My family and I woke up super early after landing in London late the night before. Our train was at 8am so needless to say we were all a little very unhappy at the early start but had the lovely 2.5 hour train ride to Cardiff to look forward to! Our train was about 2 minutes late the whole time and the conductor kept apologising about being so late. It was hilarious! It was also probably the smoothest train ride I’ve ever had which was fantastic.
|Such a beautiful journey along the countryside|
We got lucky with the weather, the usually cloudy and rainy Welsh skies were replaced with sun and blue skies. We started off by walking to Cardiff Castle, which is only about a half mile from the train station. On the way, we passed Millennium Stadium which was massive! Usually stadiums are well on the outskirts of the city but this stadium was right in the city centre.
Cardiff Castle has a very long history, beginning as a Roman fort built in AD 55. Remains of the Roman Wall can still be seen in some places (pointed out in the pictures below). The Romans remained at the fort until around 400.
After that, not much is known about what happened at the site until the Normans occupied it from 1091-1216. They concentrated their defences into the western half, which became the inner ward. At the northern end of this part, a Norman lord built a motte, or 40 foot tall mound surrounded by a moat. Atop this was the keep, where the lord, his family and his garrison would live. The heiress married the son of King Henry I, Robert, who was named the Earl of Gloucester. He was credited as building the first stone keep, in which he imprisoned Robert the Second Duke of Normandy.
The castle then passed into the de Clare family, the first of which is remembered as one of the barons of the Magna Carta. Gilbert the Red, a member of the de Clare family, fortified the castle. The castle then passed to the Despensers and then to the Beauchamps, one of whom was a counsellor of King Henry V and was appointed governor of King Henry VI. It was during this time that construction of the present house on the castle grounds began. The castle then passed to the Nevilles and then to the Tudors, then to Henry VII and Henry VIII. Edward VI granted the castle back to William Herbert (1551), who was also given Caerphilly Castle, Castell Coch and many more lands. He modernized Cardiff Castle, but it was damaged greatly during the Civil War and no longer used as a residence.
Almost to the end of the tale! The Butes then possessed the castle from 1776 until 1947 when the castle was given to the city. They not only transformed the castle into its present structure but also developed Cardiff, making it into one of the largest coal exporting ports in the world. During World War II, the walls of the castle were used as bomb shelters, which was cool! And now for pictures!!
|Inside the original bomb shelter|
Walking along the top of the fortress’ outer wall. In the second picture, the white stones you see at the very bottom and around the arch are original.
We then approached the keep, which as you can see is still built on the motte surrounded by a moat from the 12th century. The keep was originally wooden but rebuilt in stone later on. (You can see Millennium Stadium in the background!)
|Approaching the keep. You can see a path that is filled|
with stones (from Roman times I believe). I forget exactly
what this was for but I believe it was some sort of
fortification or would’ve been part of a tunnel to access it
|Quite the steep climb up. Like a ladder almost.|
Inside the main part of the keep. You can see where a fireplace would have been. The holes in the walls are where wooden beams would have gone to create different rooms. This part was also used as a prison. We then climbed the stairs you see in the first picture to see some of the old bedrooms. They were very ladder-like too!
Rooms with a view. The bedrooms were very bland (and dark so unfortunately no photos) but originally would have been decorated with tapestries and other insulators to keep the stone walls warm. We even saw a bathroom where the “toilet” was just a hole that led straight to the keep ground! Next we climbed to the very top (super scary, uneven, narrow, original spiral staircase) and the view was spectacular!
The above two pictures are the view to the North of the castle. Thanks to my camera with the fantastic zoom, I could see where we were to head later on that afternoon! Llandaff Cathedral!
|South view, with views of the castle and|
|The ceiling of the Arab Room dating from 1881. It was used as a sitting room|
or an extra bedroom
|The banqueting hall: the largest room in the castle and the|
oldest part of it. The walls date from the 15th century and
everything else is Victorian. The room was originally created
from 7 bedrooms.
|Small dining room for members of the Bute family. The table is original|
and one of only two in existence to accommodate a fully fruiting grape vine
|The drawing room: only interior room surviving from the 18th|
century. The room now houses family portraits.
|The theme of the library is literature and languages and this chimneypiece|
shows 5 ancient languages: Greek, Hebrew, Assyrian, Hieroglyphics & Runic.
I love old libraries!!!
|The staircase in the Octagon tower added in the mid 1400s.|
Originally containing rooms, it was transformed into a staircase
in the late 1700s.
|A private study room. The decoration is Victorian but the tower|
it is in dates back to the 1580s/
|Cardiff Castle was beautiful~ I’m so glad we got the chance to see it!!!|
We then headed to a pub that only served pie and chips and Brains ale, which was fine by me. I got a chicken pie that had cheese and some other stuff in it (I was too busy scarfing it down to remember what I was eating) but it was easily one of he best pies I’ve ever had!!
Then we went into the “everything Welsh” store because souvenirs. They had lots of cool stuff and I got a sticker, mug and wanted to get a Love Spoon but they were too expensive :( If you didn’t know, Love Spoons were carved wooden spoons Welsh peasantry gave to their loved ones. Certain designs represent certain meanings so for example, a spoon with carved leaves represents growing love. They think that the English term “spooning” comes from this tradition! So cool! No one knows exactly what was meant by the giving of a Love spoon. Some believe it was a sign of the beginning of a courtship and others believe it was a sign of an engagement. In the second picture, you can see the “world’s largest handcrafted love spoon” (not sure if this is true or not but I don’t doubt it!)
We then headed into The City Parish Church of St. John the Baptist Cardiff. Not a huge church but still pretty! It has been on the site for over 800 years
We then caught a cab to Llandaff Cathedral, which is technically in Llandaff City to the north of Cardiff city centre. It’s a cute little town dominated by the cathedral where my ancestors are buried! (the whole purpose of our visit to Cardiff)
The cathedral has a long history, dating back to 1120. It has been remodeled, damaged by bombs in World War II, remodeled many more times, and even used as a post office by Oliver Cromwell. It also houses the tomb of St. Teilo, a cousin of St. David and founder of the first church at Llandaff Cathedral in the 500s. I won’t go into the specifics of the whole history as it’s very long and complex, but the cathedral is a mix of both medieval and contemporary which was new to me!
We met Catharine, a guide for the cathedral, who showed us around. The first person to use our last name, Sir David Mathew, was buried here in 1484. He was supposedly over 6 feet tall, which is huge by 15th century standards. He also lived to be 84 and was [supposedly] named Grand Standard Bearer of England after he saved the life of King Edward IV at the Battle of Towton in 1461. He supported the Yorkist cause, was one of the ten great barons of Glamorgan and a Marcher Lord (which meant guarded the border between England and Wales). He supposedly restored the shrine of St. Teilo which had been pillaged by pirates. However, St. Teilo’s skull was set in a costly reliquary (and supposedly used as a wine glass) and kept in the family until 1658. Creepy. Unfortunately none of this can be verified due to that lack of written records from the period, but I like to think that it is true!
One of David’s three sons, David, was the founder of the Mathews family line (that’s me!) that moved to America in 1700! The ninth great-grandson of David was Moses Mathews, a notable figure of the American Revolution who supplied the Continental Army with guns. He was granted hundred acres of land by George Washington and freed all of his slaves in his will.
|Me with Sir Mathew!|
|St. Teilo’s skull?! Ick.|
|St. Teilo’s tomb|
|Some more Mathew’s!|
|Not a Mathews. Just a creepy fake effigy to frighten|
people about death and sinning…
|Part of the original church. So little remains.|
|a Celtic cross from hundreds of years ago|
discovered in a shed in 1870
|Where the Queen sits when she visits Llandaff!!|
|An original Norman arched door|
|3 faces, 4 eyes|