Cathays Park

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Cathays Park
Grade I listed buildings in Cathays Park
Type Civic centre
Location Cardiff, Wales
Coordinates 51°29′12″N 3°10′49″W / 51.4866°N 3.1804°W / 51.4866; -3.1804Coordinates: 51°29′12″N 3°10′49″W / 51.4866°N 3.1804°W / 51.4866; -3.1804
Created Early 20th century buildings

Cathays Park or Cardiff Civic Centre[1] (Welsh: Parc Cathays) is a civic centre area in the city centre of Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, consisting of a number of early 20th century buildings and a central park area, Alexandra Gardens. It includes Edwardian buildings such as the Temple of Peace, City Hall, the National Museum and Gallery of Wales and several buildings belonging to the Cardiff University campus. It also includes Cardiff Crown Court, the administrative headquarters of the Welsh Government, and the more modern Cardiff Central Police Station. The Pevsner architectural guide to the historic county of Glamorgan judges Cathays Park to be "the finest civic centre in the British Isles".[2] The area falls within the Cathays electoral ward.


Aerial view of Cathays Park

The present day character of the area owes much to successive holders of the title the Marquess of Bute, and especially the 3rd Marquess of Bute, an extremely successful and wealthy businessman. They acquired much of the lands in Cathays through investment and by inheritance through a marriage to Charlotte Windsor in 1766. In 1898, the local council bought 59 acres (240,000 m2) of land from the 3rd Marquess of Bute in order to erect a new town hall. As part of the sale, the 3rd Marquis of Bute placed strict conditions on how the land was to be developed. The area was to be used for civic, cultural and educational purposes, and the avenues were to be preserved.

In 1897 a competition was held for a complex comprising Law Courts and a Town Hall, with Alfred Waterhouse, architect of the Natural History Museum in London, as judge. The winners were the firm of Lanchester, Stewart and Rickards, who would later go on to design the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster. These were the first two buildings of the ensemble, and have an almost uniform façade treatment. The east and west pavilions of both façades are identical in design, except for the attic storeys, which are decorated with allegorical sculptural groups. On the Crown Court these are Science and Industry, sculpted by Donald McGill, and Commerce and Industry, by Paul Raphael Montford, while on the City Hall are Music and Poetry by Paul Montford and Unity and Patriotism by Henry Poole.

The third site in this complex went empty until 1910, when the competition for a National Museum of Wales was won by the architects Smith and Brewer. The design parts from the Edwardian Baroque of the Law Courts and City Hall and is more akin to American Beaux-Arts architecture, particularly in the entrance hall where a similarity to McKim, Mead and White's later Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has been noted. The Museum site was not bounded to the north by an avenue so there were scarcely any limits on the depth of the building; the 1910 plan was almost twice as deep as it was broad. The First World War, however, ensured that progress on the building was very slow. By 1927 part of the East range, with the lecture theatre funded by William Reardon Smith, was complete. Further extensions came only in the 1960s and '90s; these remained faithful to the original design on the exterior (and included sculpture by Dhruva Mistry) but are of a neutral character on the inside.


Buildings and structures Listed building status
Biosciences and Tower Building No listing
Bute Building Grade II
Cardiff Central Police Station No listing
Cardiff Crown Court Grade I
Cardiff Law School No listing
Cardiff University Grade II*
City Hall Grade I
Crown Building of the Welsh Government Grade II
Glamorgan Building (former Glamorgan County Council building) Grade I
Hut in Gorsedd Gardens Grade II
National Museum and Gallery of Wales Grade I
Public conveniences on Museum Avenue Grade II
Redwood Building (Welsh School of Pharmacy) No listing
Temple of Peace Grade II
University of Wales, Registry Grade II
Welsh National War Memorial Grade II*


Formal gardens in Cathays Park
Alexandra Gardens with the Welsh National War Memorial in the background
Gorsedd Gardens and the Gorsedd Stones
Friary Gardens with a statue of the 3rd Marquess of Bute in the background

In addition to the large lawn in front of the City Hall, Cathays Park includes three formal gardens. All of the spaces are within conservation areas and many of the surrounding buildings are listed. The open spaces are very important to the image of the city. Several important buildings overlook these well kept spaces. Each of the three gardens has its own very different character and each retains its original layout. Given their location, large numbers of people visit and pass through and they are popular venues for lunchtime breaks.

Fountains in front of Cardiff City Hall

Alexandra Gardens Named after Alexandra of Denmark, the Queen consort of Edward VII, Alexandra Gardens is located at the heart of the civic centre. It consists of 2.5 hectares of beautifully maintained flower beds and grass, with the Welsh National War Memorial standing at its centre.

Gorsedd Gardens Situated in front of the National Museum, this garden has as its centrepiece a stone circle constructed in 1899, when the National Eisteddfod of Wales was held in Cardiff. The garden's name refers to the Gorsedd of Welsh Bards, the ceremonial order that governs the Eisteddfod. The landscaped garden has statues of subjects including David Lloyd George and Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart. Overlooking Gorsedd Gardens, though not strictly part of the Cathays Park complex, is Park House (or McConnochie House), an influential work by the Neo-Gothic architect William Burges.

Friary Gardens Constructed in honour of the 3rd Marquess of Bute, it contains topiary, a statue standing upon a stone pedestal blazoned with a coat of arms, and clipped hedges around the perimeter.


Statue Listed structure status
John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute Grade II
John Cory Grade II
Lord Aberdare Grade II
Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart Grade II
David Lloyd George Grade II
Godfrey Charles Morgan, 1st Viscount Tredegar Grade II
Judge Gwilym Willams of Miskin Grade II
South African War Memorial (also known as the Boer War Memorial) Grade II*

Memorial stones[edit]

Memorial stones in Cathays Park
Falklands War memorial

Cathays Park also has memorials stones dedicated to:

  • Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who, towards the end of the war saved the lives of up to 100,000 people by issuing them with Swedish passports enabling them to flee to safety who would have gone to the Nazi extermination camps. This stone was unveiled on 24 November 1985)
  • The servicemen of Cardiff who served in the Falklands War.
  • Those who fought in the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, which was unveiled in October 1992. The inscription reads "Dedicated to the Welsh volunteers for liberty who defended democracy in the Spanish Civil War"


  1. ^
  2. ^ Newman, John (1995). Glamorgan. The Buildings of Wales. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-071056-6.  p. 220

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Cathays Park at Wikimedia Commons