A Brief History of Cardiff

No matter how you look at it, Cardiff is one of the oldest cities in Great Britain, its history as a human inhabited place dating back almost 600 years. The first ever records about the Glamorgan area date from the Neolithic era, and the first people to ever settle there were said to have arrived from the Iberic peninsula. The area was quick to be cleared of forests, and the Neolithic Welsh civilisation led a prosperous agriculture-based life. This culture left behind megalithic complexes reminiscing of Stonehenge, although those built around Cardiff date back around 1000 years more.

Later on, in the times of the Roman Empire, the town was colonized by the Romans. Historians say that the colonization began around 54 AD, during the reign of Emperor Nero. The Romans defeated the then indigenous reign in Cardiff and built a fort instead. The place was extremely convenient for trade – since the Welsh area is crossed by two important rivers, Taff and Elly. After obtaining Cardiff, the Romans fought a long war to conquer all of Wales, finally succeeding around 74 AD.

However, the flourishing Roman period didn’t last for too long, as the fall of the empire caused the army to withdraw from Wales, and then from the whole province of Britannia. After the 5th century, the Dark Ages came upon the Wales area. They were continuously attacked by Viking nomads, who were using Cardiff as their base. Nowadays, you can still find street names in the city which go back to the Viking occupations. Around the 11th century, the Lord of Glamorgan began re-establishing Cardiff as a Medieval town. He ordered the building of the Cardiff wall on the ruins of the ancient Roman fort and the Cardiff Castle. The population of the town never surpassed 2000 people, which kept it from being labelled a city.

In the 16th century, Cardiff took its first step to becoming the capital of Wales. After the British Union Act and the formation of the Glamorgan-shire, Cardiff was appointed county town. It still had a pretty dark reputation, as stated by travellers and historians of the time. However, Cardiff finally obtained a representative in the House of Commons, which had an immensely positive influence on the development of the town.

Cardiff went into its final development stage the moment when the town’s docks were built. After that, a boat service connecting Cardiff and Bristol appeared, encouraging the commerce. The Industrial Revolution made it one of the county’s main coal ports. This also encouraged migration – so that by the end of the 19th century, the population was already around 80% bigger than at the and of the 18th century. Not only was Cardiff known as a commercial spot, but also an industrial one – steelwork factories were the main industry of the city.

Cardiff was offered the status of City in 1905, and after that, most of the city’s important buildings were built, such as the Roman Cathedral, National Museum, and National Library. Finally, it was proclaimed capital of Wales in 1955, which it is to this day.