Lord Aberdare statue, Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff

Lord Aberdare statue, Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff

This statue of Lord Aberdare faces the main building of Cardiff University. He played an important role in the development of university education in Wales.

Henry Austin Bruce was born in 1815 in Duffryn, near Aberdare in the Cynon Valley. He attended grammar school in Swansea and later became a lawyer. He was Liberal MP for Merthyr Tydfil from 1852 to 1868, and later MP for Renfrewshire, near Glasgow. He was familiar enough with Welsh, then widely spoken in the industrial Valleys, to translate Welsh poetry into English.

He was Home Secretary when he was given a peerage in 1873. By then he had been involved in several efforts to improve education, particularly in Wales. In 1875 Lord Aberdare became president of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Later he was the first president of University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire – now Cardiff University – which was founded in 1883.

In 1886 his double-barrelled gun exploded while he was out shooting near Builth Wells. Part of a finger on his right hand had to be amputated.

In 1893 several colleges came together to form the University of Wales. Lord Aberdare became its first chancellor but died a few weeks later, on 25 February 1895. Before the month was out, a proposal was made for a statue to be erected in Aberdare. Cardiff was chosen instead, because Lord Aberdare was a figure of national importance to Wales.

The statue, depicting him in his academic gown, was unveiled in 1899 in Howard Gardens, west of Queen Street railway station. It was moved here in 1914. A copy was made for the main university building in Aberystwyth.

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