Former Grand Hotel, Cardiff
The Grand Hotel was built in 1886. Previously Cardiff’s harbour occupied the area where Westgate Street now runs. The hotel replaced two pubs which had stood near the quays, the Horse & Groom and the Red Cow. It was sold at auction for £2,000 in 1891, complete with stables and outbuildings.
Early trade union meetings were held at the hotel, and the Jewish Amalgamated Society of Tailors met here in February 1909 to reorganise its Cardiff branch.
The hotel was also popular with sporting societies. In the 1890s the Cardiff Borough Cycling Club held here “smoking concerts”, where cyclists smoked while listening to musicians. In 1893 the new manager, Mrs Storkey, advertised the hotel as providing “splendid accommodation for visiting football teams”.
In 1894 rugby forward Sydney Nicholls acquired a stake in the hotel, which he ran for seven years. In those days, rugby union was an amateur game and the players needed to earn their living off the field. Sydney was a forward who played for Cardiff and Wales, where his achievements were somewhat eclipsed by those of one of his brothers, Gwyn Nicholls. Sydney moved to Hull in 1901 to play rugby league for the city.
One night in January 1908 the manager, Mrs Rosser, realised at 3.30am that the hotel’s bar was on fire. Her daughter Lilian, aged 6, (pictured right with her mother) was one of 10 people on the third floor who could not escape as smoke billowed up the staircase. The fire brigade rescued them all through the upper windows.
In 1917 an early women’s rugby match was held at Cardiff Arms Park, between teams from Cardiff and Newport. The Grand Hotel was deemed a suitable place for the ladies to change into and out of their kit. According to Cardiff Rugby Football Club’s historians, the Cardiff team – largely made up of employees from the local Hancocks brewery – was captained by a Miss E Kirton, who later became a familiar employee of the Grand Hotel.
After the Grand Hotel closed, it was converted into 22 residential apartments and commercial areas. Part of the building is now occupied by The Mango House Indian restaurant, a growing business which also has a restaurant in Magor, east of Newport.
Postcode: CF10 1DD