Cardiff Bay

Customs House and Opera House



Cardiff History



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Cardiff’s rich culture has a diverse range of influences, from the Romans and Normans of antiquity to the industrial revolution and the coal industry - which transformed Cardiff from a small town into a thriving, international city.  Roman originsCardiff's story began in AD55 when the Roman's established a fort on what is now the site of Cardiff Castle. 


Some of the original Roman walls can still be seen in Cardiff Castle, and it is suggested that Cardiff even took its name from Roman general Aulus DidiusCaer Didi means ‘Fort of Didius’. The Vikings and the Normans also made their presence felt in Cardiff, and in 1091 Robert Fitzhamon began work on the castle keep, which has been at the heart of the city ever since. 


Black Gold transforms Cardiff


In the late 19th Century, the 2nd Marquess of Bute built the Glamorganshire canal, which linked Merthyr Tydfil with Cardiff and the Cardiff docks, to take advantage of the huge coal reserves in the area. 


This saw Cardiff become the biggest coal exporting port in the world, resulting in Edward VII granting Cardiff city status in 1905.  The port reached its peak in 1913, with more than 10 million tons going through the port. 


As Cardiff exports grew, so did its population; dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled in neighbourhoods close to the docks, known as Tiger Bay, and communities from up to 45 different nationalities, including Norwegian, Somalian, Yemenese, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and Irish, helped create the unique multi-cultural character of the area.


Regeneration & Double Birthday


After going into decline in the 70's and 80's Cardiff's docks and city centre have now been regenerated.  Cardiff Bay is now a thriving waterside development, and the construction of the Millennium Stadium in the city centre helped transformed Cardiff into a true European capital city.  In 2005 Cardiff celebrated its centenary as a city and 50 years as capital of Wales, and enjoyed a year-long calendar of events, festivals and parties which marked the double anniversary.  


Home of the Daleks


Terry Nation, creator of Doctor Who’s arch-enemies, the Daleks, was born in Cardiff, and in 2005 the Daleks returned to their place of birth for the new BBC Wales series of Doctor Who.  The second season of Doctor Who, starring David Tennant and Billie Piper was also filmed in and around Cardiff. A new Doctor Who spin-off series, called Torchwood, was also filmed and is set in the Welsh capital.  


World’s first FairTrade capital 


In March 2004 Cardiff was designated as the world’s first FairTrade Capital City in recognition of its support for the scheme.  To gain this status Cardiff Council had to ensure that FairTrade products are available in a number of cafes, stores and supermarkets in Cardiff, as well as serving FairTrade teas and coffees in its own canteens and meetings.


Famous sons and daughters 


Cardiff has produced many famous names in the last century.  Children’s author Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff in 1916, and the Norwegian Church where he was christened is now used as an arts centre and café.  In the sports world Ryan Giggs, Colin Jackson and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson often fill the headlines, and Shirley Bassey and Charlotte Church are the city’s home grown musical divas.



The Scott Memorial

Roath Park Lake


Captain Scott and the South Pole 


In 1910 Captain Robert Scott set off from Cardiff in the ship the ‘Terra Nova’ on his ill-fated trip to the South Pole.  Cardiff connections to Scott include a memorial sculpture in Cardiff Bay, a memorial lighthouse erected in Roath Park and the Discovery pub in Lakeside, home to photos from the expedition.  The Captain Scott room in the Royal Hotel, where he ate his farewell dinner, was also reopened earlier this year.


Sporting history 


Cardiff has a long association with sport.  In 1958 the city hosted the Britsh Empire and Commonwealth Games, now better known as the Commonwealth Games.  The Empire swimming pool, however, was demolished to make way for the Millennium Stadium – which hosted the Rugby World Cup final in 1999.  The stadium again made sporting history in 2005, when Wales won the Six Nations Grand Slam Championship for the first time in over 20 years. Cardiff will also host an Ashes cricket Test match in 2009, and football matches during the 2012 London Olympic Games.






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