Cardiff Castle is situated in the centre of Cardiff city, in South Wales.
The original castle was a Norman motte and Bailey fortification, possibly built on the site of an old Roman fort in 1091 by Robert Fitzhamon, Lord of Gloucester.


The de Clare family took possession of the castle before it was passed to the Despenser family in 1306, and remained in the family for over 100 years.

In 1414, the rights of the castle were passed to the husband of Isabel, the last Despenser heir.
A short time later, with Isabel becoming a widow, on marrying her second husband, the castle passed to the Beauchamp family, Earls of Warwick. It was Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick who extended the castle adding more residential quarters and the Octagon Tower. Beauchamp was also responsible for the education of the young king Henry VI.
Beauchamp died while in Rouen, Normandy on 30 April 1439, and the castle eventually passed to his youngest daughter Ann, whose husband Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, became King Richard III.
After King Richards defeat by Henry VII, the castle was granted to Jasper, 1st Earl of Pembroke, the new King’s uncle.
Catherine Parr’s brother, William Herbert, acquired the castle in 1550.
In 1645, during the Civil War, it is thought Charles I stayed at the castle ,with the Herbert’s helping to protect him.
Lady Charlotte Herbert, the last heir of the Herbert family, continued the control of the castle until her death in 1773, when it passed to her son, Herbert. Herbert’s daughter, Charlotte Jane Windsor married John Stuart, who was later to become the Marquess of Bute, beginning a family line that would control the castle for the next century.
In 1776 the Marquess began to renovate the property with the intention of turning it into a residence for his son John, but these projects were cut short by the Marquess’s son’s death in 1794.


In 1814 Lord Bute’s grandson, John, inherited his title and the castle. The second Marquess preferred to live on the Isle of Bute in Scotland and only used Cardiff Castle occasionally. The castle saw little investment and only four full-time servants were maintained on the premises, meaning that cooked food had to be brought across from the kitchens at a nearby hotel.
John Patrick Crichton Stuart assumed the title 3rd Marquees of Bute on 12th September1847, being less than a year old. On Bute’s coming of age in 1868, he along with architect, William Burges began to redesign the castle into what we see today.
The original features of the castle are greatly overshadowed with the flamboyant décor created by the Marquess and Burges. Astrological symbols, Biblical Characters dressed in gilt robes, Moorish designs, Natures creatures and Heraldic features are just some of the themes that are designed through the castle.
Along with the Summer Smoking Room, the Winter Smoking Room is also extravagantly decorated. As on the outside of the tower with its clock faces and planets, the theme is that of time passing. Signs of the zodiac are painted on the ceiling and sun motifs appear in the wall decoration. A hugely decorative fireplace displays scenes of medieval life, while a richly carved and ornamented cabinet with mother-of pearl inlays has room not only for cigars and smoking accessories but also for up to forty bottles of drink. To offset the secular and even pagan aspects of the room, there are also stained glass windows as you would find in a church. Burges was especially fond of birds and other small creatures, and he has incorporated pictures of animals along with Celtic designs on the wooden panelling.
The Banqueting Hall and the Library are on the site of the old medieval hall. The seemingly long Banqueting Hall displays a hammerbeam roof, clearly inspired by church architecture, with its heraldry and angels. The murals were executed for Burges by H. W. Lonsdale, who had worked with him at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, and the huge chimneypiece was sculpted by another member of Burges’s team, Thomas Nicholls, who also carved the original animals on the Animal Wall. Both murals and chimneypiece recount the exploits of Robert the Consul, 1st Earl of Gloucester and 2nd Lord of Glamorgan, the nobleman credited with having built the Norman keep. The hall depicts medieval life, such as the monk at his desk over one of the doorways; and the chimneypiece with its colourful castle scene. Unfinished when Burges died, the wood-carving here was not completed until 1893. But as the architect had assembled a strong team of craftsmen around him, including his assistant William Frame and both Lonsdale and the renowned interior decorators Crace & Son, meant that the work continued according to his plans.


The Arab Room is located in the Herbert Tower, which Burges built up from a sixteenth-century wing. While both the Summer and Winter Smoking Rooms were strictly male provinces, this was intended as a drawing room for the women. The Arab Room has a rich honeycomb design ceiling, and intricately patterned carving in various materials, from the cornice to the chair-backs to the marble panel over the fireplace. Burges was still working on it in the months before he died, and where the Marquess paid tribute to his architect. Around the edges of the marble over-mantel carved in Latin reads, “John Marquess of Bute built this in 1881. William Burgess designed it.” Burges died in the April of that year.

Bute died on 9th October 1900 where John, the fourth Marquess, acquired the castle and the family estates and investments around the castle began to rapidly reduce in size.

With only having inherited a part of the Butes’ Glamorgan estates, in the first decades of the 20th century John sold off much of the remaining assets around Cardiff, including the coal mines, docks and railway companies, with the bulk of the land interests being finally sold off or nationalised in 1938.
However, development work on the castle continued, where in 1921 there was extensive restoration of the medieval masonry, with architect John Grant rebuilding the South Gate and the barbican tower, and reconstructing the medieval West Gate and town wall alongside the castle, with the Swiss Bridge being moved in 1927 to make room for the new West Gate development. Further archaeological investigations were carried out into the Roman walls in 1922 and 1923, leading to Grant redesigning the northern Roman gatehouse.

Tunnels_in_Cardiff_Castle. Air raid shelter WW2.sepia

During World War II, extensive air-raid shelters were tunnelled out within the medieval walls, with eight different sections, able to hold up to 1,800 people in total, and the castle was also used to tether barrage balloons above the city. 
On 25 April 1947, the fifth Marquess, again named John, inherited the castle on the death of his father and faced considerable death duties. He sold the very last of the Bute lands in Cardiff and the furniture and fittings in the castle were removed by the Marquess before he gave the castle and the surrounding park to the city. As part of the official hand-over ceremony the family flag was taken down from the castle.
The castle was protected as a grade I listed building and as a scheduled monument in 1952.

Bygone Times


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