Photo of Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff

This proposed listing forms part of the draft Cardiff buildings of local historic or architectural interest list - Public Houses, Hotels and Clubs (current and former)

Building reference

67 Chapter Arts Centre


1907 onwards


Chapter Arts Centre, Market Rd, Cardiff CF5 1QE

Download site boundary plan.




In 1854, the Borough Council identified a ‘plot of land intended to be taken for a cattle market proposed in The Turnpike Field near Cowbridge Road’ (Glamorgan Archives, ref: BC/S/X/109). Plans were deposited in 1857 (Glamorgan Archives, ref: Q/D/P/171) and, by the OS map of 1886, it can be seen occupying a large site bounded by Cowbridge Road to the south, Llandaff Road to the east, Market Road to the west and Carmarthen Street to the north (see 1900 OS map).

Following closure of the market (but retention of its slaughterhouses to the north), Canton Municipal Secondary School opened on the site in 1907, with 85 pupils. The first headmaster and headmistress were Walter Brockington and Elizabeth Abbott. He started on £300 a year rising to £400, she on £200 rising to £250.

The Board of Education refused to fund the school until a laboratory and art block was added in 1909, to designs by Architects James & Morgan.1

The building was renamed Canton High School in 1933.

In 1941 it was hit by a bomb, which destroyed parts of the school (including much of the roof), the recently installed organ, and some of the school records. The extent of this damage may be discerned within the aerial photo of c1950. The school was not restored until September 1951.

Past pupils include John Toshack, manager of the Wales soccer team from 2004 to 2010 and, earlier, Real Madrid.

The school moved to a new site in 1962.

The buildings opened to the public as Chapter Arts Centre in 1971, three years after local artists first envisioned an arts centre for Wales. The fund-raising effort to establish the centre included a 12-hour concert in Sophia Gardens where the bands included Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath. Some of the classrooms were converted into a gallery, while the school hall became a theatre.

The centre quickly became home to a wide range of artists and craftworkers, including painters, potters and makers of musical instruments, while amateur and professional groups used the centre as their base. Cardiff Cine Society turned the former girls’ cloakroom into a small cinema.

Having their work showcased at Chapter has helped many artists in their early careers, such as musician John Cale, and film directors Justin Kerrigan and Chris Monger.

A £2.24 Million refit of the building by Ash Sakula Architects won RIBA Award Wales in 2010.2

Chapter continues to host theatre, film, dance, art and animation. It presents more than 1,000 events each year, attracting more than 800,000 visitors annually.3


1 Evening Express, 23rd June 1909.

2 Chapman, T. (2010) Architecture 10: RIBA Buildings of the Year.

3 History Points, Chapter Arts Centre.


A large red-brick building with Bath Stone dressings, occupying a large site within the heart of Canton.

The most ornate, principal elevation of the building faces west onto Market Street. It features brick pilasters, gauged work to string courses and window heads, stone half-columns to tripartite windows, a dentilled stone cornice and ornate brick escutcheons. However, the pitched roof and associated gables here (and elsewhere) were lost as a result of WW2 bombing (see aerial photo from c.1950) and were never reinstated during the subsequent ‘restoration’, which continued into the post-war era.

Principal entrance to the building is now from Market Place.

Windows are mixed, with timber, metal and uPVC in evidence. Surviving pitched roofs are all in slate with roll-top terracotta ridge tiles.


Though a building of phased construction with numerous alterations including partial loss of its pitched roof, this large building offers plentiful Aesthetic and Historic Value.

First a school for 55 years, this arts centre has played a critical role in Cardiff’s artistic development since the early-1970s and forms a major European centre for the arts. Communal Value is very high.


Glamorgan Archive



Cardiff Improvement deposited plan of streets and land for cattle market




Canton Cattle Market etc




Cardiff Improvement Plan




Cardiff Improvement plan




Canton High School plan




Papers relating to the repair of Canton Boys School





Photographs of conversion of school building




Application for grant aid to the Welsh Arts Council


Additional images

1920 OS Map showing Canton Municipal Secondary School

Canton Municipal Secondary School, 1920 OS Map (Surveyed 1915)


Photo of Canton Municipal Secondary School, Date Unknown (courtesy of Cardiff Libraries)

Canton Municipal Secondary School, Date Unknown (courtesy of Cardiff Libraries)


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