Month: April 2016

Cardiff and its Pirates

During the Middle Ages, even after Henry VIII’s Act of Union, Cardiff was, more or less, a coastal village that saw Bristol develop while it struggled to survive. Cardiffians watched international trade sail by to Bristol, which became a city in 1542, and the realisation came about that this was an excellent base for pirates. The reason for this was Cardiff’s quite remote location and if investigators were sent from London, they had difficulty communicating because of the Welsh language. And it seems that the local aristocracy was often involved with the pirates, or even had them as family members.

Ships were wrecked by lighting beacons on cliffs that led them onto rocks, or by simply boarding them and hauling them into port and selling their cargo in Cardiff Market. Some of the world’s most famous pirates used the port. Captain Henry Morgan was typical of the sort of pirate who came from a well-off family near Newport and sometimes worked for the government and sometimes worked for himself, specialising in raiding Spanish ships that came back to Europe loaded with gold. John Callis, from Tintern, was also from an affluent family in Tintern but became the most wanted pirate in Britain in 1570. Finally, Bartholomew Roberts, aka Black Bart, who was from west Wales, sometimes used Cardiff as a base but spent most of his life around the Caribbean and South America where he became perhaps one of the best known pirates in the history of buccaneers.

Walking the Taff’s Sources

Martin and Vic, from the National Trust, led our first Walking the Taff tour on Sunday. They showed us the Taff’s sources near Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons. The walk is a mix of busy paths and tranquil riverside spots. Here’s a map of the walk, just in case you fancy it.

Taf Fechan: 51.887097 -3.466079 / GB Grid Ref: SO 01211 21439;

Taf Fawr: 51.882725 -3.436661 / GB Grid Ref: SN 99196 21966.




Tafwyl 2016

Rydym yn edrych ymlaen at eich gweld chi yn ein digwyddiadau ni sydd mewn partneriaeth â Gŵyl Tafwyl, Caerdydd.

Cerdded Trwy Ddyffryn Taf: Castell Caerdydd i Radyr

Dewch gyda ni am dro ar hyd lannau afon Taf rhwng Castell Caerdydd a Radyr. Ar y daith hon, byddwch chi yn cael eich tywys drwy Parc Bute, Forest Farm ac Eglwys Gadeiriol Llandaf.

Lleoliad: Mynedfa Castell Caerdydd;
Dyddiad: 25.06.16;
Amser: 11.00;

Jazz ar y Taf, Llwyfan y Porth

Mae gan ddiwylliant amrywiol Caerdydd gariad tuag at gerddoriaeth jazz. Rydym yn dathlu hyn drwy ddechrau Jazz ar y Taf – gŵyl jazz yng nghanol Caerdydd.

Dydd Sadwrn 02.07.16:
15.00 – Band Jazz Ieuenctid;
18.00 – Band Jazz Ieuenctid.

Dydd Sul 03.07.16:
12.00 – Jazz y Sipsiwn;
16.00 – Adar Siaradus.


We’re looking forward to seeing you at our events that are in partnership with Cardiff’s Tafwyl Festival.

Walking the Taff Valley: Cardiff Castle to Radyr

Join us for a stroll along the river Taff’s banks between Cardiff Castle and Radyr. On this journey you’ll be guided through Bute Park, Forest Farm, and Llandaff Cathedral.

Location: Cardiff Castle entrance;
Date: 25.06.16;
Time: 11.00;

Jazz on the Taff, at Llwyfan y Porth (Cardiff Castle)

Cardiff’s diverse culture includes a love of Jazz music. We’re celebrating this by starting Jazz on the Taff – a jazz festival in the heart of Cardiff.

Saturday 02.07.16:
15.00 – School Big Band;
18.00 – School Big Band.

Sunday 03.07.16:
12.00 – Jazz y Sipswn;
16.00 – Adar Siaradus.

The Taff Valley’s Locomotive

So little is said about it that it almost seems like fantasy today, but the Taff Valley was at the cutting edge of the railways – before London, New York or Tokyo.  Hand in hand with the Industrial Revolution, which was led by this area, came the railways.

In 1802, Richard Trevithick, a Cornish genius, constructed a high-pressure steam engine to drive a hammer at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil. With the assistance of Rees Jones, an employee of the iron works and under the supervision of Samuel Homfray, the proprietor, he mounted the engine on wheels and turned it into a locomotive. In 1803, Trevithick sold the patents for his locomotives to Samuel Homfray.

Homfray was so impressed with Trevithick’s locomotive that he made a bet with another ironmaster, Richard Crawshay, for 500 guineas – probably the total wages for a few months of all the workers in the ironworks – that Trevithick’s steam locomotive could haul ten tons of iron along the Merthyr Tydfil tram road from Pen-y Darren to Abercynon, a distance of nearly ten miles. Amid great interest from the public, on 21st February 1804 it successfully carried ten tons of iron, 5 wagons and 70 men the full distance in 4 hours and 5 minutes, which was an average speed of approximately 2.4 mph. As well as Homfray, Crawshay and the passengers, other witnesses included Mr. Giddy, a respected patron of Trevithick and an engineer from the government.

The bet was won. Despite many people’s doubts, it had been shown that, provided that the gradient was sufficiently gentle, it was possible to successfully haul heavy carriages along a smooth iron road using the weight alone of a suitably heavy and powerful steam locomotive. Trevithick’s was probably the first to carry out this feat.  However some of the short cast iron plates of the tram road broke under the locomotive as they were intended only to support the lighter axle load of horse-drawn wagons and so the tram road returned to horse power after the initial test run.

Homfray was pleased he had won his bet but the engine was then placed on blocks and reverted to its original stationary job of driving hammers.

Today in Merthyr Tydfil, behind the monument to Trevithick’s locomotive is a stone wall, which is the only remainder of the former boundary wall of Homfray’s Pen-y-Darren House.

A full-scale working reconstruction of the Pen-y-Darren locomotive was commissioned in 1981 and is on display at  the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea. Several times a year it is run on a short length of rail outside the museum.  Somehow we think that if this was in other parts of the world much more fuss would be made of it.

Paul Barrett
Title image credit: Hugh Llewelyn