Cathedral Close (the Road of the Dead) in the City of Llandaff runs along the side of the Cathedral, part of an old prehistoric path which was believed to have stretched from the coast to a ford where people could cross the river taff at the narrowest point. There are claims that this road was used to carry dead bodies to the graveyard at the bottom of the hill, and gained the name the ‘Road of the Dead.’ There is a long and potted history to the cathedral and the surrounding area, many bishops altered, changed and rebuilt the cathedral over the years.
An old prehistoric road ran from the coast through what is now Culverhouse Cross, along Cowbridge Road West, and to Cathedral Lane (the Road of the Dead), which ended at the ford across the river another road on the other side of the river stretching further east. There was also a trackway leading to Llantrisant, where an ironworks was situated. This might have been some basic trading post or settlement at this time allowing trading in iron that could be taken to the coast or further east. There is little evidence of any settlements left on the site, there may still be remnants of a Roman settlement on the site yet to be discovered.
The prehistoric path was also used by the Romans and it established part of a network of roads across South Wales. It is also worthy of considering that the river Taff might have been tidal at this time making this crossing extremely important. Not to mention the existence of a freshwater spring which later became the Well of St Teilo’s.
Excavations have found the existence of early Pagan and Romano-British burials under the western part of the cathedral site. Which adds weight to the Cathederal Lane and the ford across the river was a significant place in the history of the area. In the Liber Landavensis (The Book of Llandaff), there is mention of pagan attacks on Llandaff in January 987 and further attacks on the land. However, The Book of Llandaff is unreliable and some of the entries are an outright fabrication.
According to The Book of Llandaff, a church was founded by Lucious in 180 AD, this claim is more than likely a fabrication. The true origins for Llandaff Cathedral started with a monastery on the banks of the rivers Taff, established by St Teilo’s in 512 AD. This location was chosen for this church (also known as the white house) as the ford and spring were an important place in the area and a hive of activity. Yet nothing remains of the original church officially named Little Minster. There are a few archaeological remains of this pre-Norman church on the site, including a Celtic Cross which was found in 1870 embedded in the walls of the Bishops Palace. Before the Norman conquest, Llandaff was a said to be the focus for religious life in the area, though these claims go unsubstantiated as it was subordinate to the secular rulers of Morgannwg.
Llandaff has come under attack many times over the years from Vikings in 894 AD, and 915 AD. It is also believed that pirates under their Jarls Ohtor and Hraold, sailed up the Severn River, and harried South Wales, and everywhere along the banks including Llandaff.
In 1120 AD rebuilding work began on rebuilding the cathedral by the then Bishop Gwrgan (Worgan) and written as Urban in Latin script, which has been the foundation of many reservations. At this time Llandaff became the centre of a Norman Lordship, which caused with friction between the lordship of Cardiff. In 1280 AD the Bishops Palace was built at the top end of Cathedral Lane (Road of the Dead). It originally may have served a military purpose, then in 1402 AD it was sacked by Owain Glyndwr, and what remains today is pretty much how Glyndwr left it.
John Speed’s map from 1610 AD shows some of the expansion of Llandaff, 60 houses and the present street layout had been established. This time the cathedral has become neglected and most of it had no roof. The map clearly shows the Road of the Dead between the Bishops palace and the cathedral.
During the civil war, the cathedral and parish suffered greatly, and the remains of the cathedral were turned into an alehouse, parts of the building were used as a calf pen, and stable. In 1703 AD storms damaged the towers, and in 1723 AD the roof supports to collapsed due to extensive damage and rot. The subsequent rebuilding efforts were nothing more than a farce. The end result was something that looked more like an assembly room than a holy place. Around 1850 AD the cathedral was completely rebuilt by John Pritchard the Diocesan Architect.
In 1941 AD a German landmine hit the roof and landed near the south wall of the cathedral and destroyed the building once again. After WWII another restoration began in the hands of George Pace, this was completed in 1960 AD. The interior and roof were changed and Sir Jacob Epstein’s ‘Christ in Majesty’ was constructed inside. In recent years little has changed on the site.
Reports from people who have spoken about their experiences mention ghostly sounds and sighting of young children playing in the area and around the gravestones. This was linked to the mass deaths of children during the 1800s, It is believed that the deaths of these children are linked to a cholera outbreak in the 19th century. Dr Madeleine Grey confirmed the disease was prevalent with the worst outbreak being in 1849 AD, but questioned why it was only children that are linked to these sightings.
Dates Visited: Nighttime Accessibility Recce (11/01/2020), Daytime Photoshoot (15/01/2020), Main Recce (06/02/2020), Pre Assessmnet (01/08/2020)
- Pre-Assessment: Road of the Dead / Llandaff Cemetery August 3, 2020Part of our methodology relies on a pre-assessment of the locations we are planning on investigating. Knowing what is there before we even start is a great way of removing ...
- Crew Recce of the Dead February 7, 2020Today’s crew recce of the Road of the Dead and Llandaff Cemetery was fun, most of the Team came along and we had an explore of the area. Gabriel Strange-Wood ...
- Night Vision Camera Tests January 30, 2020We have done our night vision camera tests on our YouTube channel. The camera performs as well as can be expected considering the price range. It’s by no means high-end ...
- Something’s not happy as we investigate the Road of the Dead January 17, 2020Kallandra and I went on a location recce to the Road of the Dead and Llandaff Cemetery as there was a brief gap in the rain (this alone could be ...