- Aerial view of Cardigan
The port of Cardigan was important in the economic development of the southern part of Cardigan Bay, and in the economy of the whole Teifi valley.
Cardigan had been a busy port since the Middle Ages, with the wide part of the river below the castle growing into an important commercial centre. In Tudor times, ships from France and Spain traded with the town, as well as ships from England and Ireland. Fish had always been exported from the town, and gradually the produce of the Teifi valley came to be transported down the river to be loaded onto ships here: slates from Cilgerran and agricultural produce such as wool, grain and butter. A variety of goods were imported through the port, such as pottery, coal, building materials and fruit.
The Cardis developed into enterprising seamen and shipowners, and the port of Cardigan was thriving at the period at the end of the 18th Century, and the beginning of the 19th. In 1815 there were 300 ships registered at Cardigan – three times as many as were registered at Swansea and seven times the number at Cardiff. Ships from Cardigan were regular visitors at ports right across Britain and Ireland, and regularly crossed the Atlantic. Hundreds of emigrants left from Cardigan, such as a party of over 180 who sailed to St Johns, New Brunswick, in 1819 on the brig Albion, and the 72 who sailed to the same destination in 1822 on the brig Active.
- Cardigan Harbour
As well as sailing ships the Cardis became renowned for building vessels. In the early years local timber was used, in particular wood from the Coedmor estate, near Cilgerran. Then, at the start of the 19th Century, the builders came to depend on importing wood from the Baltic and Nova Scotia. In all over 200 ships were built on the banks of the Teifi. Three shipyards were active in 1850, and the final Cardigan ship was launched in 1877.
There was much commercial traffic along the Teifi river until the end of the 19th Century. But the main factor that brought the golden age of Cardigan’s port to an end was the railway, the ‘Cardi Bach’, which arrived in the town in 1883. After this, it was easier for the area’s produce to be sent to its markets in the rest of Wales and England via rail, instead of by sea.
Repeated on S4C Digidol 9:00PM Saturday
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