Cardiff is a port on the Bristol Channel. It is the largest city and capital of Wales. Since 1999, Cardiff has been the home of the National Assembly for Wales, whose elected members look after Welsh interests. The city has a population of 305,200.
ANCIENT FORT AND MEDIEVAL CASTLE
In ad 75 the Romans, who had first invaded Britain 130 years earlier, built a small fort beside the River Taff. Just over a thousand years later, the Normans chose this spot to build their own wooden fort. In 1150 this was replaced by a stone keep (tower), and a walled castle was later built around this.
A settlement grew up around the castle, and this developed into a market town and small port. The town’s location was good for local farmers trading with the surrounding region.
During the 19th century the small market town of Cardiff grew into a major port. The nearby valleys of South Wales produced huge quantities of coal and iron, and the port of Cardiff was the ideal place from which to ship these products. The mines sent their coal to Cardiff in barges along the Glamorganshire canal and later in wagons on the Taff railway.
The first great Cardiff dock opened in 1839, and more were built later in the century near the mouths of the Taff and Ely rivers. By 1900 Cardiff was the world’s leading coal-shipping port. During the 20th century the coal industry fell away in South Wales, and other businesses developed around the city.
In the 6th century a monastery was founded near the Taff, just a few kilometres upstream from the site of the Roman fort. After the fort became a Norman castle, the monastery was also replaced by a Norman church.
The small church grew into a large cathedral. This was damaged in the 17th century during the English Civil War, and again by bombing during World War II. The cathedral has since been restored, and Llandaff is an attractive suburb of the city.
Cardiff Castle was also completely restored during the 19th century and is a major feature of the modern city today. Cardiff is also the home of a college of the University of Wales, as well as the Welsh National School of Medicine and the Welsh National Opera. Every two years an international competition for young classical singers is held in the city.
Cardiff is a famous rugby city, and in 1999 the newly opened Millennium Stadium staged the final of the rugby union World Cup. International rugby and football matches are regularly held in the modern stadium, which has a retractable roof.
Some of Cardiff’s docks have been updated to handle modern cargo. The older docks have become part of a major rebuilding of the Cardiff Bay area. Old industrial warehouses and other buildings have been converted into offices and studios for computer companies, publishers and designers. Hotels and other leisure complexes serve visitors to modern Cardiff.