Little Bits of History

Cardiff, Wales

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 20, 2013

December 20, 1955: Cardiff becomes the capital city of Wales. Wales is a country in the United Kingdom. Its eastern border abuts England with the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to the west. It is bilingual with Welsh and English both being spoken. Cardiff or Caerdydd is the largest city in Wales or Cymru. The country was first settled by Celts but many Roman forts remain as evidence of Rome’s historic presence. After the Romans left in ≈ 410, the Celts reasserted themselves. They were able to maintain independence from the Anglo-Saxons for a time. The English conquest of Wales occurred in 1284, but Welsh law remained intact until 1542.

Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff is not only the capital, but also a center for education, business, sports, culture, media, and tourism. About 317,500 people call it home. It was a small town until the early 1800s and became a city in 1905. The major port brought in businesses to support coal transport and the area became more industrialized. The city itself is only 2.6 mi2 (6.6652 km2) while the urban area is 54.1 mi2 (140 km2) but this increase in land only increases population to 327,700.

The name Cardiff is the most modern sobriquet given to the area. After the Romans left, it was called Brythonic, meaning “the fort on the Taff” – the river Cardiff Castle was built on. The Roman fort was built around 75 AD and abandoned after they left. In 1091, Robert Fitzhamon began to work at restoration of the Castle inside the walls of the fort. The Castle has been at the heart of the city ever since. During the Victorian era, the Castle was greatly expanded.

King Edward VII granted Cardiff city status on October 28, 1905. The town held only 6,342 people in 1801. By 1901 there were 172,699 people there and just ten years later, there were 209,804. The city is thoroughly modern while respecting its rich history. There are two castles attesting to ancient inhabitation. The skyline features skyscrapers and a cathedral as well as the Wales Millennium Centre – a center for performing arts. There are four major institutions for higher learning and eighty-six state primary schools, eleven infant schools, ten junior schools and twenty state secondary schools, along with a number of independent schools in this member city of the Eurocities network.

“Each section of the British Isles has its own way of laughing, except Wales, which doesn’t.” – Stephen Leacock

“Wales is the land of my fathers. And my fathers can have it.” – Dylan Thomas

“Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name BZJXXLLWCP is pronounced Jackson.” – Mark Twain

“I rather like my reputation, actually, that of a spoiled genius from the Welsh gutter, a drunk, a womanizer; it’s rather an attractive image.” – Richard Burton

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Wales covers a total area of 8,023 square miles and has a population of slightly more than 3 million. That is about the size of the state of Massachusetts and with a population slightly more than the city of Chicago. Wales has over 1,200 miles of coastline and has a mountainous terrain with Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) as its highest peak at 3,560 feet of elevation. As part of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth is the ruler and Carwyn Jones AM is the First Minister. The Welsh flag is rectangular with the bottom half green and the top half white and a red dragon resting on the field. The patron saint of Wales is Saint David. The economy is based on the service sector (66% of the GVA) with manufacturing contributing 32% and the other 1.5% based on agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Tourism brings over 8 million visitors to Wales which is what drives the service sector.

Also on this day: Secret Police – In 1917, Lenin forms the first of a series of secret police, used to terrorize the citizens of Mother Russia.
Petrol on Fire – In 1984, the Summit Tunnel fire began.
Just Wonderful – In 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life was released in New York City.

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