BBC Documentary: Saving the Coal Exchange

The doors of Cardiff’s iconic Coal Exchange are finally open once again. But the development of the Grade II-listed building certainly hasn’t been an easy journey for those involved here at the Exchange Hotel.

Offering audiences an inside look at the enormity of the project, the BBC’s ‘Saving the Coal Exchange’ documentary sheds light on the astonishing development of one of Cardiff Bay’s most unique and historic buildings.

Introducing viewers to Liverpool hotelier Lawrence Kenwright, the eye-opening feature illuminates the whirl of concerns, anticipation and excitement leading up to the opening of the Exchange.

The pressure was on from the very start for Kenwright and the Signature Living team. Yet to miss a deadline, the Exchange simply had to be ready to welcome guests in time for the Champion’s League Final 2017.

Speaking of his initial interest in the building, Kenwright shared:

“When I first came to Cardiff and I saw the Coal Exchange, I knew right away the building needed to be repaired quickly. But I also knew there was a huge connection between the building and the local people, so I had to make sure that they were on board too”

Worries cast aside, the successful developer committed both himself and the Exchange team to the project, buying the striking building for a pound in March 2016.

The team began to prepare for the monumental challenge of restoring the Coal Exchange to its former glory days, with a fresh leash of life and a Signature twist.

Voicing concerns surrounding the development, Lawrence shares:

“Nobody can truly give a costing of what the building will cost. I became a specialist in bringing back these buildings. You’ve just got to jump in and hope for the best”

Throughout the documentary, viewers are given an inside look at the disrepair behind the grand walls of the former Coal Exchange, with rotting insides, layers of damp and 1,300 tonnes of debris.

Compared to an onion, the building’s layers were pulled back during the development, showcasing the original features that made the Coal Exchange so special.

The completion of the first phase of work on the building proved an emotional moment for the team behind its success.

Though there’s plenty of work still to be done, at the Exchange we couldn’t be more proud of what’s been achieved so far.

Undoubtedly one of the most sentimental and influential buildings in Wales, the former Coal Exchange now stands proudly again in the heart of Cardiff Bay.

Following the revelation of the building to the public, Lawrence Kenwright proudly expresses:

“I feel quite emotional. To see the building now in it glory is amazing.”

The building looks better than it has done for over 50 years, and it’s only the beginning of this new chapter for the city.

The team could finally celebrate their nights of hard work and the achievement of meeting the daunting deadline.

Future plans for the Exchange include hosting Bute Town Arts and History Museum in the basement of the hotel, a local art gallery who sadly lost their funding in 2014.

Eager to celebrate the history of Cardiff Bay, Lawrence Kenwright has set his sights on making the gallery bigger and better than ever.

And of course, by Spring 2018, the Exchange Hotel will boast 204 bedrooms, welcoming guests from all around the world to explore the best of the city within the very building that once defined Cardiff’s place on the world map.

You can watch the full documentary on BBC iPlayer or below…