Mansion House. Heard of it? If you haven’t, then you almost definitely will have seen it. The Grade II listed house on Richmond Road is hard to miss. Situated behind grand gates, its flag poles, imposing double doors and Bath stone decorations set it apart from the area’s other buildings. But it’s when you step inside that you really get a feel of what this place once represented.
In a series of three lectures, Cardiff Council have opened the Mansion’s doors to give people the chance to explore its 120 years of history. The first lecture was given by David Clay on November 10th and traced the story behind “Cardiff’s hidden gem”, offering a chance for people to see its original interiors. It was built in the 1890s by one of the city’s most famous businessmen, James Howell, the name of whom I am sure all Cardiffians recognise (if you don’t, he’s the founder of the city’s famous department store on St Mary’s Street). The house was purchased by Cardiff Corporation in 1912, and in 1913 became the official residence of the city’s Lord Mayor, playing an integral role in the civic life of the city.
Second Lecture: Bute
I went along to the second lecture in the series on November 18th, on the subject of the 3rd Marquess of Bute, given by the Curator of Cardiff Castle Matthew Williams. Around thirty of us listened to how the once richest baby in Britain went on to become the maker of modern Cardiff. John Patrick Crichton Stuart spent the money his father made in the coal industry laying the civic infrastructure which would eventually transform the town into a city. As a public benefactor he spent a lifetime “flexing the muscles of civic independence.”
Despite being a prolific writer, keen astrologer and philanthropist, his most lasting contributions are rooted in the city’s architecture. Partnered by the great Victorian architect William Burgess, they reconstructed and redesigned Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch, considered two of the era’s finest Gothic Revival creations. For a man who brought so much aristocratic glamour to his civic role it only seems appropriate that a lecture chronicling his life be held in a building which was once central in the local community.
After the lecture I spoke to David Clay and Kate Branch, both Protocol Officers at Cardiff Council about the talks and the importance of letting the general public explore such prominent buildings..
The third and final lecture takes place on October 31st at 6pm. Victoria Rogers from the Cardiff Story Museum will trace the city’s journey from town to the capital of Wales. Click here to book tickets.
To explore Mansion House for yourself you can view a panoramic gallery of its interior here.