The History of Cardiff's Iconic Mount Stuart Square - Exchange Hotel Cardiff
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The History of Cardiff’s Iconic Mount Stuart Square

The Exchange Hotel is set to become one of Cardiff’s most impressive transformations. Located in the historic Mount Stuart Square, discover the history of the iconic central location. From life before the hustle and bustle of the coal era all the way to the present day, and find out what Signature Living has in store for the iconic building.

Nestled just minutes walk from Cardiff Bay lies Mount Stuart Square, the home of The Exchange Hotel, in the former Cardiff Coal Exchange Building.

The Exchange Hotel is the midpoint within the square, providing a beacon for the people of Cardiff. Standing tall and enduring, never faltering in its nearly 150-year history, the Cardiff Coal Exchange Building was always going to be the perfect place for Signature Living to continue with their passion for restoring historic buildings, opening the doors of The Exchange Hotel.

But the square itself holds a wealth of history. Named after Lord Mount Stuart, heir to the Bute Estate and elected MP for Cardiff in 1790, a position which he held until his death in 1794.

Previously, the square served as beautiful residential communal gardens thanks to the grid-patterned suburb that was created for port workers, though much of this was demolished or converted as the coal business in the area grew, and the square became the area’s commercial centre.

The birth of The Coal Exchange

As Cardiff’s unfathomable reputation as the world’s leading coal exporter grew, The Coal Exchange was built as a central hub for the daily deals and trade negotiations, the price of the world’s coal was priced here too. With its proximity to the Bute Docks, the square offered the perfect location.

Between 1884 and 1888, The Coal Exchange was born. With up to 10,000 people bustling in and out of its doors every day, and 200 people on the trading room floor at peak times, all shouting and gesturing and fighting for the fruit of South Wales’ coal mines.

The first ever £1 million cheque was signed at Mount Stuart Square in 1909, unsurprisingly at The Coal Exchange itself, securing its status as a grand setting for the bustle of the biggest business in Wales at the time.

Cardiff Coal Exchange in Mount Square

The end of an era

After the Second World War, the demand for coal slumped as international markets developed their own steel industries. By the 1960’s demand for coal had almost completely ceased, leading to the closure of all but two of Cardiff’s docks.

Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, the remaining port worker’s houses in the Mount Stuart Square area had been demolished under slum clearance and replaced with social housing, and by the early 1980’s, Cardiff Bay was run down both physically and economically.

The area was recognised as a designated conservation area in July 1980 because of the Square’s context in the history of Cardiff’s commercial growth.

In 1987 the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation was set up to aid in the regeneration of Mount Stuart Square and its surrounding area. Grants were given to encourage development throughout the area, and to encourage the development of new homes, office, retail, and leisure space. Thanks to the statutory listing of buildings in Mount Stuart Square, many of the buildings were retained through the decades of change.

Mount Stuart Square today

Although the last gram of coal was traded in 1958, the wealth and elite environment of Mount Stuart Square lives on. The nature of the area seems like it has drastically changed, but with art shops, media companies and design studios in abundance, the debonair atmosphere still lingers.

The eclectic mix of styles and sizes of buildings across Mount Stuart Square and its surrounding area help to tell the story of development, prosperity, decline and regeneration.

Following the business’ closure, the building lent itself as a music venue, film set, and was even considered as the location for the Welsh Assembly, and the headquarters of Welsh TV channel, S4C.

Property and construction group Macob Limited gained permission in 2006 for a £20 million development which would have included 116 apartments, two restaurants, shops and office space, however, the plans fell through after the company went into administration. Cardiff council then began the search for someone to take over the development, with Signature Living proving that they were the best people for the job.

Cardiff Coal Exchange before renovation began.

Signature Living purchased The Coal Exchange building and are already well on the way to restoring the listed building to its former glory. The building will maintain its original structure, with none of the original, external walls being replaced.

Your stay at The Exchange Hotel

Choose from a range of luxury suites, sleeping between 2 and 6 people, all with amazing views, Bluetooth surround sound and double whirlpool baths. Or, book a table at the fine dining restaurant, enjoying a full Welsh breakfast in the morning or an afternoon tea with bubbles.

The Exchange Hotel also offers the best wedding venue for mixing luxury with history in the iconic building. Choose from a range of packages to make your day one to remember for everyone.

The large function hall will be perfect for weddings.

Call the team on 029 2000 7526 to speak to The Exchange Hotel advisers about your perfect stay, or fill in our enquiry form to speak to us.

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