Historical photograph website shows no sign of losing focus as it reaches its 15th anniversary

Cardiffians was set up as a hobby by local Matthew Witty, but it now receives 5,000 monthly visitors who are keen to learn more about their city

Cardiff Castle and Duke Street 1940 (Image: © Matthew Witty)

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A website set up by a Cardiff local, which houses over 1,000 images of old Cardiff, has reached 15 years old.

The website Cardiffians was initially only set up as a hobby by Matthew, who was completely new to coding when he first came up with the concept in the late 1990s. Now, it acts as a focal point for recording Cardiff’s history, amassing over 12,000 visitors in January 2020 alone.

“I’ve always had a fascination with bits of old Cardiff,” explains Matthew. “I launched the site in 2005. It was very basic with only about 100 pictures.”

Over the years, Matthew continually updated the advert-free website to ensure locals can continue learning about their city. This included a detailed timeline, a page about famous Cardiffians and a forum as a means of generating a community.

Jack Cutler, a fan of Cardiffians, commented, “It’s amazing that you can look through history in your living room. It’s so interesting to see how the city has changed as someone who’s passionate about Cardiff.”

It’s amazing that you can look through history in your living room

Queen Street 1890
This picture of Queen Street in 1890 is Jack’s favourite because of its ‘authentic feel’ and interesting details (Image: © Matthew Witty)
Conflicting interests

Matthew expressed cynicism about the council’s attitudes towards preserving Cardiff’s history. There have been many initiatives to redevelop parts of Cardiff in recent years including Guildford Crescent in the city centre. Despite 1,000 people marching against its demolition last year, just the frontages of the buildings survived.

“It wasn’t a particularly pretty block but it was unique,” says Matthew. “It had a great atmosphere and was unusual in a city full of boring towers full of students.”

Matthew believes it is because of reasons like this that it is so important to keep records of Cardiff’s past. He is proud his website currently holds around 800 images that had never been published before and hopes to continue updating his website with more exclusive photographs of Cardiff’s fascinating history.

The process of creating Cardiffians
  1. Matthew was always interested in Cardiff’s buildings dating back to his early memories of visiting his Grandparents in Splott. He was left frustrated by the lack of photographic evidence of what he knew had once been there.

    4. In 2013 Matthew’s Grandad passed away. When clearing out his house, Matthew found a negative photo scanner which gave him the idea to buy negatives of old photographs of Cardiff as a way of owning the copyright of the images.

2. He found a book in Ely Library called Stuart Williams’ Cardiff Yesterday which contained old pictures of the city. This “sparked an interest”. From then on Matthew started building up his collection of pictures from books and magazines.

5. Ever since then, Matthew hunts for unique pictures of Cardiff that the public has not seen before. He spends a lot of his personal time picking out the best ones and uploading them to Cardiffians.  

3. It took Matthew over three years to learn to code and by 2005 he had his own website with the pictures he had scanned.

6. Matthew has plans to expand the website further by creating a ‘now and then’ page and adding to the thousands of fans he’s been able to garner over 15 years.

Cardiffians can be viewed here

Any donations of negatives, slides, cine film or videos of old Cardiff are much appreciated by Matthew. He can be reached at sitemaster@cardiffians.co.uk