This page aims to document the history of pubs and clubs in Roath and surrounding areas. Click on the beer glass icons on the map to reveal a picture and more information about the individual pubs. Scroll down below the map where there may be more information on the individual pubs and clubs. The clubs are listed at the bottom of the page.
The Adamsdown Hotel was on the corner of Meteor Street and Moira Street. Despite the closeness of the Splotlands and Moira Hotels, Mr Edmund Reece managed to convince authorities that it should be granted a liquor licence and it opened in 1867 with five large bedrooms, a clubhouse, stabling and a coach-house. The area however suffered from regular flooding and in 1878 a newspaper report records the water in the cellar was seven feet deep. That same year in another water-related incident Mr Reece appeared in court charged with watering down spirits. His defence was that the bottle was clearly labelled as spirits mixed with water. It was a William Hancock pub. In 1899 James Walters became upset when the landlady refused to serve him. He didn’t leave the pub when asked but instead brandished a revolver at her and other customers. He was sentenced to six weeks hard labour. The landlord in later years had a parrot used to hang upside down in the cage. The Adamsdown Hotel was renamed the Comet in 1986 to mark the return of Halley’s comet. In 1995, after getting a revamp, it reopened as the New Addie before finally closing in 2011. It has now been converted into flats.
The Albany Hotel at 105 Donald Street, Roath (CF24 4TL) is certainly tucked away in the back streets but a historical gem. There don’t seem to any historical photos of the pub floating around so I’m guessing photographers found it equally hard to find. Not that it has changed much since it opened in 1895. It used to have a wolf-whistling mynah bird that greeted guests. Nowadays the pub hosts a Galician music event once a month. Pub website.
One of Roath’s newest pubs, The Andrew Buchan, opened in 2012 at 29 Albany Road on the corner of Arabella Street (CF24 3LH). The pub is named after the founder of the original Rhymney Brewery in 1839. The premises at 29 Albany Road has had an interesting history. In 1888 it was home of Issac Clarke, an egg merchant. In 1897 it was a grocery shop. By 1937 it was a hat shop. It then became part of the large Collins the Drapers business which owned not only 29 but also 11-25 Albany Road with Hopsons the tobacconists next door at No 27. In 1984 it was a Halfords shop. The last shop to occupy the site was a video rental shop. It then lay empty for a number of years before being converted to the Andrew Buchan in 2012. The pub hosts music and art displays, often by local artists. Andrew Buchan facebook page.
Bedford Hotel, later the Municipal Club
The Bedford Hotel was at 11 City Road, just a bit north of The Parade junction and dated back all the way to the 1840s. In 1889 Archibald McKinnon was convicted of recklessly discharging a firearm on the premises. The Court however seemed equally concerned that the landlord had served him a drink even though he was already noticeably drunk. In 1890 the Roath Cycling Club, with a membership of 73, held its Annual Dinner at the Bedford Hotel. In 1896 the publican at the time went bankrupt leaving debts owing to Mr Brain. In 1929 the Bedford Hotel was de-licensed and then became the Municipal and General Workers’ Club & Institute. Over the years its title got shortened to the Municipal Club or as locals called it ‘the Muni’. People have fond memories of bands, dances, the compares, the bingo and the skittles. The club closed around 2013 and opened again briefly as the Red Sea restaurant and club. The building was demolished in 2016 and a new block of flats constructed.
The Bertram Hotel, 110 Broadway, Cardiff (CF24 1NJ) is thought to have been built in 1875. In 1878 the papers report that John Phillips of Elm Street was accusing John Taylor of System Street of robbing him of £32 in gold and silver (£2500 in today’s money), after being followed out of the Bertam Hotel. The pub closed sometime before April 2015 and is now a private residence.
Bomb and Dagger
The Splott Welfare Club, 122 Portmanmoor Road was at the junction with Freshmoor Road and seems to have dated back to the 1930s. Everybody knew it as the Bomb and Dagger apparently. The origins of why it got nicknamed that seem to be lost in the mists of time though some say there was a mortar bomb and a dagger behind the bar, others that extreme socialist groups met there. Shirley Bassey lived in the same road and is said to have performed at the Bomb and Dagger in her early career. The club had novel ways of raising money for charity including appointing their own Lord Mayor adorned with top hat and chain of office. Anyone caught swearing or stepping out of line was fined. The money would go to local charities such as Nazareth House. The building was demolished in 1969.
The Bottle Shop at 4 Pen-y-lan Road (CF24 3PF) is one of the newest venues in the area to serve beer. The wine and craft beer shop opened around 2011 and in 2018 started enabling customers to drink wine and beer inside and outside the shop. The premises was previously occupied by Edgell and Golden Interior Designs and many years ago by the Melba Lounge snack bar. Bottle Shop website
Brewers Fayre – Ocean Park
The Brewers Fayre – Ocean Park, on East Moors Industrial Estate (CF24 5JT) is probably the newest pub in the whole area in terms of the building itself. It opened in July 1996 and it sits adjacent to the Premier Inn. Both Brewers Fare and Premier Inn are owned by Whitbread. The pub focuses mainly on food and the Sunday carvery but does serve a real ale among its beer range. Even more surprising maybe is it has a covered bike shelter, possibly unique among the pubs of the area.
The Canadian was a Brains pub at 143 Pearl Street on the corner with Bradley Street (CF24 1PN) that closed in late 2015 and is now private residences. The pub was built in 1890. It seems to have always been called the Canadian but the origins of the name are not known. On March 25th 1895 the owner of the Canadian, Albert Heitzman, pleaded guilty at Newport county Police Court to stealing a gander and was fined 10s. We are not told if it was a Canadian goose.
The Cardiff Arms is another pub of yesterday but was at 63 Railway Street in Splott (CF24 2DF). On September 22nd 1886 the South Wales Daily News reported that an application had been received for the Cardiff Arms, a new hotel in the new district of Splotlands on the south side of the Great Western railway line. The lessee of the Tredegar Arms objected, we assume unsuccessfully, as the hotel was opened. By 1893 the papers report that ‘population of Splott was 10,183 and the increase was almost abnormal’ and the two pubs, the Cardiff Arms and Lord Wimborne, were ‘crowded to excess’. The Cardiff Arms quenched the thirst of the steel workers and alike for over a century before closing sometime between 2008 and 2012. The premises have now been converted into a residential property.
Cathays Beer House
Cathays Beer House at 109 Crwys Road (CF24 4NF) is the latest outlet for beer in the area. It opened in December 2018 and very much specialises in real ales and craft beers with some other drinks available too. It is a bar that encourages convivial conversation and is devoid of music and TV. The premises were occupied until January 2017 by a post office which doubled up as a parrot sanctuary with the post-mistress affectionately known as the ‘parrot lady’. Charlie the macaw can be seen pictured behind the post office window, where the bar now is in the Cathays Beer House. A few artifacts from the old post office remain and are posted on the wall in the bar including instructions on what to do in a hostage situation. 109 Crwys Road was a private residence for many years. In 1911 it was occupied by a coal merchant Morgan Joseph and his family. In 1939 Henry Chapman, a furniture remover, and his family lived in the house.
The Claude Hotel at 140 Albany Road in Roath (CF24 3RW) is a fine Victorian building, the exterior of which has changed little since it was constructed in 1890. The large bar area was the result of a refurbishment in 1994 and the amalgamation of the public bar, a ladies snug, the off licence and skittle alley at the rear. Regulars however have always insisted that the Oak Room, which was a men-only lounge up to the early 1970s, remain untouched. The name originates from Claude Williams of the Williams family who lived in Roath Court (now James Summers funeral home) and owned the Roath Court estate. When Charles Henry Williams was selling off bits of the estate for housing, various streets and pubs were named after family members e.g. Crofts, Rose, Claude.
References in newspapers to the Clifton Hotel in Roath go back to the late 1850s making it one of the oldest pubs in the area. The three story building is on the corner of Clifton Street and Broadway (CF24 1PW). A poltergeist is said to haunt the cellar. Given its history it is surprising that there don’t seem to be any readily available historic pictures of the pub.
The Clyde Arms on Plucca Lane, opened sometime prior to 1861. Plucca Lane was renamed Castle Road and then became City Road so the pub was at 70 City Road (CF24 3DD) at the corner with Byron Street. The Clyde Arms probably holds the record for pubs in the area for having undergone name changes. It became the Co-operative Club and Institute in around 1930 before changing to the Coronation Club and Institute in 1953. It then became the Le Mans club in the mid-1960s before trading under a succession of other names including Scaramouche, the Exchange, Cornerstone and Dirty Sue’s. Since closing it has been the Burg Al Arab restaurant in 2010, the Al Borje Moroccan & Middle Eastern Kitchen in 2011 and the Lilo Express restaurant in 2012 and more recently the Beirut Grill House in 2016.
The Cottage in Sanquhar Street, Splott (CF24 2AA) dates back to the early 1870s. One of the first landlords was Charles Jenkins from Pontypool. There is a newspaper report from December 1877 of telling of him being generously presented with a host of gifts from his ex-employers, Parfitt & Jenkins, a nearby engineering company. In more recent years the Cottage seems to undergo a regular colour change and was at one time pink. The pub still has a skittle alley and the inside walls are decorated with a series of charterers.
The present Crofts pub, at 14 Crofts Street, Roath, (CF24 3DZ) was built in 1957 as a replacement of the Crofts Hotel that was damaged in a bombing raid on 2nd Jan 1941. The original Crofts Hotel was built around 1867. The name stems from the owner of the land on which the pub was built. The land belonged to Charles Henry Williams of Roath Court (now Summers Funeral home) on Newport Road. Crofts was a family name of the Williams family of Roath Court. Two sons of Charles Henry Williams had Crofts as a middle name and his father was Charles Crofts Williams, a mayor of Cardiff. The original lease for the Crofts Hotel survived the bombing and is now framed on the wall in the lounge bar. Also in the lounge bar is the picture of Winston Churchill visiting the street on a moral boosting tour. Today the pub still boasts a parrot called Crofty. A nicely written blog on the Crofts dating back to 2011 can be found on the Brew Wales site.
The Crwys Hotel is one of the oldest pubs in the area dating back to 1870 at least. The pub’s Welsh name Crwys means cross in English. In 1872 Dr Lougher was riding past on his horse on his way to an urgent case in Whitchurch when his horse bolted, frightened by a nearby scavenging cart. He was thrown to the ground and ‘dreadfully injured’. He was taken into the Crwys Hotel where he was able to give instructions on how to stem the bleeding. Unfortunately the horse didn’t survive. In 1876 the papers report a gas explosion that shattered the windows and blew out the exterior door frame. The Crwys Hotel had four bars till the early 2000s. A number of refurbishments have taken place since, the latest adding a roof-top outdoor seating area.
The Eagle Commercial Hotel was on Adam Street, opposite the prison and the Rhymney Hotel. It first starts appearing in the newspapers in 1859 but may have opened prior to that as the advertisement makes reference to Morgan Rees, the Proprietor thanking his friends and the public for their support. The same advertisement mentions ‘good stabling and lock-up coach-houses’. The hotel itself was built on the site of an old horse pound. In 1860 three people were convicted of using a counterfeit half-crown to try and purchase a half-pint of wine. A policeman who ‘happened to be on the spot’ took the individuals into custody. In 1862 there was reference to a footpath being required along Davis Street between the Eagle Hotel and the chapel. In 1868 there were celebrations throughout Cardiff to mark the 21st birthday of the 3rd Marquis of Bute. As part of the celebrations the Eagle Hotel had a transparency with a cornet and arms of the marquis and a banner ‘Long Live the Marquis of Bute’. The lease was up for sale a few times including in 1876 and 1895 for a rent of £200/annum. The lease advertisement pointed out how the hotel was close in proximity to the Rhymney Railway Yard, the Taff Vale Passenger railway stations and the many extensive works on the Moors. The Eagle closed down some time before 1968 when the picture of the derelict pub was taken. Cardiff Fire Station was subsequently constructed on the site. In around 2012 the ‘new’ fire station was built a bit further along Adam Street and the Unite Student flats built on the site of the former Eagle Hotel/ fire station.
The Ernest Willows at 2-12 City Road (CF24 3DL) is named after the airship pioneer born around the corner on Newport Road. This Wetherspoon pub is famous for its opulent marble toilets. The building was originally the Grenville Lawrence motor showrooms, built in the 1950s. The original showrooms in the 1930s and 1940s occupied only the corner premises but later expanded into neighboring properties. The property may have been a pram shop in the years between being a motor showroom and a pub. Pub history web page.
The Flora (136 Cathays Terrace) like Flora Street is named after Flora Hastings (1806-1839), the sister-in-law to the second Marquis of Bute. The Flora Hotel opened in 1884 to serve the railway workers at the nearby Cathays railway yard. The pub is a beacon of tranquillity compared with that it sounds like it used to be in the 19th century according to newspaper reports. Stop reading now if you are of a nervous disposition! In 1886, David Watkins, an employee of the Taff Vale Railway was knocked down and run over by a passenger train. His body was taken to the Flora Hotel, awaiting an inquest. In 1896, Thomas Shelly was sentenced to six months hard labour for stealing a pair of football boots from the Flora Hotel (the St Peter’s team used to be based there in the 1890’s). In 1901, Charles Middleton, a fruit hawker, cut his own throat, after locking himself into a shed at the back of the Flora.
Four Elms on Elm Street in Roath opened in 1859. The pub gets its name from four distinctive elms that were once local landmarks but were felled in 1901 in order to widen the road. The papers report in 1860 of a large ratepayers meeting held at the Four Elms Hotel where there was widespread comments about the state of Shakespeare and adjoining streets and the board of health needed to take note. There was also condemnation of the fact that the rate collector was taking a 7% cut and this should be reduced to 5%. In 1862 the Four Elms was being recommended as one of the possible places to stay for people attending the newly opened Roath Cattle Market. The Four Elms had hay and straw and good sheds and stables available. The pub for a long time had a skittles alley but in 1927 tragedy struck, not in the pub itself but at the back of a nearby house adjoining Newport Road, when the Four Elms skittle assistant was electrocuted and died after saving a little girl who had been playing with a faulty cable. The pub hasn’t always been called the Four Elms. In the mid-1990s it morphed into the Australian-themed Yellow Kangaroo bar, and later became Bar YK. The pub was then saved and refurbished and the original name reinstated.
Gassy’s, at 39-41 Salisbury Road, Cathays (CF24 4AB), dates back to April 1992 when it was opened by architect Phil Cliffe and called Gassy Jack’s Beer Hall and Big Mac’s Wholly Soul Band from Newport played the opening night. The site on the corner of Miskin Street was previously occupied by Salter’s printing works and Guidi’s Confectionary, Ice Cream & Ginger Beer manufacturer shop. The origin of the pub’s name Gassy Jack’s isn’t obvious but it may be named after John Deighton, a man from Hull who in the 19th century ended up in Vancouver, Canada and opened a pub. His talkative nature and storytelling led him to be called ‘Gassy Jack’. There is now a statue of ‘Gassy Jack’ in Vancouver and the area Gastown named after him. Back in Gassy Jack’s, Cathays, early on the 1990s Tom Jones shocked punters by dropping in to play an impromptu gig. Later in the 1990s it became part of the Firkin pub chain and called the Firedrake & Firkin. The pub has also had a few other claims to fame. It became infamous for being the one of the shooting locations for the 1999 cult movie Human Traffic. It has also been run by former Amen Corner band member Alan Jones. In the 2000’s the pub reverted to it’s original name Gassy Jack’s and more recently in 2018 to simply Gassy’s.
The Gower Hotel, Gwennyth Street, Cathays (CF24 4PH) has only just recently been demolished in winter 2019. A peek into the newspaper archives shows us some of the history of this community pub over the years. The lovely red brick building opened as a pub in 1898 after Mr Charles Jeffries Rosser, a painter and decorator by trade, was successful in his application to sell intoxicating liquors in the newly built premises that he proposed to call the Gower Hotel. Mr Rosser was a man of many talents. In 1900 he won a silver cup at the Cardiff Model Yacht club event on Roath Park Lake.
It wasn’t all peace and tranquility though. Also in 1900 an argument broke out in the bar over the merits of a punters dog which ended up with someone getting stabbed and the assailant receiving six months in prison. Dogs seem to have still been a feature of the Gower Hotel as in 1931 the South Wales and Monmouthshire Pekinese Association held their annual show the with 106 entries in a dozen classes. The pub had a fine sporting and music tradition. Many will recall the skittle alley still in place when Brains brewery finally called time there in August 2014. Last orders at The Gower were recorded in this interesting Wearecardiff blog posting
Great Eastern Hotel
The Great Eastern Hotel on the corner of Metal Street and Sun Street in Adamsdown used to be one of the oldest buildings in the area until it was demolished in 2009. The building dated back to 1596 when it was firstly a house, then turned into homestead of Upper Splott Farm. It became the Great Eastern Hotel in 1858, named after Brunel’s steamship S.S.Great Eastern launched in 1858, the largest steamship of her day. It was closed in 2003 and used as a mosque for a time before being demolished around 2009.
The Grosvenor Hotel on South Park Road, Splott on the corner of Moorland Road opened in 1893 and closed 115 years later in 2008. The Grosvenor names originated from Grosvenor House, Lord Tredegar’s residence in London. For many years it was said to be one of the busiest in Cardiff, a regular stopping off point for steel workers on their way home at the end of their shift. The large Brains pub had a long skittle alley and a parrot on the top shelf in the bar. After closure in 2008 the building was threatened with demolition and attempts to have it listed because if its architectural significance failed. Eventually sense prevailed and the imposing building was saved and converted into flats and now called Grosvenor House.
Juno Lounge opened at 14 Wellfield Road in September 2007. It is one of the ‘Lounges’ chain of café bars founded in 2002 long standing friends, Dave Reid, Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop. They opened their first Lounge in Bristol in 2002. They now have more than 100 locations with the name of each one ending with an ‘o’. The Juno Lounge has had a number of makeovers since opening with the exterior currently sporting a green and red plumage. The building has had a wide variety of occupants since being built in the 1890s. Prior to being Juno Lounge the property was a photo printing shop and before that a carpet shop maybe with a restaurant above. In the 1940s and 50’s the property was the hair salon ‘Maison Langlois’ run by Madame Constance Beatrice Langlois, (née du Cros, b.1899), who was reputed to walk around the salon carrying her small Chihuahua dog. Prior to that it was also a hair salon called Leoni. Between 1911 and 1922 the house was occupied by music professor Edward P Mills, originally from Pontypridd, an organist at Ebenezer chapel and composer of music. In 1901 the Orr family lived there. Arthur Orr, originally from Ireland, was a whiskey salesman.
The Locomotive Inn at 62 Broadway, on the corner of Nora Street (now Helen Place) dated back to at least 1872 when it was referred to in the newspapers as being on Green Lane (the old name for Broadway). The pub appears a handful of times in the old newspapers, mainly in relation to licence applications or petty crimes but on the whole kept itself out of the news. The old photograph is probably from the early 1900s when William Maidment was the licensed victualler. His name also appears above the door in an old photo of the Clyde Arms in City Road. He died in 1922 and left £5400 in his will, a sizable amount in today’s terms. The Locomotive finally closed in 2006 and was demolished in 2009. It has since been replaced by a block of flats.
Lord Wimborne Hotel
The Lord Wimborne Hotel used to be at 93 Portmanmoor Road on corner Portmanmoor Road and Pontypridd Street, East Moors, Cardiff. It was demolished in the 1970s. It was named after Ivor Bertie Guest, Lord Wimborne, son of Sir JJ Guest. Lord Wimborne was owner of the Dowlais Iron, Steel & Coal Works, a branch of which opened in East Moors Cardiff in 1891, and which later became Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds. The first mention of the Lord Wimborne Hotel in the newspapers is in 1889, the year after the steel works started to be constructed. The pub was owned by the Rhymney & Crosswells Brewery.
The Mackintosh Hotel on the corner of Mundy Place and Richards Street dates back to 1881. In 1880 Harriet Richards, whose family owned Plasnewydd (now the Mackintosh Sports and Social club) and a lot of surrounding land, married Alfred Mackintosh, chief of the Mackintosh clan, who had even more land in Scotland. When the land in Cardiff was sold for development many streets were named after them plus the Mackintosh Hotel. The hotel saw some rough incidents in its early years. In 1883 Thomas Coles was charged with cutting and wounding Richard Hughes by throwing a jug of beer at him. In 1901 a French national, Frederick Bidois, living on Cathays Terrace, was charged with assaulting the publican Robert Bucknill, and refusing to leave the premises. This was the fifth time the defendant had been charged. In 1894 the papers record an interesting point in history: At a meeting of the Cardiff Branch of the Merthyr Philanthropic Society, held at the Mackintosh Hotel, the following resolution was unanimously passed: That a hearty vote of thanks be accorded to Lord Bute, for his benevolence in paying the deficiencies occasioned by the failure of the Cardiff Savings Bank. (Lord Bute had been President of the Cardiff Savings Bank when it went into insolvency in 1886 because the directors had defrauded large sums of money). The pub was owned by William Hancock’s brewery. It has also been part of the Sizzling Pub chain and the Stonegate Group. The Mackintosh now advertises itself as a local, student friendly pub in the heart of Cathays, serving food and having pool tables and a large beer garden.
The Milton Hotel was on the corner of Milton Street and Clive Place. It opened sometime in the 1850s and closed in about 1903. The newspapers of the time paint a colouful picture of the pub. 1875: The Milton Hotel was used to hold a meeting of the Roath Home Rule Association. During the meeting the following resolution was passed: ‘That we, members of the Roath Home Rule Association, strongly condemn the scurrilous letters which have appeared in the Western Mail and signed Mick Malone’. 1889: The Milton Hotel landlord was again charged with selling liquor outside licensed hours. This time, a policeman saw a girl exiting the hotel on a Sunday with two bottles of beer. When he went in to make enquiries he found a twelve year old girl behind the bar. The landlord was upstairs lying in bed fully clothed denying he knew nothing about what was happening downstairs. 1896: The former landlord of the nearby Roath Cottage committed suicide in the urinals by shooting himself in the mouth after finding there wasn’t a room for him at the Milton Hotel. The who then arrived at the scene was Dr J.J.E.Biggs who played rugby for Cardiff and later became Lord Mayor of Cardiff. 1903: A 15 mile walking race from the Milton Hotel to Marshfield and back was won by A.G.James in an astonishing 2 hours 11 minutes. 1906: in shades of a Tom and Jerry episode, Police Constable Dibble finally manages to arrest his prisoner Richards who had been living in the building previously known as the Milton Hotel.
Misfits Social Club
Misfits Social Club on Miskin Street, Cathays, opened in late 2021 as a sports, food and live music bar. It doesn’t appear to be a social club in the traditional sense of the word but the name certainly reflects the building’s past. In 1972 it was the Cardiff City Supporters’ Social Club, and later shortened its name to the City Social Club. Since the club closed around the turn of the century it has become a student venue, firstly called ‘the Social’. Subsequent names have included Koko Gorilaz, Kokos and Locos Latin Bar & Grill.
The Moira Hotel on Moira Terrace, Adamsdown opened in 1859. The opening was announced in the Cardiff Times and the hotel described as ‘near the cemetery’ and ‘two minutes walk from the Rhymney and Taff Vale Railway Stations’. The hotel consisted of a parlour, private sitting and smoking room together with a large room for clubs, lectures and other public meetings. The bedrooms were described as light and airy with extensive land and sea views. In Sept 1901 a smoking concert was held at the Moira hotel. A presentation was made to veteran cyclist Mr A.J.Sheen for his record one hour ride earlier in the day. Mr Sheen also claimed to be the champion skipper of the world and that night gave an exhibition, doing 1000 jumps in 5mins 5secs, beating the world record by 12 sec held by Mr Conner of Pennsylvania. The new skittle alley opened in 1962. The Moira closed around 1999. It has been replaced by a block of flats that look quite similar in appearance to the old pub but are a new-build.
The Moorland Hotel was on the corner of Moorland Road and Carlisle Street in Splott (CF24 2LL). It is now converted into flats and is a Grade II listed building. Built in 1896 and designed by the architect Edwin Seward in Flemish Renaissance style. When it was a pub it was said to be haunted by former landlord Mr Pugh who is said to have hanged himself in the pre-WWII era. The Moorland finally closed in 2004 and now had a blue plaque on it.
New Dock Tavern
The New Dock Tavern was on the corner of Broadway and Blanche Street. It is first mentioned in the newspapers in 1872, in the days when Broadway was still called Green Lane. In 1875, Evan Thomas ‘a young man of weak intellect’ was charged with being drunk and disorderly and refusing to leave the New Dock Tavern. In 1881, Mary Williams was found guilty of stealing a beer glass from the New Dock Tavern, and sent to prison for seven days with hard labour. The pub was up for sale in 1903 with a 9 year unexpired sub-lease to Messrs Brain and Co for a yearly rental of £100. The pub’s customers collected £10 for the Llandow Air Disaster fund in 1950. People who visited the pub reported that the cellar door was close to the bar entrance and if left open customers would fall into the cellar on entering the bar. In 1994 a birthday party was held for 78 year old Jack Fox of Cecil Street who had been a regular at the pub for 63 years. His favourite tipple was a pint of Brains Dark. He recalled the days of it costing sixpence but in 1994 it cost £1.26. He also recalled the beer arriving by horse-drawn dray as the government had commandeered the petrol-drays. The New Dock Tavern closed in 2009 and is now a private residence.
Roath Castle Hotel
The Roath Castle Hotel was on City Road at the junction with Penlline Street. It opened in around 1865 when City Road was then known as Plwcca Lane. It was named after Roath Castle which was Plasnewydd, home of the Richards family, later called the Mackintosh Institute. In 1924 the licensee was charged with permitting gambling on the premises after a policeman entered the hotel and heard the shouts of “Roll up for the rabbits”. Roll Up was a gambling game played on a bagatelle table which consisted of rolling a number of balls together towards the pockets at the top of the table and presumably betting on the accumulated score. The Roath Castle Hotel closed around 1970 but the building survived. It became the Mirchi Indian Restaurant and now Spicy Hut/Jini Pizza.
Roath Park Hotel
The Roath Park Hotel on the corner of City Road and Kincraig Street dates back to 1886. The three storey stone built property with a roof top platform surrounded by railings is the last remaining Victorian pub on City Road, or Castle Road as it was called when the hotel was built. The hotel mainly manages to keep itself out of the newspapers apart from the usual arguments about liquor licences in the 1890s, the occasional person walking in and dropping dead from natural causes and Mr Naish, a greengrocer, being accused was accused of regularly taking bets in there in 1936. In 1954 (for probate purposes) the Roath Park was valued at £12140. The owner was William J Davies who had previously owned various Docks pubs, including the Mount Stuart. It had a skittle alley that was still there in the mid-1980s. As of Oct 2020 it is currently under threat of being demolished and replaced with flats.
Sticky Fingers Bar and Street Food (199-201 Richmond Road) is the newest addition to the to our list of pubs in the area. Although this is the third pub at these premises in recent years it is still a relatively new use for the building. The Varsity occupied the building from around 2011 to 2017 after which Rift & Co was briefly present in 2018. Prior to being a pub it was occupied by South Wales Video, Cardiff’s largest video shop in around the 1980s to 1890s. Prior to that it was Kennard’s Bicycle Shop. Kennard’s started business in No20 City Road in around the 1894 and were there till at least 1924. They moved to these larger premises by 1937. The upstairs will be remembered by many as being Kennard’s Ballroom.
The Tavistock Hotel, or the ‘Tavi’ as it is known to locals, is on the corner of Bedford Street and Tavistock Streets. The origin of the street names, and nearby Russell Street, probably originates from William Russell, 1st Duke of Bedford and Marquess of Tavistock (1616-1700). The pub sign however in recent years depicts a ship, reference probably to HMS Tavistock. The first mention of the Tavistock Hotel in newspapers go back to 1878 when the licence was transferred to a new landlord. In 1880 Mr Beard becomes the landlord. In 1881 Ida Crossfield is found guilty of stealing watch from an old man in the Tavistock Hotel after having drugged him by putting a pennyworth of snuff into a glass of porter. She was sentenced to six weeks hard labour. In 1888 Mr Beard was charged with serving liquor on a Sunday, for the third time. The case fell apart however when it was admitted that the beer glasses of all the men present had been empty. In 1898 Mr Beard is back in court, this time for using unstamped measures. All this however pales into insignificance in comparison to the events of 1899 when a barmaid living at the Tavistock Hotel was found murdered. The trial is detailed at length in the 31st Oct 1899 edition of the Evening Express. By November the papers are reporting that Elizabeth Jane Thomas was found guilty of the wilful murder of barmaid Agnes Lewis and sentenced to death. Shortly afterwards Mr Beard relinquishes landlord duties at the Tavistock Hotel. Ever since then the Tavi has stayed mainly out of the newspapers. At some stage in the 20th century it became part of the Brains estate and was known for serving a good pint of Brains Dark. In more recent years it has been home of the Cardiff Saracens rugby club.
The Three Brewers was set slightly set back off Colchester Avenue (CF23 9AL) opposite Hammond Way. The pub and probably dated back to the early-1970s. The pub was set on two floors with the ground floor being a traditional bar with pool, darts and TV screens for watching sport and the upper floor being more a dining area. Visitors were sometimes left wondering why there are only two brewers on the pub sign – sure there’s a story behind that somewhere. Closed down in July 2019, demolition underway Nov 2020.
The White Swan stood at 38 Shakespeare Street, Roath, opposite where Elm Street ends. It dates back to at least 1868 making it one of the first pubs in the area. There are some frightening reports in the newspapers from the 1870s when Mr Richard Rees was landlord. Theft of bottles of spirits from the shelves was so common in 1874 he had taken to filling some with coloured water to fool the thieves. In 1876 however things took a turn for the worse. Elizabeth Parker, a barmaid at the White Swan, was dismissed and turned out of the pub along with her child. She claimed that prior to being dismissed she had been seduced by Mr Rees and they were due to be married. The neighbourhood evidently sided with her and 300-400 people regularly met outside the pub and smashed windows. One day a fight between the ex-barmaid and the new barmaid ensued and Mr Rees also got involved. It all sounded very ugly.
Fast forward fifty years and things had calmed down a lot. Arthur Deans took over the White Swan around 1922. He remained Licensee until his death in 1944. The running of the pub was then passed down to his daughter Catherine ‘Kitty’ Stephenson née Deans. She remained at the White Swan until it closed around 1971, over 100 years after it had opened. It is thought that a compulsory purchase order was imposed on the White Swan and it was subsequently demolished to make way for a road scheme that was never implemented. Whatever the reason, people still speak fondly of the their times in the White Swan. Prior to WWII the pub had a white swan painted on its roof which had to be painted over during the war as it was thought the white paint might attract the attention of the German bomber aircraft.
147 Lounge Bar
The 147 Lounge Bar at 147 City Road is a club that started life in the 1980s as an American pool bar. Nowadays it has made its name as a music venue with its open mic nights on a Tuesday. The club was set up and is still rum by local man Terry Matthews.
Embassy Social Club
The Embassy Billiards Club at 36 Cathays Terrace opened in Nov 1930 with an exhibition game between Tom Carpenter, the Welsh champion and Willie Smith the noted English cueist. A year later the papers reported that Mrs E.W.Morris, well-known in Cardiff Swimming circles, had definitely decided to enter for the British amateur women’s billiards championship and was hard at practice at the Embassy Billiards Club. In March 1951 newspaper advertisements stated that the Embassy roller skating rink would be opening shortly. Shelah Davies née Bates used the rink and became professional roller dance champion of 1956 with partner Ted Norton. The skating surface was well known for its peculiar shape, almost wedge-shaped, but the surface of maple was superb to skate on. The rink also had great fancy dress and parties for the children. Saturday mornings and afternoons were very popular and there were always queues up the street waiting for it to open. It appears the rink and billiards all became part of what was called the Embassy Social Club incorporating bingo. It finally closed around 1970. The front part of the building was demolished but around 1978 the back part became an independent bingo club on one side and Cathays Community Centre managed by CCYCP (Cathays and Central Youth and Community Project) on the other. In 1991 the Council built a new building at the front that housed the advice centre, a café and meeting rooms. The bingo club finally closed in 1995. In 2009 the front and back buildings were joined to make a new reception area. In 2022 CCYCP manages the vibrant Cathays Community Centre that has an independent café, recording studio, bakery together with its own meeting room, two large halls and music rehearsal rooms. The Embassy name continues in the form of the Embassy Cafe at the front of the building.
Mackintosh Sports Club
The Mackintosh Sports Club on Keppoch Street is intertwined into Roath’s rich history. There has been a building on this site from at least 1782. The club is based in what was once called Roath Lodge and then Roath Castle (because of the crenulations on the roof). After that it was called Plasnewydd about the time the Richards family took over ownership in the 1830s. The heir to the Richards estate was Harriet Diana Arabella Mary Richards who married Alfred Donald Mackintosh , Chief of the Mackintosh clan. Plasnewydd became surplus to their requirements as they already lived at Cottrell House, St Nicholas and owned Moy Hall in Scotland and a lot of land. They bequeathed Plasnewydd to the community on a 99-year lease and it became known as the Mackintosh Institute. When opened in June 1891 it contained a billiard room, reading rooms and games rooms, a well-appointed gymnasium, a skittle alley and outdoor tennis courts. A few years prior to the end of the lease the owners applied for planning permission to demolish the club and build flats on the site. This was refused and shortly before the appeal an agreement was reached for the club to purchase the freehold. The name has since changed from the Mackintosh Institute to the Mackintosh Sports Club. The history of the club is summarised in A Short History of the Mackintosh Estate, Roath.
May Street Institute and Social Club
May Street Institute and Social Club dated back to at least the early 1920s. It was owned by the local labour party. In 1934 the club featured quite heavily in newspaper articles following a gambling prosecution against two stewards for nothing more than holding a whist drive with prizes. The guilty verdict and their inability to pay the fine by cheque meant they spent the night in Cardiff Gaol before club members arrived at the prison gates the next morning with a collection they had made to pay the fine. In the 1980’s miner’s strike it was the base for the Cardiff Miners Support Committee. In later years the City School of Dance was a tenant on the ground floor. The building was sold around 1995 and is now used as a church.
Municipal Club – See Bedford Hotel
The Ocean Club on Rover Way, Tremorfa, Cardiff was also at one stage called the Troubadour which even had an artificial ice rink there in the early 1980s. It has also been known as the Showboat Club.
The Park Conservative Club at 217 City Road was opened on 30 Apr 1896 by James Mackenzie Maclean who was MP for Cardiff at the time. The papers reported that after Mackenzie had cut the ribbon and handed over the key to chairman H Gibbon, a banquet would take place. In 1926 the Club had 394 members and a turnover of more than £7000. Today their facilities include four major function rooms that can accommodate from 40 to 200 people, a members bar, a snooker hall with 3 snooker tables, 2 pool rooms, a skittles alley and a darts room.
The Penylan Club, or to give it its proper title, the Penylan Bowling and Cardiff Bridge Club, is hidden away on the back lanes off Marlborough Road. Its history goes all the way back to 1907 and it was opened in 1909 by Lord Tredegar, their first President. Croquet and tennis used to be played there but that has now been replaced by bridge and pétanque. More about the history of the Penylan Club can be found in our blog post.