The CAER Heritage Project provides a great opportunity to discover more about the fascinating and exciting history and archaeology of Caerau and Ely. Before the advent of the Roman invasions Caerau Iron Age hillfort was once the major power centre for the entire Cardiff region. In a sense, all roads would have led to this important site which would have been a focal place where outlying communities would come together to express their identity and power through the construction of monumental earthworks.
After the Roman invasion, at some point in the first century AD, a Roman villa was established in the area, clearly the home of an important person and his family. The remains of the L-shaped villa complex still exist under Trelai playing fields.
In the medieval period The old parish church, St Mary’s, and a small ringwork, almost certainly a medieval castle site probably contemporary with the church, were constructed within the long-abandoned remains of Caerau hillfort on the north-eastern side. Caerau and Ely were clearly still an important and powerful area at this time.
The modern story of Caerau and Ely begins in the 19th century. Up until that time they were regarded as small villages in the parish of Llandaff, with just a few scattered farmhouses surrounding the church at St Mary’s. However, Ely Racecourse opened in 1855, and by 1864 racing at Ely was a regular event. In 1895 the first Welsh Grand National was held and crowds of 40,000 were not uncommon for such an event. Ely Brewery was established in 1855, and the Ely Paper Works in 1865.
The modern housing developed between the First and Second World Wars. The Earl of Plymouth, whose ancestral home is St Fagans Castle, bequeathed land to the City of Cardiff to build houses for people returning from the Wars and for those needing re-housing from the overcrowded inner city areas of Cardiff.
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