Cardiff (Welsh: Caerdydd) is the capital and largest city of Wales. Located on the South Wales coast it is administered as a unitary authority. It was a small town until the early nineteenth century and came to prominence following the arrival of industry in the region and the use of Cardiff as a major port for the transport of coal. Cardiff was made a city in 1905 and proclaimed capital of Wales in 1955. In the Census 2001 the population of Cardiff was 305,340, making it the 16th largest settlement in the United Kingdom.
The industrial development and growth of Cardiff was initially centred on the transportation of coal, where coal mined from the Rhondda Valley was sent to the port by barge along the valley of the River Taff, initially by canal and later by the Taff Vale Railway. A logical extension of the coal business was the development of an iron and steel industry, based largely on the port and the coal of the South Wales valleys. The 1980s brought closures to the industry in the entire region, and thousands of local workers were made redundant as the steel industry moved out of Cardiff, including the largest GKN steelworks in Newport Road.
Cardiff’s port, known as Tiger Bay, was once one of the busiest ports in the world and – for some time – the world’s most important coal port. Indeed, Cardiff’s Coal Exchange was reputedly the first host to a business deal for a million pounds Sterling.
The Tiger Bay area also housed one of the UK’s earliest immigrant communities. After a long period of neglect as Cardiff Bay, it is now being regenerated as a popular area for arts, entertainment and nightlife. Much of the growth has been thanks to the building of the Cardiff Barrage.
The city’s central region, extending from the Hayes (a name allegedly derived from hedge) is now full of attractive modern buildings. This area of Cardiff will also shortly be redeveloped, as part of St Davids Centre – Phase 2 project. Highlights of this project will include a new Central Library and a John Lewis store. The affected area is bounded by The Hayes, Mill Lane, Mary Ann St and Bute Terrace.
The city is also host to S A Brain, a brewery with premises in Cardiff since 1882.
The city has two universities, Cardiff University and UWIC, as well as the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Further Education College Coleg Glan Hafren.
The name Cardiff is an Anglicisation of Welsh name “Caerdydd”. There is uncertainty concerning the origin of “Caerdydd”—”Caer” means “fort” or “castle,” but although “Dydd” means “Day” in modern Welsh, it is unclear what was meant in this context. Some believe that “Dydd” or “Diff” was a corruption of “Taff”, the river on which Cardiff castle stands, in which case “Cardiff” would mean “the fort on the river Taff” (in Welsh the T mutates to D).
Others favour a link with Aulus Didius Gallus, as it is known that the Romans established a fort in Cardiff when he was governor of the nearby province, in which case Cardiff might mean “the Fort of Didius”. A Norman castle still exists, within the site of the earlier Roman fort, but was substantially altered and extended during the Victorian period by John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, and the architect William Burges. Original Roman work can, however, still be distinguished in the wall facings.
There is a second castle north of the city, called Castell Coch (Welsh: “the Red Castle”). The current castle is an elaborately decorated Victorian folly designed by Burges for the Marquess and built in the 1870s. However, the Victorian castle stands on the footings of a much older medieval castle possibly built by Ivor Bach, a regional baron with links to Cardiff Castle also. The exterior has become a popular location for film and television productions.
King Edward VII granted Cardiff city status on October 28, 1905. It was then proclaimed capital city of Wales on December 20, 1955. Therefore, Cardiff celebrated two important anniversaries in 2005.
The city is county town of Glamorgan, although this role has diminished since council reorganisation in 1974 paired Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan together as the new county of South Glamorgan. Further local government restructuring in 1996 resulted in Cardiff City’s district council becoming a unitary authority.
On March 1, 2004, Cardiff was granted Fairtrade City status.
Culture, media, sport and tourism
The city has a professional football team, Cardiff City F.C., nicknamed “The Bluebirds”. There is also the world-famous Cardiff RFC or Cardiff Blues rugby union team, and the Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey team. The city also features an international sporting venue, the Millennium Stadium. Cardiff hosted the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. The Wales Empire Swimming Pool was demolished to make way for the Millennium Stadium, and eventually, a 50 metre replacement pool will be built in Cardiff Bay.
Cardiff is home to Cardiff Castle, the National Assembly for Wales, St. David’s Hall, the National Museum and Gallery, and Cathays Park (including municipal buildings modelled on those in New Delhi), and the Cardiff Metropolitan Cathedral. The Welsh National Opera moved into the Wales Millennium Centre in November 2004.
Cardiff’s centre is a particularly green one with Bute Park, formally the castle grounds, extending northwards from the top of the Cardiff’s main shopping street (Queen Street); when combined with the adjacent Llandaff Fields to the northwest it produces a massive open space skirting the River Taff. The popular name of Taffy, for the Welshman abroad has its origins in the name of the river. Other popular parks include Roath Park in the north, donated to the city by the 3rd Marquess of Bute in 1887 and which includes a very popular boating lake; Victoria Park, Cardiff’s first official park; and Thompson’s Park, formerly home to an aviary removed in the 1970s.
It is possible to cycle from Cardiff to Brecon almost completely off road on the Taff Trail, a cycle route which follows the River Taff and many of the old disused railways of the Glamorganshire valleys.
Cardiff has also been repeatedly mentioned in the BBC TV show Doctor Who, written by Russell T Davis where it was often filmed. The mentions are a bit tongue-in-cheek, of the “Where are we? It’s not Cardiff again is it?” variety.
Cardiff hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1883, 1899, 1938, 1960 and 1978.
Cardiff Philatelic Society is the oldest Philatelic Society in Wales. It was formed in 1899.