Cardiff has one of the finest civic centres in Europe and is an excellent example of Edwardian Baroque architecture. It is built from stone, blasted from rocks on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset.
Designed and built by Henry Vaughan Lanchester, the civic centre stands on the site of a Georgian mansion that had been built for the 1st Marques of Bute. Cardiff City Hall was constructed by E. Turner and Sons and secured its place in construction history by being the first building site anywhere in the world to be fully powered by electricity. It was opened in 1906. The most distinctive feature of the City Hall is its clock tower with the typical Welsh Dragon perched on top. The frame containing the clock mechanism is 5’10” in length and made from a single solid piece of cast iron. The tower is 194 ft in height. The bells are cast from pure copper and tin and each one is engraved with a motto, some of which are written in English and others in Welsh.
In English these read: His truth against the world – I mark time, dost thou? – God is all goodness – Time conquers all and we must time obey – God’s voice on high.
Inside the building the ‘Marble Hall’ has three huge chandeliers and can seat around 500 diners. It was unveiled by David Lloyd George when he was Secretary of State for War and before he became Prime Minister. The hall is lined with columns of Sienna marble with bronze mounts. Modern-day spotlights are interspersed with traditional bronze light fittings which, when lit, illuminate the beautiful marble floor.
Stained glass windows add a luxurious opulence to the room and the hall houses a number of statues each one a ‘Hero of Wales’ and carved from Serraveza marble. They were funded as a gift from Lord Rhondda. The 11 main statues are: St. David, Llewelyn the Last, Henry V11, Owain Glyndwr, Sir Thomas (General) Picton, William Williams of Pantycelyn, Hywel Dda, Dafydd AP Gwilym, Giraldus Cambrensis, Bishop William Morgan and a sculptured memorial to Boadicea.
The City Hall houses many fine paintings that can be viewed by visitors, the oldest of which is ‘The Bay of Naples’ by the artist John Glover (1787-1849).
Amongst the artworks visitors can see are those of the ‘Fulton Bequest.’ This is a collection of pieces bequeathed by Mrs Annie Fulton of Penarth, the widow of Alderman Andrew Fulton a former Mayor of Cardiff from 1884-5.
Cardiff City Hall is truly a memorable civic building. Royalty, heads of state and diplomats from around the world have been entertained in its many rooms since it was opened. The ‘Council Chamber’ designed originally to accommodate Council meetings is now used in other ways including for private hire for wedding ceremonies. The Council no longer use the building for official meetings since the chamber was relocated to Cardiff Bay.
It is not only the inside of Cardiff City Hall that is impressive, the frontage sets the scene for visitors with its impressive fountain that was added in 1969 to commemorate the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.
The cover of the Catatonia single “Mulder and Scully”, which is a reference to the hugely successful X-files TV series which investigates aliens and other paranormal activity, has a UFO hovering above the Cardiff City Hall similar to the movie poster for Independence Day.
- Address: Gorsedd Gardens Rd, Cathays Park, Cardiff, South Glamorgan, Wales, UK, CF10 3ND
- GPS: 51.48499167,-3.178408333
- Phone: 0044 (0)2920 871 736
- Part of UK: Wales
- Sat Nav Postcode: CF10 3ND
- Entrance Fees: Free general access
- Disabled Access: Excellent
- Visibility from Road: Excellent / Exterior Only
- Image Credits: Header Image: Matthew Dixon