of Windsor Esplanade.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Preswylfa, Clive Road, Cardiff

Preswylfa stood in Clive Road, Canton, on the northern side of its junction with Romilly Road.  It is unclear when the house was built but it was probably quite new in 1861 when the census records its occupants as Robert Rees and his family.  Forty-four year old Rees, a Wesleyan Methodist Minister, was Superintendent of fourteen chapels in the Cardiff District.  The house, then, would have been surrounded mainly by fields and open countryside.  It has been suggested that Preswylfa was built by Lewis Davis, a Rhondda coal-owner – who does seem to have lived there in the late 1860s; this is not inconsistent with the 1861 record since Davis is known to have contributed significantly to Wesleyan funds.

By 1871, the property had been acquired by Charles Thompson, a major partner in the Docks-based Spillers milling business.  Although Preswylfa passed out of the Thompson family after Charles’s death on 1 June 1889, it is pertinent to note that at least three of his sons made significant contributions to the cultural and leisure assets of Cardiff and its environs.  James Pyke Thompson (1846-1897) built the Turner House gallery in Penarth, which later became an outpost of the National Museum of Wales, of which he was also an important benefactor.  Charles Thompson (1852-1938) gifted the gardens now known as Thompson’s Park while Herbert Metford Thompson (1856-1939) served as a city councillor and alderman and, with his brother Charles, was instrumental in enabling the city to buy Llandaff Fields as an open space.  Herbert wrote books on various subjects; ‘An Amateur’s Study of Llandaff Cathedral’ was printed for private circulation in 1924, while his history of Cardiff was published in 1930.  Charles (junior) and Herbert were both created Honorary Freemen of Cardiff, while James Pyke Thompson is commemorated in the name of a gallery at the National Museum in Cathays Park.

Directories of the 1890s list the Scottish ship-owning brothers John (later Sir John) and Marcus Gunn at Preswylfa.  By 1901 though, their place had been taken by John Mullins, a corn merchant, who appears still to have been there in 1908.  At the 1911 census, Henry Thomas Box, a solicitor, lived at Preswylfa with his wife, two sons, and a household of four servants.  Cardiff directories continue to list Box until 1915, after which Preswylfa disappears from available directories until 1924, when the occupant was Henry Woodley, founder of the South Wales butchery business which bore his name.  He remained there until his death on 17 March 1950.

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By 1952, Preswylfa had become a public health clinic and it continued to serve various Health Service roles until at least the 1970s.  Mary Traynor drew Preswylfa in October 1996 and it was subsequently demolished.  The site is now occupied by Maes yr Annedd, a development of around thirty modern houses.  Since the Welsh words preswylfa and annedd both translate into English as dwelling or abode, the new name retains a tenuous link with the former house.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Moving of the Custom House Waterguard, Cardiff Bay

Formed in 1809, the Waterguard was the sea-based arm of UK revenue enforcement.  It fell under Admiralty control until 1822, when it was taken over by the Board of Customs, becoming a division of the Customs and Excise department in 1909.  With the 1972 reorganisation of HM Customs and Excise, the Waterguard name officially ceased to exist.

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The crenellated building illustrated here is thought to have been erected at Roath Dock in the 1850s, where it served as the local Customs office.  It was preserved when the area’s regeneration began in the late-20th century.  In 1993, the entire building was jacked up onto a trailer and moved about 100 metres; subsequently it formed the frontage of a new public house, built in 2001 and named The Waterguard.  Mary Traynor’s drawing shows the removal underway.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

 

 

Casablanca Club / Bethel Chapel, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff

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The origins of Bethel date back to 1840 when members of Bethany English Baptist Church, St Mary Street, established a Sunday School in West Bute Street.  A chapel was subsequently erected in James Street and, in 1855 a separate church was formed when fourteen members transferred from Bethany.

Larger premises were soon needed.  The James Street premises were sold and the Marquess of Bute granted a 99 year lease of land at the south west corner of Mount Stuart Square where a new chapel and schoolroom were built.  When the lease expired in 1955, Bethel moved to a former Welsh Congregational Church in nearby Pomeroy Street, eventually closing in 2000 because of falling numbers of mostly elderly members.

Following the church’s re-location, the building in Mount Stuart Square was initially used as a Bingo Hall, before the Casablanca night club was established in the late 1960s.  The club appears to have still been active in 1988, but had closed by 1991.  Following demolition, the site is currently used as a private car park.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/48]
  • Bethel Baptist Church, Butetown, Cardiff Records, minutes, 1855-65 [D472/1/1]
  • Bethel Baptist Church, Butetown, Cardiff Records, a history of the church by Viv Purchase, Secretary, 2000 [D472/11]
  • Bethany English Baptist Church, Cardiff Records, report on Bethel chapel made to Bethany Baptist church, 1854 [DBAP/15/10/2]
  • Debenham Tewson Solicitors, Cardiff, Bute Estate Collection, lease of land and premises at Mountstuart Square, 1965 [DBDT/73/16]
  • Debenham Tewson Solicitors, Cardiff, Bute Estate Collection, lease of land and premises known as the Casablanca Club, Mount Stuart Square, 1971 [DBDT/73/19]
  • Jenkins, J Austin and James, R Edward, The History of Nonconformity in Cardiff
  • http://www.coflein.gov.uk
  • https://www.facebook.com/rockcardiff/photos

Cardiff Bay before the Barrage

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Until the mid-nineteenth century, the whole of Cardiff’s foreshore comprised sea-washed moors and mudflats through which the Rivers Taff and Ely flowed into the Bristol Channel.  The town quay stood where Westgate Street now runs, but was accessible by sea-going vessels only at high tide.  Cardiff Bay did not exist in anything approaching its present form until the docks were developed in both Cardiff and Penarth.

Even then, for a century and a half, the Bay was tidal, with the river channels passing through large areas of mudflats at low tide.  It was only in 1999, following completion of the Barrage, that the waters of the Taff and Ely were impounded, making Cardiff Bay a fresh water lake.

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D1093/2/44

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This suite of drawings by Mary Traynor pre-dates the Barrage.  D1093/2/44 and D1093/2/45 depict scenes in the lower reaches of the Ely River, with St Augustine’s Church, on Penarth Head, clearly visible in the background.

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D1093/2/49 is on the eastern side of the Bay, close to the former Roath Basin lock.

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D1093/2/46

D1093/2/47 and D1093/2/46 are more general views, both of which vividly illustrate the low-tide mudflats.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Demolishing Merton House, Cardiff

For more than two decades, the spiritual needs of seamen visiting Cardiff were met by a former warship, Thisbe, which was moored in the Bute East Dock during the 1860s, and converted by the Bristol Channel Mission.  As the port grew in importance, the need was recognized for larger and more permanent premises and the Marquess of Bute offered a site in Bute Crescent, alongside the West Dock Basin (now Roald Dahl Plass) for erecting a seamen’s church and institute.

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Funded mainly by subscriptions from businesses linked to the Docks (most notably, the Marquess himself), and designed by E. W. M. Corbett, plans for the church and institute were approved on 28 August 1890.  Viewed from outside, the building looked very much like any other Victorian church.  Inside, though, the ground floor served a primarily secular role, as the institute and reading room while upstairs was the church, with seating for 454 people.

The seamen’s institute was formally opened on Thursday 19 November 1891 by Lady Lewis, wife of Sir William Thomas Lewis (later Lord Merthyr).  On the following Wednesday, the Bishop of Llandaff dedicated the church to All Souls.

The institute and church continued to serve Cardiff’s seafaring community for well over half a century.  In the 1950s, though, the building was renamed Merton House, and occupied by Treharne & Davies Ltd (now Minton, Treharne & Davies Ltd), analytical chemists who then worked closely with the coal and shipping industries based in Cardiff Docks.  Now operating internationally, Minton’s have retained a link with the former seamen’s institute by transferring the name Merton House to their new head office in Pontprennau.

Mary Traynor’s drawing depicts the building’s demolition in 1990.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/42]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan for Church and Seaman’s Institute, Bute Crescent, 1890 [BC/S/1/7802]
  • Carradice, Phil, Thisbe – the Welsh Gospel Ship (online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/entries/7338f21d-b47e-3197-9b1c-89ea87a4e4b8)
  • Western Mail, 20 Aug 1890; 26 Nov 1891
  • Evening Express, 25 Jun
  • Cardiff Times, 21 Nov 1891
  • South Wales Daily News, 14 Sep 1893
  • minton.co.uk
  • companycheck.co.uk
  • Various Cardiff directories, 1893-1967