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Cardiff Castle’s extraordinary Clock Tower must surely be one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
It was designed by William Burges in 1866 as part of a scheme to renovate the Castle’s south wall and work began in 1869. The tower is built on the foundations of a Roman bastion at the South West angle of the medieval curtain wall. The faces of the clock are flanked by 10ft (3m) tall statues representing the principal planets with their respective zodiac on the pedestals. The tower’s bell is a half-scale model of the one in Victoria Tower, Westminster.
DID YOU KNOW?
- It took around five years to build the Castle’s Clock Tower, work began in 1869 and was not completed until 1874.
- The Clock Tower rises to a height of 132ft (40m) and consists of seven stories.
- There are seven rooms in the Clock Tower, one on each floor level. The two lower rooms, below the parapet walk, were originally designed as accommodation for a gardener. The Winter Smoking Room is on the same level as the wall-walk and a turret staircase leads upwards to the Bachelor Bedroom, Clock Room, a Maid’s Kitchen and finally the spectacular Summer Smoking Room.
The tower contains a series of extravagant bachelor rooms, comprising the Winter Smoking Room, Bachelor Bedroom and Summer Smoking Room.
Although these rooms were originally intended for the young 3rd Marquess to enjoy, his marriage to Gwendolen Fitzalan-Howard took place in April 1872, before they were completed. However, the young couple spent their honeymoon at Cardiff Castle so that Lord Bute was able to keep an eye on the building work.
THE WINTER SMOKING ROOM
Smoking rooms were usually a place where the gentlemen of the household could retire after dinner to enjoy cigars and drinks. The theme of this room is the passing of time and the decorations include the days of the week, the four seasons and the 12 signs of the zodiac.
THE BACHELOR BEDROOM
This room celebrates the pursuit of mineral wealth from the earth, an appropriate subject given that Lord Bute’s vast fortune was derived from the coalfields of south Wales. Different types of gemstones are represented both by paintings on the walls and in the stained glass windows. The marble bathtub is said to have been converted from a Roman sarcophagus, purchased in Italy.
THE SUMMER SMOKING ROOM
This room, at the very top of the Clock Tower, commands beautiful views and is undoubtedly one of the Castle’s most spectacular interiors. The theme here is the universe and the painted dome ceiling shows the night sky above the sun, represented by the golden chandelier. The pairs of figures at each corner of the room are the eight classical winds of antiquity.
See the 3rd Marquess of Bute's extravagant bachelor suite for yourself by joining a guided Clock Tower tour, available during the Castle's summer season from March - October.