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Not to be confused with Cathay.
Welsh: Cathays
Cathays Library (2010), Cardiff.jpg
Cathays Library, a Carnegie library built in 1906
Cathays is located in Cardiff
 Cathays shown within Cardiff
Population 20,121 (2011)[1]
OS grid reference ST181780
Community Cathays
Principal area Cardiff
Ceremonial county South Glamorgan
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CARDIFF
Postcode district CF24
Dialling code 029
Police South Wales
Fire South Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament Cardiff Central
List of places

Coordinates: 51°29′42″N 3°10′52″W / 51.49499°N 3.18115°W / 51.49499; -3.18115

Cathays (/kəˈtz/ kə-TAYZ; Welsh: Cathays) is a district and community in the centre of Cardiff, capital of Wales. It is an old suburb of Cardiff established in 1875. It is very densely populated and contains many older terraced houses giving it a Victorian era atmosphere. The area falls into the Cathays ward.


The name Cathays may be a corruption of two words - Cad Hayes - Cat possibly being a corruption of Cad, the Welsh for Battle, and Hayes meaning 'open area'. Alternatively, it could mean 'Enclosure where wildcats are seen' because of the old English definitions of catt, meaning 'wildcat', and haga, meaning 'enclosure'.


Originally farmland outside the old Cardiff Castle, the northern limit of mediaeval Cardiff was marked by the cross where Fairoak Road and Crwys Road now meet.

After John Stuart, 1st Marquis of Bute married The Hon. Charlotte Hickman-Windsor (daughter of Herbert Hickman-Windsor, 2nd Viscount Windsor) on 12 November 1766, he inherited lands in Cathays that lay to the north of his existing Bute Estate. He then purchased other properties and farms to extend his land further north and east, including Cathays Park. There he built Cathays House at a cost of £40,000 and at further cost landscaped Cathays Park. But after John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute took over the title, he preferred to use Cardiff Castle as his residence, so chose to demolish the house in 1815, and turned Cathays Park into enclosed parkland.

Suburb of Cardiff[edit]

Llanbleddian Gardens, Cathays

Following the 2nd Marquis development of Cardiff Docks, and the resultant number of new workers flocking to Cardiff, in 1875 the then rural Cathays became a suburb of Cardiff. At that time, a few streets led off Woodville Road and Cathays Terrace, but by 1900, the urbanisation of Cathays was virtually completed. Only Allensbank and Wedal farms survived, but, by 1914, even they became no more than local place names.[2]

Established as a new and clean overflow area from Butetown for workers in Cardiff and going to the docks, in 1860 the United Kingdom's first mosque was recorded by the Register of Religious Sites (now maintained by the Office of National Statistics), at 2 Glynrhondda Street as a registered place of worship, founded by Yemeni sailors on their trips between Aden and Cardiff.[3][4][5][6] It is still a registered and working mosque today under the title of the Al-Manar Islamic & Cultural Centre.

Maindy Barracks was opened in 1871, and with United States Army troops temporarily stationed in transit in Cardiff during both World War I and World War II, the footpath between Gelligaer Street and New Zealand Road resultantly became known as "BURMA Road" (Be Undressed and Ready My Angel), as they came to meet prostitutes.[2]

Buildings and structures in Cathays[edit]

From 1840, the Taff Vale Railway company developed a railway line through Cathays, where they also developed the Cathays railway works. A major carriage and wagon construction and maintenance facility, it and the associated locomotive depot were taken over and maintained by the Great Western Railway. Post nationalisation in 1946, British Railways sold the business and leased the site to the Pullman Company Ltd, where they maintained their carriages until the 1970s. The depot was closed from the late 1960s, redeveloped for buildings now used by the University of Cardiff. The carriage and wagon works was redeveloped in the early 2000s, and now houses a Lidl store and student accommodation block.

In 1875 Nazareth House was opened, to provide accommodation for orphans and elderly people. A popular local charity, one of many benefactors was the boxer Jim Driscoll, who after burial in Cathays cemetery in 1925 has had his grave tended to this day by the nuns of Nazareth House.

In 1898, John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute sold a large piece of land to Cardiff Council for the building of a new City Hall, imposing strict conditions regarding what purpose and where development could take place. As a result, the city hall was built as far south in the purchased block of land as was possible, and the residual area to its north used for civic, cultural and educational purposes only. City Hall was completed in 1905 at a cost of £129,000, in time for Cardiff to be gain city status.

The land purchased by the council to the north of the city hall has since become one of the finest civic centres in the world, and now houses:

Cardiff University Students' Union is also located within Cathays.

Maindy Pool was a clay pit that had gradually filled with water. After the death by drowning of 10 children and adults, it was filled in by using it as a rubbish tip. In 1948 the building of Maindy Stadium began on the same site, completed in 1951, which held cycling races in the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. When the stadium was closed and replaced with a leisure centre, part of the site became a swimming pool.

Cathays Library is a Carnegie library built in 1906 and refurbished in 2009-10.

Cathays is also home to Companies House - which holds all the records and information of companies based and trading in the United Kingdom.


Tewkesbury Street in Cathays

The area of Cathays, given its proximity to most of Cardiff University's teaching sites and University Hospital of Wales, has seen a dramatic fall in the number of owner-occupiers, and many streets are now made up of HMO's( houses of multiple occupation) which are let through private landlords and letting agencies to the large student population. 2012 figures available under the Freedom of Information Act show that over 70% of the houses in Cathay's are now HMO's. The buy-to let market in the area has forced young couples, families and first time buyers out of setting up home alongside the remaining residents of Cathays. Cathays railway station is sited next to the Students' Union building, with the approach tracks running underneath the building itself, and right behind the neighbouring Sherman Theatre.

Arsenal and Wales Footballer John Parsons lived in Robert Street, as well as Wales International scrum half Richie Rees.

The area is also home to Cathays high school,[7] an 11-18 mixed comprehensive school, that started as a boys Grammar school in 1903 - but became a comprehensive high school in 1973.

Despite the urbanisation of Cathays, many acres of parkland still exist around the civic centre, including Gorsedd Gardens, Queen Alexandra Gardens, Bute Park and Blackweir.


Map of the area around Cathays

The area is served by Cathays railway station in the east of the area with frequent services south to Cardiff Queen Street and Cardiff Central or north to Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil or Treherbert via Pontypridd. Cardiff Bus provides many services in the area. The following bus services run along North Road (in the west) going to Cardiff central bus station in the reverse direction:

  • 21 (Rhiwbina-Pantmawr-Whitchurch)
  • 23 (Whitchurch-Pantmawr-Rhiwbina)
  • 24 (Whitchurch-Llandaff North-Llandaff-Central Stn)
  • 25 (Central Stn)
  • 27 Capital City Green (Birchgrove-Thornhill)

Likewise, the following services run north along Crwys Road and/or Whitchurch Road (in the east):

  • 1 Bay Circle (Roath-Tremorfa-Splott-Adamsdown-Central Stn-Bay-Grangetown-Canton-Fairwater-Llandaff-Gabalfa)
  • 2 Bay Circle (As 1 but reversed)
  • 8/9/9A (Heath-University Hospital of Wales) or (Central Stn-Grangetown-Cardiff Bay)
  • 35 (Gabalfa) or (Central Stn-Cardiff Bay)

The area is close to the busy Gabalfa Interchange, connecting it with the A48 and the M4 motorway.


  1. ^ "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Cathays". Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  3. ^ "From scholarship, sailors and sects to the mills and the mosques". The Guardian. 2002-06-18. Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  4. ^ "Islam and Britain". BBC. 2002. Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  5. ^ "Islam in the British Isles". Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  6. ^ "Did You Know?". Islam Can. Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  7. ^

External links[edit]

NW Heath Roath Park
Pontcanna Cathays Roath
Riverside City centre Adamsdown