Pierhead Street
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff CF10 4PZ
 
 
 
The iconic landmark in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff is not a castle or a cathedral, but a red brick and terracotta building on the waterfront. The Pierhead is a flamboyant Victorian building that symbolizes the bold and confident spirit that made Cardiff a great port in the 19th century.
 
When you think about it, Queen Victoria’s reign was a time of ideas and enterprise. Entrepreneurs thrived and grand schemes were encouraged. The Marquess of Bute was almost single-handedly responsible for Cardiff’s development.
 
The Pierhead was built in 1897 as a replacement for the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company which had burned down. It was designed by William Frame in French Gothic Renaissance style. It boasts such details as hexagonal chimneys, carved friezes, gargoyles and a highly ornamental and distinctive clock tower, known locally as the ‘Big Ben of Wales’.
 
By 1897 the Marquess’s business interests had extended to the building of railways to bring coal to the port, and the new building was renamed as the Cardiff Railway Company headquarters. The company’s coat of arms and motto is incorporated into the building’s facade. The motto in Welsh translates as “By Fire and Water” (the elements required to make the steam power that transformed Wales).
 
The building’s materials are all proudly Welsh – the terracotta glazed blocks came from Wrexham and Welsh slate covers the roof.
 
The building is now in the care of The National Assembly for Wales - see 'Current Use' below.
 
Pierhead Interior
The interior of this extraordinary building is just as decorative as the outside. Entry is through heavy cast iron doors. Before going upstairs spend some time in the Pierhead Suite museum of Welsh history, and watch the video about the history of the building.
 
Upstairs, overlooking the harbour is the Port Manager’s office. The room was obviously built to impress because it has an ornamental chimneypiece with a canopy, castellation, foliated columns, and herringbone tiles at the back.
 
The interior has been beautifully restored and furnished with the latest interactive technology.
 
Current Use
The building now houses a museum of Welsh history, a conference centre, an art gallery and interactive access to the National Assembly for Wales. The ultra-modern Senedd Assembly building is next door to the Pierhead.
 
Museum
Exhibits in the museum include historic films of the docks and artefacts reconnected with important Welsh events and identities. Discover the history of Cardiff Bay from the Neolithic era to the industrial revolution, the coming of the railways and the development and decline of the port.
 
Artefacts include historic 15th century documents and the original binnacle (the stand housing the ship's compass) from Scott of the Antarctic's ship the Terra Nova. See displays on interesting ‘Welsh Heroes’ ranging from Saints to sports commentators, princes to boxers, politicians to poets, and social reformers to fashion designers!
 
Open
10:30-16:30 Monday to Saturday
 
Admission
Free
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0)3002 006 565
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Getting There
The Pierhead is accessible on foot, by bicycle, ferry, bus, train and car. Details on  Web:  Pierhead/ Getting There
 
51.2748
3.0948