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Cardiff History

Cardiff history People have lived in Cardiff since prehistory, but the city's story really begins with the Romans, who invaded Britain in 43 AD. They arrived in Wales in about 50 AD and in 55 AD they built a fort on the site of Cardiff. The Romans gradually left the area around the 5th century.

Within 20 years of the Battle of Hastings, the Normans were marching on Wales, and in 1091 Robert FitzHamon began work on Cardiff Castle and a small settlement grew up around it. The small town attracted many tradesmen such as butchers, bakers, brewers, carpenters, shoemakers and blacksmiths.

During this time there were weekly markets, and from 1340 Cardiff also had two annual fairs, which were each held once a year and lasted a fortnight with buyers and sellers from all over Glamorgan in attendance.

Cardiff was also a busy port during Medieval times with ships being loaded and unloaded at a town quay, but by the Elizabethan era it was a lawless, pirate-infested port. In 1608 King James I granted a Royal Charter and in 1645, during the civil war, Cardiff was captured by parliamentary troops after fierce fighting.

However by the turn of the 18th century Cardiff had become a sleepy backwater of 1,500 people straggling around the decaying castle. But then the Industrial Revolution changed everything. In the 1790s the local gentry, known as the Butes, built the Glamorganshire Canal to join Cardiff with Merthyr Tydfil, followed by the first Cardiff dock in 1839.

In this century Cardiff grew at a phenomenal pace. In 1801 the population of Cardiff was less than 1,900, but by 1851 it was over 18,000, then in 1871 it was almost 60,000 and by 1900 over 160,000 lived there. In addition Cardiff quickly became the biggest coal-exporting port in the world. At its peak in 1913, more than 13 million tons of coal left the town.

During the 20th century amenities in Cardiff continued to improve with the introduction of electric trams and the opening of Duke Street Arcade in 1902. And in 1905 Cardiff was made a city by Edward VII, and a new City Hall was opened in 1906 while the Queen Alexandra Dock was built in 1907.

Cardiff was proclaimed capital of Wales in 1955, and half a century on it is now Europe’s fastest growing city, offering visitors an ever-increasing wealth of attractions.

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