There has been a market in central Cardiff for over 800 years. However, the first covered market on the site near St John’s Church was established in 1835. Solomon Andrews, one of Cardiff’s leading Victorian entrepreneurs, had a new market built in 1884. It was completely destroyed by fire in 1885. Solomon fainted at the shock when he saw the destruction, but soon had it rebuilt.
The large indoor glass-roofed Victorian market that we know today, between St Mary and Trinity Street, was erected on the site in 1891. Designed by local engineer William Harpur and built by Andrew Handyside & Co. of Derby, it was solidly constructed from wrought iron and steel. The market was officially opened on 8th May 1891 by the Marchioness of Bute. A commemorative plaque hangs inside the Trinity Street entrance. The original design provided for 349 stalls of various sizes. Initially they were grouped according to trade, with non-food stalls confined to the upper balcony area.
The first stall you may have encountered in 1891, on your right as you entered the Trinity Street entrance, was Ashton’s Fishmongers. It is still there. Since 1973, the business has been run by the Adams family, a long-established family of fishmongers from Penarth. John James Adams was awarded an MBE in this year’s New Year’s Honours List for services to the fishing industry in south Wales. His son Nick Adams, a fifth-generation fishmonger, currently runs Ashton’s market stall.
Marks & Spencer opened one of their original penny bazaars in the market in 1895. Roche’s was a stall selling china for 70 years in the market, until Mr. Roche retired in 2004. Alan Griffiths, one of the butcher’s and chairman of the Cardiff Traders’ Association has said that, “People like to come into a market, they like personal service and friendly faces – that is something which lacks in supermarkets really.” The market has a long tradition, and is liked for its consistency as large areas of Cardiff have been redeveloped around it.
The building was refurbished between 1988 and 1991, and to help celebrate the Grade II listed building’s 120th anniversary this year the Trinity Street entrance has had its stonework washed and repaired.
Today, there are 73 stalls selling a wide range of items, with food and non-food stalls intermixed. You can buy meat, fruit and vegetables, cakes, vinyl records, pets, tools, leather bags, second-hand books and much more. There are several places to eat inside the market: The Bull Terrace café, the Gallery Café, Woody’s café and Celtic Corner for teas and coffees. There are eight butchers stall, five fruit and vegetable stalls, including Sullivan’s opposite Ashton’s, two delicatessens, two confectionary stalls, along with bread, and cake and cheese stalls.