CARDIFF CASTLE, CF10 3RB
Postcode: Castle Street, CF10 3RB
Lat/Long: 51.4827N 3.1819W
Notes: The castle is located at the heart of Cardiff city centre directly on the main road. No dedicated car park for visitors but ample (pay and display) in close proximity.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
A medieval circular keep set atop of a motte and some original Roman remains set within nineteenth century ‘reconstructed’/heavy stylised Roman-esque walls. Tunnels used as air-raid shelter during WWII are also accessible. Regular tours of eighteenth/nineteenth century state apartments.
1. The shell keep at Cardiff is a similar design to that of Arundel in Sussex; both have a polygonal shape.
2. Cardiff Castle was heavily modified by Capability Brown. Under this individual’s direction much of the medieval castle was destroyed and other elements heavily stylised. This cultural vandalism continued in the nineteenth century when the castle was heavily modified in a Gothic style.
Originally an outpost of the Roman Army, the site of Cardiff Castle has been fortified for two thousand years. Later the Norman castle witnessed conflict with the native Welsh and changed hands multiple times during the Civil War. Restored and heavy stylised in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it later became a lavish stately home.
HISTORY OF CARDIFF CASTLE
The first fortification at Cardiff was built in AD 55 by the Romans as they expanded their conquest into Wales. Originally a significant enclosure it was used as a key supply base but was later downgraded to a standard fort as the frontier moved West. The fort was rebuilt in the late third century into a coastal defence structure designed to hold a garrison who would respond to attacks from Irish pirates. This was abandoned as the Roman army withdrew from Britain in the early fifth century.
The site remained abandoned until the arrival of the Normans with Cardiff Castle being built between 1080 and 1091 initially as an earth and timber motte-and-bailey. Offering strategic control over the Rivers Taff and Rhymney and over the Roman road running through South Wales (which was still in use during the Medieval era), it formed a key component in Norman control over Glamorgan. Like other territories in proximity to the English/Welsh border it was a Marcher Lord territory where the ‘King’s Writ did not run’.
Norman rule in twelfth century Wales, which held the native Welsh in some contempt, led to a Welsh uprising in 1136. Tensions continued thereafter and in 1158 a native Welsh ruler, Ifor Bach of Senghennydd, mounted an audacious raid on Cardiff Castle and seized the then owner, William Fitzhamon. He, along with his wife and son, were held in some discomfort in a Welsh forest. The castle then passed through various owners, including the future King John, before coming into the possession of Edward II’s unpopular favourite Hugh Despenser. His mis-management led to a Welsh rebellion in 1316 and then conflict between the Marcher Lords in 1321. Although Hugh was executed for treason in 1326, the Despenser family retained control of Cardiff Castle until 1414 when it passed through marriage to the Beauchamp family. Thereafter, largely due to the Wars of the Roses ,the castle passed through numerous owners in paid succession; first to George, Duke of Clarence. After he was executed by his brother Edward IV, it then passed to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) and, after his death at Bosworth Field (1485), came into the hands of Jasper Tudor.
The Tudor dynasty, having hailed from Wales, adopted a very different approach to Anglo-Welsh relations and Cardiff’s status as a Marcher territory was revoked. Thereafter the castle was re-rolled into a comfortable home although this came to abrupt end during the Civil War. Initially held for the King it changed hands several times during the war before finally be surrendered to Parliament in 1645. When the second Civil War ignited in 1648 Cardiff was at the centre of the action; a Royalist army was raised intent on re-taking the castle but the plan was thwarted by the intervention of Parliamentary forces and the defeat of the Royalist army at the Battle of St Fagans (1648).
By the eighteenth century the castle was owned by the Marquess of Bute and was periodically renovated to modify the premises into the latest fashions. Further modifications were made in the late 1860s when the castle was extensive rebuilt in a Gothic style. During WWII the tunnels within the exterior wall were re-rolled as an air-raid shelter.