After facing years of uncertainty, the building that once housed Cardiff’s Coal Exchange now has a promising place in Cardiff’s exciting future. After Signature Living bought and began restoring the Coal Exchange, the focus on preserving the buildings important past was paramount. Signature Living are confident about protecting the past of The Coal Exchange having realised success’ from restorations of other prominent buildings with similar interesting histories.
Take a journey with us as we explore the cultural and economic effect the building of The Coal Exchange has had upon the rest of Cardiff. From the rise of Cardiff’s wealth and infrastructure, the eventual decline Cardiff suffered after the impacts of WW1 on the coal industry, right through to today.
Introducing Cardiff to the world
The 2nd Marquess of Bute can be thanked for kick-starting a recognised change in Cardiff. His efforts to modernise Cardiff resulted in the development of the coal and iron industries across South Wales and the building of Cardiff docks.
The construction of the Taff Vale railway opening of Bute west dock saw Cardiff become the world’s main exporter of coal. A success that introduced Cardiff city to the rest of the world and brought merchants and sailors from far and wide.
To ease the transport of coal across the UK and to give people access to and from London the Great Western railway was built in 1850. Thus, a cosmopolitan Cardiff was born.
Building the Coal Exchange
Because of all the wealthy business transactions taking place daily in Cardiff, those in power decided they needed a suitable place to conduct their affairs.
Somewhere grand and central to the prosperous area of Bute docklands. The area of Mount Stuart Square had become a haven for rich and powerful merchants living in Cardiff and their families.
As well as the stunning residential Georgian style homes, there was also a central area that was essentially a communal garden and it was here that the location for a new place of trading was chosen.
In 1883, The Coal Exchange was commissioned to architect Edwin Seward with instructions to create a grand building befitting of those who would frequent its halls. The Coal Exchange was indeed grand and daily saw masses of merchants, coal barons and businessmen flow in and out of the main trading halls.
Following years of successful business deals taking place within The Coal Exchange a Bank as constructed in the courtyard which saved the insecurity of transporting large sums of cash across great distances.
In 1901, The Coal Exchange achieved global notoriety when the first £1 million business deal was conducted and as a result, the first £1 million cheque was signed inside the walls of The Coal Exchange.
Such wealth and continued economic growth resulted in The Coal Exchange being revamped. The interiors of the main trading and shipping hall were given a glamorous makeover. Edwin Seward was given free reign to further adorn the interior with opulent carved woodwork. Two huge tidal clocks were mounted at the foot of colossal lion sculptures in the grand hall allowing merchant sailors to keep track of time and of course, the infamous Dragon Clock was commissioned with its poignant reminder “Tempus Fugit”.
All pieces of opulent furnishing that reflected a prosperous time in Cardiff and remain as steadfast fixtures today.
The impact WW1 had on business’s in Cardiff was irrecoverable. The coal industry crashed because of the availability of cheap German coal across Europe and the replacement of coal with oil as an alternative maritime fuel.
The area of the Bute docklands declined and The Coal Exchange closed its doors for business in 1961. By 1964 the export of coal from Cardiff had ceased altogether.
The Coal Exchange building fell into disrepair and the surrounding areas plunged into a deep depression.
By 1975 the Coal Exchange was granted Grade II listed status and from here various proposals for how to utilise the building were put forward. These included plans to house the Welsh assembly as well as using the building for a conference centre. There were even proposals for a hotel as early as 1987.
In 1981, the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation took ownership of The Coal Exchange and began developing the once thriving docklands to become what is now known as Cardiff Bay. Their efforts saw the redevelopment of a struggling area, with hopes of increasing employment opportunities and a recognition of Cardiff’s maritime significance.
Under new ownership by 2001, the Coal Exchange was saved from obscurity and transformed into an established music venue. The building played host to the Welsh music awards in 2002 as well as other chart-topping acts such as the Arctic Monkeys and the Stereophonics.
This success was not to last and due to structural instability and the bankruptcy of the owners The Coal Exchange closed again in 2014.
Once again, the building that had been given new life and brought crowds back into Mount Stuart Square was left to deteriorate.
That is until Signature Living saw the potential for something new and exciting.
Signature Living’s Exchange Hotel will now be the proud home to a stunning luxurious hotel, two stunning wedding and events venues as well as two spectacular restaurants with future plans to build a relaxing on-site spa.
Exchange Hotel will honour the memory of The Coal Exchange as an important landmark in Cardiff’s past. Exchange Hotel will help bring visitors to Cardiff from far and wide to an area that has been at the centre of the cities rise and fall over the last two centuries.
Signature Living is looking forward to the impact Exchange Hotel will have on Cardiff’s future and are excited to be able to contribute towards such a rich and fascinating piece of Welsh heritage.