History

Bute Park’s history goes back hundreds of years, and over the centuries the land has been through many changes.

1100s

During the 1100s the land that we know today as Bute Park was dominated by the castle and River Taff and was used for small industries, religion and agriculture. These activities reflected Cardiff’s main trades at the time and its importance as a religious centre.
An engraving of Cardiff Castle in the 15th century

1700s

By 1766, the wealthy Bute family inherited the castle and by the late 1800s had begun to develop the grounds. The land surrounding the castle was brought together and pleasure gardens were created.

Andrew Pettigrew worked closely with architect William Burgess to create a landscape that complemented the ornate work on the castle.

An old postcard of Cardiff Castle in the 1700's

1800s

In 1855 the Bute Family closed Cooper’s Fields to public access. However in 1857, Sophia Gardens was opened to the public by the Bute family in compensation for the exclusion of public access from land on the east side of the river – now Bute Park.

Andrew Pettigrew entered the employment of the Bute Estate at Dumfries House, Ayrshire. He was appointed as head gardener to the third Marquess of Bute in 1873 and worked closely with the Marquess and his architect William Burges to lay out the castle grounds, now Bute Park.

In the late 1800s both the Swiss Bridge and Animal Wall which were designed by William Burges were constructed.

Black and white photo of the now dismantled swiss bridge

1900s

In 1947 the Fifth Marquess of Bute gifted the Castle and grounds to the people of Cardiff and the land was turned in to a public park which was opened on April 15th, 1949.

Old blak and white photo of the West Lodge and Gate

Today

Today the land is the ‘green heart’ of the city and provides a habitat for wildlife, a beautiful and extensive arboretum, as well as a venue for major public events.

After interest from the general public, the park underwent restoration from 2010 to 2014. The project was supported by a £3.1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and focused on:

  • Conserving and restoring special historical, environmental and horticultural features.
  • Making the park accessible for all visitors.
  • Building the Education Centre.
  • Renovating and developing West Lodge (what we now know as Pettigrew Tea Rooms).
  • Cleaning and repairing the Animal Wall.

Forgottten history

In the 1870’s, Burgess constructed the Swiss Bridge, a new exit from the castle to the private grounds over the old mill stream. When the West Gate was reconstructed in the 1920s on instructions from the 4th Marquess of Bute, the Swiss Bridge was moved to cross the dock feeder below Castle Mews.

Sadly the Swiss Bridge was dismantled following vandalism in the 1960’s.

Historical attractions

Dock Feeder Canal

Blackweir Woods

Meteorological Station

Meteorological Station

The present-day station is part of the Met Office network of more than 270 automatic weather stations which report a mixture of snapshot hourly observations of the weather (synoptic observations) as well as daily summaries of the weather (climate observations). Learn more.

Tree Charter Pole

Tree Charter Pole

The Charter for Trees, Woods and People sets out the principles for a society in which people and trees can stand stronger together. Learn more.

Gorsedd Stone Circle

Gorsedd Stone Circle

This circular collection of stones was installed in 1978 to commemorate the Welsh National Eisteddfod in Cardiff. Learn more.

Blackfriar’s Friary

Blackfriar’s Friary

Blackfriars Friary is an ancient scheduled monument and a grade II listed building dating back to the 13th Century. Learn more.

Mill Leat

Mill Leat

The body of water along the western edge of Cardiff Castle is known as the Mill Leat. Learn more.

Summerhouse Café

Summerhouse Café

The Summerhouse cafe offers a wide selection of locally sourced drinks and snacks. Learn more.

The Animal Wall

The Animal Wall

Animals peer over the wall from the park onto Castle Street delighting generations of residents and visitors. Learn more.

River Taff

River Taff

The River Taff is 64 km long and is formed at Cefn-coed-y-cymmer in Merthyr Tydfil at the confluence of the rivers Taf Fechan and Taf Fawr. Learn more.

Pettigrew Tea Rooms

Pettigrew Tea Rooms

This vintage-style tea room is located at the southern end of the park in the handsome West Lodge building on Castle Street. Learn more.