Tactile interpretation model of Blackfriars Friary, Bute Park

Tactile interpretation model of Blackfriars Friary, Bute Park


This project to create a tactile interpretation model of Blackfriars Friary was part of the Bute Park Restoration Project. The Blackfriars Friary site had been recently restored and although it has a fascinating history, it is poorly understood.

The brief was to create a scale model of how the friary would have looked when originally built. The medieval friary was established in the 13th century and home to a Dominican Order of Friars who were known as ‘Blackfriars’ on account of the black cloaks they wore over their white habits. However, the friary was dissolved under the reign of King Henry VIII in the 16th century and became derelict.

Much of the original building material was taken and reused by the local population in the following years so very little remained by the 19th century by which time the site formed part of the private pleasure grounds of Cardiff Castle. The third Marquess of Bute, while in residence at Cardiff Castle, commissioned an archaeological investigation of the area. This unearthed some medieval foundations and the plan of the original friary and its ancillary buildings were inferred.

The Marquess employed his architect William Frame to interpret the remains as a garden feature, which he did in low lying brickwork using different colour bricks to show where original medieval material was found and where its previous position could only be inferred.

Reproduction medieval tiles based on fragments found during the excavations were produced and laid out across the floor of the Church Choir and Nave as part of the Frame scheme.

After the Castle and grounds were handed to the people of Cardiff and taken under the stewardship of Cardiff Council the site fell once again into decline. Being back in the public domain, the site was susceptible to theft and vandalism and much of the brickwork and tiles were lost.

Artist Rubin Eynon was appointed having previous relevant experience at Caerphilly Castle and Caerleon Roman Fortress. Following a site-visit and meetings with Mark Redknap, Head of Collections & Research, Archaeology & Numismatics at National Museum Wales, Rubin prepared a digital design of the model which was agreed to be the most accurate 3D interpretation of the site given the floor plan and comparisons with other friaries of a similar scale and date. Mark Redknap provided invaluable advice on architectural details such as the shape and size of windows and the shape of the bell tower.

A bi-lingual key was also added to the model to identify the functions of the different buildings.

The model was cast in bronze and will weather gradually over time developing a rich, aged patina that will make it look like a relic of the past.