Lightship 2000 (Helwick), Britannia Quay, Cardiff Bay

Trinity House Light Vessel 14 (LV14) was launched on 22 September 1953.  Weighing 550 tons and with an overall length of 137 feet, it took 11 people to crew the vessel with seven on board at any one time.  During the succeeding decades, she served at several different stations in UK coastal waters, the last being Helwick sandbank, some six miles south-west of Rhossili on the Gower Peninsular.

D1093-1-6 p28

Decommissioned in 1991, the lightship was subsequently purchased by a charity and, with help from Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, was restored to create a floating Christian Centre in the former Roath Dock basin.  Known as ‘Goleulong (or Lightship) 2000’, she became a base for Cardiff Bay chaplains, as well as operating a galley cafe and providing rooms for meetings or quiet contemplation.

In 2013, funding from local churches was withdrawn and the centre closed.  The ship was subsequently sold and towed to Newnham, on the Severn estuary in Gloucestershire, with the hope of establishing it as a floating museum.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Time and Tide: Revealing the History of Cardiff Bay

The current cataloguing project ‘Time and Tide: Revealing the History of Cardiff Bay’ has been made possible by a grant from the ‘Archives Revealed’ programme, funded by the National Archives, the Pilgrims Trust, and the Wolfson Foundation. The project aims to make accessible the records of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC) and Associated British Ports (ABP) South Wales. Cataloguing of the CBDC records is now complete and the catalogue is available to view at http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/ under the reference DCBDC. In this article Project Archivist, Katie Finn, discusses the collection and what can be found within it.

The work of CBDC was a monumental part of the redevelopment of Cardiff into the city it is today. The Corporation was established on 3 April 1987 by The Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1987. This designated an area of over 1000 hectares in South Cardiff and Penarth to be developed to encourage private investment in the area. The areas covered by the order were considered ones of urban decay and under-employment, seen as growing problems throughout the United Kingdom.  Urban Development Corporations were established in a range of towns and cities by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government to improve these areas. Their aim, as in Cardiff, was to use wide reaching planning and compulsory purchase powers to redevelop areas of urban dereliction. Other UDC areas included London Docklands, Bristol, Merseyside, and Teesside. As the corporations were non-governmental bodies, they had boards comprised of members from private industry. This included Sir Geoffrey Inkin, Chairman of CBDC.

DCBDC-12-1-085

Cardiff Bay before the creation of the Barrage and redevelopment (DCBDC/12/1/85)

CBDC had a wide remit to develop the former industrial areas of Cardiff. Key projects included the creation of an inland bay through building a barrage; linking the city centre to the waterfront; the creation of jobs for local people; and the creation of an attractive area for people to work, live and socialise. The aim of CBDC was to manage the redevelopment of the area in order to ensure it was of high quality and standardised throughout the bay and in commercial and housing developments. As such, there’s a large collection of committee minutes and papers within the CBDC records. Numerous committees were established to make decisions and advise on various aspects of their work. These committees ranged from the Board, Managers Team, Project Appraisal Group and Directors who discussed all projects, policies, and reports, to the Staff Liaison Group, Grant Appraisal Group, and Planning Committee, whose remit was limited. These papers include all decisions with details of discussions. They also provide information on all projects that were funded by the Corporation, big or small.

DCBDC-1-2

Some of the papers of CBDC Board meetings (DCBDC/1/2)

The large variety of committees reflects the reliance of the organisation on consultants. They advised on all aspects of the work of CBDC. This included the creation of development briefs to provide guidance to investors and contractors on the urban design and aesthetic standards of developments. They also carried out scientific studies on ground water levels, contaminated land and soil samples of proposed development areas. Additionally the Corporation employed consultants to value land and properties to inform the compensation of compulsory purchase orders and complaints. The consultant’s reports also provide valuable information on the people and demographics of the Cardiff Bay area. This is due to market research carried out to inform marketing and development decisions. In addition, CBDC commissioned reports on the communities in Cardiff Bay to understand and improve community relations. The consultants also produced a range of plans showing the Cardiff Bay development area, landscaping plans, and detailed plans of projects including Cardiff Bay Barrage.

DCBDC-11-21

One of the largest items Katie came across while cataloguing the collection – a volume of plans submitted to the House of Commons (DCBDC/11/21)

The redevelopment of Cardiff Bay was not without controversy. One of the most prominent projects, the Cardiff Bay Barrage, did not receive universal support. The Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill and Barrage Reports series include evidence of the issues with the barrage, along with the multiple attempts to pass the Barrage Bill through Parliament. It includes reports on environmental issues including the effects on shorebirds and groundwater levels. Another controversy addressed in the collection is the rejection of Zaha Hadid’s winning design for Cardiff Bay Opera House. There is also a series on CBDC’s involvement in the Exchange Building, Mount Stuart Square, and its suggested redevelopment.

In addition to the building and redevelopment work carried out by CBDC, the organisation also promoted Cardiff Bay as an area to relax and socialise. The marketing team was heavily involved in this work and their papers include background information on a range of events, including the Regatta, Power Speedboat Championship, and CBDC’s contribution to the Garden Festival of Wales. In addition to this, the photographic collection includes a range of images highlighting events held in the Bay. Photographs of street performers, attendees, and Butetown Carnival can be seen alongside aerial photographs and photographs of building works.

Whether the eventual development of Cardiff Bay and its surrounding areas is seen as a success or failure, the massive impact made on Cardiff by CBDC cannot be dismissed.  This collection includes information on all aspects of the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay through the gaze of CBDC, as well as providing information on a range of social and environmental issues impacting Cardiff at the time.

The Time and Tide project is not finished yet. Katie has now moved on to address the records of ABP. Work will also continue on the CBDC collection as our Trainee Rasheed progresses the digitisation of the photographic collection so that the images can be made available online.

Katie Finn, Archives Revealed Project Archivist

The Fishing Smack ‘Ann Hewett’

The papers of J J Neale, co-owner of the Cardiff fish merchants, Neale and West, include an extensive collection of maritime images that date from the late 19th century. Alongside photographs of the Neale and West fishing fleet there are also several photographs of vessels that had little connection with Neale and West or Cardiff. It would appear they were selected and added to the collection because, in each case, they were considered to be ‘something special’.

DX194-8-17

Trawler LO77 under full sail (DX194/8/17)

On first inspection you might wonder why the photograph of a fishing smack was included in the collection given that, in the early 19th century, there were thousands of small fishing smacks based in ports around the coast of Britain. From the registration number on the sail, however, it is almost certain that the photograph is of the Ann Hewett. Built in Gravesend for the Hewett family, owners of the Short Blue fleet, at a cost of £1200, the Ann Hewett carried the LO77 registration mark for over 50 years.

DX194-8-14

Loading catch from trawler deck to rowing boat (DX194/8/14)

Launched in November 1836 the Ann Hewett joined a fleet that by the mid-19th century was the biggest fishing fleet in the world. The Short Blue fleet was based at Barking, the home port for over a hundred fishing smacks in the 1830s. It is hard to believe now but, at that time, fishing smacks sailed up the Thames, almost into the heart of London, and unloaded their catch at Barking for sale at the Billingsgate fish market.

DX194-8-73

Emptying the net (DX194/8/73)

The biggest problem facing the Short Blue fleet and its competitors was that, unless the fish were salted, boats had to return to Barking every few days so that the catch could be transported fresh to Billingsgate. The Ann Hewett was built to a design, probably developed by the Dutch in the 18th century, to address this problem. In many respects she resembled many other sailing smacks, being 60 foot in length, around 50 tons and with a crew of 8. However, she differed in one important aspect, in that she was built with a large well in the central section of the smack where fish could be kept alive until her return to port. Situated between the 2 masts and sealed from the rest of the boat by watertight compartments, the well was filled with sea water that entered through small holes drilled into the hull of the boat below the water line.

It was a design that, at the time, revolutionised deep sea fishing around the world. Known as ‘well smacks’, the new vessels were expensive to build and difficult to manoeuvre under sail. The costs, however, were more than offset, with the well allowing smacks to travel further out to sea and fish for several weeks before returning with fresh fish held in the well. Ironically, though, the Ann Hewett had to transfer her fish to hatch boats at Gravesend for transport to Billingsgate. Even in the first half of the 19th century, the Thames was polluted and allowing river water into the well would have ruined the fish.

DX194-8-77

Displaying a large skate (DX194/8/77)

Yet, even before the advent of the steam trawler, in the second half of the 19th century, the competitive edge of the well smack was being eroded. The development of ‘fleet fishing’, with large numbers of fishing smacks serviced by a constant shuttle of smaller boats taking the catch ashore, meant that the well was of less value. In addition, the use of ice, pioneered by the Short Blue fleet in England, provided other means of keeping the catch fresh while at sea.

Initially ice was imported, at some cost, from Norway, and stored for up to a year in deep thick walled ice houses built at the ports. Soon, however, supplies were secured from local farmers along the east coast of Britain who realised that money was to be made from flooding their land in the winter months and selling the ice to the fish merchants.

The Ann Hewett was sold after around twenty years’ service but continued to work as a fishing smack until the late 1880s. Our photograph was probably taken when she was under new ownership for there is no sign of the small square flag – the ‘short blue’ – flown at the mast head by the Short Blue fleet.

There are no records of the Ann Hewett visiting south Wales, but there was one connection. In March 1872 she was involved in a collision in the North Sea with the large Norwegian barque, Septentrio. One of her crew was lost overboard but picked up by the Septentrio. In heavy seas it was impossible to return to the Ann Hewett, so there was little option but for him to remain on board the barque. It just so happened that the Septentrio was carrying timber from Norway to Cardiff. It must have been a strange experience for a fisherman from the east coast of England, spending two weeks with a Norwegian crew and then being offloaded at the East Bute Dock when the Septentrio arrived in Cardiff on 2 April 1872. Let’s hope that Cardiff gave him a warm welcome before he set off on the long journey back to the east coast and the Ann Hewett.

The photograph of the Ann Hewett is one of a collection held with the papers of J J Neale at Glamorgan Archives under reference DX194. It can be accessed on line at http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

 

The Trawler Tamura

Photographs held at Glamorgan Archives include a number of the Neale and West fishing fleet that operated out of Cardiff and Milford Haven from 1888. Most feature the fleet of steam trawlers that were first introduced to Cardiff by the new company. With their steel hulls and fuelled by cheap local coal the steam trawlers quickly displaced the small sailing smacks and tug boats that had fished the Bristol Channel.  Steam power, allied with the use of ice to keep the catch fresh, opened up the potential for a Cardiff based fleet able to access deep sea fishing grounds. In addition, with industry and commerce drawing vast numbers of people into south Wales, there was a ready market for the fish delivered by the Neale and West trawlers to the Bute West Dock.

DX194-8-76

The Tamura in dock (DX194/8/76)

The photograph above is of the trawler Tamura. Many of the Neale and West fleet could be identified by the use of Japanese names. It is thought that this practice developed as a result of links with Japanese fishing companies and, in many respects, this rings true. At the turn of the century the Japanese were looking to modernise their fishing fleet and the design and methods used by the British trawler fleet were widely admired and copied.

Identifying specific trawlers can be tricky in that names were often reused, and two Cardiff trawlers carried the name Tamura. Part of a programme of refreshing the Cardiff fishing fleet with newer and bigger steam powered trawlers, the first Tamura was built for Neale and West in 1917 in the shipyards at Selby in the north east of England.  The new trawler was, however, immediately requisitioned by the Royal Navy and served until the end of the First World War as a minesweeper.

Of the Neale and West trawlers used by the Navy many were lost either to mines or attacks by U-Boats. The Tamura escaped this fate, but her time with the Cardiff fleet was short-lived. By 1919 she was back in Cardiff and was recorded, controversially, landing her catch at the Pier Head in a strike locked Cardiff docks. Four years later, however, she ran onto the rocks in fog, close to St Anne’s Head in Pembrokeshire. Although the captain and crew managed to get ashore safely, the trawler was lost.

DX194-8-68

Unidentified trawler grounded on rocks (DX194/8/68)

Within a year the Tamura had been replaced by a new trawler carrying the same name and again built in the north east, at Middlesbrough this time. It would seem that, at times, business was good. One report recorded the Tamura, with three other Neale and West trawlers, landing 1600 boxes of fish in one day at Cardiff. The Cardiff fleet largely brought home hake, but that day their catch included cod, mackerel, plaice, skate and bass.  It was evident, though, that the fleet was already having to go much further afield, with the Tamura often operating out in the Atlantic, west of Ireland.

DX194-8-5

Trawler men feeding out nets (DX194/8/5)

As always the risks were significant for her crew of 12 who were often away, exposed to the full force of the Atlantic, for two weeks or more.  In November 1927 the chief officer of the Tamura was washed overboard by a huge wave and drowned during a gale. In the same storm one of the crew, also from Cardiff, lost three fingers after his hand was trapped in a winch.

DX194-8-6

Trawler men landing catch (DX194/8/6)

Although Neale and West continued to operate from Cardiff until 1956, the Tamura was one of several trawlers sold to a Milford Haven company in 1931. She worked from Milford until 1939 when, like her predecessor, she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy. As HMT Comet she was, at one point, given the unenviable task of acting as a decoy to lure German U Boats to the surface so that they could be ambushed by the Royal Navy. Sadly, her naval career was to last only a year, when she was sunk after hitting a mine off Falmouth in September 1940.

There is a mystery associated with our photograph of the Tamura.  The records that we have been able to access give the Cardiff registration for the trawler launched in 1917 as CF47. We believe that the second trawler, until transferred to Milford, used CF12. Yet our photograph clearly shows CF13. Was it changed at some point due to a reluctance to sail a trawler registered with the number 13? If there is anyone who can help put this mystery to bed then please get in contact.

The photograph of the Tamura is one of a collection held with the papers of J J Neale at Glamorgan Archives under reference DX194. They can be accessed at http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The Barque Favell – “My Little Bristol Beauty”

Amongst the many photographs held at Glamorgan Archives is a set of maritime images that were donated with the papers of J.J. Neale, co-owner of Neale and West, the Cardiff wholesale fish merchants. Many feature the company’s trawler fleet that operated out of Cardiff and Milford Haven. There is also a small collection of photographs of vessels that were seen, at the time, as ‘something special’ – and the Barque Favell certainly fitted that description.

DX194-7-5

The barque Favell entering Falmouth Bay, June 1930 (DX194/7/5)

Favell was the last deep sea sailing ship built in Bristol by Charles Hill and Sons, and was named after a great granddaughter of the founder of the company.  Launched in 1895 the barque, with her three masts, steel hull and sleek lines, was well matched for the trade between Britain and Australia carrying grain. The three photographs are all from 1930 when the Favell with up to 20 other vessels, referred to as ‘windjammers’, took part in the annual race from Australia carrying grain. She was the second windjammer to arrive at Falmouth that year having completed the trip in 115 days. It might have been thought that taking a sailing ship around Cape Horn was more than enough for her crew of 26 but, on the outward journey, a cyclone off the Cape Verde Islands had stripped the Favell of every sail but one.

DX194-7-4

The barque Favell ‘off the horn’, 1930 (DX194/7/4)

It was quite an occasion when Favell arrived at Cardiff docks on 11 September 1934 carrying two thousand tons of grain for Spillers’ Mills. There were photographs of the Favell in the local papers, along with an interview with one of her crew who had worked for the Hain Steamship Company.  The journey from Australia that year had taken 149 days and he described the ‘mountainous seas’ encountered after they had ‘flown’ around Cape Horn. At one point a member of the crew had been transferred to the liner Monowai by ship’s sling for medical treatment, yet he concluded that …sail life is grand and I would like to see it revived in our own country.

The truth of the matter was that it no longer made sound business sense to use sailing ships to import grain from Australia. The Favell had been sustained in its latter years by the opportunities that it provided for those who needed sailing experience as part of securing their mate’s certificates. From Cardiff she left for Helsingfors in Finland and the breakers yard. Passing Lands End on her final journey the local papers reported seeing the barque …with all her sails set providing a beautiful spectacle for those who were fortunate enough to see her.

The photograph of Favell entering Falmouth in 1930 is very similar to a photograph that was featured in the Pacific Steam Navigation Company magazine, Sea Breezes, in 1931. It was in an accompanying article that her captain, Sten Lille, described her as ‘My Little Bristol Beauty’.  Favell is still fondly remembered by the seafaring community in Bristol and features on the emblem of the Bristol Shiplovers’ Society. There is also a painting and model of the Favell in the city’s museum. Another model can be seen in London at the National Maritime Museum. The three photographs of the Barque Favell are part of the collection held at Glamorgan Archives under reference DX194/7/3-5.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

County Hall, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff

South Glamorgan County Council was created at the reorganisation of local government in 1974.

D1093-1-1-20

Unlike neighbouring authorities though, it did not inherit a ready-made civic headquarters.  Initially, the council leased an office building in Newport Road but this was not large enough to accommodate all its central functions.

In the early 1980s, it was decided to develop a new headquarters alongside Bute East Dock.  Apart from the intrinsic advantages of creating a purpose-built County Hall, the decision to build in this location was also seen as a catalyst for the economic and social regeneration of what was then a largely derelict area.

Designed by the County Architect’s department, the waterside building is generally of three storeys but rises higher in places.  Construction work, which ran between 1986 and 1988, was managed by Norwest Holst Limited.  County Hall was officially opened on 1 October 1988 by former Prime Minister, Lord Callaghan, who had served as Member of Parliament for the constituency which included Cardiff’s Docklands from 1945 until 1987.

D1093-1-5-17

Further local government re-organisation, in 1996, saw the abolition of South Glamorgan County Council, and County Hall subsequently became the headquarters of Cardiff Council.  It continues to serve as a civic building.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Boston Buildings, 68-72 James Street, Cardiff

On 21 March 1900, local authority approval was granted for a building on the northern side of James Street, at its junction with the pathway which ran alongside the Glamorganshire Canal.  It comprised two shops on the ground floor, each with a basement, while a central doorway gave access to offices on the first and second floors.  With re-numbering a few years later, the shops became 68 and 72 James Street, while the offices were number 70.

D1093-1-4 p4

Designed by Cardiff architect Edgar Down, the premises were erected for Rose & Co., Engineers, who were based at Royal Stuart Buildings on the opposite side of James Street.  The proprietor, Joseph Rose, was born in Leake, near Boston, Lincolnshire, so it is perhaps reasonable to presume that this is the origin of the name Boston Buildings, which still appears in wrought ironwork above the roofline.  The arms of the pre-1974 Borough of Boston are carved into the stonework at one corner.

Earliest occupants of the office space were shipowners and brokers, but with the gradual decline in Cardiff’s importance as a port, later tenants ranged more widely to include printing, stockbroking and insurance businesses, along with professionals such as solicitors, accountants and consulting engineers.

Throughout the first quarter of the 20th century, the shop at 68 James Street was occupied by a butcher, Thomas Morgan (later T Morgan & Sons).  But by 1929 the unit had been taken over by Kristensen & Due, ships’ chandlers, who remained until at least the 1970s; during much of this time, Mr Kristensen also served as the Danish Consul in Cardiff.  It is less easy to trace occupancy of the second shop; during the 1950s to 1970s, though, the tenant was a tobacconist, Anthony Nethercott.  While Mary Traynor’s 1986 sketch identifies it as a general store and snack bar, a well-known cigarette brand is still prominently advertised.

In more recent years, number 68 served as the Somali Advice and Information Centre, while 72 was an office of the Flying Start family support programme.  Today the shop units are occupied by an estate agent and a property management company.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/4)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for new premises, James Street, 1900 (ref.: BC/S/1/14110)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, Glamorganshire Canal Navigation, Memorandum of Agreement, 1904 (ref.: BC/GCA/4/162)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • 1881 – 1901 Censuses
  • Google Streetview

Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff

Baltic House dates from about 1915, when it replaced 17, 18 and 19 Mount Stuart Square, in a prominent position directly opposite the main entrance of the Coal Exchange.  The architects were Teather & Wilson and their client was Claude P Hailey, a local accountant who later donated the land for Hailey Park in Llandaff North.

D1093-1-6-18

Having five storeys plus a basement, the building is oddly asymmetric in appearance, with a more ornate bay at the eastern end.  The approved building plan shows that it was originally intended to balance this with a western extension which has clearly never been executed.

The earliest occupants included Mr Hailey’s accountancy partnership with Sir Joseph Davies, and Mount Stuart Square Office Co Ltd, which appears to have been the building’s management company.  Business Statistics Publishing Co Ltd and the Incorporated South Wales and Monmouthshire Coal Freighters Association – both closely associated with Davies and Hailey – were also based there.  Other tenants were generally coal exporters or shipping companies.  From the outset until at least the mid-1950s, there was a café on the lower ground floor.  While developing patterns of business saw changes in occupancy over the years, Baltic House continued to house a number of shipping and travel companies well into the 1960s.

During the 1990s, Baltic House was the principal office of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation as it masterminded the regeneration of the city’s rundown docklands and waterfront.  More recently, it has housed the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, along with a number of other third sector organisations.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/6)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for offices, Mount Stuart Square, 1913 (ref.: BC/S/1/18776)
  • Evan Thomas, Radcliffe and Company, Shipowners, Cardiff Records, lease (counterpart) for term of 21 years, 1916 (ref.: DETR/92/1-3)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • Cardiff Year Book 1921
  • Wales Yearbook 2000
  • http://www.friendsofhaileypark.org.uk/claude-hailey.html
  • http://www.wcva.org.uk/

Avondale Hotel, Clarence Road and Clarence House, Hunter Street, Cardiff

Opened in July 1894, the Avondale Hotel was a venture of local hotelier and caterer, Richard Palethorpe Culley, who already ran the restaurant in the nearby Exchange building, as well as several other businesses in Cardiff and beyond.  Designed by E W M Corbett, it was built by W Thomas & Co.  The hotel was later acquired by Crosswell’s Brewery, which ultimately became part of the Whitbread group.  Subsequently demolished, the site is now occupied by a block of flats named Avondale Court.

D1093-1-2 p17

Clarence House, at the junction of Hunter Street and Harrowby Lane, clearly dates from 1896.  Still standing today, it appears to have undergone significant reconstruction since this 1983 sketch.  Most notably, it has lost the ornate pediment which so strikingly identifies it in Mary Traynor’s picture.  In more recent years, the name Clarence House has been adopted for the former Salvage Association building in Clarence Road.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

The Norwegian Church, Cardiff

Cardiff’s multicultural population is by no means a recent phenomenon. The town’s rapid growth during the 19th century as a port serving Glamorgan’s industrial hinterland attracted workers from Britain and around the world. Many settled; in 1911 the foreign male population of Cardiff was second only to London in Britain. Many more were transient visitors, particularly the sailors on foreign-registered vessels calling at the docks. Among them were a substantial group of Norwegians, Swedes and Danes, and it was to these men that Pastor Lars Oftedal of the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission addressed his ministry from 1866.

After initially meeting on board ship and in a redundant chapel, the Sjømannskirken was soon erected.

rsz_norwegian_church_alterations

Plan showing proposed alterations to the Norwegian Church, 1939

Prefabricated in Norway and shipped to Cardiff, it was in typical Norwegian style, although made of corrugated iron sheets. The port authorities had insisted that it should be easily dismantled and re-located if necessary. The church, which Cardiff trade directories describe as:

…the Norwegian iron Church, south-east corner of West Bute Dock for Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish sailors and residents

was consecrated on 16 December 1869, and remained in its original position until its eventual removal in 1987.

rsz_norwegian_church_new_location_detail

Plan showing the original location of the Norwegian Church

The Norwegian Seamen’s Mission’s 25th Annual Report highly commended the location which:

could not be improved upon, as it is situated between the two docks, at the point where they converge towards the inlets. The church is thus positioned in amongst the ships, so that it is at only a short walk’s distance from many of them, and easy to find for all those who would like to visit it.’

The absence of possibly more enticing attractions on the dockside was a major point in its favour, as the seamen …do not need to go into the town and expose themselves to its temptations, only for the sake of a visit to the reading room.

The church developed with the increase in Scandinavian, and particularly Norwegian, shipping in the Bristol Channel ports. Missions were established at Newport, Swansea and Barry Dock, served by Assistant Missionaries under the Pastor at Cardiff. By 1920 the Pastor lived in the Norwegian vicarage, ‘Prestegaarden’, at 181 Cathedral Road. The number of Scandinavian ships using the area’s ports rose from 227 in 1867 to 3,611 in 1915, and annual statistics for communicants and visitors rose correspondingly from 7,572 in 1867 to 73,580 in 1915. The industrial and economic problems of the 1920s and 1930s affected the Norwegian churches. By 1931 the Mission was reduced to its churches in Cardiff and Swansea only.

During the Second World War Cardiff’s resident Norwegian community increased and many more Norwegians passed through the port as seamen or refugees. The Iron Church and its staff worked with the local branch of the Norwegian Seamen’s Union and other organisations to provide for its people during these difficult years. The Norwegian merchant navy played a significant role in the Allied war effort, but many ships and many lives were lost. The bombing raids on Cardiff made even shore leave unsafe. A number of men were killed when the Scandinavian Seamen’s Home on Bute Road was hit and destroyed.

At the end of the war Cardiff’s Scandinavian communities joined together to celebrate the peace. From that time on, however, activity in the Seamen’s Mission declined, staff was reduced, and the Norwegian community itself dispersed as Cardiff ceased to be a major port. The Iron Church closed in 1959, the last service taking place on 17 May, Norway’s national festival, Grunnlovsdagen, Constitution Day.

The church remained standing, in an increasing state of dilapidation, for almost thirty years. In the 1980s South Glamorgan County Council sponsored the establishment of the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust to save the church and integrate it into the re-developed docks. Roald Dahl, the author, was the Trust’s first President, as a Cardiff-Norwegian himself. In 1987 the old church was dismantled and stored for re-assembly. However, the church which was eventually opened in a splendid new location overlooking Cardiff Bay in 1992 was almost entirely a new creation. As much of the original building as was useable was incorporated into the new church, but most of the materials were new, donated by companies in Norway and in Cardiff, or purchased with the donations raised by public subscription in the Bergen area. Many companies gave their services free to complete the church, which is now built of wood, except for the roof of sheet steel, especially produced by a local firm to fit the building.

The church was officially opened by Princess Märtha Louise on 8 April 1992 as a cultural centre. Although it is not consecrated as a church, art exhibitions and concerts are held in the building and a café serves food and drink.

Susan Edwards, Glamorgan Archivist

This article has drawn on an unpublished lecture by Professor John Greve and on ‘Med Norsk Siømannsmision I hundre år’ [100 years of the Norwegian Mission to Seamen], by Gunnar Christie Wasberg