Visit Cardiff/Caerdydd and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Cardiff, Cardiff. The capital of Wales, as it has become under Queen Elizabeth II half way through the 20th century, is in Welsh Caerdydd. The announcement that the principality should have its independent identity confirmed by the official selection of a capital was answered by three rival claimants for the honour. In a curious way, it reaffirmed the traditional division of Wales into three contending provinces that has coloured all its history.
Caernarfon could argue that it was the centre of Roman administration, which Edward I had accepted as transmitting to him the imperial authority of Rome wrested by him from the Princes of the North. Cardiff, as a city with an equal Roman tradition, and an even earlier connection with Anglo-Norman interests than Caernarfon could show, represented the claims of the South. A third claimant was Machynlleth. whose association with the House of Cunedda through Maelgwn in the 6th century, and through Owain Cyfeiliog in the 12th with the ancient Kingdom of Powys that created Wales as a national concept, put forward its own request for recognition as the natural capital, reinforcing it with the reminder that it had already been so selected by Owain Glyndwr in 1402. The 19th century prosperity of the South, which had continued some way into the 20th century, the standing of Cardiff as a centre of easy communication with London, and its position as an industrial exporter with a great system of docks, made the decision inevitable. A torch was lit at Machynlleth to be borne to Cardiff as the due successor to its national prestige.
For Cardiff, too, can claim an important Roman legacy; indeed, there is evidence that its site between the estuaries of the Rhymney, the Taff, and the Ely rivers was of considerable importance in the earliest times when the Bristol Channel was in contact with the Wessex Culture of 1500 B.C. Its more precise historical foundation is in the Roman station that served as the base for the later Norman castle and acted as an intermediary not only for traffic between Neath and CaerwEnt but also for Carmarthen. Llandovery, Y Gaer, Llandrindod, and Abergavenny. The very name Cardiff may in its form of Caer Did (as the 17tth century Christopher Saxton writes it) trace its origin back to the Aulus Didius who commanded it. The castle site still shows the earthworks of this station, and part of its masonry walls, including its North gate, one of the best-preserved pieces of Roman structure in the country. Saxton points out that, by St Donat's Castle, which he closely associates with Cardiff, many “antique peeces” of Roman coins had been recovered, including the very rare ones of Aemilianus and Marius and the Thirty Tyrants, the period of confusion in the rest of the Roman World that ended in A.D. 268.
When, in the 5th century, British cities were advised by the imperial government to manage their own defence system, the Kingdom of Morganwg succeeded as a Roman-British state: this “Morganuc”, Saxton insists (quoting Ptolemy, the geographer of Rome, as his authority), meant the State by the Sea. Sir John Rhys favoured the idea that Cardiff became part of the Kingdom of Powys in the 5th and 6th centuries, and relied on the name of Dinas Powis (Fort of Powys), which still exists with its railway station somewhat to the South West of the city. This may well be so, though the name Powys means in Welsh something firmly stabilized, and the deduction is not quite conclusive. But we can be certain that lestyn, Lord of Morganwg. and his son-in-law Einion thought it necessary to call in the Normans, who were adventuring from conquered England on to the Welsh border to assist their revolt against Rhys son of Tewdwr, Lord of the South at the end of the 11th century.
It was Robert FitzHamon — “sonne to Flaimon Dentatus of Corboil in Normandy”, writes Saxton — who answered the call with twelve followers, and they resolved the question by taking the whole territory for themselves. The castle was set up about 1090, and it remains dominant in Cardiff still. Saxton thought it “not amisse” to enter a list of these men, Robert and his peers. and set them out as “William de Londres, Richard Granvil, Pain Turbervill, Oliver St John, Robert de Saint Quentin, Roger Bekeroal, William Stradling (or Easterling, for that he was borne in Germanie), Gilbert Humfranvill, Richard Siward, John Fleming, Peter Soore, and Reinald Sully”. It is not amiss to quote their names, for they have remained prominent from that time, and have left their mark on many places in and around Cardiff. Saxton, for example, points out that FitzHamon kept Cow-bridge for himself; that the Stradlings founded the Castle of St Donat; and that, of the two small islands of the mouth of the Taff, “the hithermore is called Sullie and also the Towne right over against it”, after the Reinald who was peer among the twelve.
“A proper fine Towne,” says Saxton of Cardiff, adding the precaution “as Townes goe in this country.” But it had a very commodious haven, which FitzHamon fortified when he made Cardiff a centre of military strength and of justice. In 1158, however, one Ivor (a mountaineer) brought his British forces down from the hills, captured the Earl of Gloucester, grandson of FitzHamon, and held him to ransom until conditions of better justice still were agreed between Welsh and Norman. That balance of contract seems to have remained in force throughout the rest of Cardiff's history. It was Owain, King of Wales in the early 15th century, who seized and almost destroyed the town and castle in 1404. The comment of the 17th century, “deflor'd by Glendower”, which is entered against so many of the churches and towns of Wales, is particularly applicable to Cardiff; and the memory of that intrusive nationalist from Machynlleth is not held in the highest reverence by its people today. Cardiff was so much thought to be a firm stronghold of the early Norman Kings that William the Conqueror's eldest son, Robert Curt-Hose, Duke of Normandy, supplanted by his younger brother, Henry I of England, was imprisoned for life in the castle and remained there, blinded, for twenty-eight years. “You shall understand,” says Saxton, “that royall Parentage is never assured either of ends or safe security.”
But Cardiff stood so much for the King during the Civil Wars that Charles I was welcomed there in 1645 — a gesture to which Parliament replied by taking the place exactly one month afterwards. Its subsequent history is curious. It was by no means considerable in population. but it was active in pursuit of the commerce of the sea, which still survives in its impressive fishing industry. Its first charter was a Norman grant in 1l47; James I confirmed its status as a borough in 1608. But the Bristol Channel, heavy with sea-borne traffic, was designed by nature to favour the activities of pirates, in which Cardiff seems to have had its share. It is even said that culverins and cannon were sent out from Cardiff to supply the Spanish Armada when it was preparing its descent on Britain in 1588.
In 1801 its population numbered 1,018. In 1931 it rose to 223,648. This, as with so many other places in the South, was due to the exploitation of the region's natural resources by the Industrial Revolution. Coal and iron became a major export for Cardiff, and made it the principal point of dispatch for them anywhere in the world. But its prosperity depended on the conditions in the great coalfield and ironfield of the “Valleys”. Export figures even after nine years of the Depression stood in 1938 at 5,330,000 tons, of which coal supplied 5,000,000. In 1956 exports were of just under 1,000,000 tons, coal making 600,000 of them. But the population of Cardiff does not show a parallel decline; in this way it is unique compared with its neighbouring industrial communities. In 1931 the figure was 226,937: in 1951, 243,627.
The docks, which handled 45 per cent of the South Wales output of coal, were begun in 1830 by the 2nd Marquess of Bute, who gambled his entire fortune on the project, and not without success. The first to be completed was Bute West Dock, opened in 1839. The water area is 165 acres, with 7 miles of quays, ten dry docks, and a 125-ton floating crane. They came into the possession of the Great Western Railway, and then of its successor. East Bute Dock, completed in 1854, was followed by Roath Basin (1874) and Roath Dock (1887), and in 1907 by the Alexandra Dock, with an area of over 50 acres, capable of holding the great ships of that day. Coal-hoists can lift 20-ton wagons, and modern hydraulic and electric cranes can take up to 100 tons. A tidal harbour and a low-water pier 1,400 ft long add to the facilities. Penarth docks and Barry extend the system further, the last adding another 114 acres of water. This rapid development enabled Cardiff to outdistance Swansea, which in 1811 was described as the “most important centre in all Glamorganshire”, despite the creation of Port Talbot docks below Swansea and Neath. The process began with the opening of the Glamorganshire Canal in 1794, linking Cardiff with Merthyr Tydfil. In 1912 Cardiff was at the peak of its prosperity.
Nearby cities: Newport
Nearby towns: Barry, Caerphilly, Cowbridge, Llantwit Major, Penarth
Nearby villages: Birchgrove, Butetown, Cardiff Bay, Castleton, Cathays, Cathays Park, Cogan, Dinas Powis, Ely, Grangetown, Leckwith, Lisvane, Llandaff, Llandough, Llanishen, Maindy, Marshfield, Pen-y-Lan, Plas Newydd, Pontfaen, Radyr, Roath, Rumney, Saint Andrews Major, Saint Fagans, Saint Lythans, Saint Mellons, Taffs Well, Wenvoe, Whitchurch
Have you decided to visit Cardiff/Caerdydd or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Cardiff/Caerdydd bed and breakfast (a Cardiff/Caerdydd B&B or Cardiff/Caerdydd b and b)
- a Cardiff/Caerdydd guesthouse
- a Cardiff/Caerdydd hotel (or motel)
- a Cardiff/Caerdydd self-catering establishment, or
- other Cardiff/Caerdydd accommodation