The capital of Wales located at the mouth of the river Taff. Cardiff was the site of a Roman fort constructed in ad 76. During the Dark Ages the Celtic St Teilo founded his church at Llandaff to the north. But it was with the coming of the Normans that the site was revitalized, Robert Fitzhamon setting up his castle within the Roman fort. A charter was granted sometime after 1147. Although large by Welsh standards, later evidence suggests a town of no great significance. At the first census of 1801, with a population of 1,870, it ranked only 21st amongst Welsh towns.
With the beginning of the iron industry, Cardiff began its rapid growth as the main port, linked to the interior by the Glamorgan canal (1798) and then the Taff Vale railway (1840–1). But from the middle of the century, coal export rose to dominance, reaching 13.5 million tons by 1913. In 1881, when its population was 82,761, it became, and has remained ever since, the largest Welsh town. The rise of Cardiff is intimately associated with the marquises of Bute, who owned great swathes of urban estate. The series of docks, constructed by the estate, was unique in Britain, since the development was provided by a single private estate.
Cardiff became a county borough in 1889, was designated a city in 1905, and slowly acquired a new role as the Welsh metropolis. The most significant modern development is that of Cardiff Bay, where the old docklands are being transformed in a characteristic ‘inner harbour’ development. The population of Cardiff in 2001 was 305,000. The city is home to the Welsh Assembly.