Avondale Hotel, Clarence Road and Clarence House, Hunter Street, Cardiff

Opened in July 1894, the Avondale Hotel was a venture of local hotelier and caterer, Richard Palethorpe Culley, who already ran the restaurant in the nearby Exchange building, as well as several other businesses in Cardiff and beyond.  Designed by E W M Corbett, it was built by W Thomas & Co.  The hotel was later acquired by Crosswell’s Brewery, which ultimately became part of the Whitbread group.  Subsequently demolished, the site is now occupied by a block of flats named Avondale Court.

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Clarence House, at the junction of Hunter Street and Harrowby Lane, clearly dates from 1896.  Still standing today, it appears to have undergone significant reconstruction since this 1983 sketch.  Most notably, it has lost the ornate pediment which so strikingly identifies it in Mary Traynor’s picture.  In more recent years, the name Clarence House has been adopted for the former Salvage Association building in Clarence Road.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

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Albert Buildings, Moira Terrace, Cardiff

Albert Buildings was erected in the mid-1870s by Cardiff ship-owning brothers John and Richard Cory, on land leased from the Bute estate along the south-eastern side of Moira Terrace.  Designed by Frederick Cutlan, the block comprised a row of shops, each with living accommodation on the first floor, while the second floor was separately divided into fourteen ‘model dwellings for artisans’.  Some of these were originally provided with balconies, accessed through the bricked-up doorways visible in Mary Traynor’s sketch.

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Soon after completion, formal ownership of the building transferred to Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation Limited – of which the Cory brothers were major shareholders.  And in 1877, an additional, glass-roofed floor was added along the whole length of the block for use as a roller skating rink.

In its early days, the entire venture seems to have struggled commercially.  By 1879, the skating rink had been abandoned and the top floor let to a steam laundry company.  And in April 1880, most occupants, both of the shops and dwellings, quit their tenancies. The company then decided to let out the houses in sets of rooms, with three tenants to each house.  By 1883, the directors recorded that most of the houses and shops were let to ‘a better class of tenant’.  The steam laundry had moved out and, in 1885, the top floor was divided into three units, and re-roofed with slate, with a view to letting as warehouses.

The internal arrangements seem to have been further adapted over the next two decades and, by 1904, much of the block had been converted into flats.  It is, though, apparent from contemporary directories that several units were occupied as homes or hostels run by charitable bodies, including the Salvation Army and Dr Barnardo’s, while business also continued in many of the shops.  In more recent times, one of these housed Lion Laboratories Ltd and a blue plaque commemorates their development here, in 1974, of the electronic breathalyser.

In 1980 Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation sold the building to Adamsdown Housing Association, who subsequently refurbished and modernised the flats, removed the top floor and re-roofed the whole block.  Mary Traynor’s 1982 sketch illustrates the north-eastern end of the block, as it appeared before refurbishment.  In more recent years, the ground-floor shop units have generally been occupied either by lawyers or third-sector organisations.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/2)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, disapproved plans for 11 Proposed Houses, Moira Terrace, 1875 (ref.: BC/S/1/91154)
  • Kernick Family, Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation Ltd Collection, extract of lease of premises in Moira Terrace (ref.: DX69/4)
  • Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation Ltd Records, A History of Cardiff Land and House Investment Corporation Ltd (ref.: DX486/8)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • The Western Mail, 7 March 1877
  • The Cardiff Times and South Wales Weekly News, 24 March 1877
  • South Wales Daily News, 1 September 1879

62 Charles Street, Cardiff

Because properties in Charles Street appear to have been renumbered at least twice, it is not easy to trace, with certainty, the history of number 62.  However, the building probably dates from the middle of the 19th century.  A comparison of census and directory details suggests that, between about 1880 and the early 1900s, it was number 52, and might also have been named Llancarvan House.

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The house, as originally built, was probably plainer in its external appearance, since it was only in 1884 that building approval was sought to add the bay windows and porch.  That application was submitted by Thomas Windsor Jacobs, an Alderman of Cardiff, who went on to serve as Mayor in 1887-88.  Records show that he still lived at 52 Charles Street well into the 1890s.

Following Alderman Jacobs’ departure, the property was acquired by the Cardiff Board of Guardians who, until their demise in 1930, housed the Poor Law Union Dispensary there, and also the Superintendent Registrar’s office.  Subsequent occupants have included wholesalers of various products, solicitors, and a charity.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/3)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for additions to house, 52 Charles Street, 1884 (ref,: BC/S/1/4454.1)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for new Registrars Office, Llancarfan House, Charles Street, 1897 (ref.: BC/S/1/12408)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • 1851 – 1911 Censuses

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:

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: