Cardiff Castle North Gate, Bute Park

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Cardiff Castle North Gate

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This entrance to Cardiff Castle is a remarkable example of a rebuilt Roman gateway. 

The castle was first established by the Romans, who built a fort and trading post here in the first century AD. The position of the fort was chosen for its close proximity to the river and the sea. The foundations of both the gate and the walls are all that remains of the final Roman fort, which had been rebuilt in stone during the fourth century AD. 

The Roman road that passed through this gate once linked the fort at Cardiff with other fortifications in South Wales. The gateway originally included a guardhouse on either side of the entrance, and substantial remains of their original Roman stonework survive. The Roman fort was abandoned in the fifth century, and it’s thought that the site gradually decayed. 

During the late 11th century, the Normans re-settled here and reinforced the site. What remained of the Roman walls disappeared beneath new earth defences. Except for the roughly square shape of the site, all clues as to the Roman origins of the castle disappeared from view. 

Eight hundred years later, preparations for new buildings on the east side of the castle revealed a stretch of original Roman stonework. The castle’s owner, the Third Marquess of Bute, ordered a more extensive excavation and in 1900 the impressive remains of the North Gate were located.

Old photo of Cardiff castle north gate
The north gate before its height was reduced

The Marquess made the unprecedented decision to restore completely the Roman walls and gate wherever possible, and his architect William Frame re-built the North Gate around 1905. Frame’s gate was criticised as being historically inaccurate and too tall, and so the Fourth Marquess had it partially dismantled and rebuilt in its present form in 1922. 

The photo shows the gate as designed by Frame. Compare this with the gate as you see it now. Do you agree with William Frame or the Fourth Marquess? 

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To continue the Bute Park tour, continue along the path to the entrance beside North Road Navigation next button