Cardiff Castle, in the Center of Cardiff
All Photos (c) Donna Dailey
Cardiff Castle History
The history of Cardiff Castle goes back almost 2000 years to when the Romans first arrived and built defences here. In the 11th and 12th centuries the Normans built first a wooden and then a stone fortress on the site. The fortress can still be seen, and at the top there are good views over both the castle and the city of Cardiff. The later stone fortress that you can see today was built by the Normans in the 11th and 12th centuries and still stands proudly in the middle of the grounds, providing good views from its upper levels.
The Bute Family
By the 18th century the castle had come into the hands of the Bute family, from the Scottish Isle of Bute. It was the 3rd Marquess of Bute, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart (1847-1900) who transformed the interiors. The Butes owned vast areas of land in South Wales, and when the Industrial Revolution came along, and with it a great demand for the coal which was here in huge quantities, the Butes had more money than is imaginable.
The 3rd Marquess was an unusual man, quite shy and retiring but with an instatiable appetite for knowledge and beauty. He commissioned the architect William Burges (1827-1881), who shared his love of medievalism, to transform the building and Burges produced rooms of incredible detail and luxury. This was the first house in Wales, and only the third in Britain, to have electricity.
Born in London into an engineering family, Burges worked on the restoration of Westminster Abbey in the 1840s and later produced a prize-winning design for Lille Cathedral which unfortunately was never used. His first important work was on St Finbarr's Cathedral in Cork, after which he was invited to Cardiff by the 3rd Marquess of Bute. His work in Cardiff is his finest memorial. He died in 1881 before his concept was completed.
Cardiff Castle Clock Tower
Each room in the Castle has its own theme, with time the theme in the Clock Tower (right) where the signs of the zodiac decorate the ceiling, the Norse Gods adorn the stained glass window representing the days of the week, and an ornately-decorated carved stone fireplace shows activities throughout the seasons.
Cardiff Castle: Guided Tours
On no account miss the guided tour of Cardiff Castle, which will take you through some of the most sumptuous rooms you are ever likely to see in what was once a private residence. On the 45-minute guided tours, which take place regularly throughout the day (though booking ahead is advisable), you get to see just a few of the rooms that Burges created for the Butes.
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