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4 capitals of Great Britain

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Roman London (Londinium)

Saxon London ( Lundenwick)

London in the Middle Age

London in the 16th and 17th centuries

The 18th century London

The Clock Tower of Wrens St.Paul’s Cathedral


Hereford Mappa Mundi, featuring Edinburgh in 1300

An 1802 illustration of Edinburgh from the West


Origins of the Name

Medieval Cardiff

Owain Glyndŵr

Black Gold Trsansforms Cardiff

Double Birtday

Home of the Daleks

World’s First Fair Trade Capital

Famous Sons and Daughters

Sporting History


Belfast in the 17th century

Belfast in the 18th century

Samson and Goliath

The City Hall During Construction

Recent history



Great Britain or United Kingdom, officially United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a parliamentary monarchy in northwestern Europe. The kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, comprising England, Scotland, and Wales; and Northern Ireland, an integral component of the kingdom, occupying part of the island of Ireland. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands in the English Channel are not part of the United Kingdom; they are direct dependencies of the British crown and have substantial internal self-governing powers. The United Kingdom lies entirely within the British Isles. The total area of the kingdom is 244,111 sq km (94,252 sq mi).

From 1801, when Great Britain and Ireland were united, to 1922, when the Irish Free State was established, the kingdom was officially designated the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Great Britain, along with other independent countries and their dependencies and several associated states, is part of the Commonwealth of Nations. The capital and largest city of Great Britain is London.

So, the history of 4 capitals situated in Great Britain can tell us a lot about the country itself.


London is the capital of the United Kingdom, its economic, political and cultural center. It is one of the world's most important ports and one of the largest cities in the world. London with its suburbs has a population of about 11 million people. London has been a capital for nearly a thousand years. Many of its ancient buildings still stand. But once London was a small Roman town of the north bank of the Thames.


The Romans founded London about 50 AD. Its name is derived from the Celtic word Londinios, which means the place of the bold one. After they invaded Britain in 43 AD the Romans built a bridge across the Thames. They later decided it was an excellent place to build a port. The water was deep enough for ocean going ships but it was far enough inland to be safe from Germanic raiders. Around 50 AD Roman merchants built a town by the bridge. So London was born.

The early settlement at London did not have stone walls but there may have been a ditch and an earth rampart with a wooden palisade on top. Then in 61 AD Queen Boudicca led a rebellion against the Romans. Her army marched on London. No attempt was made to defend London. Boudicca burned London but after her rebellion was crushed it was rebuilt. Rich people built houses of stone or brick with tiled roofs but most people lived in wooden houses.

By the end of the 2nd century stonewall was erected around London. The wall was 20 feet high. Outside the wall was a ditch. In the middle of the 3rd century 20 bastions were added to the walls (a bastion was a semi-circular tower projecting from the wall).

The population of Roman London rose to perhaps 45,000, which seems small to us but it was the largest town in Britain.

In the centre of London was the forum. This was a square with shops and public buildings arranged around it. The most important building in the forum was the basilica or 'town hall’, which was 500 feet long and 70 feet high. In London there were brickworks, potteries and glassworks. There were also donkey powered mills for grinding grain to flour and bakeries.

London was also an important port with wooden wharves and jetties. Grain and metal were exported and luxury goods were imported. (Things like wine, olive oil, glass, fine pottery, silk and ivory).

Rich citizens had baths in their homes but there were several public baths near the city gates. (Romans went to the baths to socialise not just to keep clean). Most people in the town got their water from wells and used cess pools but there were underground drains to remove rainwater. London also had an amphitheatre, which could hold 8,000 people. Here gladiators fought to the death. Cockfighting was also a popular sport.


The last Roman soldier left Britain in 407 AD. London was probably abandoned. There may have been a few people living inside the walls by fishing or farming but London ceased to be a town. But soon it rose again. A new town appeared outside the walls on the site of Covent Garden. It was much smaller than Roman London with perhaps 10,000 inhabitants.

In 597 monks from Rome began the task of converting the Saxons to Christianity. In 604 a bishop was appointed for London.

By the 640's there was a mint in London making silver coins. In the 670's a Royal document called London 'the place where the ships land'. Early in the 8th century a writer called London 'a trading centre for many nations who visit by land and sea'. Saxon London consisted of many wooden huts with thatched roofs. Slag from metal forges have been found proving there were many blacksmiths at work in the town. Archaeologists have also found large numbers of loom weights (used in weaving wool) Saxon craftsmen also worked with animal bones making things like combs. The main export from Saxon London was wool, either raw of woven. Imports included wine and luxury foods like grapes and figs. Pottery and millstones were also imported. Slaves were also bought and sold in London.

Disaster struck London in 842 when the Danes looted London. They returned in 851 and this time they burned a large part of the town (an easy task when all buildings were of wood). Then the Danes gave up just raiding and turned to conquest. They conquered northern and Eastern England including London.

King Alfred the Great totally defeated the Danes in 878 and they split the country between them. The Danes took eastern England including London while Alfred took the South and West. Despite the peace treaty Alfred's men took London in 886. Alfred repaired the walls of the old Roman town. Until then Londoners lived outside the Roman walls but during Alfred's reign they moved inside the walls for protection. Soon foreign merchants came to live in London. By the 10th century there were wine merchants from France at Vintners Place and German merchants at Dowgate.

The Danes returned in 994 but this time the Londoners fought them off. A writer said ' they proceeded to attack the city stoutly and wished to set it on fire but here they suffered more harm and injury than they ever thought any citizen could do them'.

'London Bridge is falling down'...so says the nursery rhyme. This is believed to be derived from an event that took place in the early 11th century. King Olaf of Norway attacked England but he was unable to sails up the Thames past London Bridge. So he ordered his men to erect wood and wicker canopies over their boats. They then approached London Bridge. Londoners on the bridge threw down missiles but they were unable to stop the Vikings. At that time London Bridge was made of wood. Olaf and his men tied ropes to the wooden struts supporting it. They then rowed away and London Bridge collapsed. Some historians question whether this event really happened or whether it was just a legend that grew up around King (later Saint) Olaf.

Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) built a wooden palace at Westminster. Later Parliament met here. Because of this Westminster became the seat of government not the city of London itself. Edward also built Westminster Abbey, which was consecrated a few weeks before his death.


After the battle of Hastings an advance guard of Normans approached London Bridge from the South but were beaten off. The Norman army then marched in a loop to the west of London to cut it off from the rest of the country. William occupied the royal palace at Westminster and the won over the Londoners by making various promises. William was crowned king of England at Westminster on 25 December 1066. William gave London a charter, a document confirming certain rights. Nevertheless he built a wooden tower to stand guard over London. It was replaced by a stone tower in 1078-1100. That was the beginning of the Tower of London.

The population of London at this time was perhaps 18,000, which seems very small to us but was very large by the standards of the time. London grew in size through the 12th century and some people began to build housed outside the walls. In 1176 the wooden bridge across the Thames was replaced with a stone one.

A writer described London about the year 1180:

London is happy in its clean air, in the Christian religion, in the strength of its fortifications, in its natural situation, in the honor of its citizens. The Cathedral is St Pauls but there is also in London and its suburbs 13 large monasteries, beside 126 parish churches. On the east side lies the tower, very large and strong with 4 gates and turrets at intervals and runs around the northern side of the city. To the north lie fields and meadows with small rivers flowing through them, by these water mills are driven with a pleasant murmur. To this city come merchants from every nation under heaven rejoicing to bring merchandise in their ships'.

Someone else wrote:

'Amongst the noble and celebrated cities of the world, that of London, the Capital of the Kingdom of England is one of the most renowned, possessing above others, abundant wealth, extensive commerce, great grandeur and significance'.

London was a lively place. There was a horse market at Smithfield (originally smooth field) where horse racing took place. Smithfield was also the site of public executions, which always attracted large crowds. Londoners also loved dancing on the open spaces that surrounded the town. They liked archery and wrestling and men fought mock battles with wooden swords and shields. In Winter people went ice skating on frozen marshes at Moorfield using skates made of animal bones.

In the 12th or 13th century London was often spelt Lunden or Lundon. By the time of Chaucer in the late 14th century it was spelt London.

In the 13th century the friars came to London. Friars were like monks but instead of living lives separate from the world they went out to preach. There were different orders of friars each with a different colour of costume. Dominican friars were called black friars because of their black costumes and the place where they lived in London is still called Blackfriars. There were also grey friars (Franciscans), white friars and crutched friars. (The word crutched is a corruption of cruxed. Crux is Latin for cross and the cruxed friars had a cross stitched onto their cloaks).

The Jews suffered from persecution during the Middle Ages. The first Jews came to London in 1096 as refugees from Rouen after a massacre occurred there. Jews in London lived in a ghetto in old Jewry. They were some of the first people since Roman times to live in stone houses. They had to as wooden houses were not safe enough! In 1189 a wave of persecution resulted in the deaths of about 30 Jews. In 1264 rioters killed about 500 Jews in London. In 1290 all Jews were expelled from England.

In 1381 the peasant revolt broke out. On 13 July the rebels marched on London and sympathizers opened the gates to them. The king and his ministers took refuge in the Tower of London while the rebels opened the prisons and looted the house of John of Gaunt, an unpopular noble. On 14 July the king met the rebels at Moorfield and made them various promises, none of which he kept.

The next day the king went to mass at Westminster while he was away the rebels broke into the Tower of London and killed the Archbishop of Canterbury and several royal officials who had taken refuge there. They confronted the king on his way back from mass. The mayor of London stabbed the leader of the rebels, fearing he was going to attack the king. Afterwards the king managed to calm the rebels and persuaded them to go home.

The population of London may have reached 50,000 by the middle of the 14th century. At least a third of the population died when the Black Death struck in 1348-49 but London soon recovered. Its population may have reached 70,000 by the end of the Middle Ages.


The population of London may have reached 120,000 by the middle of the 16th century and about 250,000 by 1600. In the Middle Ages the church owned about 1/4 of the land in London. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries it released a great deal of land for new buildings.

Nevertheless the suburbs outside London continued to grow. In the late 16th century rich men began to build houses along the Strand and by 1600 London was linked to Westminster by a strip of houses.

Banqueting House was built in 1622. In 1635 the king opened Hyde Park to the public. In 1637 Charles I created Richmond Park for hunting. Also in 1637 Queens House was completed in nearby Greenwich.

Wool was still the main export from London but there were also exports of 'Excellent saffron in small quantities, a great quantity of lead and tin, sheep and rabbit skins without number, with various other sorts of fine peltry (skins) and leather, beer, cheese and other sorts of provisions'. The Royal Exchange where merchants could buy and sell goods opened in 1571.

In the early 17th century rich men continued to build houses west of London. The Earl of Bedford built houses at Covent Garden, on the Strand and at Long Acre. He also obtained permission to hold a fruit and vegetable market at Covent Garden. Other rich people build houses at Lincoln Inn Fields and at St Martins in the Fields.

On the other side of London hovels were built. The village of Whitechapel was 'swallowed up' by the expanding city. The village of Clerkenwell also became a suburb of London. Southwark also grew rapidly.

All this happened despite outbreaks of bubonic plague. It broke out in 1603, 1633 and 1665 but each time the population of London quickly recovered.

In 1642 civil war began between king and parliament. The royalists made one attempt to capture London in 1643 but their army was met 6 miles west of St Pauls by a much larger parliamentary army. The royalists withdrew. However the Puritan government of 1646-1660 was hated by many ordinary people and when Charles II came to London from France in 1660 an estimated 20,000 people gathered in the streets to meet him. All the churches in London rang their bells.

The last outbreak of plague in London was in 1665. But this was the last outbreak. In 1666 came the great fire of London. It began on 2 September in a baker's house in Pudding Lane. At first it did not cause undue alarm. The Lord Mayor was awoken and said "Pish! A woman might piss it out!". But the wind caused the flames to spread rapidly. People formed chains with leather buckets and worked hand operated pumps all to no avail. The mayor was advised to use gunpowder to create fire breaks but he was reluctant, fearing the owners of destroyed buildings would sue for compensation. The fire continued to spread until the king took charge. He ordered sailors to make fire breaks. At the same time the wind dropped.

About 13,200 houses had been destroyed and 70-80,000 people had been made homeless. The king ordered the navy to make tents and canvas available from their stores to help the homeless who camped on open spaces around the city. Temporary markets were set up so the homeless could buy food. but the crowds of homeless soon dispersed. Most of the houses in London were still standing and many of the homeless found accommodation in them or in nearby villages. Others built wooden huts on the charred ruins.

To prevent such a disaster happening again the king commanded that all new houses in London should be of stone and brick not wood. Citizens were responsible for rebuilding their own houses but a tax was charged on coal brought by ship into London to finance the rebuilding of churches and other public buildings. Work began on rebuilding St Pauls in 1675 but it was not finished till 1711.

In the late 17th century fashionable houses were built at Bloomsbury and on the road to the village of Knightsbridge. Elegant houses in squares and broad straight streets were also built north of St James palace. Soho also became built up. As well as building attractive suburbs the rich began to live in attractive villages near London such as Hackney, Clapham, Camberwell and Streatham. In the east the poor continued to build houses and Bethnal Green was 'swallowed up' by the growing city.

French Protestants fleeing religious persecution arrived in London. Many of them were silk weavers who lived in Spitalfields which also became a suburb of London.

In the 17th century wealthy Londoners obtained piped water for the first time. It was brought by canal from the countryside then was carried by hollow tree trunks under the streets. You had to pay to have your house connected. After 1685 oil lamps lighted the streets. Hackney carriages became common in the streets of London.

In 1694 the Bank of England was formed. It moved to Threadneedle Street in 1734. To read a history of banking click here.

The 18th century London

The 18th century was a period of rapid growth for London, reflecting an increasing national population, the early stirrings of the Industrial Revolution, and London's role at the centre of the evolving British Empire.

In 1707 an Act of Union was passed merging the Scottish and the English Parliaments, thus establishing The Kingdom of Great Britain. A year later, in 1708 Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral was completed on his birthday. However, the first service had been held on December 2, 1697; more than 10 years earlier! This Cathedral replaced the original St. Paul's which had been completely destroyed in the Great Fire of London. This building is considered one of the finest in Britain and a fine example of Baroque architecture.

The Clock Tower of Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral

During the Georgian period London spread beyond its traditional limits at an accelerating pace. New districts such as Mayfair were built for the rich in the West End, new bridges over the Thames encouraged an acceleration of development in South London and in the East End, the Port of London expanded downstream from the City. During this period was also the uprising of the American colonies. In 1780, the Tower of London held its only American prisoner, former President of the Continental Congress, Henry Laurens. In 1779 he was the Congress's representative of Holland, and got the country's support for the Revolution. On his return voyage back to America, the Royal Navy captured him and charged him with treason after finding evidence of a reason of war between Great Britain and the Netherlands. He was released from the Tower on December 21, 1781 in exchange for General Lord Cornwallis.

In 1762 George III acquired Buckingham Palace (then known as "house") from the Duke of Buckingham. It was enlarged over the next 75 years by architects such as John Nash. It would not be until the 19th century, however, that the palace would become the principle London royal residence.

A phenomenon of 18th century London was the coffee house, which became a popular place to debate ideas. Growing literacy and the development of the printing press meant that news became widely available. Fleet Street became the centre of the embryonic British press during the century.

18th century London was dogged by crime, the Bow Street Runners were established in 1750 as a professional police force. Penalties for crime were harsh, with the death penalty being applied for fairly minor crimes. Public hangings were common in London, and were popular public events.

In 1780 London was rocked by the Gordon Riots, an uprising by Protestants against Roman Catholic emancipation led by Lord George Gordon. Severe damage was caused to Catholic churches and homes, and 285 rioters were killed.

In the year 1787, freed slaves from London, America, and many of Britain's colonies founded Freetown in modern-day Sierra Leone.

Up until 1750, London Bridge was the only crossing over the Thames, but in that year Westminster Bridge was opened and, for the first time in history, London Bridge, in a sense, had a rival.

The 18th century saw the breakaway of the American colonies and many other unfortunate events in London, but also great change and Enlightenment. This all led into the beginning of modern times, the 19th century.

During the 19th century the number of crimes punishable by death rose to about 200. Some, such as treason or murder, were serious crimes. The death sentence could be passed for picking pockets, stealing bread or cutting down a tree. Minor crime was punished by being sent to prisons, sometimes transported abroad for theft, whipped in public.

And nowadays there are few places that offer such a variety of sights, entertainments, educational and business opportunities, world- famous museums and theatres, and superb shopping. London draws people from all over the world. Some come to study, to work or on holiday. London is naturally a very English city, yet it is the least typical of Britain as it is very cosmopolitan, containing goods, food and entertainment, as well as people, from many countries of the world.


During its prehistory in the Iron and Bronze Ages, man existed in the area around Holyrood, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentlands, leaving traces of primitive stone settlements. At the time of its actual foundation, it was a part of the Kingdom of Northumbria, an Anglian kingdom on the east side of Great Britain, spanning from the River Humber to the Firth of Forth. The area surrounding Castle Rock, then known as "Lookout Hill" become the foundation point. On the hill Edwin of Northumbria a powerful Christian king founded the fortress to secure the northern part of his territory against invasion. This fortress was known in the Brythonic language as Din Eidyn, which means "Edwin's fort" after the king. As the fortess grew, many houses were re-located towards the ridge of castlehill. A layout began to form, when householders would be given the option to be granted a "toft" or stretch of garden behind the ridge. The name eventually developed through the English language into first Edwinesburch and then into Edinburgh, the name it is known by today. After the murder of St. Oswald King of Northumbria, Edinburgh fell under the control of the Danelaw.

Battles between the Scots and various invaders for the custody of Edinburgh Castle are a recurring theme in the history of Edinburgh. Castle Rock, a volcanic crag now crowned by Edinburgh Castle, was created some 340 millions years ago during the Paleozoic Era. With three vertical sides, the rock is a natural fortification. It is believed to have been used as a stronghold as early as the first centuries of the first millennium.

When Agricola, the Roman Governor of Britain, advanced north in AD 79 he encountered the Celtic tribe of Votadinii, who controlled the Forth River valley and are thought to have based themselves around site of Edinburgh castle. There is archaeological evidence that the Roman army had a base near Edinburgh too, and that they mixed with the locals on a daily basis. But the Romans never really mastered Caledonia and by 211 they had retreated behind Hadrian's wall, about a hundred miles to the south of the city, and by 410 they had left Britain for good.

In the 7th century an English King, Edwin of Northumbria, pushed north and won control of much of lowland Scotland. He built a fort on the strategic castle rock and called it Dun Eadain meaning 'Fortress-on-a-Hill'. This fort may have later become known as either Edwin's Burgh or Eadain's Burgh (there has been much debate as to whether this is actually true) and later, obviously, Edinburgh.

Hereford Mappa Mundi, featuring Edinburgh in 1300

In the 10th century, with the collapse of the Danelaw the Scots captured the position. Then in the 12th century a small town flourished at the base of the castle known as Edinburgh, along side which another community rose up to the East around the Abbey of Holyrood, known as Holyrood, together in the 13th century these became Royal Burghs. In consequence to Edinburgh's earlier Anglo-Saxon rule, Edinburgh and the Border counties lay in a disputed zone between England and Scotland, England claiming all Anglo-Saxon Domains as English territory, and Scotland claiming all territory as far south as Hadrians Wall, the result being a long series of border wars and clashes, which often left Edinburgh Castle under English control. It was not until the 15th century when Edinburgh remained for the most firmly under Scottish control, that King James IV of Scotland undertook, to move the Royal Court from Stirling to Holyrood, making Edinburgh by proxy Scotland's capital.

As Edinburgh remained under Scottish Rule, with the nearby port and Royal Burgh of Leith, Edinburgh flourished both economically and culturally. In 1603, following King James VI's accession to the English and Irish Thrones, James VI instituted the first executive Parliament of Scotland which met in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle, later finding a home in the Tolbooth, before moving to purpose-built Parliament House, Edinburgh, which is now home to the Supreme Courts of Scotland[citation needed]. In 1639 disputes over the planned merger, between the Presbyterian Church and the Anglican Church, and the demands by Charles I, to reunify the divided St. Giles' Cathedral, led to the Bishops Wars, which in turn led to the English Civil War, and the eventual the occupation of Edinburgh by Commonwealth forces of Oliver Cromwell. In the 1670s King Charles II commissioned the rebuilding of Holyrood Palace.

An 1802 illustration of Edinburgh from the West

During the last Jacobite rebellion Edinburgh was occupied by Jacobite forces, after the retreat of Jacobite forces from Derby it was re-occupied by British forces under the command of the Prince William, Duke of Cumberland. Following the defeat of Jacobites there was a long period of reprisals and pacification. At this time, the Hanoverian Monarch wished to stamp his identity on Edinburgh and new developments to the North of the castle were named in honour of the King and his Family; George Street, Frederick Street, Hanover Street, Queen Street, Prince’s Street, Castle Street and with control of the ‘Rose’ of England and the ‘Thistle’ of Scotland these names were also allocated to Streets. The original plan for this build was to be constructed in the form of King James VI’s Union Flag and this shape can be detected when viewing the layout of the aforementioned streets from above.

Out of the mess left behind by the consequences of the Jacobite rebellion came a number of Scottish Intellectuals, many from Edinburgh, including Adam Smith, who felt it was time to put the history of the Clans of Scotland behind them and that this was a time for Scotland to modernise. They promoted the idea of Britishness, and led Great Britain and the British Empire into a golden age of economic and social reform and prosperity. It was during this period, that Edinburgh expanded beyond the limits of its city walls, with the creation of the New Town, following the draining of the Nor Loch, which has since become Princes Street Gardens. Edinburgh became a major cultural centre, earning it the nickname Athens of the North because of the Greco-Roman style of the New Towns' architecture, as well as the rise of the Scottish/British intellectual elite in the city, who were increasingly leading both British and European intellectual thought. Edinburgh is particularly noted for its fine architecture, especially from the Georgian period. In 17th-century Edinburgh, a defensive city wall defined the boundaries of the city. Due to the restricted land area available for development, the houses increased in height instead. Buildings of 11 stories were common, and there are records of buildings as high as 14 stories,[citation needed] and thus are thought to be the pioneers for the modern-day skyscraper. Many of the stone-built structures can still be seen today in the old town of Edinburgh.

In the 19th century Edinburgh like many cities industrialised, but most of this was undertaken in Leith, which meant that Edinburgh as a whole did not grow greatly in size. Glasgow soon replaced it as the largest and most prosperous city in Scotland, becoming the industrial, commercial and trade centre, while Edinburgh remained almost purely Scotland's intellectual and cultural centre, which it remains to this day as one of the greatest cultural centres of the UK.


Cardiff’s rich culture has a diverse range of influences, from the Romans and Normans of antiquity to the industrial revolution and the coal industry - which transformed Cardiff from a small town into a thriving, international city.

Origins of the Name

There are two rival theories regarding the precise origins of the name Cardiff or Caerdydd in Welsh. There is uncertainty concerning the origin of "Caerdydd" — "Caer" means "fort" or "castle," but although "Dydd" means "Day" in modern Welsh, it is unclear what was meant in this context. Some believe that "Dydd " or "Diff" was a corruption of "Taff", the river on which Cardiff castle stands, in which case "Cardiff" would mean "the fort on the river Taff" (in Welsh the T mutates to D).

A rival theory favours a link with Aulus Didius Gallus who was a Roman governor in the region at the time the fort was established. The name may have originated as Caer Didius – The Fort of Didius.

Roman origins

Cardiff lies at the centre of three river systems, the Taff, the Ely and the Rhymney. Its location allowed its first residents to control trade and movement along these rivers, giving them power over a large area. The first people to take advantage of this location were the Romans who set up a fort here on the site of Cardiff Castle about AD55-60. Some of the original Roman walls can still be seen and the new interpretation centre, opened in June 2008, is set against the backdrop of the original Roman foundation walls. This dominating fort protected its inhabitants until about AD350-375 when it was abandoned at the end of Roman rule in Britain.

The Vikings and the Normans also made their presence felt in Cardiff, and in 1091 Robert Fitzhamon began work on the castle keep, which has been at the heart of the city ever since.

Medieval Cardiff

Today, much of Cardiff's Roman remains are lost beneath the medieval castle. The castle dates from the 11th century, when the Normans conquered Glamorgan. It was begun by William the Conqueror on his return from St David's in Pembrokeshire, in 1081. This is supported by an inscription on a coin found within the castle grounds which suggests that William may have established a mint at the castle.

Cardiff Castle was originally built in wood. In the 12th century, Robert Consol, Duke of Gloucester, rebuilt it in stone. At this time, the Castle's west and south walls were raised, building upon the ruined walls of the Roman fort.

The medieval town spread out from the castle's South Gate. Interestingly the High Street lines up with the Roman rather than the medieval south gate, suggesting it dates from this earlier period.

The Medieval town probably developed in two stages. The first stage was within a relatively small enclosure marked out by Working Street and Womanby (Hummanbye) Streets' both names are linked to old Norse. In the second stage of its development, Cardiff expanded south. The town was then enclosed and defended to the east by a bank and ditch and eventually a stone gate. To the west, the town was protected by the meandering river Taff.

Owain Glyndŵr

In 15th century, town was destroyed by Owain Glyndŵr's Welsh army. The Castle lay in ruin until Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, restored the defences and castle buildings in 1423. Beauchamp also constructed the octagonal tower, now known as Beauchamp's tower.

Much of the rest of the castle and walls dates to the 19th century, when the third Marquis of Bute employed William Burges to restore, refurbish and rebuild it.

Black Gold transforms Cardiff

In the late 19th Century, the 2nd Marquess of Bute built the Glamorganshire canal, which linked Merthyr Tydfil with Cardiff and the Cardiff docks, to take advantage of the huge coal reserves in the area. This saw Cardiff become the biggest coal exporting port in the world, resulting in Edward VII granting Cardiff city status in 1905. The port reached its peak in 1913, with more than 10 million tons going through the port. As Cardiff exports grew, so did its population; dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled in neighbourhoods close to the docks, known as Tiger Bay, and communities from up to 45 different nationalities, including Norwegian, Somalian, Yemenese, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and Irish, helped create the unique multi-cultural character of the area.

Double birthday

After going into decline in the 70's and 80's Cardiff's docks and city centre have now been regenerated. Cardiff Bay is now a thriving waterside development, and the construction of the Millennium Stadium in the city centre helped transformed Cardiff into a true European capital city. In 2005 Cardiff celebrated its centenary as a city and 50 years as capital of Wales, and enjoyed a year-long calendar of events, festivals and parties which marked the double anniversary.

Home of the Daleks

Terry Nation, creator of Doctor Who’s arch-enemies, the Daleks, was born in Cardiff, and in 2005 the Daleks returned to their place of birth for the new BBC Wales series of Doctor Who. The second season of Doctor Who, starring David Tennant and Billie Piper was also filmed in and around Cardiff. A new Doctor Who spin-off series, called Torchwood, was also filmed and is set in the Welsh capital.

World’s first FairTrade capital

In March 2004 Cardiff was designated as the world’s first FairTrade Capital City in recognition of its support for the scheme. To gain this status Cardiff Council had to ensure that FairTrade products are available in a number of cafes, stores and supermarkets in Cardiff, as well as serving FairTrade teas and coffees in its own canteens and meetings.

Famous sons and daughters

Cardiff has produced many famous names in the last century. Children’s author Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff in 1916, and the Norwegian Church where he was christened is now used as an arts centre and café. In the sports world Ryan Giggs, Colin Jackson and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson often fill the headlines, and Shirley Bassey and Charlotte Church are the city’s home grown musical divas.

Captain Scott and the South Pole

In 1910 Captain Robert Scott set off from Cardiff in the ship the ‘Terra Nova’ on his ill-fated trip to the South Pole. Cardiff connections to Scott include a memorial sculpture in Cardiff Bay, a memorial lighthouse erected in Roath Park and the Discovery pub in Lakeside, home to photos from the expedition. The Captain Scott room in the Royal Hotel, where he ate his farewell dinner, was also reopened earlier this year.

Sporting history

Cardiff has a long association with sport. In 1958 the city hosted the Britsh Empire and Commonwealth Games, now better known as the Commonwealth Games. The Empire swimming pool, however, was demolished to make way for the Millennium Stadium – which hosted the Rugby World Cup final in 1999. The stadium again made sporting history in 2005, when Wales won the Six Nations Grand Slam Championship for the first time in over 20 years. Cardiff will also host an Ashes cricket Test match in 2009, and football matches during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

So, in keeping with its dynamic character, Cardiff is noted for visionary architecture. Dip into the past at its two most extraordinary landmarks, Cardiff Castle in the centre and Castell Coch just outside the city. Both were transformed in the 19th century into Gothic dream palaces. The gleaming white Civic Centre with its domed City Hall is an early 20th-century classic. Then for the shape of the future, head for Cardiff Bay, one of the world's largest regeneration projects dominated by the new and innovative Wales Millennium Centre. Victorian edifices have been joined by chic restaurants, stylish clubs and shops beside a newly created freshwater lake, making it the most exciting place to hang out, day or night.


The history of Belfast as a settlement goes back to the Bronze Age, but its status as a major urban centre dates to the eighteenth century. Belfast today is the capital of Northern Ireland. Belfast was, throughout its modern history, a major commercial and industrial centre. It suffered in the late twentieth century from a decline in its traditional industries, particularly shipbuilding. The city's history has been marked by violent conflict between Catholic and Protestant communities which has caused many parts of the city to be split into 'Catholic' and 'Protestant' areas. In recent years the city has been relatively peaceful and major redevelopment has occurred, especially the inner-city and dock areas.


The city of Belfast began in the early 17th century. The name Belfast is a corruption of the Gaelic words Beal Feirste meaning mouth of the sandy ford.

In 1177 an Englishman called John de Courcy built a castle there. However the actual town of Belfast grew up after 1609 when king James began his policy of settling Englishmen and Scots in Ulster. Sir Arthur Chichester was granted land in Ulster including Belfast Castle, which he rebuilt in 1611. A small town soon grew up in its shadow.

By 1611 there were Englishmen, Scots and Manxmen living in the thriving community of Belfast. In 1613 Belfast was made a corporation and afterwards it sent 2 MPs to parliament. However the corporation was partly controlled by the Chichester family, the lords of the manor. Belfast was run by an official called a sovereign assisted by 12 burgesses (merchants). Each year the burgesses drew up a short list of 3 of themselves and Chichester chose one to be the sovereign. Chichester's consent was required for new by laws. Ordinary people had no part in the government of the town.

In the early 17th century Belfast was a small town with a population of only about 1,000 but it was busy. Wool, hides, grain, butter and salted meat were exported from Belfast to England, Scotland and France. Wine and fruit were imported into Belfast from France and Spain.

Later in the 17th century Belfast traded with the North American colonies. Tobacco was imported from there. Sugar was imported from the West Indies and refined in Belfast.

By the late 17th century Belfast probably had a population of about 1,500-2,000. It was swelled by French Protestants, fleeing religious persecution in their own country, who introduced linen weaving to Belfast. Other industries in Belfast were brewing, rope making and sail making.

In 1680 Belfast gained a piped water supply (using wooden pipes). After 1686 each householder was supposed to hang a lantern outside his house at night during the winter months. The first bridge over the Lagan was erected after 1682.


Belfast Castle burned down in 1708. In the 18th century Belfast grew rapidly. The population of Belfast was only about 2,500 in 1700 but it grew to about 8,000 in 1750 and about 13,000 by 1780. By 1800 Belfast had a population of around 20,000. In the late 18th century a new suburb grew up across the Lagan.

Belfast gained its first newspaper in 1737. Belfast gained its first bank in 1752 and its first theatre by 1768.

During the 18th century increasing amounts of linen were exported from Belfast. (The linen was woven in people's homes in the surrounding countryside not woven in factories). In 1701 less than 200,000 yards of linen was exported from Belfast. By 1773 the figure had risen to 17 million yards. The White Linen Hall was built in 1788. Cotton spinning was introduced into Belfast in 1777. However it never had the same importance as linen.

In 1785 a Harbour Board was formed with responsibility for the upkeep of the harbour. Shipbuilding in Belfast began in 1791.

Belfast thrived in the 18th century as a merchant town, importing goods from Great Britain and exporting the produce of the linen trade. Linen at the time was made by small producers in rural areas. The town was also a centre of radical politics, partly because its predominantly Presbyterian population was discriminated against under the penal laws, and also because of the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment. Belfast saw the founding of the Irish Volunteers in 1778 and the Society of the United Irishmen in 1791 - both dedicated to democratic reform, an end to religious discrimination and greater independence for Ireland. As a result of intense repression however, Belfast radicals played little or no role in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Samson & Goliath

In the 19th century, Belfast became Ireland's pre-eminent industrial city with linen, heavy engineering, tobacco and shipbuilding dominating the economy. Belfast, located at the western end of Belfast Lough and at the mouth of the River Lagan, was an ideal location for the shipbuilding industry, which was dominated by the Harland and Wolff company which alone employed up to 35,000 workers and was one of the largest shipbuilders in the world[1]. The ill-fated RMS Titanic was built there in 1911. Migrants to Belfast came from across Ireland, Scotland and England, but particularly from rural Ulster, where sectarian tensions ran deep. The same period saw the first outbreaks of sectarian riots, which have recurred regularly since.

Originally a town in County Antrim, Belfast county borough was created when Belfast was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888.[2]

The City Hall during construction.

By 1901, Belfast was the largest city in Ireland. The city's importance was evidenced by the construction of the lavish City Hall, completed in 1906. Since around 1840 its population included many Catholics, who originally settled in the west of city, around the area of today's Barrack Street. West Belfast remains the centre of the city's Catholic population (in contrast with the east of the City which is predominantly Protestant). Other areas of Catholic settlement have included parts of the north of the city, especially Ardoyne and the Antrim Road and the Markets area immediately to the south of the city centre.

Conditions for the new working class were often squalid, with much of the population packed into overcrowded and unsanitary tenements. The city suffered from repeated cholera outbreaks in the mid-19th century. Conditions improved somewhat after a wholesale slum clearance programme in the 1900s.

Belfast saw a bitter strike by dock workers organised by radical trade unionist Jim Larkin, in 1907. The dispute saw 10,000 workers on strike and a mutiny by the police, who refused to disperse the striker's pickets. Eventually the Army had to be deployed to restore order. The strike was a rare instance of non-sectarian mobilisation in Ulster at the time.

Recent history

The city in general has seen significant redevelopment and investment since the Belfast Agreement. The formation of the Laganside Corporation in 1989 heralded the start of the regeneration of the River Lagan and its surrounding areas. Other areas that have been transformed include the Cathedral Quarter and the Victoria Square area. However communal segregation has continued since then, with occasional low level street violence in isolated flashpoints and the construction of new Peace Lines.

Belfast saw the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. However, since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, there has been major redevelopment in the city including Victoria Square, the Titanic Quarter and Laganside as well as the Odyssey complex and the landmark Waterfront Hall. In the largely nationalist west of the city which bore the brunt of much of the social unrest a Sainsburys Super Market is opening.


It has occurred historically that four main nations have settled on the territory of the United Kingdom. They live in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Main cities of these areas are London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. Telling of these cities shows us the national peculiarities of people living on the territory of Great Britain. Despite the existing national differences they are very connected culturally and economically. So, the English, the Scottish, the Welsh and the Irish are the citizens of the united state and they all are devoted to their queen.

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