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Main Building milestone

14 October 2009

Main Building todayMain Building today

It withstood the effects of World War Two, has been the site of many ground-breaking discoveries and today (14 October) Main Building reaches a new milestone in its history - its centenary.

Officially opened 100 years ago by the Earl of Plymouth, Main Building is one of the University’s most impressive buildings and a major architectural jewel in the city centre.

The building’s history stretches back to 1895 when a public appeal for funds to contribute towards the cost of the new building was launched. In 1900, the University’s first Principal, John Viriamu Jones successfully petitioned the Corporation of Cardiff to grant the University a site of five acres, upon which Main Building now stands.

While the drive and vision of John Viriamu Jones had made it possible for the building to exist, it was the architect William Douglas Caroe who takes the credit for the shape, scale and nature of the building.

Caroe’s original plans, now stored in the University’s Institutional Archive, reveal that fountains, verdant lawns and a Great Hall were amongst his ideas for the building. Although these were never realised, Caroe was responsible for designing one of the most impressive university buildings in Britain.

One of William Douglas Caroe's designs for Main Building.One of William Douglas Caroe's designs for Main Building. Courtesy of Caroe & Partners

To mark the centenary, Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant has launched a special exhibition in the building’s Viriamu Jones Gallery. The exhibition captures some of the key events and people that have shaped Main Building and its history.

Dr Grant said: "Main Building is a magnificent grade 2 listed building that remains a thriving focal point of University life. It is at the heart of the Cathays campus and is a landmark venue for the University and the city alike. Over the last century, the building has become symbolic of the world-leading research and teaching that takes place right across the University."

The exhibition is open to staff, students and members of the public. It features a selection of the historical documents and information housed in the University’s Institutional Archive. This includes the original architects’ drawings, first-hand reports of damage to the building sustained during World War II and many photographs taken over the last 100 years.

As well as the exhibition, a special website to mark the centenary has been produced. The site includes a dedicated area called Main Memories which allows staff, students, alumni and friends of the University to share their memories about Main Building. An online photo gallery and 100 facts about Main Building are also features of the site.

The website is available at

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