13th October 2015
Do you ever get the feeling that you are being watched as you stroll past Cardiff Castle towards the Millenium Stadium in the city centre? Well you can trust your instincts on this feeling as you are indeed being watched, not only by CCTV but also by wild, un-tamed animals perched on the walls of Bute Park.
But dont worry, these wild animals wont harm you as they are just made from stone and play a big part in the historical architecture of Cardiff despite their piercing stares.
The perimeter wall of Bute Park known as the Animal Wall, alongside Cardiff Castle, is one of the most famous and photographed historic features in Cardiff. Designed by architect William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, these intimidating characters glare down at passers by and are much loved by the people of Cardiff and the hoards of visitors to Cardiff City centre. Burges died before even the completion of the wall and the carving of the animals had not begun until the late 1880s. The wall was then brought to completion by Architect William Frame based on the original design of William Burgess.
The original wall was located directly in front of the Castle and was decorated with just nine animals. Models of each animal were made for Lord Bute’s approval and two, including a “sea horse”, were rejected. The original wall was more or less completed in 1892. By the end of World War 1, traffic along Castle and Duke Street had become extremely busy so it was decided to widen Castle St and align it with the re-built Cardiff Bridge. Therefore, a previous proposal to extend the Animal Wall along the north side of Duke St had to be abandoned.
To accommodate the road widening project, the whole wall was moved west to its present position and six new animals were added to it. Visually these are different and do not have the glass eyes of the originals. The Animal Wall has inspired several literary works, most famously a story by Dorothy Howard Rowlands, which was serialised in the South Wales Echo and Express from 1933 and was enormously popular with a whole generation of children. Characters included William the seal, Priscilla the pelican, Martha and Oscar the monkeys, Larry the lynx and Romulus and Remus the two lions.
Due to natural elements and its close proximity to the busy road, the Animal Wall had deteriorated badly by the turn of the 21st Century, and not for the first time the anteater was without his nose. In 2010 the wall was comprehensively repaired, re-pointed, cleaned and conserved for the delight of future generations as part of the Bute Park Restoration Project, jointly funded by Cardiff Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Cadw.
So next time you walk past the Animal Wall and feel like you are about to be pounced on by these crazy creatures just remember, they have been perched up there for over 120 years, so if they were going to attack, they would have done it by now 🙂
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