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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.99

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Celebrating 40 years of Cadw: caring for our precious heritage, discovery and learning

Caerphilly Castle image 002This year marks a significant milestone for Cadw as it celebrates its 40th anniversary and continues on its mission to care for Wales’ historic places while inspiring current and future generations to connect with the nation’s rich cultural heritage.

Since it was established in 1984, Cadw has welcomed over 50 million visitors from across the UK and the world to its historic monuments in Wales. There are now over 30,000 listed historic buildings, over 4,200 protected historic monuments, nearly 400 registered historic parks and gardens, and four World Heritage sites.

Cadw is directly responsible for caring for over 130 historic monuments including medieval castles, abbeys, industrial sites, Roman and prehistoric monuments such as neolithic chambered tombs, ensuring that visitors can continue to enjoy these spectacular locations now and for years to come. Cadw’s most recent additions are Llys Rhosyr and Castell Caergwrle – iconic places associated with Welsh Princes.  

Cadw’s monuments are also world leading visitor attractions and have featured prominently in a number of films, TV series and music videos including The Crown, Doctor Who, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and Iron Maiden's music video for 'Can I Play With Madness’.

Famous faces such as Sir Tom Jones, Richard Gere, Anthony Hopkins, Ellie Goulding, and David Haselhoff have also visited Cadw’s sites in recent years.

Gwilym Hughes, Head of Cadw, said: “As we celebrate 40 years of Cadw, we are immensely proud of our role in conserving Wales’ rich heritage and engaging with visitors to our fantastic monuments.

“Cadw’s commitment to conservation, education and the visitor experience has ensured that present and future generations can continue to appreciate and learn from our historical treasures. We look forward to continuing this legacy and welcoming visitors from far and wide for many years to come.”

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice, Lesley Griffiths, said: “I’m very proud of the work Cadw continues to do to protect our precious national heritage for future generations, such as the ambitious conservation projects underway at Tintern and Castell Coch.

“Cadw’s investment in transforming our historic monuments into world leading visitor attractions, such as at Caerphilly Castle and Castell Caernarfon is crucial to our regions and encouraging more people to visit our historic monuments.”

To mark the milestone anniversary, Cadw has a packed schedule of entertainment and activities at its sites across Wales this summer which will showcase all that it has to offer. Activities include historical-themed weekends uncovering medieval treasures, knight and sword schools for children,  flying displays of majestic birds and fantasy-themed activities such as ‘dragon’ training!

Cadw membership allows free entry to all events and unlimited access to over 130 monuments all year round, offering a unique way to explore Wales’ rich heritage. For families looking to explore Cadw locations, children go free with any adult membership.

Here is a look back at just some of the achievements and milestones from Cadw over the last 40 years:

Conserving & Celebrating the Heritage of Wales

Since Cadw’s formation in 1984, the number of listed buildings has more than tripled to over 30,000 and the number of monuments has increased from 2,700 to over 4,200.

Cadw supported the Welsh Ministers in making Welsh legal history when the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023 received Royal Assent and became an Act of Senedd Cymru, giving Wales its own bilingual law for the historic environment for the first time.

Cadw played a significant role in achieving the inscription of four World Heritage Sites for Wales – Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (1986), Blaenavon Industrial Landscape (2000), Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal (2009) and The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales (2021).

Cadw has invested tens of millions into conserving and investing in the monuments in its care, introducing innovative interpretation to bring monuments to life for visitors. Major projects have included new visitor centres at Castell Harlech and Denbigh Castle, extensive conservation programmes at Neath Abbey, Castell Coety, Castell Coch and Castell Conwy, as well as groundbreaking redevelopment and conservation projects at Castell Caernarfon and Tretower Court and Castle.

One of Cadw’s earliest achievements was the rescue, restoration and interpretation of Plas Mawr town house in Conwy, now a top visitor attraction and one of the finest surviving examples of an Elizabethan town house in the UK.

The current five-year conservation project to repair and restore the 750-year-old sandstone masonry of Tintern Abbey includes detailed recording of the standing remains and excavations that have significantly enhanced our knowledge of the history of the site.

Cadw is transforming Wales’ largest medieval fortress at Caerphilly Castle, elevating the visitor experience at the 13th century castle by refurbishing the Great Hall, investing £1million in a new interpretative scheme and introducing a state-of-the-art welcome centre and café.

 ‘Cadwraeth Cymru’, Cadw’s in-house team of specialist stonemasons, joiners and surveyors, have spent over 408,000 hours over the last decade on the conservation of smaller, more remote historic monuments across Wales. They received a prestigious Europa Nostra award for the 15 year conservation of St Davids Bishop’s Palace in Pembrokeshire.

Cadw has provided funding through its Ancient Monuments Grant & Historic Building Grants programmes to help owners, custodians and communities engage with, care for and maintain Wales’ historic buildings, monuments and archaeological sites for future generations.

Educating Communities and Embracing the Future

Cadw’s efforts to educate and engage with communities across Wales, particularly those from younger generations, have been profound, delivering over 2,500 community events and welcoming up to 100,000 educational visits every year to the monuments in its care.

Initiatives such as the Young Custodians, which sees Cadw collaborate with schools to visit monuments and foster a sense of ownership, heritage and belonging, take a different form at each monument – creating tapestries, cartoons, studying maths, science, literature and heritage skills such as stonemasonry.

The creation of the first Cadw World in Minecraft has revolutionised how children experience Welsh heritage, using AR and VR to explore 20 different Cadw sites. It is the first Welsh language Minecraft in the world.

Cadw has also been proactively raising awareness of the risks and opportunities of climate change and the need for adaptation, publishing the Historic Environment and Climate Change in Wales: Sector Adaptation Plan in February 2020 alongside a series of advisory adaptation guidance booklets to help owners of historic buildings to better equip their buildings for meeting the challenges of future climate change.

For further information visit cadw.gov.wales

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