British Listed Buildings

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Pier Head Building, Butetown

Description: Pier Head Building

Grade: I
Date Listed: 19 May 1975
Cadw Building ID: 14055

OS Grid Coordinates: 319275, 174484
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4631, -3.1622

Location: Harbour Dr, Cardiff CF10, UK CF10 4PZ

Locality: Butetown
County: Cardiff
Country: Wales
Postcode: CF10 4PZ

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Listing Text

Faces S across Cardiff Bay. To E of the Industrial and Maritime Museum, between entrances to Bute East and West Docks.

Built in 1896 by William Frame, assistant to William Burges as offices for the Cardiff Railway Company, sucessor to the Bute Dock Company. Medievalist style with strong influence of Burges (in contrast to the Classical dock offices at Barry) combining muscular Gothic and French Renaissance elements. 2-storeys; brightly constructed throughout in glazed terracotta, representing a fine example of the use of this material; abundant sculptural ornament and banding. Slate roofs; small-pane glazing, round headed to 1st floor and square headed below.

Entrance is onto square lobby, decoratively tiled and with panelled ceiling; round arched recesses to both sides with labels and nook shafts. This leads through to tall and grand hall; includes terrazzo floor, with central roundel repeating the company's motto and panelled ceiling. Church-like, double-arcaded hall of offices to rear through full height, moulded arch with foliage spandrels; terracotta detail includes twin pilasters between each arch, rising to carry the glazed clerestory roof along the central nave. The main stairwell leads off the front right hand corner of the entrance hall. The staircase is enriched by varied and colourful materials including granite treads, terracotta (stellar-section) balusters including enormous newels and green-glazed tile handrail; gilded Minton style tilework to dado (ca 1.8m high) - includes swagged band to top. The single-best room is the Port Manager's office on 1st floor with castellated and canopied 'medieval' chimneypiece with heavily foliated columns and herringbone tiled fireback; panelled ceiling with pendant to octagonal centrepiece. Round arch into corner tower bay in this office and that below. Crenellated and half-glazed partitions to 1st floor office corridors; panelled doors. Original ironwork spiral stairs inside clock-tower manufactured by St Pancras Ironwork Co, London; curved braces to treads.

Design dominated by 2-stage clock tower at S end over main entrance; pyramidal roof and crenellated parapet with gargoyles. Clock faces recessed beneath semi-circular arches with fleuron panelled balconies; flanking lions heads and coats of arms. Splayed oriel over main entrance including crenellated transom and machicolated bracket base. Squat round arched entrance with deeply rounded jambs; battered bases to flanking octagonal and domed turrets. Panelled doors, half-glazed tympanum and swirling bands of foliage. Larger, Low Countries style, polygonal corner towers beyond, incorporated into main rooms and glazed to each face; pyramidal roof, gargoyles, colonnettes and foliage band between floors. 7-bay left hand side, the southernmost of which is taken up with exceptional chimney breast, heavily enriched with terracotta ornament including steam train and ship over the company's motto 'Wrth ddwr a than'; the whole set in a tiered frontispiece-like frame and topped by 3-linked chimney stacks; bronze commemorative plaque to base. Central 3-bays are divided by buttresses with polygonal faces and domed caps. Steep-hipped roof tower beyond over entrance inscribed Bute Docks Co. ; round arched with panelled surround; chimney stack and band of narrow round arched panels to top. Northernmost bay has bracketed gable-oriel with 3-light transomed window; gable has blind oculus and finials. Simpler right hand side with central 3-bays divided off as before; 2-windows near southern end are set in foliage surround. Plain N end.

Reason for Listing
Listed Grade I as a central and especially important building to the historical and visual dockscape of Cardiff; it is furthermore an exceptional Victorian building reflecting the confidence of the period in its flamboyant architectural detail, particularly in its use of terracotta.

M Parker and N Carter, Butetown, A Visitors Guide, 1989, p.5.
The Inner Harbour - An Historical Appraisal. An unpublished report prepared by The Survey of Cardiff for Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, March 1989, pp 103-4.

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.

Faces S across Cardiff Bay. To E of the Industrial and Maritime Museum, between entrances to Bute East and West Docks.

Source: Cadw

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