The (former) Cardiff Union Workhouse, by Edwin Seward

Centre block of the (former) Cardiff Union Workhouse, by Edwin Seward (1853-1924). Forest stone dressings and Radyr strings (according to the Illustrated Guide, 95); Pennant sandstone (according to Newman, 279). Planned 1879, built 1880-81. Cowbridge Rd East, Canton, Cardiff.

Building, rebuilding and extending workhouses was good work for architects in the nineteenth century (see Higginbotham): G. E. Robinson, to whom the young Seward had served as an assistant, had already built the Pontypridd workhouse in 1865, and the firm extended this later; they also built facilities for pauper children in nearby Ely (Cardiff). As for the building shown here, with its lancet, square-headed and mullioned windows, and its clock tower complete with pyramidal roof and bell turret, this was the main frontage of what was once a much bigger complex. In 1930 the workhouse became a "Public Assistance Institution," and in 1948 it was converted for use as St David's Hospital. It was finally adapted for residential purposes after the other buildings on the site were demolished. Even when it was still a workhouse, the Illustrated Guide could say, "the whole premises have a pleasant and even homelike aspect" (97); it is a tribute to Seward that it was eventually possible to convert it into luxury apartments.

Related material

Photograph (2009) and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL or cite it in a print one.]


Higginbotham, Peter. Cardiff, Glamorgan (on an excellent workhouse history site) . Web. 8 April 2011.

The Illustrated Guide to Cardiff and Its Neighbourhood. Cardiff & London: Western Mail Ltd, 1897. Internet Archives. Web. 8 April 2011

Newman, John. Glamorgan (The Buildings of Wales series). London: Penguin, 1995.

Last modified 19 June 2015