Look at any old photo of Cardiff’s docks in their heyday, and there are two constants to be seen. One is the railway station at the southern end of the Taff Vale Railway (TVR), which today is the Cardiff Bay railway station. The other is the Pierhead Building, former home to the Bute Dock Company (later renamed to the Cardiff Railway Company), and it provides a fantastic point of reference to help us see how the land around it has been utterly transformed since the height of the docks.
Built in 1897, the Pierhead Building was commissioned to be the new headquarters of the Bute Dock Company. Today, it is part of the estate of the Welsh Assembly, and serves a dual-purpose role of public museum and events venue.
I haven’t visited the museum since it opened in March, 2010 yet, but I will do so shortly. It’s my growing hypothesis that Cardiff-based exhibitions tend to downplay the debt that the city owes to the exploitation of the natural resources of the valleys (which have been left economically devastated in the post-industrial world), and I’m very curious to see what this exhibition says on the matter.