It always saddens me when iconic buildings with historical significance are destroyed. That sadness is compounded, however, when said buildings also have a personal connection to either myself, or to somebody I know, or have known.

A case in point is the ongoing demolition of a Cardiff landmark, ‘The Rise’, situated north of the city in Pontcanna, of which a photograph which was sent to me recently, shows.

Penhill House, built in 1861, by Lewis Charles, before being sold to Edward Bevan some years later, and remained in private hands up until the late 1960s, when it was re-purposed as a Cardiff City Council ‘Assessment Centre’, accommodating boys, aged between 11 and 16, from Cardiff, Barry, Penarth and the Rhondda Valleys.

It’s first owner was an Apothecary (Pharmacist), and it’s attached one-acre gardens were known locally as ‘Erw-yr-Apothercary’, which reflected it’s original purpose.

After it’s usefulness as an Assessment Centre came to an end, it was used right up until it’s closure, by Cardiff City Council to house the offices of the Youth Offending Team.

Pontcanna residents have campaigned for the building to be preserved, but the City Council, declared The Rise, a ‘Financial Burden,’ and it’s Director of Economic Development, decided in 2017 to dispose of the building at an open auction.

Another reason given by the Council was that it needed to be disposed of, to save ‘Running Costs’.

A letter to the South Wales Echo, from local resident Pauline Grainger, Reads:

‘We are told that the Council is powerless to prevent it’s demolition. Have they considered listing the building? I would have thought that there was a very good case to be made to save one of Cardiff’s oldest distinctive buildings dating back to the 1860s. Not to mention the loss of the mature treason the site, which we are now told are conveniently diseased’.

A Pontcanna Councillor, Iona Gordon, has pretty much agreed with the Council’s plans, saying “It’s unfortunate that the building  – just outside her ward – was not listed.’

But Cardiff Civic Society did actively work towards protecting this landmark from demolition, and even organised a protest prior to the bulldozers moving in, and have sent a letter to Cardiff Planning Department, outlining their concerns.

‘Cardiff Civic Society has noted the sale by auction of Pencil Rise on Penhill Road.
This is a landmark building on a prominent site in the local area. In response to representations by the local community, Cardiff Civic Society would like to urge Cardiff Council to preserve this interesting building, and the mature trees that provide a hughe local amenity, as well as absorbing pollution from the busy road.
Penhill Rise deserves to be sympathetically restored, and it’s tree-lined landscape to remain, as both elements add immeasurably to the character of the region. The property is adjacent to the Grade II listed park, Llandaff Fields, and any intrusive development would impact unfavourably on this well-loved green space. Furthermore, it is clear that any major development work on this site would inevitably cause traffic chaos and present a serious danger to pedestrians.
There is a precedent for preserving landmark buildings of character and history in the area. For example, the Vicarage Development on Severn Road, which was preserved thanks to the effort of the local community, and is now a hugely desirable residential property.
Cardiff has lost too many characterful, historic buildings for the city to be able to afford to lose any more.’

There is not much for Cardiff Council to argue against, in my opinion.

Despite the opposition to the Council’s plans , and the impassioned plea’s from locals, the sale of the building did go ahead, and the new owner, has I believe, made good on his plans to demolish the building.

The building attracted bids far and above the auction estimate of £595,000, and no doubt the City Council’s accountants were jumping for joy, when The Rise actually sold for £1.6 Million.

Interestingly enough, despite the local Councillor’s claim; “It’s unfortunate that the building was not listed”, a basic search on the BRITISH LISTED BUILDINGS website, would have shown her that Penhill House is (or was) certainly a Grade II listed Building, and has been since 1978.

If this Grade II listing is still in place, then it asks the question as to why the demolition of The Rise was allowed to proceed, and also why were both the Cardiff Civil Society and the local Councillors not aware of it, or did they simply not acknowledge it’s status, as after all, £1.6 Million is a serious sum of money.

Or was the listed status removed quietly, when the listing was amended in 2001?

As for my personal connection to this building?

I lived at The Rise intermittently, between the months of September and December 1978, while it was still an Assessment Centre, it was my very fist experience of local authority ‘care’.

12 thoughts on “PENHILL HOUSE (The Rise)

  1. How nice for the developer – who will surely have already had the nod from planning that stuffing the site with too many cardboard houses, not enough parking, miniscule gardens and nowhere for kids to play will get the green light.
    “An Exclusive Development…”
    In reality “Tomorrows Slums Today from (fill in) Homes.”

  2. Cardiff City Council is £50 Million in the hole, they would not turn down the chance to get hold of 1.6M. I bet Caerdydd are not the only ones who have done it either.

    Even if they had to bend a few rules [allegedly]

  3. ‘Tony Burke, convicted in 2001 of sexually abusing boys at Penhill Assessmant Centre, Cardiff, between December 1970 and August 1971 lost an appeal against his sentence. Three judges at the court of appeal dismissed the appeal against convictions on four charges of abusing two teenagers in his care but found that a fifth conviction – for a serious sexual assault against a third teenager – was unsafe and it was quashed. Burke’s lawyers argued that he had not had a fair trial because of the length of time since the alleged offences, the loss of documentation relating to the school over the years and the death and unavailability of potential witnesses.’

    1. Not really relevant to this article, but cases like that were sadly, all too common throughout the care system in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

  4. Suffolk House, off Conway Road, the girls home just down the road from Penhill went to property developers a few years ago

  5. ‘A man whose allegations sparked an investigation into a VIP child abuse ring at Westminster can now be identified as Carl Beech after a judge lifted reporting restrictions.

    Beech, previously known by the pseudonym “Nick”, is to stand trial next year at Newcastle crown court, charged with 11 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud. No pleas have been entered.

    Announcing the charges in July, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said an investigation by Northumbria police had provided evidence that Beech – then protected by a legal blackout – had made “a number of false allegations alleging multiple homicides and sexual abuse said to have been carried out in the 1970s and 1980s”.

    His claims centred on a number of establishment figures, including the former Conservative prime minister Ted Heath; Leon Brittan, a Tory former home secretary who died in 2015 before learning that he had been cleared of all wrongdoing; a former head of the armed forces, Lord Bramall; and the former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor.

    The Metropolitan police launched Operation Midland after it received allegations of a VIP paedophile ring operating in Westminster. However, the £2.5m investigation closed after finding no evidence of any wrongdoing.

    The charges Beech faces include allegations that he made a false allegation of witnessing Proctor kill a child, and that he had falsely alleged “that he had been sexually and physically abused by a paedophile ring, with senior ranking officers within the military, military intelligence, a TV presenter and other unidentified men”.

    He is also accused of falsifying an email account and providing false information purportedly sent from “Fred”, an individual whom he had named as present when he was abused by a paedophile ring.

    The fraud charge accuses him of making a fraudulent representation to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority on or around 26 September 2013, “namely that he was subjected to abuse by a paedophile ring, knowing this to be untrue and intending thereby to make a gain for himself”.’


  6. My family member lives in Penhill House which was listed as Grade II in 1978, ref 14097. Penhill House is located on Llandaff Road and surrounded by a wall and extensive trees (some of which are protected). The Cadw listing 14097 has no association with the property known as The Rise at Penhill which was sold by Cardiff Council. I am in agreement that The Rise at corner of Penhill should have been listed and it was sad to see the demolition team on site. I first visited Penhill House in 1978 when Mr C A John ( Senior) purchased the property, a major part of the garden had already been sold off and two bungalows had been built where the stables were originally in situ. The inside of the property has been well maintained by the granddaughter of C A John (Senior) and Cardiff Conservation officers have been welcomed into the the property to inspect, take photographs and check that all internal paint and other works carried out are appropriate. In 2004/5 the roof was restored by the father of the current occupant and chimney stacks were repaired in line with conservation and planning approval. The property has a walled garden which is well maintained. Penhill House has a long and interesting history with previous occupants including the Ingledew family one of whom the county solicitor and another being partly responsible for the construction of Llandough Hospital.

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