Cardiff Castle Animal Wall

One of my missions is to visit at least one new place every year. My hope is that this blog inspires other people to explore new destinations too. I currently live in Cardiff, or Caerdydd to use its Welsh name, the capital of Wales. There will be lots of visitors who will come to Cardiff for the first time this year, maybe you will be one of them. Just in case you are, I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite parts of the city throughout this month.

Wales is a land of myths and legends, full of mystical creatures such as dragons. Which is why it makes it even more special that one of Cardiff’s most cherished attractions includes sculptures of everyday, very real animals.

Today I’m going to share with you some pictures of a local sight here in Cardiff that you could be forgiven for walking straight past without even noticing. It’s right in the middle of the city centre, part of one of our major tourist attractions, yet it’s so well done that it fits right into it’s surroundings and it’s easy to take for granted.

The Cardiff Castle Animal Wall was designed by William Burgess in 1866, but not actually built until after his death. The wall originally stood directly in front of the castle, but was moved when the road was widened in 1922. It’s definitely more at home in it’s current location, I don’t think the modern day drivers would have appreciated navigating the original structure during rush hour! There were plans to widen Castle Street again in the 1970s, and demolish the animal wall altogether, but fortunately for us the idea was abandoned. I’m so glad that they changed their mind and I get to see the wall in situ rather than as photographs in the museum. The animals are referred to locally as ‘the gargoyles’, but they are actually technically grotesques because they don’t spout water. Like gargoyles, though, their job is to protect us.

The original nine animals, sculptured by Thomas Nicholls, were the hyena, wolf, apes, seal, bear, lioness, lynx and two different lions. I think the hyena is my favourite.

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Originally, the nine grotesques were painted in naturalistic colours which was later removed. I’ve never seen any images of what they looked like when painted, but I think I’d prefer the bare stone.

A further 6 animals, sculptured by Alexander Carrick, were added in 1931: the pelican, ant-eater, raccoons, leopard, beaver and vulture.

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Between July and October 2010, the animals were restored as part of a £5.6 million refurbishment of Bute Park. The anteaters missing nose, which had fallen off in the 1990s, was replaced along with the missing glass eyes in the original nine animals.

Even if I don’t always remember to notice them, the gargoyles make me feel protected whenever I walk past Cardiff Castle, and they’re certainly a unique talking point about the city.


7 Replies to “Cardiff Castle Animal Wall”

    1. It is fantastic 🙂 Hope you’re getting some rest after all the mountain climbing you’ve been doing recently Baz, thanks for dropping by!

    1. I don’t know of any photographic evidence of them painted, and presumably the photos would be in black and white anyway. I think they fit better into their surrounding like they are now, they’d be too obvious if they were painted.

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