The south front, Insole Court
|Former names||Ely Court, The Court, Llandaff Court|
|Architectural style||Gothic revival|
|Town or city||Cardiff|
|Client||James Harvey Insole|
|Floor count||4 (3 + basement)|
|Designations||Grade II* listed|
|Architect||W G & E Habershon (1855)
George Robinson (1873)
Edwin Seward (1875)
|Parking||Free onsite parking|
Insole Court is a Grade II* Listed Victorian Gothic mansion in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, built for wealthy businessman J. H. Insole and dating back to 1855. Currently undergoing refurbishment, the house is due to reopen to the public in 2017 with new exhibitions and cultural events. New Room Hire facilities, 'The Stable Yard' opened in September 2016 along with the Potting Shed Café.
Background: Insole family
The Insole family lived on the site from 1856 to 1938. They had extensive coal-mining interests across the South Wales coalfield, and were closely involved in the development of the Barry Railway Company and the associated docks. Their growing prosperity enabled them to invest in land, including a site within the ancient Cathedral-city of Llandaff, between roads leading to Fairwater and Ely.
The original building was designed by W G & E Habershon and built in 1855 for James Harvey Insole, who commissioned a modest double-fronted building, named Ely Court. There was also a lodge built on Fairwater Road to house the family's coachman and his family.
But as the family's fortunes rose, reflecting those of Cardiff itself, two major extensions developed the building into the modern Insole Court. In the 1870s James Harvey commissioned George Robinson and Edwin Seward to change the appearance of the building into the Gothic Revival architecture-led works reminiscent of those of Lord Bute's architect William Burges on Cardiff Castle. These works also included the addition in 1874 of a neo-Gothic tower, similar to the clock tower which Burges had added to the castle in 1869. Insole's tower contained a smoking room at the very top.
The second development in 1906 - the height of the family's fortune - was undertaken on the instructions of George Frederick Insole (James Harvey's son, usually known as Fred), to extend and modernise the building. Rooms were enlarged and panelled, a new guest wing erected, central heating and electrical distribution inserted, and a large carriage porch was added.
After World War I, in the light of Winston Churchill's decision to change the firing of the Royal Navy to oil and the loss of many European markets, the South Wales coal industry began to decline. The family's fortunes suffered a similar downturn, with the death of Fred in 1917, and his son Claud in 1918 whilst on war service in France. The house passed to Eric, who lived there with his mother, Jessy, and sister, Violet (who died in 1932).
In the 1930s Cardiff Council were looking to develop an orbital road system around the city. To facilitate the creation of Western Avenue the Council bought the entire 57 acres (23 ha)-acre estate in 1932 for £26,250 under a compulsory purchase order. The remaining family members were allowed to continue living in the house as tenants. However, the Council redeveloped much of the estate lands as housing, leaving just the mansion and ornamental gardens. With World War II fast approaching, the last of the Insoles - Eric and his mother Jessy - finally vacated the property in March 1938.
During World War II Insole Court was the regional Air Raid Warden HQ, and housed the Royal Observer Corps and Auxiliary Fire Service for Cardiff district. After the war, the upper floors were converted into self-contained flats and let to council employees and others. The ground floor housed a branch library, and a wide variety of adult education classes and community activities.
Slowly falling into disrepair, despite restoration in 1995, the entire property was closed on health and safety grounds in November 2006. The Council undertook a major restoration of the ground floor, and the house reopened in November 2008.
Insole Court has been used for a variety of classes and societies, and has been open to view by the public on certain days. It has large gardens which are also open to the public. Until June 2014 the building was also home to the head office of the Wales Co-operative Centre.
The Insole Court Trust was awarded £2m funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £750,000 from the Big Lottery and Welsh Government, to restore and redevelop Insole Court into a visitor attraction. The £4 million project started in December 2014, During restoration, beautiful stencilling and decoration was found on the walls throughout the house, which were believed to date to the 1870s. Newly built Room Hire facilities, 'The Stable Yard' and the Potting Shed Café opened in September 2016.
On September 23rd 2016, Cardiff Council transferred the lease of Insole Court to the Insole Court Trust, a charity created to manage and protect the house. At the time, this was the largest Community Asset Transfer in Wales. 
The mansion house is expected to open in 2017.
- "Insole Court, Llandaff". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- "History". Insole Court Trust. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- "Insole Court". Friends of Insole Court. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- "Insole Court Trust". Insole Court Trust. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- Emma Sisk (5 December 2014). "Cardiff landmark Insole Court will be closed for a year as redevelopment work starts". Wales Online. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- Ruth Mosalski (25 March 2016). "Secrets uncovered during Insole Court restoration". South Wales Echo. pp. 10–11.
- Gwyther-Jones, Sook Yee. "The Council has a duty to consider the needs and requirements of the community who are affected by our policies and procedures" Check
|url=value (help) (PDF). webcache.googleusercontent.com. Retrieved 2016-12-05.
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