Demolition of Splott University (Old College Building)

Like more than 2,000 of my fellow Splottlanders, my heart plummeted on hearing that Splott University, also known as the Old College Building, was to be demolished by developer JR Smart and 36 flats constructed in its place.

Splott University was designed by architect Robert Weir Schultz and built in 1904 and is thought to be the only example of a University Settlement left in Wales.  In 1924 it became the first Catholic Boys Grammar School in Wales.

Splott doesn’t have many buildings of historic value left so to knock down one so beautiful for new-build flats and especially when the much-loved STAR centre is scheduled to be demolished to make way for housing?  Well that just seemed cruel and unnecessary.

I wanted to know why the building hadn’t been protected by our government, so I wrote to Ken Skates, the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism and asked:

“Dear Mr Skates,

I am writing to you as a resident of Splott who is deeply unhappy with the plan to demolish the Old College Building also known as Splott University

I don’t understand how this can be allowed to happen as the building has such historical significance and is the only one of its type in Wales.

I urge you to take action on behalf of the people of Splott and prevent this tragedy. We should be protecting our history not demolishing it.

Yours sincerely,

Lynne Thomas”


A few days later, I received a reply from Rhodri Kelly, Historic Environment Service (CADW), Welsh Government:


“Dear Ms Thomas,

Thank you for your email of 9 January 2016 to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism about the decision not to list the Old College Building, Splott, Cardiff.  I have been asked to reply.

To qualify for listing, candidate buildings must be of nationally significant architectural or historic interest and must satisfy published listing criteria.  Where these are met, the Welsh Ministers (in practice the Welsh Government’s historic environment service (Cadw)) are under a duty to list but cannot do so otherwise.  The approach adopted for post 1840 buildings is to identify the best examples of particular building types, and only buildings of definite quality and character are listed.  For twentieth century listing it is necessary to identify key examples for each range of building type, and to treat these examples as the benchmark against which to judge proposals for additions to the statutory list.  Listing does not provide any guarantee that a building will be retained or preserved, but is rather a planning marker designed to sympathetically manage change in historically and architecturally important properties.

The decision not to list the Old College Building was taken by the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 20 October after very careful consideration of the representations made about the building, the written and visual evidence presented to him and a visit to the site on 6 May.

The Deputy Minister concluded that the Old College Building is not of nationally significant special architectural or historic interest and falls short of the criteria for listing for the following reasons:

  • The case for listing is undermined because what survives is only a tiny fragment of the original complex and cannot therefore be judged to be of definite quality and character from the post 1840 period;
  • The lack of detail that was originally intended critically diminishes the quality and character that is necessary to list buildings on grounds of their architectural and historic interest, as do the alterations associated with its later reuse as part of the school;
  • While the former school hall block of 1936 is of historic interest for its association with the first Catholic Boys Grammar School in Wales, it is not of definite quality and character and its significance at the national level is undermined because it does not compare favourably with those other school buildings that have been listed and therefore set the benchmark.

There is no basis to reconsider the decision as all the issues have already been very carefully assessed by the Deputy Minister in arriving at his decision.  I can appreciate the disappointment but the demolition of the building and the redevelopment of the site are now a matter for Cardiff Council and the developer to conclude.  It is however open to you to contact the relevant parties direct to review whether there is scope to retain the building, or part of it, within the proposed development at the site.”


Next stop Cardiff Council.

To find out more about the building and how to campaign against its demolition, go to the 38 Degrees site