Over the years this iconic building has been the backdrop for many TV shows, concerts and helped put Cardiff Bay on the world map. We’re delving deeper into the history of the Coal Exchange and how it helped shape Cardiff Bay into how we know it today.
Commissioned in 1884 and completed in 1886 by the Cardiff Exchange and Office Co Ltd. The company was founded by Frederick de Courcy Hamilton who was a local solicitor who played a formative role in Cardiff’s development. The main purpose of the building was to provide a dedicated location for merchants and traders to sell coal, following the similar function of buildings in London, Liverpool, and Manchester.
The building was built and opened in stages, the central trading hall and east block completed first, comprising of the Trading Hall a large central space with suites and offices located off the balcony. The building played an important role in the industrial Cardiff of the 19th century. Paired Corinthian columns, an oak balcony, and rich wood panelling adorn the trading hall.
Once opened, coal owners, ship owners and their agents met daily on the floor of the trading hall where agreements were made by word of mouth and telephone. During the peak trading hour of midday to one o’clock, the trading floor was said to of had 200 men gesticulating and shouting. It was estimated that up to 10,000 people would pass in and out of the building each day. At one time the price of the world’s coal was determined within the building. The trading floor was the where the first ever £1,000,000 deal was agreed. On one ordinary day, 15 August 1908, Andresen & Dahl dispatched 1,300 tons of coal from Cardiff to Ghent, Belgium. Other shipments brokered at the Exchange that day included: 5,500 tons of coal from Ferndale, Rhondda, to Genoa, Italy: 4,500 tons to Port Said, Egypt; and 2,500 tons to Portsmouth for the Royal Navy.
During 1915 the building underwent a lavish refurbishment by Edwin Seward and reopened as the ‘New Exchange Building’, during the refurbishment an extension was added to the south section of the building and connected to the trading hall.
Following a long decline in coal exports, the New Exchange closed in 1958. The building was subsequently used for concerts, meetings, and other activities. Before the people of Wales voted against devolution in 1979.
In 1979, the Coal Exchange was earmarked as a future home of the proposed Welsh Assembly and a heavily reinforced underground car park was constructed but the plan for devolution was rejected by the Welsh people in a referendum. In 1983 the building was considered as a headquarters for the Welsh language television station S4C, though this also failed to take off. The Trading floor was used regularity as a filming location for various part of the entertainment industry, for example the Titanic in BBC’s Doctor Who starting kylie Minogue.
In 1988 the building was required and subsequently completely refurbished in 2002 to turn it into a major venue. During it’s time as a music venue it hosted acts such as the Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereophonics and Biffy Clyro. On April 7th, 2013, because of safety issues and liquidation of the company the venue closed.
In 2016, it was announced that the building was to be fully refurbished to a hotel by a Liverpool based company. The company started the redevelopment in 2016 with the hotel opening partly in May of 2017. During the redevelopment the hotel featured on a BBC documentary entitled Saving The Coal Exchange. During the summer of 2020, the Liverpool based company fell into administration leaving the future of the building in limbo.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a Cardiff based company Eden Grove Properties along with the investors joined forces to save the redevelopment and the jobs at the Hotel. The hotel subsequently reopened under new ownership and management with no affiliation to the previous owners. As the new owners continue with the redevelopment the hotel once finished will host 104 bedrooms, an on-site restaurant and bar, gym, spa, learning zone, conference & Events rooms.