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Beloved Cardiff pub, demolished in 2012, reopens brick by brick on new site

For over a century and a half, the Vulcan Hotel was a bustling hub for dockers, railway workers, artists, sports stars, and locals in Cardiff. Its demolition in 2012 felt like a great loss to many. Now, twelve years later, the pints are ready to flow again and pickled eggs are back on the menu, thanks to a meticulous project to relocate and rebuild the old alehouse from scratch.

“It feels both strange and wonderful,” remarked Gwyn Lewis, former landlord of the Vulcan, as he stepped into the resurrected pub at its new home on the outskirts of Cardiff, within the St Fagans National Museum of History.

Memories flooded back. James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers, who once hailed it as the “perfect example of an old-fashioned Welsh pub,” often dropped in for a quiet drink before surprising patrons with impromptu guitar performances. Even a couple of New Zealand rugby stars would frequent the place during All Blacks matches, proving hard to dislodge once settled, recalled Lewis. Sunday opening drew a small but loyal group, affectionately known as “God’s waiting room,” mostly elderly regulars numbering just six.

Lewis eagerly inspected the gents, still home to its distinctive, bulbous orange urinal—preserved just as it was. “They’ve even kept that – brilliant,” he exclaimed.

Originally situated at 10 Adam Street in Cardiff’s Newtown area, the Vulcan began its journey as an ale house in 1853, serving the expanding workforce of Cardiff docks. By the turn of the 20th century, it had undergone renovations, including a striking tiled front added in 1915. Memories from that era, shared by Ellen, daughter of former managers Denis and Julia MacCarthy, recount a lively setting where working men dominated the main bar, couples frequented a more refined smoke room, and women gathered in tight quarters.

Patrons would run tabs, leaving false teeth as collateral, kept in a bucket of water. Scratch marks from guard dogs remain etched in a wooden panel, remnants of an era lost when Newtown was razed in the 1960s.

Facing demolition in 2008, the Vulcan’s fate seemed sealed until National Museum Wales intervened, eventually relocating and meticulously restoring the pub to its 1915 charm within the museum’s grounds.

The pub, reopening on 11 May, will feature local brews from Glamorgan Brewing Company, along with classic pub fare like pickled eggs and pork scratchings. A celebration awaits, with seventy-five descendants of the MacCarthy family converging from around the globe.

Dafydd Wiliam, principal curator of historic buildings at the museum, reflects on the Vulcan’s significance, representing the loss of cherished community spaces across Britain.

Liz Smart, a former landlady, once likened the Vulcan to “Star Trek,” immortal in spirit. While its legend lives on, the Vulcan’s revival marks a new chapter in its storied history.

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