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£1.65m community project to reveal 6,000-year-old ‘hidden’ historic site in Cardiff

22 March 2019

Artist impression of CAER Heritage Centre
Image credit: Gillard Associates

A South Wales community is on the brink of delivering a major heritage regeneration project following a substantial funding win from the National Lottery.

The Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project is a collaborative project between community development organisation ACE - Action in Caerau and Ely, Cardiff University, and local schools and residents. The project is based around one of Cardiff’s most important, but little-known, archaeological sites, Caerau Iron Age hillfort.

Following an application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, ACE will receive £829,000 for the project, to transform the area into a community-generated heritage attraction through the Hidden Hillfort Project. Cardiff University is an active partner in the project, the total cost of which exceeds £1.6m; other significant support has been given to ACE by First Campus, Wales and West Housing, Cardiff Archaeological Society and the Moondance Foundation.

The project will involve local communities in curating, conserving and presenting Caerau hillfort – a monument that was once the power centre of Cardiff with a history stretching back 6,000 years. Working with project partners including the Cardiff Story Museum and Amgueddfa Cymru – the National Museum of Wales it aims to increase visitor numbers to the area by 50% over the next 3 years.

Plans include:

  • The redevelopment of the old Gospel Hall on Church Road into a Hidden Hillfort Heritage Centre that will act as a gateway to the monument. The multi-use space for community groups will act as a hub for a programme of community co-produced archaeological explorations, allowing people to develop new skills and create new knowledge about the place where they live. The building will also house a pop-up café, toilets and terrace area and will host a wide range of community-led activities;
  • A series of accessible heritage trails alongside a suite of co-produced multi-media content to inform people about the site;
  • The co-design and installation of a Hidden Hillfort playground adjacent to the new centre;
  • The development of gardens, vegetation clearance and woodland management facilitating conservation and sustainability. Work will also be undertaken to conserve the remains of St Mary’s Church.

Work on the heritage centre and surrounding area is expected to begin in the summer. The project will also deliver a three-year programme of ongoing research and heritage discovery that bring Cardiff University expertise into the heart of these communities with training, progression and employability opportunities for adults and school pupils working closely with Cardiff West Community High School to embed the rich history of the Hillfort into the local curricula.

Speaking at the Senedd, First Minister Mark Drakeford congratulated the CAER Project on the successful funding bid and praised its links with Cardiff West Community High School.  He said: “The archaeological work that is going on at that remarkable site will open opportunities for young people that have hitherto been very scantily available to them.”

Crowd on CAER hillfort site

Kimberley Jones, ACE Hidden Hillfort Development Officer, said: “ACE seeks to build vibrant, equal and resilient communities for all, where people find fulfilment in themselves, each other and the place where they live.  The Hidden Hillfort project turns this vision in to action. Local people and school pupils have been at the forefront of co-developing and co-producing exciting plans using Caerau’s incredible hillfort as inspiration.

“The Hidden Hillfort project will open up a huge range of opportunities for local people to get involved at every level: to be a part of a collective, to build skills and confidence and to break down barriers. With Cardiff West Community High School opening its doors to their brand-new school in less than two weeks, the timing of the project could not be better. The Hidden Hillfort is fully embedded into the curriculum; a CAER Suite is located within the school and Cardiff University have sponsored scholarships for a number of students.

We are excited to see Ely and Caerau being recognised for its assets, talents and community spirit: success in achieving this National Lottery Heritage Fund award is very much a collective achievement belonging to the whole community.

Kimberley Jones

Dr Dave Wyatt of Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, who helped set up the project eight years ago, said: “This grant is the culmination of years of hard work and amazing efforts made by local people to discover and showcase their heritage. Caerau and Ely are brilliant communities, filled with untapped talent and with a heritage that tells the story of Wales stretching back to the Neolithic.

“We want people from across Wales and the world to visit this amazing place and these amazing communities and to discover its fascinating past. Our project is proof that research and the advancement of knowledge can involve people of all ages and create incredible opportunities for communities.”  
Richard Bellamy, Head of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, added: “Thanks to National Lottery players, local people will now be able to re-discover and connect with their ‘hidden hillfort’, learning about the significance of the site while bringing the community together. At the moment this important piece of history is largely unknown, despite it being on people’s doorsteps, and we’re very excited to play a part in changing that and securing its future.”

Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan said: “Huge congratulations to ACE and to the CAER Project on their continued success, which reflects the passion and dedication of the people living there. Cardiff University is committed to working with communities in South Wales so that they can achieve their true potential. I look forward to seeing the project develop as it goes from strength to strength.”

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