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New Cardiff Castle lectures uncover city's past

Cardiff Castle is starting a new series of lectures which promise to uncover a different side to the city’s past.

Matthew Williams, Curator, Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle’s curator Matthew Williams

The first lecture titled Victorian Cardiff in Old Photographs  will be held  on Thursday (Feb 13) but all tickets have already been snapped up.

“We have only got a very small room, very small lecture room and we have a fairly loyal band of people who come to the lecture series which we’ve been running since about 2005 – 2006 so they sell out very quickly,” said the castle’s curator Matthew Williams, who will present the unseen photos.

Mr Williams, who has been the castle’s curator for more than 20 years, said that many locals are keen to learn more about Cardiff’s history.

He said: “There’s a series of books called Cardiff Yesterday and these are books of photographs of the city. It was published in the 1980s but the photographs obviously span 100 years of photographs of the city-scape and they are the most popular non-fiction books in Cardiff library.”

While a lot has been published on the topic throughout the years, even the most experienced experts can make new discoveries.

“Of course an awful lot of things have been published but like all research things turn up from time to time and suddenly give us a new insight in to the past,” Mr Williams said.

“That’s what happened, I found some new photographs, they’re not all new but some of them are.”

The presentation, which includes images of Cardiff from as early as 1847, is but one of 11 lectures this year.

“Cardiff in the Victorian period was going through huge changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution,” Mr Williams said. “The importance of coal to the economy was premier, and Welsh coal was considered of exceptional quality.

Victorian Cardiff

Cardiff’s St Mary Street

“The earliest photos of the town date from 1847 – right at the very birth of photography, and amateur photographers recorded the changing face of the town and the villages nearby in a series of albums called ‘The photographic survey of Glamorgan’, which is a wonderful resource for historians. Many of these images are included in the lecture.”

But Mr Williams has his own favourite. The lecture More ‘Lost’ Houses of Cardiff will see the curator return in October with more examples of Cardiff’s lost mansions.

“That one is interesting because there are large houses that were built in the city during Cardiff’s boom years of the late 19th and early 20th century. They were lived in by very wealthy people for ten, twenty perhaps thirty years and then demolished so a lot of people have forgotten about these mansions,” he said.

“It’s nice to be able to introduce people some elements of the city that have been forgotten.”

But he predicts the lecture will also move his audience.

He said: “It’s very sad because there’s something very poignant about a home that’s been built in the full sort of confidence of wealth and then gradually you see it deteriorating and then being demolished. I think everyone empathises with that.”

“That’s the one I’m personally looking forward to most.”

The lecture Victorian Cardiff in Old Photographs will be held at the Castle’s Education Centre on Thursday, 6pm.