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Cardigan - Aberteifi

Cardigan stands on the tidal estuary of the River Teifi, hence its Welsh name. The anglicised name Cardigan is derived from the Welsh Ceredigion, the county name after Ceredig (Born circa 418 A.D.) son of a British Chieftain named Cuenedda. Cuenedda ruled an area in Scotland around the upper Firth of Fourth. Ceredig led an army to fight off the invading Irish in North Wales and was rewarded with the area of modern Cardiganshire.

The town of Cardigan was founded in 1093 by Roger de Montgomery who also built the town's first castle, situated about a mile away from the castle built in 1110 by Gilbert de Clare. The castle and town were taken by the Lord Rhys in 1165 and he rebuilt the castle in 1171, holding the precursor of the National Eisteddfod with competitions between bards and poets and harpists and pipers, awarding two chairs to the winners, in the castle at Christmas 1176. Rhys held the castle until his death in 1197, welcoming Gerald of Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury to the castle in 1188 as they toured Wales recruiting for the Crusade. After his death, his sons, Maelgwyn and Gruffydd quarreled and Maelgwyn surrendered his brother to the Normans, selling Cardigan Castle to King John. The Castle changed hands several times over the next four centuries, finally being destroyed by Cromwell's army in the English Civil War.

 

The port of Cardigan grew in importance over the years and by Elizabethan times was the second most important in Wales after Milford Haven. It also became a shipbuilding centre, with ships up to 400 tons. Trade was not restricted to Europe, with a large number of boats sailing to North America, indeed, it was a major port of emigration with the ancestors of Frank Lloyd Wright embarking from Cardigan . The harbour gradually silted up and the larger steam ships could not use the harbour. Commercial shipping finally ended in the 1940s.

Cardigan today is a busy market town, containing a number of old buildings. The church of St Mary dates from the 14th century, while the Shire Hall dates from 1764. Although extensively altered, the building was designed to hold the Assize Court with Corn Market beneath. By the 1990s it had become a furniture store. The architect John Nash designed Cardigan Jail in 1793, before his return to London where he was responsible for much of what we now know as Regency London, including Regent Street and Regent's Park. He also completed the transformation of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. A guest house now stands in the grounds of the former jail.

The old bridge across the Teifi and the castle. The bridge dates from 1726 but was widened in 1877, it replaced a medieval bridge across the Teifi here. A mansion was built within the walls of the castle in the early 19th century and although now in ruins has meant restricted access to the castle. (Note the Second World War pillbox) There is now a restoration project in hand to preserve and open the castle to the public.

The Castle was privately owned until 2003 when it was purchased by the County Council.

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Site and Photographs Geoffrey Davies 2008-10  Contact info@enchantedtowy.co.uk