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Cardiff City Hall, Castle

Description: Cardiff City Hall

Grade: I
Date Listed: 25 January 1966
Cadw Building ID: 13744

OS Grid Coordinates: 318248, 176911
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4847, -3.1775

Location: Gorsedd Gardens Rd, Cardiff CF10, UK CF10 3ND

Locality: Castle
County: Cardiff
Country: Wales
Postcode: CF10 3ND

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Listing Text

Location
Between King Edward VII Avenue and Museum Avenue, facing Gorsedd Gardens between Law Courts (L) and National Museum of Wales (R).

History
Cathays Park was purchased in 1898 by the Borough of Cardiff from The Third Marquess of Bute at a cost of £160,000 and developed as a civic centre to a layout by William Harpur. Cathays Park was developed over three-quarters of a century to become the finest in Britain reflecting Cardiff's status as city and eventually taking on a national importance as civic centre of the capital of Wales. A competition for Town Hall (Cardiff became a city only at opening ceremony of this building in1905) and Law Courts took place in in 1897; City Hall was built between 1901 and 1904 to design of Lanchester, Stewart and Rickards; details of design by E A Rickards. The building's Portland stone facing, and monumental Classical style set the pattern for other buildings in Cathays Park, particularly the contemporary Law Courts by the same architects, and the National Museum (By Smith and Brewer) which echoes its dome and general composition. The building reflects Cardiff's claims to be a city of international importance by its use of the grand European Baroque style which was also used in London to promote that city's staus as capital of an empire. The decoration of the building makes reference to Cardiff's economic power through trade with the world (maritime groups etc), and its relatively new position as leading city Wales (Welsh Unity and Patriotism etc). The interior contains an important series of Statues of Welsh Heroes (1912-1917) financed by D A Thomas (Lord Rhonnda).
City Hall forms an essential part of Cardiff's civic centre, the finest in Britain.

Interior
Sumptuous interior with sequence of brilliantly managed public and civic spaces.
Porte-cochere leads to polygonal lobby with stairs up to inner lobby. Deep rectangular entrance hall faced in Bath stone has staircase to each side (rich bronze balustrade) which rises to mezzanine landing then longer flight of steps to expansive first floor hall with polychrome marble paving; paired Doric columns with bronze capitals and bases and yellow veined marble shafts; landing side lit by tall round arched windows with stained glass; broad plaster band to ceiling with plaster foliage relief. Yellow marble architraves to doors; above doorways to ends, plaster shells and merfolk by Henry Poole. Group of life-size statues of Welsh Heroes by leading sculptors; statues on yellow-and-white marble pedestals. (On lower landings, bronze reliefs to Sir E J Reed, and Captain R F Scott). To S, Council Chamber in a style following Italian High Renaissance models. Coffered shallow dome, four broad piers (set diagonally) support spandrels pierced by round windows with plaster palm-fronds, and ventilation grilles. Arches between piers to E and W with flanking Ionic marble columns (swagged bronze capitals) supporting entablature.
Stained glass in grand S window is personification of Villa Cardiff by A Garth Jones (1905). Fine C17-style wall panelling in oak with lighter inlay of Cardiff arms; original circular banks of wooden seating (partly built into panelling) have barley-sugar posts and broad arms; to E, mayoral seat forms screen to lobby with similar panelling, to W, arch to similar lobby, visitors gallery over.
Exceptionally elaborate bronze electrolier by Rickards has Prince of Wales feathers and mirrors; smaller wall brackets in bronze also survive.
To N of landing, members' rooms flank entrances to Grand Assembly Hall with tunnel vaulted ceiling with transverse and longitudinal banding with elaborate plaster reliefs (by G P Bankart). Room lit by thermal windows at clerestorey level which break into vault and have cartouche decoration above. Ionic marble columns support entablature and diagonal scrolls by windows. Panelled walls and doors. At one end, recessed stage with flanking pairs of marble columns.
Three exceptionally elaborate bronze electroliers as in council chamber.
At front corners of building the Lord Mayor's parlour and Member's Room are said to have arched recesses and circular clerestorey windows. Corridors with committee rooms and offices have simple classicising doorcases and panelled doors. On ground floor, the large Benefits Office has Doric Columns painted as yellow veined marble, wooden panelling, classicising doors. Secondary entrance in King Edward VII Avenue has mosaic floors, 2 lobbies, arches to secondary stair with iron balustrade.

Exterior
Quadrangular city hall building in Baroque style and faced with Portland Stone; two- and three-storeys on deeply banded basement, broad areas of banding at angles; small-pane steel glazing. Tower to W, and smaller tower to rear. South-east elevation with central projecting wing of 5 bays surmounted by octagonal drum (maritime sculptures by H Poole) with round windows, and semi-circular dome to council chamber with snarling Welsh Dragon finial (by H C Fehr) on lantern; 1 storey porte cochère with trophies and lion masks projects from centre bay of wing; first floor window above is round-headed and projects into entablature; flanked by 2 blank openings decorated to either side with trophies. Saucer dome to porte cochere, entrances with heavy iron-grille gates with relief decoration. Projecting to west and east from centre portion, a lateral wing of 2 storeys, 6 bays with fenestration consisting of rectangular windows above, with aprons and with panelling between windows and round-headed windows in concave surrounds below. At each end projecting splayed bay of 2 storeys with similar fenestration to intermediate wings but surmounted by attic storey with sculptured group before it, western group by Paul Montford representing Poetry and Music and eastern group by Henry Poole, Unity and Patriotism.
Western elevation with wide projecting windowless bay at each end, with rusticated quoins and attic storey with oval lunette. Intermediate wings of 9 bay width with similar fenestration to intermediate wings of south-east front, but outer sections have square-headed windows to ground floor. In centre of west front, splayed 3-sided bay through 2 storeys and attic; rectangular doorway with window over in centre ground floor facet; first floor windows rectangular headed, centre facet window with trophies and with surmounted parapet rising over curved headed attic window. Above this rises a clock tower (circa 61m high) lower part quite plain, upper part ornate and Baroque and surmounted by a Cupola (carving by H C Fehr); below this, stage with open windows and volutes, then stage with putti and cartouches above clock stage with openwork clock faces, composite columns flanking openings with balcony grilles, Michelangelesque seated figures (The Four Winds) to corners. North elevation of 3 storeys, central canted bay, square windows to upper floor, rectangular windows beneath below which are camber-headed windows with voussoirs, entrance to central yard R; yard elevations in yellow brick, (modern glazed infill in yard to E). East elevation has central slightly advanced 5-window block with splayed central bay with sculptural group above; 7 windows to each side.

Reason for Listing
Graded I as amongst the finest examples of Edwardian civic architecture in Britain with ambitious exterior and extremely interesting interiors, all virtually unaltered.
The interior is remarkable not only for its sumptuous decoration but for the survival of fittings including lighting, panelling, integral seating to council chamber etc.
Part of a group of exceptionally fine public buildings in Cathays Park which form what is certainly the finest civic centre in Britain. In addition to its architectural interest, the building and its setting express Cardiff's claims to be a city of international importance at the peak of its economic power.

References
J Newman, Glamorgan (Buildings of Wales Series), 1995, pp220-225.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Notes:
Between King Edward VII Avenue and Museum Avenue, facing Gorsedd Gardens between Law Courts (L) and National Museum of Wales (R).

Source: Cadw

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.