History in Structure

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Empire House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Butetown, Cardiff

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4659 / 51°27'57"N

Longitude: -3.1677 / 3°10'3"W

OS Eastings: 318981

OS Northings: 174750

OS Grid: ST189747

Mapcode National: GBR KLS.NG

Mapcode Global: VH6FF.1FQ2

Entry Name: Empire House

Listing Date: 11 March 1991

Last Amended: 21 August 1998

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 14007

Building Class: Commercial

Location: Dramatically stepped up near the end of a long line of buildings on the N side of the square and opposite the former Coal Exchange.

County: Cardiff

Community: Butetown

Traditional County: Glamorgan

History

Built 1926 by Ivor Jones and Percy Thomas, architects of Cardiff; contractors - Messrs William T Nicholls of Gloucester. The scheme was conceived before the war by Commander Charles E Evans, Chairman of the Company, which was one of the largest firms of coal exporters (and later on shippers) in South Wales.

Exterior

Neo-Georgian facade to Hennebique type reinforced concrete structure with largely flat roof, except to the front where it is of mansard form. Symmetrical 7-bay front elevation, 5-storeys with 2-attic storeys above. Flemish bond red brick with channelled Portland stone ground floor and similar freestone dressings including bracket cornice to the top, bracket pedimented architraves to 1st floor and guilloche pattern ground floor cornice band; brick band course below 4th floor. Westmorland slate mansard roof to front with high parapets and end brick chimney stacks (cut down to left); the upper attic has flat-roofed dormers and the lower on has gabled dormers with pediments over the windows. Horned sash windows; 12-pane to the main floors with brick voussoirs to 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors and channelled voussoirs to ground floor; 9-pane to attic. The down pipes are contained in corner recesses. Central entrance with bracket cornice and applied lettering to frieze; traceried fanlight, with roundels to spandrels, a fluted band over renewed panelled double doors opening onto inner porch. The rear is utilitarian and almost entirely glazed with steel framed windows. The design includes two light-wells either side of the central hall; these are faced in pale coloured ceramic tiles.
Semicircular arched entrance from inner porch to hall with similar glazed and traceried fanlight including central urn over frieze carried on fluted pilasters in Palladian manner; latticed glazed double doors with fluted borders and brass.

Interior

The interior retains fine contemporary Classical detail. Entrance is onto a semicircular arched tunnel vaulted cross-shaped hall, lined in fielded mahogany panelling and floored in black and white marble tiles; panelled bands around the arches. The front or entrance corridor part is coffered with inset bosses; the central foyer is groin vaulted with large and polygonal copper lamp ornamented with angle colonnettes; at the four corners of the foyer the panelling is advanced to imply that the vaulting is carried on crossing piers. The transeptal areas are top-lit from the light-wells with square-panel glazing; both have fine round-arched doorways with similar detail as before. At the rear of the hall is the simple staircase rising around the lift-shaft retaining original frame and solid mahogany car; manufactured by Waygood - Otis; clock face to front. The right hand hall doors open onto the former Accounts section with lobby and half-glazed partitions. Off this is the rectangular Board Room/Chairman's office; mahogany panelled up to a height of approx. 2.5 M some of the panels are in fact disguised cupboards; above are rectangular foliated borders around pictures; the ceiling has dentil cornice and finely detailed bands of festooned plasterwork forming a semi-circle in front of the chimneypiece - marble fireplace and mahogany bracketed mantelpiece; bracketed cornice to doorcase. Some of the original brass light fittings are retained.

Reasons for Listing

Graded II* because of the especially finely detailed floor interior which has been well preserved and, together with the facade, represents the best South Wales example of inter-war, Neo-Georgian architecture; it also makes an important contribution to the commercial history of Butetown and Cardiff.
Group value with other listed items on Mount Stuart Square.

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