Sunday, 27 November 2011

Cardiff Castle - a monument to Victorian excess

New laptop is now up and working - can receive email but strangely can't send it! Oh well a job for another day.

I've had a few days away with some friends in Cardiff and although I've visited many many times before, the castle is so taken for granted it has probably been 20 years since I've been in. Neither of my friends had ever been so it seemed a good way to pass Sunday morning. Firstly I apologise for the photo quality. This wasn't a planned photo excursion so I didn't have my camera. These were taken on a fairly basic camera phone with no zoom or other refinements.

Firstly ( of course!) the obligatory stone circle. This is  the Gorsedd circle - a modern circle, erected in 1978 in Bute Park right under the walls of the castle. Dreadful picture but the best of a bad bunch!

The Normans reused the old Roman site and build a motte with a moat around it and a Keep on top. Originally wooden it was eventually constructed in stone.

Although the city with all the usual city noises presses up against the walls, the atomosphere inside is curiously peaceful.

 The climb up into the keep is by means of some steep stairs but the view over the mountains of South Wales and the modern city of Cardiff ins well worth it. Mostly now a shell, some medieval graffiti survives as well as a garde robe ( a lavatory which empties directly into the moat from a great height!)

The castle walls ( some Roman parts remaining) are hollow and were used during WW2 as an air raid shelter for the people of Cardiff. Even on a bright sunny day the corridor was cold and dank. Must have been far far worse to be there in the cold and the dark with the fear of bombs dropping.

The old castle is only part of the story. Also part of the complex is a large Gothic mansion built by the Bute family who amassed a huge fortune from the sale of coal and are largely responsible for the emergency of Cardiff as a major city. The house too has been enlarged  over the years and now stands as a magnificent example of the power of money over taste. Everything possible that could be decorated with gold leaf was and it is elaborately painted and carved.

 My camera couldn't possibly do justice to this jaw dropping interior but here are a few interior shots which will give the general idea.

This is the Arab room ceiling. A small octagonal room used as a sitting room or occasionally as a guest bedroom.

This is the over mantle in the library, the oldest part of the house. The central figure is holding a scroll inscribed with runes.

Finally here is some detail of the carving in the small dining room. The carved wooden frieze extends much of the way around the room and each scroll holds an exquistely carved bird. As far as it is possible to see they are all different.

Underneath are hand painted butterflies, again they are beautifully executed.
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