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Cardiff, Glamorgan


Historical Description

Cardiff, situated on the banks of the river Taff, a county-borough under the Local Government Act, the capital of Glamorganshire jointly with Swansea (the assizes being held alternately in each town), is now generally called the Metropolis of Wales. A parliamentary borough jointly with Cowbridge and Llantrissant, returning one member to Parliament, it is the largest single-member constituency in the kingdom. The acreage of the municipal borough is 8409; population, 128,915.

The Romans had a station at the mouth of the river Taff in the first century, established by Aulus Didius; this station was known as Castra Didii, but the natives called it Caer Didii, which gradually became Cardiff. In Welsh the town is still called Caerdydd. Within the enclosure of the castle there are traces of earthworks presumed to be of British origin, but more likely post-Roman. After the withdrawal of the Romans a succession of Welsh princes ruled in Cardiff and the surrounding country, who fiercely resisted the incursions of the Saxons and the Danes. In 1080 lestyn ap Gwrgan, the last of the lords of Morganwg, is said to have built largely at Cardiff. Ten years later lestyn was at war with Rhys ap Tewdwr, Lord of South Wales, and promised his daughter Nest in marriage to -Einion if he would procure for him the assistance of the Normans. Einion procured the necessary help and Rhys was defeated, but lestyn being unwilling to carry out his promise Einion recalled the Norman, Sir Robert Fitzhamon, with his twelve knights, who defeated lestyn and seized the lordship for themselves. The battle was fought on the Heath at the northern boundary of the present borough. The adventurers divided the county among them, but all had lodgings within the castle at Cardiff. By the marriage of Fitzhamon's daughter, Robert, Earl of Gloucester, acquired the lordship. Cardiff Castle is well known to students of history as the place where Henry I. imprisoned his eldest brother Robert, Duke of Normandy. The imprisonment commenced in 1108 and lasted 26 years; it was only terminated by the death of the captive. It is stated on tradition that Robert was treated very cruelly, and that his eyes were put out; but some authorities deny this, and contend that the duke was only a nominal prisoner, that he was allowed considerable freedom, and was supplied with every luxury. In the 12th century Ivor Bach, or Ivor the Little, a fiery Welsh chieftain, in resentment for the oppression of the English lord of Cardiff Castle, attacked and captured the town; he placed ladders against the walls by stealth, and as a result of bis enterprise carried off the Earl and Countess of Gloucester and their son to his fortress some miles north of Cardiff, and held them prisoners until they had restored the property stolen from the Welsh, and made further concessions. In 1171 Henry II. was in Cardiff, and an old man stopped him as he was going out riding on Low Sunday, and in the name of Christ, of the Holy Virgin, of St John the Baptist and St Peter, solemnly forbade him to tolerate buying and selling or any work besides necessary cooking on the Lord's Day, " which command if he should obey, his undertakings should be prosperous." The king, in French, desired the groom to ask the clod-hopper where he dreamt all that. The question being put in English, the man answered in the same language that whether he dreamt it or not, if the king rebelled against his message he should hear that within the year of which he would suffer to the day of his death, and within the year he heard that his sons had leagued against him.

From the Earls of Gloucester the Lordship of Glamorgan passed to the De Clares, Earls of Gloucester and Hertford, and then through the female line to the De Spensers. In 1404 Owen Glendower took the town, and burnt the whole of it except the street where the Greyfriars were; this he spared because of his love for that order. From the De Spensers the lordship and the castle passed through the female line to the Earl of Warwick, and again through Lady Anne of Warwick to Richard III. Henry VII. gave it to Jasper, Duke of Bedford, but upon his decease it reverted to the Crown. Edward VI. sold it to Sir William Herbert, afterwards Earl of Pembroke, and through a female descendant it became the property, by marriage, in the 18th century, of an ancestor of the present owner, the Marquis of Bute.

In the reign of Mary, Rawlins White, a poor fisherman, was martyred at Cardiff. During the succeeding reign the town was the resort of bands of pirates, who infested the Bristol Channel to prey upon the merchant ships trading to Bristol. The inhabitants of Cardiff are said to have sheltered and protected the pirates, and in 1602 cannon were clandestinely exported from Cardiff for the use of the Spaniards. During the Civil War the town and castle were occupied by the Royalists and the Parliamentarians in turn. The inhabitants were much divided, and when Charles I. came to Cardiff in 1645 to enlist the sympathies of the men of Glamorganshire to his side, he met with a cold reception. A battle was fought on the Heath in 1642, which was claimed as a victory for the Parliamentary forces; the result, however, appears to have been somewhat equivocal. After the restoration the people of Cardiff complained of the'ruin to their trade, caused by the markets and fairs at Caerphilly, seven miles distant among the hills; a fair held every three weeks at Caerphilly was in consequence discontinued. Formerly the town was surrounded by a moat and high walls 6 to 8 feet thick, and strengthened and protected by massive circular towers. A fragment of the wall and the foundations of one tower still existed in 1893. There were four entrance gates. The Glamorganshire Canal in its course through the town follows the course of the eastern moat. The river Taff formerly ran under the western town wall, and served the purposes of a moat, but its course was diverted about 60 years ago to facilitate the construction of the Great Western Railway. The ancient church of St Mary stood within the walls at the south end of the town, near the banks of the river. This church was washed away on the 18th January, 1607, by a great flood or tidal wave, the ravages of which extended over large areas on both sides of the Bristol Channel. The church of St John the Baptist is the only ancient church now remaining. It has a very handsome tower, built in 1443 by Hart, who is said to have also built the towers at Wrexham and St Stephen's, Bristol. The church has recently been restored and enlarged, and a beautiful carved altar-piece by Mr. W. Goscomb John has been added. The other ancient religious houses were, the Blackfriars, the Greyfriars, the Chapel of St Pirian, and the Church of St Thomas.

The house of the Blackfriars was founded in 1256; its remains have recently been excavated at the instance of Lord Bute, who has erected a few layers of brickwork to indicate the lines of the building. It is in the castle grounds near the river. The house of the Franciscans or Greyfriars was in Cokerton or Crockherbtown, now Queen Street. The site of the Greyfriars Church was excavated in 1893 at the instance of Lord Bute. Some remains of a house, erected by the Herberts from the ruins, are still standing in Lord Bute's garden. The castle has, during recent years, been judiciously restored and extended by the Marquis of Bute from the designs of the late Mr. Wm. Burgess, A.R.A. It is now one of the principal residences of Lord Bute, and is in every way a stately house. The old ruined keep, built upon a high mound within the enclosure, has not been disturbed. Many modern churches and other places of worship have been erected to meet the growing requirements of the town.

In the early years of the present century Cardiff was a mean place, with a population in 1801 of 1018, and in 1821 of 3521. It owes its rapid development to the Bute Docks, which afford magnificent facilities for the shipment of the coal, iron, and other productions of the rich mineral and manufacturing district by which Cardiff is surrounded. The Bute Docks were projected by the second Marquis of Bute, and, under the management of the trustees appointed under his will, have been extended from time to time to meet the rapidly growing demands of the port. There are now three docks and one basin, of the following extent, viz.: West Bute Dock, 19½ acres; East Bute Dock, 46½ acres; Roath Dock, 33 acres; Roath Basin, 12 acres; total water area, 112½ acres. The West dock is now mainly used for the import trade and for coasting vessels; but facilities for import trade are also provided in the Roath dock, and numerous large warehouses have been erected for the storage of goods. The appliances for the shipment of coal are the finest in the world. The total tonnage of imports and exports for 1881 was 6,607,891, and for 1892, 9,373,938. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1893 was 204: (176,962 tons). The entries in 1892 were 13,996 (7,106,182 tons), and the clearances 14,147 (7,390,264 tons).

Industries.-The chief industry is the shipment of coal, coke, and patent fuel; and it is to the splendid facilities afforded by the Bute Docks for this business that Cardiff owes its rapid advancement. The amount of coal and coke and patent fuel shipped coastwise and to foreign ports in 1892 was 7,645,269 tons, and a large quantity was in addition despatched by rail to London and elsewhere. The quantities for 1844 were (coal and coke only) 258,072 tons; 1854, 1,051,748; 1864 (including patent fuel), 2,131,326; 1874, 2,680,199; 1884, 7,006,558. These figures refer to shipments at the Bute docks only, omitting other docks within the port of Cardiff, but not in the borough. The success of the coal industry has led to the establishment of other important works in the town and district. The manufacture of steel and iron, until recently confined to the hill districts north of Cardiff, is now carried on at extensive works erected at Cardiff by the Dowlais Company; these works have been placed on the sea-board, because the greater part of the ore used is now brought by sea from Bilbao and elsewhere. The Dowlais Works at Cardiff are constructed upon the latest principles for producing Bessemer pig-iron, and for the manufacture of steel. There are also works for manufacturing patent fuel, the Tharsis Copper Company's works, the works of the Cardiff Tin Stamping and Enamel Company, Ltd., extensive flour mills, depots for the storage and distribution of petroleum, large shipbuilding and ship-repairing yards and dry-docks, numerous engineering works, the locomotive and carriage works of the Taff Vale and the Rhymney Railway Companies respectively, and a number of railway waggon works; there are also numerous industries connected with the importation of timber, the manufacture of jams, vinegar, chemicals, ice, railway appliances, colliery plant, and other branches.

Government.-Cardiff has been a chartered borough from early times. It is governed by a town council consisting of ten aldermen and thirty councillors, and a mayor selected annually, usually from the council, but in 1890-91 the Marquis of Bute was mayor. It has its own courts of petty and quarter sessions, and the assizes are held alternately at Cardiff and Swansea. There is a burial board, a port sanitary authority, which has jurisdiction over vessels entering the port, a pilotage board, a local marine board, a school board, and it is in the Cardiff union of parishes for the purposes of the poor law. The town council has spent large sums in the improvement and development of the town; large blocks of houses have been removed for the widening of streets; the paving, sewering, ligliting, &c., are of the most approved-kind; and the erection and improvement of bridges has been carried out with beneficial results. Water is supplied from immense reservoirs at Taff Vawr, 30 miles away amongst the hills of Brecknockshire, and there is a large system of balancing and storage reservoirs nearer the town, together with extensive rights over various sources which were formerly the only means of supply, and which can be used in case of need. Gas is supplied by the Cardiff Gaslight and Coke Co., and electric light by the corporation. The boundaries of the borough were considerably extended by an act passed in 1875; the same act authorised the purchase of the waterworks, then the property of a company, and the carrying out of other important public works. The police force consists of a head constable, one superintendent, and 157 other officers and men. The head constable is chief of the fire brigade. There is a county court held monthly, an official receiver in bankruptcy, and a court under the provisions of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act, which sits when required. The joint asylum for the borough and the county is at Bridgend. The workhouse is at Canton on the west side of the town, and in connection herewith there is a school for training pauper children at Ely, two miles distant. The Cardiff and county prison is in Adamsdown. There is a military brigade depot at Maindy (erected 1871), 1 mile from the town, to which the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd battalions of the Welsh Regiment are attached. The headquarters of the militia (3rd battalion of the Welsh regiment) are at this depot. The volunteer regiments comprise the 2nd Glamorgan artillery, the 3rd volunteer battalion (rifles), a troop of mounted infantry, a cadet corps, and a corps of submarine mining engineers. The custom house and the inland revenue offices are near the Great Western railway station; the offices of the board of trade, and mercantile marine are at the docks; there are 23 town receiving offices and a large number of pillar and wall letter boxes. The provision for telegraphic and telephonic business by the post office is extensive, and several private companies have telephone exchanges. The Lloyd's Proving House for testing chains and anchors is on the west side of the Glamorganshire Canal, near the docks. The exchange is in Mount Stuart Square. The market, in St Mary Street, is open daily.

Public Buildings and Institutions.-The town-hall and municipal offices, St Mary Street, were erected in 1849, and enlarged in 1878. The Free Library, Trinity Street, 53,000 volumes, with newsroom, ladies' room, magazine room, and reference library, was erected in 1881-82 at a cost of £10,000; additions to cost £15,000 are now in course of erection. There are five branches. The income is derived from a rate of one penny in the £, under Public Libraries Acts. There is a good collection of Welsh books, MSS., and prints. The Museum and Art Gallery is in the Free Library Buildings; under Museums Act, 1891, the income is derived from a rate of½d. in the £; it was formerly supported from a rate under Public Libraries Acts, and contains a good collection of modern paintings, local porcelain, antiquities, and geological and other scientific specimens. The Cardiff Naturalists' Society is intimately associated with the museum. The technical schools were formerly maintained under the Public Libraries Acts, but are now under Technical Instruction Act; income, rate of 1d. in the £ and half the grant made under Customs and Excise Act. They are under the jurisdiction of the Technical Instruction Committee. Classes are held at the University College, the Higher Grade School, and the College School, Dumfries Place, with branches for elementary instruction in other districts. The University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, established 1888, receives a government grant of £4000 per annum; it will be one of the colleges included in the new Welsh University; is also a day training college for elementary teachers; has a school of engineering, a medical school, a hall of residence for lady students ("Aberdare Hall"), and extensive biological and chemical laboratories. The college has a good students' library, and the Salisbury Welsh collection. The Baptist college for training ministers was removed to Cardiff from Pontypool in 1893. The elementary schools include voluntary schools supported by the Church of England, Roman Catholics, and Wes-leyans, and a fine series of board schools, including a higher grade school. The pupil teachers are instructed in central day classes established by the board in 1892. Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire infirmary, Newport Road, was founded in 1837, and is supported by subscriptions. New buildings, on a site granted by Lord Bute, were erected in 1883 at a cost of £28,000. Other institutions include a school for deaf and Dumb children, the Havannah Industrial School, an institute for the education and employment of the blind, the Nazareth House (a home for aged, infirm, and infantine poor), the Convent of the Good Shepherd, Young Men's Christian Association, Young Women's Christian Association, Jubilee Nurses' Institute, a provident dispensary, the seamen's hospital ship, Barnadryad, Seamen's Church and Institute, Sailors' Home, &c.

Amusements and Recreations.-There are two theatres- the Theatre Royal and Grand-a music ball (the Empire), besides the Park Hall and other places available for concerts and other public entertainments. The first Cardiff musical festival was held in 1892, and it will be repeated triennially. High-class music is provided by the Musical Society, the Orchestral Society, and the Chamber Concerts Committee, each of which arranges a series annually. Outdoor recreations are provided for in the Cardiff Arms Park and the Sophia Gardens, both placed at the service of the town by the owner, Lord Bute; and there are recreation grounds belonging to various football, lawn tenis, and other clubs. The Roath Park is the most extensive in South Wales; it was given by Lord Bute and two or three other landowners. There are cricket, football, racquet, lawn tennis, photographic, quoit, fishing, chess, and other clubs. Several of the public squares have been planted extensively with flowers with great success.

Communications.-The town is on the Great Western main line between London and New Milford; distances- London, via Gloucester, 170 miles; via Bristol, 156; Bristol, 40; Birmingham, 114; Liverpool, 155; Manchester, 168; Swansea, 45½; and Llanelly, 54. This line was opened in 1850. The Taff Vale railway to Pontypridd, Merthyr, and Aberdare was opened in 1840, and the Rhymney railway in 1858. The two latter are the chief mineral-carrying railways to the Bute Docks. The Barry railway has access to the town and docks, for passengers, over the Penarth branch of the Taff Vale. The L. & N.W.R. and M.R. companies have depots, and a number of minor branches of the three first named lines have been constructed to meet the requirements of trade. The railways round the docks comprise many miles. The Glamorganshire Canal is still used for the conveyance of goods to and from Aberdare, Merthyr, and intermediate places; it was opened in 1798. A number of steamers in the summer season run frequently between Cardiff and Ilfracombe, Lynmouth, and other places in the Bristol Channel, and several times daily to Weston-super-Mare. There is a daily steamer to and from Bristol all the year round, and two or three times weekly to Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Bridgewater, Glasgow, and Greenock; occasional steamers also to Bordeaux, Hull, Hamburg, London, Liverpool, and Amsterdam. Steamers run three times hourly to Penarth when the tide serves. The town is well served with tramcars and omnibuses.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Registration districtCardiff1903 - 1974

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

Findmypast, in conjunction with the National Library of Wales and the Welsh County Archivists Group, have the following parish records online for Cardiff, All Saints:

Cardiff, All Saints1867-18931915-1922  
Cardiff, St Andrew1884-18891813-19221923-19241884-1899
Cardiff, St Andrew & St Teilo1907-1912   
Cardiff, St Andrew's Major 1744-1813  
Cardiff, St Dyfrig1885-1912  1895-1927
Cardiff, St John1694-1912  1696-1911
Cardiff, St John & St Andrew1863-1884  1863-1905
Cardiff, St John & St Mary1813-1842  1813-1847
Cardiff, St Johns1696-1735   
Cardiff, St Mary1841-19121902-1910 1848-1918
Cardiff, St Stephen1878-19121912-1927  
Cardiff, St Teilo1900-1912   
Cardiff, St.Samson   1904-1917


Online maps of Cardiff are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers online:

CountyCaerdydd - Cardiff
RegionSouth Wales
Postal districtCF10
Post TownCardiff