Blackfriars Friary is the site of a former Dominican friary established in 1256. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is one of the most important friary sites in Wales.
The friary was occupied for 288 years until it was dissolved and handed over to the crown in 1538 during the rule of Henry the VIII.
In 1404 the site was sacked and burnt by Owain Glyndwr during his campaign against English rule, but damaged parts of the building were re-built.
Following its closure as a friary, much of the building’s fabric was lost and the extent of the site was not revealed until it was excavated in 1887 on request of the third Marquess of Bute. The architect William Frame was then tasked with interpreting the site as an ornamental garden feature. At this time the site lay within the private grounds of Cardiff Castle.
The Victorian scheme was partially restored in 2013 using reclaimed bricks to match the originals. Threshold stones are inscribed with the names of the rooms they would have led to in the old friary. Turf capping helps shed water and protect the brick work from frost damage. Beautiful decorative Victorian floor tiles that used to be present across the floor in the area of the old church in the Frame design are now laid, for safe keeping, as the floor in Pettigrew Tea Rooms in West Lodge.
You can read more about the site’s fascinating history on the two interpretation panels located at the site. There is also a 3D model showing a reconstruction of how the site would have looked in its medieval heyday. The model was created in 2014 by artist Rubin Eynon and was commissioned as part of the Heritage Lottery-funded Bute Park Restoration Project.