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Visiting Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales: the grace of its historic Main Building in Cathays Park

Updated on January 23, 2016
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Cardiff University Main Building entrance
Cardiff University Main Building entrance | Source
Map location of Cardiff, Wales
Map location of Cardiff, Wales | Source

A mature and sedate academic hub

In Wales's capital Cardiff (Welsh: Caerdydd ), the outstanding frontage of the Main Building of Cardiff University (Welsh: Prifysgol Caerdydd ) is now over 100 years old. Contemporary accounts of those who were familiar with it at its inception refer to the striking sense of contrast which the white frontage provoked, in comparison with many of the other buildings in the industrial town of Cardiff. The white stone material with which it was built reflects the light and, set against the adjacent greenery of Cathays Park (Welsh: Parc Cathays ), makes for a pleasing aesthetic whole.

The Main Building was completed in 1909; the architect responsible was William D Caroe (1857-1938). It has been said that, in his design, architect Caroe was influenced by college architecture at Oxford and Cambridge. The original university college was founded in 1883 and was based in a building on Newport Road, before the Main Building in Cathays Park was built. The University of Wales itself, with which the college became affiliated, received its Charter in 1893 (1).

Cardiff University has since grown greatly, and has operated under a number of official titles. The original title of the university college was the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire. The University of Wales is now a non-membership confederal institution.

Noteworthy alumni of Cardiff University have included: Nobel prizewinners Professor Sir Martin Evans and Professor Robert Huber ( for Medicine, 2007, and Chemistry, 1988, respectively); composers Grace Williams, Karl Jenkins and Alun Hodinnott; Roy Jenkins, former Chancellor of the Exchequer.


(1) Interestingly, under Anglican church pressure, in the early 1890s the House of Lords tried to oppose the charter on the grounds that a specifically Anglican college was excluded from the university. This occurred even though the proposed charter itself provided for the inclusion of other colleges, and in any case no Anglican college had asked to be included! (D. Emrys Evans, The University of Wales: A Historical Sketch , Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1953, p. 41.) Much later, however, an Anglican college at Lampeter, was eventually affiliated with the University of Wales; the Church of England itself was disestablished in Wales in 1920.

Also worth seeing

Other notable buildings and structures in Cardiff include the Welsh National War Memorial (Welsh: Cofeb Ryfel Genedlaethol Cymru ) National Museum Cardiff (Welsh: Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru ), Cardiff City Hall (Welsh: Neuadd y Ddinas Caerdydd ), Cardiff Castle (Welsh: Castell Caerdydd ), Llandaff Cathedral (Welsh: Eglwys Gadeiriol Llandaf ).

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais (distance: 7.7 kilometres), a striking Victorian, hillside castle.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is approximately 222 kilometres from Cardiff . There are fast railroad links between London and Cardiff. Please note that some facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

For your visit, these items may be of interest


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