Cardiff Castle's Mill Leat moat restored in Bute Park archaeological restoration

By Sarah Jackson | 26 November 2013

Mill Leat has officially reopened as a moat as part of the Bute Park restoration project

Cardiff Castle behind its newly flooded moat.
The newly reopened Mill Leat in Cardiff© Courtesy of Cardiff Council
For the first time in 30 years, Cardiff Castle once again has an outer moat after the historic western moat known as Mill Leat was restored yesterday.

The ribbon-cutting event marked the completion of a project which saw the site excavated and then re-flooded to restore the moat to its original state, carried out as part of the £5.6 million Bute Park restoration project. Aided by a £3.1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the scheme aims to enhance its historic features of the park in the grounds of Cardiff Castle, provide new visitor facilities and improve access.

The word "leat" refers to "an open watercourse conducting water to a mill". The Mill Leat sits on the same site as a former millpond at the end of the original medieval millstream. It supplied water to corn mills located to the south of the Wst Gate and contained water well into the 1970s.

The restoration has not only enhanced the view of the park to the west of Cardiff Castle but has also created a new freshwater habitat that will increase biodiversity in that part of Bute Park.

The work to Mill Leat began with an archaeological excavation, during which more than 3,000 individual pieces were excavated. Many of these items date from the 16th and 17th centuries – a period of Cardiff’s history of which relatively little is known.

Some of the more significant pieces are clearly high status objects – including a pewter spoon and what appears to be Venetian glass – and can probably be linked to the castle’s former inhabitants.

Archaeologists will now be working to assess their significance and determine what future analysis could be required. Eventually it is hoped that at least some of the pieces will be conserved and then displayed publically in museums.

Contractors Alun Griffiths constructed two dams, restored masonry and installed a clay liner to complete the job.

Jennifer Stewart, the Head of HLF Wales, said the group was "thrilled" to have reached the "latest milestone" at the park.

"The restored Mill Leat brings another significant part of Cardiff’s heritage back to life and adds another attraction for park users to enjoy," she added.

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Moat (Mill Leat) at Cardiff Castle before it was reflooded.
Mill Leat in 2009 before work began.© Courtesy of Cardiff Council
Black and white photo of Cardiff CAstle circa 1940
Mill Leat and Cardiff Castle circa 1940.© Cardiff Council Parks Archive
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