April 27, 2015
A postcard view of the tower at Cardiff Castle. I'm always fascinated by the crowds in century old photos milling about in the middle of the street. Evidently it was a much safer proposition than it is today.
Ancient capital of Wales
Cardiff's wonderful natural harbour made it a natural choice for human habitation, and indeed, people have been living here for at least six millennia. Yet for much of its recent history Cardiff did not stand out from the other Welsh towns and it was by no means clear it would one day rise to become the its cultural, political and economic heart of Wales.
One of the few surviving relics of Cardiff's medieval past. After the castle, Saint John's Church is the oldest building in Cardiff and dates to the 12th Century.
Another view of Saint John's Church, this one from Saint John's Street. A sign on the right indicates Evans Court once stood at that spot. Until recently houses were built right up to the castle rampart, but most have since been cleared to give people unobstructed views of the castle and let more traffic into the city centre.
A postcard view of Saint John's Church in wartime.
My best guess at the former location of Salisbury's Tyre and Retreads on Frederick Street. It was owned by Charles Patrick and Lilian May Salisbury, but like most mom and pop shops the world over, it has been demolished to make way for a corporate outlet store.
Here we get a nice view of a double-decker tram passing in front of the Dominion Buildings in 1920. Today the crowds are out along the bustling shopping street.
Squire John Richards House on Saint Mary's Street has been remodeled somewhat and has new tenants, but it is still the same building.
Cardiff's gorgeous Pierhead building. Originally built in 1897 to serve as headquarters for the Bute Dock Company, it was built in a Franco-Gothic Renaissance style that is fairly unique in the United Kingdom. The clock tower on it is often called Baby Big Ben or the Big Ben of Wales. Right beside the Senedd, it is incorporated into the whole site and is now a Welsh history museum.
Down in Cardiff Bay we get this interesting shot looking up Bute Street. The photographer was originally standing in the paddle steamer quays berth, which is now the site of a restaurant. The dramatic redevelopment of Cardiff Bay makes it not so surprising that none of the original buildings remain.
A view towards the Pierhead Building and what is today Mermaid Quay. I'm reasonably close to the correct spot with this photo, though I believe the photographer in 1917 was standing atop a warehouse that is now the site of the Doctor Who Experience. Surprisingly, as that church looks fairly old, it was not there when the original was taken.
If you were ever in any doubt that Cardiff was one of the busiest ports in the world, this shot of Roath Dock should disabuse you of the notion. As Ben Salter's caption reminds the reader, there were once so many ships moored at Cardiff it was said one could cross from one side to the other of the enormous docks by jumping from ship to ship.
Looking from in front of the Pierhead towards Penarth. The skyline atop the bluffs is still dominated by a church. The low tide in the old photograph is a reminder that this was taken before the locks were built and the harbour's water levels could be controlled.
This beached hulk was actually converted into a hospital ship in 1866 for the thousands of seamen who came into Cardiff's port, frequently bringing with them contagious diseases. The Marquis of Bute donated the land on which she sat and it soon gained the rather unfortunate name of Rat Island. It was only in 1905 that a new seamen's hospital was built. After the harbour was closed off from the ocean by locks the land itself was turned into a protected marsh area for birds. You can see two boys hopping over the pond today.
Coal hoists on the River Ely, a common site during Cardiff's coal-based heyday. They were not shut down until 1966. Since then the area has been reborn as a marina.
Penarth Dock which celebrated its 150th birthday on 10 June 2015. Here the docks are being dug out. Though an important coal-export harbour, Penarth itself was and remains a hugely popular holiday destination and is known throughout the United Kingdom as 'The Garden by the Sea.' Many of Penarth's wealthy yacht owning residents sailed to Dunkirk in 1940 to rescue the BEF from the advancing Wehrmacht—the legendary 'little ships'.
Passengers disembark from the little paddlewheel ferry Kate that ran between Penarth pier and the Pierhead. All visible are fashionably dressed.
Since the Customs House here was built in 1865, this is an old photo indeed. Before that the Penarth Head Inn was a legendary haunt for smugglers for centuries of Cardiff's history. Perhaps fitting then that they put the Custom House on the same spot.
Tugboats struggle to tow the Port Royal Park away from the pier at Penarth after the ship became untethered in the heavy seas and crashed right into the pier. A crowd has gathered to watch.
Another view of the Port Royal Park crushing the dock. It's lucky the damage was not more extensive!