Cardigan High Street
Cardigan is the county town of Cardiganshire. It stands at the mouth of the River Teifi on its northern bank, where the river and its estuary form the county boundary with Pembrokeshire. Across the Teifi and opposite the Quayside is the hamlet of Bridgened, Pembrokeshire.
Cardigan is a significant regional centre for western Wales, harbouring a hospital, college, a modern arts centre (with two-screen cinema) and a currently under-used nineteenth century guildhall together with a theatre and good shopping facilities and a market.
In 2006-7 a co-ordinated programme of building works restored many of the façades of the town centre shops in a sympathetic style. The quayside has been rebuilt with a new civic area and landing stage. Cardigan Island lies just 200 yards offshore, near the town at Gwbert.
In 1176 Cardigan Castle became the site of the first competitive Eisteddfod. Cardigan also hosted the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1942 and 1976. The castle was for many years in private hands and as a result became run down and derelict. The town council itself showed little interest in saving it. However a group of volunteers did raise its profile and the local council finally bought it in 2003.
The town is strategically placed on the banks of the River Teifi. The castle was built by Robert Montgomery in 1093 after the Norman army had conquered Ceredigion. A walled settlement developed around the castle and after much unrest and violence over the years, the Norman invaders were defeated. The Lord Rhys instituted the very first eisteddfod in the more peaceful times of 1176. Competitors came from all over Great Britain and Ireland to compete for chairs in music and poetry. In 1199 the town received its first charter and was an important trade centre. A weekly market was established in 1227 and continues to this day.
Until the 16th century, Cardigan was a small, walled town with some river traffic. The passing of the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 brought political stability, piracy was suppressed and maritime trade increased. The herring fishery developed and by the beginning of the 18th century, there was a large merchant fleet. Exports included herring and salmon, slate, bark for tanning, corn and ale. Imports included oranges, manufactured goods, building materials and coal. Industries that developed included shipbuilding, brickworks, a foundry, ropemakers and sailmakers.
In the 18th and early 19th century, Cardigan was the most important seaport in south Wales. In 1815 it possessed 314 ships with a total tonnage of 12,554 tons. This was seven times as many vessels as Cardiff and three times as many as Swansea. It had a thriving shipbuilding industry, with over 200 vessels being built here and downstream in the village of Llandudoch.
The river silted up and larger vessels could no longer reach the port, which had largely become inactive by the early part of the 20th century. Plans for dredging have come to nothing over the years.
Cardigan is predominantly a Welsh-speaking community. At the last census more than 69% of the residents were recorded as being able to speak or understand spoken Welsh with 45% able to speak, read and write in the language.
In 1176 and again 800 years later the National Eisteddfod was held in the town. In 2003 the community together with the Welsh Language Board set up a language action plan designed to provide opportunities for people of all ages to get together to speak Welsh.
- Photographs of Cardigan
- Cardigan's Official site
- Old photographs of Cardigan port
- Aerial photograph of Cardigan
- 2001 Census. Neighbourhood Statistics: Cardigan
- Cardigan History: Cardigan Chamber of Commerce
- BBC Cardigan - Aberteifi
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Cardigan and surrounding area
- Walks around Cardigan and Cardigan Bay
- 2001 Census. Neighbourhood Statistics: Cardigan Speak or Understand spoken Welsh: 3,125 out of a population of 4,497; Speak, read, write: 2,031 out of a population of 4,497