One of the most delightful and photographed historic features in Cardiff
The Animal Wall, alongside Cardiff Castle, is one of the most delightful and photographed historic features in Cardiff. It was designed by architect William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute and is much-loved by the people of the city. Burges died before even the structure of the wall was completed and the carving of the animals was not begun until the late 1880s. Architect William Frame brought the Animal Wall to completion, based on the sketches by Burges.
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 congested. Finally 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 widening of the road, the whole wall was moved west to its present position and six new animals were added. Stylistically 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 weathering and its proximity to a 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.