Cardiff and Lisburn
Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Cardiff. As I explored the city, particularly the castle, I noted that both Lisburn and Cardiff have similar histories. For example:
1. Both have histories that can be traced back to the First Millennium, and beyond. Lisburn, and its name, owes much to the Early Christian (500-1000 AD) ringfort that was situated north of today’s Wallace Park, while Cardiff, as we might know it today, was largely established in Roman-era Britain (1-400AD). The towns draw their names from both these forts: ‘Fort of Didius’/ Caer Didi / Cardiff and ‘Fort of the gamsters’ / Lios na gCearrbhach / Lisnagarvey / Lisburn.
2. The granting of Market Rights helped both towns grow. While Cardiff was granted the right to hold a market in the early 13th century under King John, Lisburn was given its town charter, and accompanying right to hold a market, in 1627 under Charles I.
3. Cardiff was raised by fire in 1404, while Lisburn was burned in the 17th century, and notably in 1707.
4. Industry was important to both towns: Lisburn, of course, is famous for its association with linen, while Cardiff is well known for its port and the export of coal.
I was most struck by the influence of the local landowners, the Butes. Lisburn, of course, was shaped by Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890). Wallace Park and Wallace High are named after him; Castle House, the Old Town Hall and the former Court House are all monuments to his generosity, as are the Wallace Fountains, dotted throughout Lisburn and Paris. He gave ‘favourable leases’ to encourage development in the town; gave grants for churches, and remodelled the Assembly Rooms (Lisburn Museum). In Cardiff, the Butes – major landowners in the town from the 1770s onwards – showed similar patronage and generosity, from the donation of Bute Park, the development of the port as well as, significantly, the renovation of the town’s castle. Taking charge of the site in the late 18th century the family ploughed significant amounts of money into re-developing and restoring the grounds. For example:
In 1865 Lord Bute (3rd Marquess) invited architect William Burges to present a report on the state of the Castle; it was the beginning of a momentous partnership that was to last for sixteen years, and Cardiff Castle was to be transformed into a Neo-Gothic dream palace. Burges brought together a group of men who were to work with him throughout the restoration of Cardiff Castle. Lord Bute called in distinguished local historians and he assisted with tracing the history of the Castle. He ordered the setting up of the ‘Bute Workshops’ and employed the finest Welsh craftsmen to build furniture. Work started after Bute’s workmen pulled down the houses built against the South Curtain Wall. Burges restored the stonework, and he added a covered parapet walk with embrasures and arrow slits. The Clock Tower was built on the site of a Roman bastion and completed in 1875.