Port of Cardiff History

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Before The Cardiff barrage was built Cardiff docks and Cardiff Bay was a tidal bay that at low tide was a mud flat.The docks were protected by a series of lock gates that existed as a series of loading areas for the millions of tons of coal produced in the valleys. Naturally alongside these docks there were also docks with specific functions related to the maintenance repair and cleaning of sailing ships. One such ship with a famous British hero is the ‘Terra Nova’ seen above leaving the port of Cardiff with Penarth head in the background and is very much a part of the story of the port of the Cardiff History.

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One of these would have been the scrubbing grid, this made use of the tidal nature of the bay, the grid had a solid base and supporting sides, calculations would be made as to where to position the ship which would be tethered securely at high tide. As the tide receded it exposed the ships lower sections. Making them accessible for scrubbing during low water. The more expensive ships would have had the timbers covered with copper plate, this deters the attachment of barnacles which would interrupt the flow of water over the the hull and slow the ship on it’s passage. A delayed passage could be very costly, especially if the ship’s cargo was perishable.

The outline map below shows Cardiff Bay and its major docks before the barrage was built the long thin docks that were central to the port of Cardiff and were called to the East Bute dock and the West Bute dock. These were long and thin in shape to give maximum penetration into the city of Cardiff whilst at the same time providing easy access for the train lines that run alongside carrying the wagons of coal that would be loaded on board the ships for distribution around the world.

Today the west Bute dock has been filled in its outline is marked by a series of posts the original dock entrance is a main feature of the Cardiff bay boardwalk. These docks would have seen chapters of history, for example the short video showing Scott of the Antarctic’s ship the Terra Nova leaving Cardiff bay would have passed from Roath dock into Cardiff Bay itself into the flooded tidal Estuary to the Bristol channel. This is not possible today but the interconnecting route can be seen on the map.

Cardiff Docks pre barrage

Docks such as the Roath basin would have given access to the warehouses that are currently desirable residential flats The dock was lined with the cranes and derricks ready to unload imported cargo such as tobacco and fresh produce in the East Bute dock.

Port of Cardiff pre barrage

At this time Butetown was one of the original 5 towns of Cardiff, the others being Grangetown, Temperance Town, Crockherbtown and Newtown. These can also be identified on the map, Crockherbtown’s modern location would have been the area around the ‘New Theatre.’

View of Docks

Today these areas have changed dramatically in their function have changed in their function. There are no ships there now but in recent times some huge carp have been caught in these waters as their role has changed from commercial to recreational