Full Report for Listed Buildings

Summary Description of a Listed Buildings

Reference Number
Building Number
Date of Designation
Date of Amendment
Name of Property
Pier Head Building  


Unitary Authority
Inner Harbour Area  
Street Side
Faces S across Cardiff Bay. To E of the Industrial and Maritime Museum, between entrances to Bute East and West Docks.  


Broad Class

Built in 1896 by William Frame, assistant to William Burges as offices for the Cardiff Railway Company, sucessor to the Bute Dock Company. Medievalist style with strong influence of Burges (in contrast to the Classical dock offices at Barry) combining muscular Gothic and French Renaissance elements. 2-storeys; brightly constructed throughout in glazed terracotta, representing a fine example of the use of this material; abundant sculptural ornament and banding. Slate roofs; small-pane glazing, round headed to 1st floor and square headed below.  

Design dominated by 2-stage clock tower at S end over main entrance; pyramidal roof and crenellated parapet with gargoyles. Clock faces recessed beneath semi-circular arches with fleuron panelled balconies; flanking lions heads and coats of arms. Splayed oriel over main entrance including crenellated transom and machicolated bracket base. Squat round arched entrance with deeply rounded jambs; battered bases to flanking octagonal and domed turrets. Panelled doors, half-glazed tympanum and swirling bands of foliage. Larger, Low Countries style, polygonal corner towers beyond, incorporated into main rooms and glazed to each face; pyramidal roof, gargoyles, colonnettes and foliage band between floors. 7-bay left hand side, the southernmost of which is taken up with exceptional chimney breast, heavily enriched with terracotta ornament including steam train and ship over the company's motto 'Wrth ddwr a than'; the whole set in a tiered frontispiece-like frame and topped by 3-linked chimney stacks; bronze commemorative plaque to base. Central 3-bays are divided by buttresses with polygonal faces and domed caps. Steep-hipped roof tower beyond over entrance inscribed Bute Docks Co. ; round arched with panelled surround; chimney stack and band of narrow round arched panels to top. Northernmost bay has bracketed gable-oriel with 3-light transomed window; gable has blind oculus and finials. Simpler right hand side with central 3-bays divided off as before; 2-windows near southern end are set in foliage surround. Plain N end.  

Entrance is onto square lobby, decoratively tiled and with panelled ceiling; round arched recesses to both sides with labels and nook shafts. This leads through to tall and grand hall; includes terrazzo floor, with central roundel repeating the company's motto and panelled ceiling. Church-like, double-arcaded hall of offices to rear through full height, moulded arch with foliage spandrels; terracotta detail includes twin pilasters between each arch, rising to carry the glazed clerestory roof along the central nave. The main stairwell leads off the front right hand corner of the entrance hall. The staircase is enriched by varied and colourful materials including granite treads, terracotta (stellar-section) balusters including enormous newels and green-glazed tile handrail; gilded Minton style tilework to dado (ca 1.8m high) - includes swagged band to top. The single-best room is the Port Manager's office on 1st floor with castellated and canopied 'medieval' chimneypiece with heavily foliated columns and herringbone tiled fireback; panelled ceiling with pendant to octagonal centrepiece. Round arch into corner tower bay in this office and that below. Crenellated and half-glazed partitions to 1st floor office corridors; panelled doors. Original ironwork spiral stairs inside clock-tower manufactured by St Pancras Ironwork Co, London; curved braces to treads.  

Reason for designation
Listed Grade I as a central and especially important building to the historical and visual dockscape of Cardiff; it is furthermore an exceptional Victorian building reflecting the confidence of the period in its flamboyant architectural detail, particularly in its use of terracotta.  

Cadw : Full Report for Listed Buildings [ Records 1 of 1 ]