Summerhouse Café, Bute Park

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This café was opened in May 2010. Its architectural style echoes that of an ornate timber Summerhouse which was once a landmark in Bute Park.

The original was built c.1880. It was probably designed by William Burges, architect to the Bute estate. He’s perhaps best known today for his work on Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch, which perches on a wooded hillside near Tongwynlais (north of Cardiff). He died in 1881, and the Summerhouse’s construction could have been partly or entirely carried out by his successor, William Frame – designer of the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay.

The Summerhouse was part of the Third Marquess of Bute’s grand scheme to transform the castle and the “pleasure grounds” outside. When the scheme began in the 1870s, the parkland was a collection of lands acquired at different times, each with its own history.

Photo of original kiosk now at St Fagans
The original Summerhouse, now at St Fagans

In 1873 the Marquess moved gardener Andrew Pettigrew from his estate in Ayrshire, Scotland, to Cardiff Castle. Pettigrew landscaped the area as a coherent private estate which complemented Burges’ alterations to the castle. The landscaping took 30 years. Visitors were impressed by the variety of trees which had been planted and by the upkeep of the large swathes of grass, where tennis and other games were played. We might take neat grass in parks for granted, but powered lawnmowers hadn’t been invented back then!

The Summerhouse fell into disrepair in the 1970s. In 1987 it was donated to the St Fagans National History Museum (west of Cardiff), where it opened as a public exhibit in 1988 (see the upper photo).

The replica Summerhouse has an ornate timber frame. In the spirit of recycling, the stones around the base came from the demolition of a disused toilet block that used to stand close by to where the café now stands (see the lower photo). The new building provides hot and cold snacks for park visitors all year round and has become a focal point of Bute Park.

New kiosk site pre-construction
The Summerhouse site 2009, note old toilet block in the distance

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To continue the Bute Park tour, follow the main path northwards until you see the ornamental Stuttgart Garden and a garden wall on your right. The QR code is on a post where a path leads off to the right Navigation next button