1902 Encyclopedia > Cardiff

South Wales

CARDIFF (the "Caer," or castle on the Taff), a muni-cipal and parliamentary borough in the county of Gla-morgan, 170 miles from London by the Great Western Railway, in 51° 28' N. lat. and 3° 10' W. long. This town is the chief emporium of the coal and iron trade of South Wales, and is remarkable for its rapid progress and development. The population of the parliamentary borough, by the census of 1871, was 56,911 and since that date it has largely increased. There is a striking contrast of dirty narrow thoroughfares and the wide streets of new houses now opening up in the modern quarter of the town.

Historically, Cardiff is well known, but the castle remains and the old church of St John and its noble pinnacled tower are almost the only remnants of antiquity. The ancient walls and gates, Blackfriars and Greyfriars, have been swept away, and the old church of St Mary, finer than any local churches that succeeded was washed

Plan of Cardiff.

away by the sea. The Arthurian legend of the Sparrow-hawk refers to Cardiff. Its position between the rivers Taff and Rhymney, and also between the mountains and the sea, marked it out, probably for the Romans, certainly for the Normans, as a fortified station. In the year 1108 Henry I. having taken prisoner his brother Robert duke of Normandy, imprisoned him in Cardiff Castle for twenty-six years until his death in 1134. Contrary to the pre-valent tradition he was most probably treated with kind-ness, and permitted at times to change his abode. In the time of the Civil War Charles I. came to Cardiff, and the castle was alternately occupied by Royalists and Parlia-mentarians. There was severe fighting at St Fagan's in the neighbourhood. In 1661 we find the Cardiff authorities complaining of being ruined by the competition of the neighbouring town of Caerphilly, but Caerphilly Castle is ruined and the town decayed, while Cardiff has greatly flourished. The local histories are full of the succession of different owners of the castle until the lordship of Glamorgan passed by marriage to the Bute family. The castle occupies a quadrangular space, and was probably once surrounded by earthworks, except towards the river. The area within the walls was 10 acres, within the counterscarp of the moat 13 acres. The mound within the great enclosures has the remains of the keep, or the White Tower. On the town or south side of the court are the Black or Curthose tower, the scene of Duke Robert's imprisonment, and the gateway. The castle was once of enormous strength, and so constructed to resist the incursions of the Welsh. The Lodgings or habitable part are now undergoing extensive demolition and reconstruction. Under the advice of " Capability Brown" the whole structure was modernized, and many precious remains swept away. A thorough re-storation is now in progress under the care of Mr Burgess. The new clock tower is a gorgeous example of most thorough ornamentation. On the side of the Taff, opposite to the castle grounds, are the Sophia Gardens, given to the town by the late marchioness of Bute.

There is a great deal of activity and public spirit in Cardiff. The gas, sanitary, and water arrangements are excellent. There are both public library and infirmary, and plans for new and enlarged buildings for both institutions are in progress. The exports of Cardiff are almost entirely coal and iron ; the imports, insignificant in comparison, are mainly iron ore, esparto fibre for paper-making, timber, and corn.

At the commencement of the present century Cardiff possessed a population which scarcely amounted to 1000, and was not even called a port. It was simply designated as a " creek " attached to the great port of Bristol. The peculiar resources of the district were not unknown or neglected, and it is interesting to notice the first rudimentary steps in their development. Coal was brought down from the hills and valleys on the backs of mules. The burdens were laid down at a primitive quay, where vessels of small tonnage awaited them to carry the cargo to Bristol or other ports. The iron was transported in waggons of 2 tons, and to avoid delays from frost, snow, and storms, the minerals, as much as possible, were brought down in the summer and stocked for the winter. In the American War guns made by contract were brought down to the primitive quay which long retained the name of Cannon Wharf. The first stage in the progress of the town was marked by the construction of the Glamorganshire Canal from Merthyr Tydvil to the sea. It dropped from lock to lock some 500 feet in the course of its 25 mile journey to a certain seapond capable of holding vessels of 200 tons burden. The dock had only been formed a few years when the second marquis of Bute came into possession of his Welsh property. He held some 25,000 acres of the Glamorganshire hills, teeming with mineral treasures, and between Cardiff and the shore line he owned a tract of marshy waste. It is to the Bute family that Cardiff is mainly indebted for its prosperity. Lord Bute contemplated the construction of large docks, and in the course of twenty years he made great progress with his plans, staking, it is said, the whole of his fortune on the result.

In 1830 the first bill was obtained for the construction of a dock, which has been truly termed the " cradle" of Cardiff. The waters of the Taff were partially diverted as a "feeder" for an artificial stream. There was con-siderable difficulty in connecting the dock, which was considerably above low-water mark with the waters of the channel, but these were overcome by Sir William Cubitt. In 1839 the west dock was opened with great rejoicings. It became evident that additional accommodation would soon be required. The lucrative Taff Vale Railway had been formed, incessantly pouring the mineral treasures of the hills into the harbour of Cardiff, and the western side of the dock was ceded to their use. This company also promoted a dock under the headland of Penarth. Later, the Rhymney Railway was constructed, and gave additional development to the coal trade. The great marquis, the second founder of Cardiff, who died somewhat suddenly in 1848, provided that the contingency of his death should not disturb his schemes. He left his estates in trust, nominally for fifteen hundred years, for carrying out his design for making Cardiff a great seaport. The trustees during the twenty years' minority of his successor achieved great works. It was resolved in 1851 that the east dock should be commenced. The demand for accommodation increased so rapidly that the plan of the dock was repeatedly enlarged. This second dock covers 45 acres; the width is partly 300, and partly 500 feet; the total length is 4300 feet, the width of the sealock is 55 feet; the length between the gates is 220 feet. In 1864 further schemes of enlargement were brought forward. In 1868 a low-water pier was opened by Lord Bute on his coming of age. In 1874 a south basin was opened; its area is twelve acres, and the iron-wrought gates have a larger superficial area than any similar works in existence. The new basin acts as a dock, and in some degree relieves the pressure for accommodation until the contemplated additional dock is constructed. The scene on the wharves is very stirring. There is a network of railways about the docks, giving direct communication to every part of the kingdom. The railways bring the minerals from the mouths of the pits; there are enormous staiths, hydraulic lifts being often used for shipping the coals, and steam-cranes to discharge the enormous ballast of arriving ships. What Cardiff needs for its full development is an import trade, in the place of the ballast, but attempts in this way have not hitherto been very successful, and the New York line of steamers has been given up. Cardiff remains the greatest entrepot for the smokeless coal which has been found the best for steamers in all the navies of the world, and in export ranks next to Newcastle. The docks owe all their importance to the minerals on the hills, and the means of transit that have been devised from the hills to the shore. The expenditure on the docks, including the new works, will be from two to three millions ; the expen-diture on railways is about the same, and the capital invested in the collieries is about twenty-five millions. The business of the port, though subject to fluctuations, steadily increases. In 1839 the amount of iron shipped at the port was 1200 tons, and of coal 4562. In 1848 the shipments of iron had advanced to 70,805 tons, and those of coal to 615,111 tons. In 1870, however, the weight of iron loaded at Cardiff amounted to 315,649 tons, and that of coal and patent fuel, which in the meantime had become an article of export, to 2,177,518 tons. The amount of coal exported in 1871 was 2,979,843 tons, and in 1872, 3,557,246 tons.

The villages in the neighbourhood of Cardiff,—Roath. Maindu, Canton, Llandaff,—are now its suburbs and nearly absorbed in the town, Of these the most interesting is Llandaff, a kind of minor Clifton to Cardiff. The remark- able cathedra], the seat of the earliest English bishopric, gives the tiniest city in Britain its title. It is a little old-world village on the outskirts of Cardiff, with the Coplestone cross, the remains of the bishop's fortified palace, superseded by a modern country-house and a group of neat ecclesiastical buildings. For more than a hundred years the cathedral was left to neglect and decay. The aisles were roofless, grass grew in the nave, the ivy came through the windows, and storms were increasingly laying waste the edifice. At the expense of many thousand pounds a satisfactory restoration was effected, and a re- opening took place in 1869. The cathedral is nobly situated near the Taff, where it is broad and wooded, and almost entirely screened by the ridges. (V. A.)

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