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Hidden Histories of Caerau and Ely

26 October 2018

Rebecca and Archie

Eight-month old Archie might be the youngest person to take a university course.

He has been coming along with his mum, Rebecca Davies, to the Hidden Histories of Caerau and Ely, a free course run by Cardiff University’s Live Local Learn Local programme in collaboration with the CAER Heritage Project.

The two were among a cohort of students who have been developing the skills needed to curate an exhibition, with their specially chosen artefacts going on show at the Cardiff Story Museum from today (October 26-November 4).

As part of their studies, they got to visit the vaults of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, poring through the many interesting artefacts that have been either excavated or discovered from around Caerau and Ely. This area of Cardiff has a rich hidden history dating back 6,000 years which in recent years has been uncovered by the CAER Heritage Project (CAER). CAER is a partnership project between Cardiff University, community development organisation Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE) local schools and residents. It involves local people of all ages in creating new knowledge about their shared history while helping to challenge some significant social and economic challenges faced by their communities in the present.

“It’s been great fun,” said Rebecca. “Archie only got grumpy once, when he was hungry. It was pretty surreal feeding him in the vaults of the museum. But he’s received lots of cuddles from the other people on my course and everyone has been really supportive of me bringing him along.”

Rebecca, single mum to Archie and Henry, aged five, relocated to Caerau earlier this year.

She was keen to find out more about her new home, so not long after the move, they took a trip to the Caerau Iron Age Hillfort, which in turn ignited her passion for history. The hillfort is one of Cardiff’s most important but little known historical sites.

“I didn’t know anybody here and wanted to get out,” said the 31-year-old. “I went along to a half-term event with the children at the hillfort and I got talking to people. They mentioned there was a course coming up that I might be interested in.”

Hidden Histories group

During the lessons, each of the five students were tasked with choosing an artefact that they wanted to focus on and showcase to the public.

Rebecca chose a glass bead from the Iron Age, which was dug up from Caerau Hillfort in 2013 during one of CAER Heritage’s community excavations there.

“It’s a beautiful bead with yellow running through it,” she said. “I chose it because it’s something that’s been found around the corner from my house; it’s fascinating thinking this was something that was used by our ancestors.”

The experience has been a huge source of support for Rebecca, during what has been a challenging year.

It really has been a lifeline. It’s been a great experience and I know that as well as the knowledge I’ve gained, I’ve come away with a lovely group of friends.

Rebecca Davies

Course Tutor Melissa Julian-Jones said: “I've loved getting to know the group and helping them put together this exhibition. It’s been a great way of bringing together research and teaching while also breaking down barriers to education and building confidence. It was really important to us that we were as inclusive as possible and having Archie along made the sessions a lot more fun! Everyone pitched in to help with his buggy on the field trips too. The exhibition is really exciting as a testimony to the group's hard work.”

Cardiff University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan said: “We are very clear on our commitment to the local community and this programme has brought people into the very heart of our academic life, learning new skills and knowledge. The students who have worked on this exhibition should be commended for their efforts to showcase some of the incredible history found in Caerau and Ely.”

Cardiff Council Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Peter Bradbury said: “Cardiff Story Museum does an excellent job of collaborating with different organisations in order to provide an exciting range of exhibitions and diverse activities which engage and inspire our local communities.

“As Caerau’s local councillor I find the CAER Heritage Project particularly interesting, highlighting the importance of this historical site.  As well as making history and archaeology accessible to everyone, this project allows participants to learn new skills and develop their knowledge of their local area.”

The exhibition is running at Cardiff Story Museum from Friday October 26 - Sunday November 4.

This year, Cardiff University is continuing to run community outreach courses in partnership with First Campus, the South East Wales Reaching Wider Partnership. If you are interested in finding out more, contact Helena Fern on