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.
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.
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 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 Moorlands 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 Moorlands finally closed in 2004 and now had a blue plaque on it.
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 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.
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.