Builders refurbishing city centre bar discover forgotten cellar belonging to 250-year-old pub that closed down in 1990s

  • Horse and Groom served customers in Womanby Street for hundreds of years  
  • Pub is said to date back to 1776 and is known for having a brass pipe at end of bar
  • It has largely been forgotten and was turned into another pub in the camp 

The ancient remains of one of Cardiff’s oldest pubs have been discovered during building work. 

The Horse and Groom served customers in Womanby Street for hundreds of years, from the 18th Century, right up until the early 1990s. 

The pub is said to date back to 1776 and was well known for having a brass pipe at the end of the bar which punters could use to light their cigarettes.

Since it closed towards the end of the last century the pub has largely been forgotten. 


The pub is said to date back to 1776 and was well known for having a brass pipe at the end of the bar which punters could use to light their cigarettes

The Horse and Groom (pictured in 1984) served customers in Womanby Street for hundreds of years, from the 18th Century, right up until the early 1990s

But now part of the once-popular pub, believed to be one of the oldest in the city, has been discovered, while workers were replacing floorboards in a bar above.

Staff at Fuel, a rock bar and live music venue in Womanby Street, were carrying out some refurbishment work ahead of any potential lockdown easing around two weeks ago when they made the discovery.

After removing some of floorboards, they realised that below was the old cellar to the Horse and Groom. Barrels would have been delivered via doors next to the pub which now opens up to Moon, another bar on the street.

The owner of Fuel, Rob Togood, said: ‘As we moved towards the main door the floor became a bit flexible, there’s always been a bit of bounce in it.

Staff at Fuel, a rock bar and live music venue in Womanby Street, were carrying out some refurbishment work ahead of any potential lockdown easing around two weeks ago when they made the discovery


After removing some of floorboards, they realised that below was the old cellar to the Horse and Groom

‘So we got a bit further and then we looked underneath and discovered the old beer cellar. We were hoping it would be one of those fabled, legendary tunnels to Cardiff Castle.’

Rob said they weren’t sure what to do with the area yet, but one consideration was to put a small glass panel on the floor above so people could see a glimpse of the building’s past. He said: ‘It’s quite a nice little feature really.’

Unfortunately, no old beer barrels remain in the cellar. Instead, it’s full of rubble and an old Belfast style sink.

Some Cardiffians will still be able to remember the pub as it was still serving pints in the 1990s. 

Mr Emrys Jones, who wrote a series of pub articles in a local paper in the 1920s, wrote about the then pub.

Some Cardiffians will still be able to remember the pub as it was still serving pints in the 1990s

He wrote: ‘In the days when Cardiff was a sleepy little market town, builders were not allowed to build house-to-house, and if you venture into the back of the Horse and Groom you will find one of these narrow separating passages left amid Cardiff’s modernity. Look at the walls: notice the rounded, water-smoothed stones. These walls were built with stones raised from the bed of the River Taff! They are immemorially old.’

He describes ‘pokey little attics’ upstairs complete with ‘whitewashed wooden beams and low ceilings’.

Drinkers entering the pub decades ago would have been welcomed by two large oil paintings, one titled ‘The Ghost Story’ and the other ‘The Master Returns’.

A guide to Cardiff pubs published in 1967 informed readers that the Horse and Groom was: ‘a very old pub (it still has a brass pipe at the end of the bar, used for lighting one’s smokes) which was once much busier in the days when Womanby Street (no more a lane) was one of the town’s main thoroughfares.


Mr Emrys Jones, who wrote a series of pub articles in a local paper in the 1920s, wrote about the then pub

‘The customers are primarily regulars – some of them have supped beer here for 50 years – and there is a photograph of the old-time members behind the bar’.

Womanby Street was at one time known as Red Cow Lane. In 2013, the site of the Horse & Groom became the home of Fuel, A rock bar and grassroots live music venue. The street has a long history and remains one of the most popular streets in the city for a night out.

The nearby City Arms is another firm favourite, and the building has been in use since 1610.

Although it isn’t known when it first became a pub, it was once brilliantly named The Van of Flesh Tavern.

The pub gained the name as it was then directly opposite Cardiff’s slaughterhouse and cattle market at the time. In 1858 it was known as The Cattle Market Tavern.

When Cardiff became a city in 1905 it became The City Arms, long after the slaughterhouse had moved to the outskirts of the city.

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