The Port of Cardiff is the capital of Wales in Great Britain. Located at the mouth of the River Taff on the Bristol Channel, it is about 240 kilometers west of London. Made capital of Wales in 1955, the city experienced major redevelopment in the latter 20th Century. It is Wales’ main business and finance center with a large public administration sector.
Being one of Great Britain’s most popular tourist destinations (almost 12 million visitors in 2006), the city has a huge service sector, and one-fifth of its employees support the tourist industry. Plentiful hotels offer almost nine thousand beds to travelers. In 2005, almost 320 thousand people lived in Cardiff.
Romans first built a fort in 75 AD on the site that would become the Port of Cardiff to defend the island from attacks coming from Ireland. When the Normans arrived, the modern town began to grow in the 11th Century. Robert FitzHamon, a Norman, built a fort on the ruins of the old Roman fort in the late 1000s. A stone keep stood on the mound by 1150, and it survives today.
In the early 12th century a wooden fence encircled the city, and the Port of Cardiff grew. It was declared a Staple port with royal support in 1327. A small town grew up as Englishmen settled outside the castle. The town received trading privileges from local lords or from the king. For many centuries, the Port of Cardiff was a busy market and port for the region. Made a Free Borough in 1542, the Port of Cardiff was made a head port for collecting customs duties in 1573. In 1581, it received its first royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I.
Richard III and Henry VII took possession of the castle and gave it and a lordship to the South Wales family of Herbert. The property passed through marriage to the Earl of Bute in 1766, and that family has been instrumental in Cardiff’s development ever since. The 2nd Marquess of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart, spent much of his life building the Port of Cardiff docks, and he was called the “creator of modern Cardiff” as a result of his efforts. The castle and adjoining parklands were given to the city in 1947.
Coal and iron ore mining accounted for much of the Port of Cardiff’s development in the late 1700s. The Glamorganshire Canal opened in 1794, and the first dock was built on the Cardiff end of the canal in 1987, making Cardiff an important exporter of coal for the next 100 years. John Bute built and opened a basin and dock at Cardiff in 1839, and the railway soon connected the port to the inland mining and industrial areas. More docks were added in the mid 1800s, and a booming iron industry increased sea-going traffic through the Port of Cardiff. Over the next years, the port was expanded many times, and it became an official city in 1905. By 1913, the Port of Cardiff was one of the world’s busiest coal-exporting ports.
After 1918, the city’s coal trade began a slow decline, and the traffic ended in 1963. However, the Port of Cardiff continued to be the biggest city in Wales, and it was made the country’s capital in 1955. Today, the Port of Cardiff is an important administrative, cultural, and retail center. It is also home to varied industries and busy commerce. With the closing of the East Moors Steelworks in 1978, the Port of Cardiff began to lose population; however, it recovered and was one of few British cities to gain population in the 1990s. During the 1990s, the older docklands and port underwent renovations in an effort to create a new waterfront attraction. Today, the waterfront boasts Techniquest, an interactive museum of science, and the Millennium Center. As Wales’ capital, the Port of Cardiff is key to the country’s economy.