Friday, 16 October 2009

Cardiff changes but The Vulcan remains - by Graham Craig




Cardiff has seen its fair share of change in the past decade. The Millennium Stadium, the Senedd, the Cardiff Bay Barrage, the Wales Millennium Centre and most recently St David's 2 have all emerged onto the Cardiff landscape. These are all fine examples of architecture and engineering, and all are playing a significant part in the development of Cardiff as a vibrant European capital.

Yet there is a feeling among many Cardiffians that this development has come at too high a price. Huge swathes of the Docklands have been condemned to history in order to build uniform soulless flats and a tacky retail and restaurant quarter by the name of Mermaid Quay. Closer to the city centre the Reformation-savaged ruins of a 13th Century Franciscan friary were demolished in the 1960s to make way for a tower block.

At the heart of the latest battle between developers and Cardiffians sits The Vulcan Hotel. The Vulcan was built in 1853 and has served the people of Cardiff ever since. The glazed tiles to the exterior were added in 1906 while in 1914 significant alterations were made to the interior – the smoke room was removed from the front bar and the unique brown terracotta urinals were installed.

The current d├ęcor came with landlord Brian Smart and wife Liz when they took over in 1993. A ship's wheel and numerous images of ships, the Docks and other local landmarks give The Vulcan a genuine character that chain pubs can only attempt to manufacture.

Despite its history and its popularity The Vulcan has been under threat of demolition for years. Owners Brains Brewery were issued with a Compulsory Purchase Order several years ago as the land was wanted for the St Davids 2 development.

In August 2008 the Save The Vulcan campaign began with the aim of saving this gem from the bulldozers. Support quickly grew with the petition reaching one thousand before Christmas and currently standing at more than six thousand. Famous names were among them: James Dean Bradfield, Lord Kinnock and Rhys Ifans among others. A public meeting drew a crowd of more than one hundred.

But the developer wasn't listening and the closing date remained fixed for late June. Then a text from the landlady: an extension to the lease was on the table. Three more years. Three more years of good beer, three more years of interesting company and, above all, three more years of Cardiff as it was.

The latest news is that the landlady is moving on. Doubt surrounds the developer's next move since the extension was offered to her and to her alone. We have worked so hard and fought so well that to lose The Vulcan now would be devastating.

We need everyone in Cardiff to experience the atmosphere of The Vulcan. On an international day when six women wedge themselves behind the bar to serve beer to hundreds or on a Tuesday lunchtime when the only soul in the place is you. Once you've been there you'll understand the pub's popularity and you'll understand why the campaign has put so much effort into preserving it.

A Vulcan visitor is a Vulcan supporter is a weapon against needless demolition of Cardiff heritage.

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