The Cardiff Times, Friday, March 30, 1866
THE NEW HOTEL
When the erection of the Cardiff Royal Hotel was commenced,we gave a full description of the intended edifice, with its dimensions and leading characteristics; but now that the structure is completed, the rooms, furnished, and the establishment on the point of being opened to the public, it may not be out of place to revert to the subject. Our town is not so replete with architectural features as that a building of the magnitude and importance of the new hotel can be lightly estimated as an addition to them. Few towns, indeed, of the size and population of Cardiff have so little to boast of in the way of buildings.
This is mainly a new town; it has been built in a hurry, and mostly on the vicious leasehold system, under which one man owns the soil, another puts up the building, and, in general, a third inhabits the tenement - a state of things so inimical to enterprise that the wonder is, not that good buildings are rare, but that they exist at all.
The Cardiff Hotel Company, limited, an association which comprises many of the leading inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood, sought to meet a very obvious want - one which its members no doubt individually felt - in resolving to erect a really first-class hotel, one worthy of the metropolis of South Wales.
They were fortunate in the choice of officers, for in Mr. Heard they have a secretary who has brought the greatest energy and zeal to their aid, and in Mr Bernard, they employed an architect whose enlightened skill and cultivated taste have furnished them with a building in which utility has steadily been kept in view as the one great object, and yet it has not been made the excuse for ugliness of execution or slovenliness of design.
Mr. Daniel Jones, the builder, to whom the contract was awarded, has urged on the work with steady rapidity, while supplying good materials and solid workmanship. The proprietors have every reason thus far to congratulate themselves, and to feel that there has nothing occurred in the elementary part of their enterprise, to injuriously affect its ultimate fortunes.
The site of the hotel consists of a piece of land fronting on St. Mary-street, and extending back to the new Park-road. Of the frontage of 100 feet on St. Mary-street , 82 was leased for 99 years from the Town Council, and 18 feet was formerly occupied by the Stogumber Inn. The depth of the site is 95 feet. The frontage on Park-road is slightly longer than that on St. Mary-street.
There is also a difference in the soil and substratum, the front portion being based on the gravel, and the back on the alluvial deposit formerly the bed of the river. The architect, therefore, had a different piece of ground to deal with, but he has framed his plans with a skill which conceals the irregularity of the shape of the ground, the rooms being of regular proportions, and the "skew" being thrown into the areas and vacant spaces in the edifice.
The contract prices were £1,400 for the basement, and £11,800 for the superstructure. Stabling, costing about £1,000, has been erected on a piece of land on the opposite side of Park-road, along Park-street, running in the direction of Temperance-town, at right angles to the hotel. The capital of the company is £15,000, but as a greater sum than this has been required in order to complete the furnishing of the establishment, the directors preferred borrowing the excess on debenture, to increasing the capital of the company.
The clerk of the works is Mr Garret. The upholstery is furnished by Mr. Daniel Lewis, the ironmongery by Messrs. Cross Brothers, and the table and bed linen by Mr. Maurice Williams. It is at once creditable and advantageous to the company that they have dealt with local tradesmen for the articles required in fitting up the hotel, instead of sending to London or elsewhere for them. The only exceptions that we noticed were the plate, which has been procured from Elkington's, the wines and liquors, which of course were not to be home made, and the system of galvanic signals which act instead of bells.
This last has been put up by a French workman sent over from a Paris house for the purpose. It is a very simple plan, yet admirably efficacious. All that appears in a room is a small white button, with the word "press" above it. ON being pressed, the buttton will recede so far, and no further can the most impatient or irritable guest press it. Instantaneously a bell is struck, opposite the door of a room allotted to an upper servant.
Simultaneously with the sound of the bell, a small metal finger starts out from a table on which are the numbers of all the rooms. The finger which starts of from its place points to the figure immediately above it - and that is the number of the room where the button is pressed. The finger remains outstretched until it is put back by hand, which of course will not be done until the water returns from the room to which he was summoned, and after his errand has been accomplished.
This is only one of the many admirable modern inventions which the hotel will have for saving trouble and ensuring convenience, promptitude, accuracy, and labour saving. A small volume might be written in describing an establishment of this kind - so many points are there which seem to deserve remark, but which we pass over, having not the space to give a detailed account of the whole building.
There are the four ice-houses, excavated under the street; the cellars, in which, though only partially stocked, there are already over £1000 worth of rare liquors, selected by a committee of the directors, who have bought for the hotel just as they buy for their own well-appointed private establishments. The great kitchens, 35 feet by 25 feet, is replete with every device for saving labour, and enabling one cook to do the work of a dozen.
The directors have made a good choice in this department, for it is presided over by Mr. Dascombe, formerly of Bute-road. The model cooking =-apparatus of all kins found in the kitchen is supplied, through Messrs. Cross, but the well known Nottingham house of Goddard and Son for whom they are agents.
The most noticeable features on the ground-floor are the front entrance, exquisitely painted in imitation of marble, under the direction of Mr. R. J. Nicholl who has had the charge of the painting and glazing work of the building. On the left of the entrance is a small, snug parlour, which is about as comfortable a room as a small party of friends cold wish to pass a few hours in.
Beyond that, is a room which may serve if required for a coffee room, or for a parlour of considerable size. It is 25 feet by 22. Fronting the vestibule at the entrance is the bar, inside which there is to be no intrusion. There are three large windows in front, which leave an ample counter for rapid imbibition. Access to the bar is obtained through the manager's business room. On the right from the vestibule is a club reading-room, The Cardiff and county club, a newly formed institution having 140 members, have hired four rooms on the ground floor and the floor above, from the hotel, being those on the Stogumber site.
Private doors communicate between the club rooms and the hotel proper. The members of the club are to be served with refreshments at an agreed tariff; beyond this the club are independent of the hotel, paying a yearly rent for their rooms and for attendance. The club have a separate vestibule separating their reading room from the hotel corridor, and a separate staircase leading to their upper rooms, which consist of billiard, dining, and drawing rooms.
One excellent feature in the hotel is the servants' staircase, running from the back entrance in Park-road to the very top of the building. It is absolutely fire proof being constructed wholly of stone, with iron railings. In case of fire and any difficulty arising of egress by the front, this back staircase would afford a sure means of escape. Close to the back entrance on the ground floor is a farmers' room, design for the holding of rent audits and the transaction of business of that description. On the second floor is the assembly room, 50 by 25, capable of comfortably dining 150 persons.
It is four feet shorter than the Angel large room, but much wider; and it is a little longer than the Cardiff Arms assembly room . The ceiling of this room is beautifully designed. It is divided by the beams into five compartments, each tastefully ornamented. Great attention has been paid throughout the whole edifice, to ventilation. Over every gas chandelier is a ventilator, carrying off the heated vapours into the flues or into the open air.
The chandeliers themselves are of very tasteful designs. The viands will be served from an adjoining apartment, through an open window, and will come up in a hoist from below, as will also luggage, coals, &c., for the upper rooms, so that the stairs will be reserved for persons walking up and down, and be kept clear of loads and burdens requiring to be transferred from one story to another. There is a ladies' coffee room, 25 by 22, adjoining the assembly rooms. Some private sitting rooms are also upon the second floor.
The floors above are devoted to sitting and bedroom principally, some en suite and others detached. The water closets are unobtrusively placed, and are conveniently numerous. There are several bathrooms, the hot water for which is supplied by pipes from the kitchen. The prices intended to be charged for occupancy of the rooms are exceedingly moderate, considering the spaciousness of the apartments and the style in which they are furnished.
There are upwards of fifty bedrooms as yet allocated for guests but on a punch very many more rooms could be spared, for the purpose, as the servants seem to be provided for on a scale of space quite in keeping with the name of the hotel, which, by the way, is "The Royal," not a very appropriate or wisely chosen name, as there is nothing in it distinctive of the town in general or of this hotel in particular.
The name of the great hotel of a town should be one which would convey to strangers an idea of the locality. Thus, when one thinks of where he stopped at Dover, "The Lord Warden" naturally recurs to the memory as connected with the Cinque Ports. To call this "The Lord Bute" hotel would have been at once a grateful compliment to the founder of the port, and a pecuniary advantage for the establishment.
As it is, people at a distance, who have been here, will never refer to it but as "that hotel where we stopped in Cardiff, you know," and as for those who have not been here before, there will be nothing in the name to signify whether it is to St. Mary-street or to Trinity-street that they are to look for "The Royal."
In conclusion, we need scarcely add, what our local readers are well aware of that the new hotel, from its height and size, is a most prominent feature of the landscape, viewed from any point westward of the town, within several miles.
The bare flat of the Cardiff Arms Park stretching away before, it gives an uninterrupted sight of it to persons approaching town by the Cowbridge road. in St. Mary-street it towers far above all surrounding buildings, and rivals the Town-hall itself as an ornament to the thorough-fare. Its style of architecture is Venetian. It is built of stone, covered with cement, and dressed with Bath stone.
The supporting arches of red brick are left uncovered, and agreeably relieve the monotony of the cement colour. The management of the hotel has been vested in Mr Strawson, a gentleman who appears to be thoroughly up in his business, and in selecting whom the directors appear to have had the same good fortune which marked their choice of architect, builder, and furnishing tradesmen. The hotel is intended to be opened next week - on Monday if possible.