The History of African Caribbean Migration to Cardiff
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The History of African Caribbean Migration to Cardiff

migration to Cardiff

Cardiff once served as the heart of the coal industry, with the industrial city attracting immigrants in their droves, as migrants came in search of a better future in Wales. People from across the world migrated to Cardiff, with travellers moving to the city from Ireland, India, the Middle East, Italy, Scandinavia and the Caribbean.

So, we’ve decided to take a closer look at Afro-Caribbean migration to Cardiff and how it impacted the city we know today.


People from the Caribbean Islands have been migrating to Great Britain since the 1670s, with many living in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay area since the 1880s.

Many African Caribbean people arrived in Britain as slaves, transported by ships that housed imperial products, such as sugar, cotton, tea and rum, with many of the people and goods shipped to ports in Liverpool, London and Bristol. By the 1700s, many African Caribbean travellers were brought over to Cardiff by planters, military or naval officers, serving as domestic servants for wealthy families.

And thus, migration to Cardiff, albeit by force, had begun.

1700-1807 – Transatlantic Slave Trade

Tragically, between 1700 to 1807, approximately 3 million Africans died during their journey at the height of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The Middle Passage was, undoubtedly, a horrific method of transportation. Many of the slaves were densely packed onto ships, enduring a three to four-month voyage whilst laying chained in rows on the floor or on shelves situated on the inside of the ship’s hull.

Following the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade during the 19th century, many African Caribbean people chose to stay in Britain, with many working as seamen, ship clerks or rag-pickers.


In the early 1900s, many migrants introduced their cultural traditions and heritages to Cardiff. Thousands of African Caribbean migrants also made their way to Britain in the First World War to fight, with many entering work in the merchant navy or war industries. Migration to Cardiff was almost certainly driving the war effort in Wales.

Coal Exchange Cardiff in the 1920s
Source: Wikimedia Commons

It was in the 1940s that Cardiff received another mass migration of people from the Caribbean. 493 people were transported from Jamaica to the Welsh capital city on the HMS Empire Windrush in 1948, which is now regarded as a landmark moment in modern multicultural Britain. However, as recently as 2018, people were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in at least 83 cases, wrongly deported from the UK, in what became known as The Windrsuh Scandal.

This was the first of many ships to bring African Caribbean people to Britain, who believed the propaganda that they could enjoy a better life on the island.

Due to labour shortages in the late 1940s, travelling to Britain around the Empire and Commonwealth was unrestricted. The next wave of Afro-Caribbean immigration came during the Second World War, with many volunteering to serve in the RAF or armed services.

African Caribbean Culture

Throughout the 1940s, Caribbean people would come together in Cardiff to socialise at the Caribbean Café, which was located on 185a Bute Road. The migrants even created a local Cricket team due to their love of the sport, and they would regularly attend London Square Mission Church. The nation received an influx of migrants between 1955 to 1962, with approximately 250,000 people leaving the Caribbean to settle in Great Britain. As a result, the British government passed the 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act, which restricted the entry of immigrants.

Source: Shutterstock

The Tiger Bay area, which is a mile-long stretch of dockland, offered 57 nationalities, 50 languages and 10,000 residents who, for the most part, lived in harmony. Cultures came together to share their traditions, whilst taking on Welsh traditions. Racial intermarriage became quite common in the Tiger Bay area, with many male immigrants marrying Welsh women.

Many migrants also brought their children to Cardiff or raised a family in the capital city. Their children and grandchildren became an established part of the city’s local community and, by the 1970s, there was generation of Britons’ who had African Caribbean heritage, who developed a new sense of black culture in South Wales.

Tiger Bay’s Reputation

Despite cultural harmony in Tiger Bay, the area quickly gained a reputation for various illegal activities, such as prostitution, violence and gambling. Many people deemed Tiger Bay as a dangerous area, with merchant seaman only staying in the area long enough to load and reload merchant ships.

migration in Cardiff
Source: Shutterstock

However, some sailors did seek comfort in Tiger Bay’s red light area, and many were often thought to be behind much of the violence, murders, crimes and unresolved crimes in Tiger Bay. The area was deemed so dangerous that any UK dock similar to it earned the nickname “Tiger Bay”.

However, 100 years later, the multicultural melting pot of this dockland remains unchanged, despite its different landscape, with Tiger Bay’s Butetown now offering the highest percentage of ethnic minorities in Cardiff. The area has also produced a number of famous celebrities, including Shirley Bassey and Colin Dixon.

The Exchange Hotel

migration to Cardiff

Another place bursting with history, charm and character is The Exchange Hotel. This luxury hotel is an architectural masterpiece that has been lovingly restored and is at the forefront of the hospitality industry.

Ideal for cosy stays with the family, a romantic summer break or a holiday with friends, The Exchange Hotel is a must stay for those looking to explore the city.

Sound good? Our team can’t wait to hear from you so, book here to stay with us. Also, head over to our Facebook Page to see what’s going on at the hotel and to read more about the history of migration to Cardiff.

3 thoughts on “The History of African Caribbean Migration to Cardiff

  1. This is an exciting opportunity to restore and preserve this wonderful building as part of our heritage Best wishes for its success

    1. I love that quote, and just wow on all the light and colors! I’m just starting to see a tinge of color by me, although we do27#8n1&;t get a lot, I’ll take it!! Have a great weekend! (and I’m so glad you got your computer back, whew)

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