Full Report for Listed Buildings

Summary Description of a Listed Buildings

Reference Number
Building Number
Date of Designation
Date of Amendment
Name of Property
University College of Wales Old College Building  


Unitary Authority
Street Side
Dominating the southern end of the town's seafront; railed and grassed forecourt to seaward side.  


Broad Class

The History of the Old College starts with “Castle House”, which was built by John Nash in 1794 for Uvedale Price as a picturesque villa, enlarged by E H Martineau in 1858. In 1864 the railway entrepreneur Tomas Savin purchased it with the intention of creating a hotel of unprecedented grandeur. To create this John Pollard Seddon (1827-1906) was commissioned as architect and George Jones of Aberystwyth supervised the building, which progressed at a remarkable speed. The Castle Hotel opened in June 1865 but financial troubles soon set in and it was put up for sale. Despite having cost £80,000 it was finally sold to a committee to form the University of Wales in March 1867 for £10,000. In April Seddon was commissioned to convert the hotel into a College; opened in October 1872. In July 1885 the building was severely damaged by fire; Seddon and partner John Coates Carter (1859-1927) repaired the College with builders Messrs S Belham and Co of London. In 1893 the Quadrangle was roofed. In 1894 Nash’s villa was demolished and replaced by a new central block by C A Ferguson of London who also built the science wing in 1896. The move up to Penglais Hill began in 1970s.  

Asymmetrical and irregularly planned High Victorian eclectic building, Gothic inspired but stylistically very individual. 2,3 and 4 - storey and basement ranges with taller connecting stair towers. Mainly dressed rubble masonry, greyer ashlar to Ferguson range. Steep pitch slate roofs with swept eaves; polygonal and cylindrical stone chimney stacks. Starting at the NE end; broad gable end with 5-light stepped lancet 3rd floor window over lobed tripartite bow window extended to left with rounded corner tower. Dwarf gallery parapet over metal frame windows with marble colonettes and various punched foil tracery heads. 3-bays set back to right with quatrefoil parapet and blind panelling to tall chimney stack. Advanced lower 2-storey bay with convex front to 1st floor and 5-light bow to ground floor, Gothic door to right; similar details to 2-bay range set back to right with steep attic gables and 2-storey bay windows, stepped out to ground floor. Front stepped back to right beyond canopied niche to angle; splayed end to right with foliage bracket cill. Clustered cylindrical stack links with Seddon room, oval shaped range derived from the apse of St Etienne at Caen; curved steep slate roof with end conical tourelles and machicolated cornice. Grouped lancets to 1st floor, ground floor windows set flat in arched recesses with punched plate tracery tympani. Polygonal stair turret and angle porch to right with pediment over entrance. 4-storey and basement 2 + 3 window gabled and heavily glazed 1896 block, taller to left; mostly square framed small-pane mullioned windows with varied detail. Triple lancet window to right gable end over lower 2-storey, 9-bay range at the SW end of the College; before the fire it had a timber framed 1st floor. Venetian window inspired tripartite glazing with continuous hoodmoulds, stepped cill to end window. This range is terminated at splayed SW end by Romantic Castle type cylindrical tower with triple conical roofs over machicolated cornice and 3 mosaic panels based upon designs by C F A Voysey, depicting Archimedes to centre, probably intended for a different academy. Irregular SW end to King Street side, with one curve sided triangle window, clustered chimney stack and gabled doorway. Splayed back to right with large circular structure (based upon a medieval chapter house?) with tall corbelled chimney stack. Steps back and forward to narrow 5-storey range with convex front and crenelated parapet; linked ogee recesses to 4th floor, 2nd and 3rd floors combined with heavily cusped windows - influence of late Spanish Gothic. Plain staircase range to right linking with 4-storey main entrance range with wide overhanging eaves to galleried top storey with cusped timber frame windows. Advanced lower floors canted forward at centre with quatrefoil parapet, similar banding below trefoil headed 3rd floor windows. 1st and ground floors dominated by exceptional triangular porte-cochere offset to right; tall S and E facing gables with parapet carried to the front on broad pier by lively castellated spirelet; shields in trefoil headed recesses to gables, sexpartite vault within, framed cinquefoil over tripartite entrance. 6 storey curving stair turret to right with crenelated parapet and ogee machicolation, tall 2-light bar tracery window to base with flanking canopied niches; similar 7-storey winding stair turret to right. Plainer 5-storey and attic gabled NE range stepped forward with cill bands, 2nd and 3rd floors combined in alternate bays. Modern structures adjoining at right hand end between Old College and Theological College.  

Similarly eclectic interior focused on the long rectangular 3-storey Quad with part glazed barrel 6-bay roof and pendant bosses; galleried to 2nd floor on SE side and 1st floor on NW side, punched tracery to bracketed gallery fronts, splayed across the corners. Multi-corbelled minstrel's gallery to NE end; Gothic doors and windows; tripartite opening with marble piers to cantilevered imperial staircase with muscular newel posts. Below minstrel's gallery is a bronze statue on Gothic pedestal of Thomas Edward Ellis A S by Goscombe John (1903); unsigned similar statue to other end of Rt Hon Henry Austin, Baron Aberdare, first chancellor of the University College of Wales. Main imperial staircase lies to right of the main entrance, Gothic detail, quadripartite ribbed vault and tripartite screen to top. Later broad openwell staircase to SW, staircases and Quad reached off corridor which curves around the ''0'' plan Seddon Room opposite main entrance; rounded SE side and exterior of NW side, springers suggest that it was intended to have a vault now with modern acoustic ceiling; triple arched arcade to entrance side balanced by full height windows opposite with small rose windows flanked by trefoils to tympani. Splayed angles glazed to NW side and decoration to other side. French medieval style fireplace to either end with coned hoods, crenellated and dog tooth cornice and marble columns with fleur de lys capitals; iron canopy over grate to NE end.  

Reason for designation
Listed for exceptional architectural and historic interest. The building was never completed to JP Seddon’s designs but remains a particularly important example of that style so loved by wealthy Victorian patrons and so imaginatively created by architects of the period. Group value with other listed items in King Street, New Promenade and Laura Place.  

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