CBHC / RCAHMW > News > Recording the Norwegian Church, Cardiff

Recording the Norwegian Church, Cardiff

The Norwegian Church (NPRN: 9321) is one of the landmark buildings of Cardiff Bay and because of its importance  has recently been digitally recorded for posterity by our survey team. Originally located at West Dock in Cardiff Bay, the Norwegian Church was built in 1868 by Sjømannskirken:The Norwegian Church Abroad as their first purpose-built Sjømannsmisjonen (Seamen’s Mission). At the time, the Norwegian merchant fleet was one of the largest in the world, and Cardiff, along with Liverpool and London, one of the UK’s largest ports. The church was therefore built by Pastor Carl Herman Lund to serve for the religious and social needs of Norwegian seamen while in port and becoming a focus for activity by the Norwegian community in the city.  

The church, made of a timber-frame shipped from Norway, was originally clad in corrugated iron sheeting at the request of the Cardiff harbour authorities so that it could be moved if needed. The simple construction made the building flexible, and various additions, including a reading room, were made between 1883 and 1894. By 1915, the small, simple Gothic church was hosting some 73,500 seamen a year.  Welsh ports had strong links with Norway, and many Norwegian sailors eventually settled in Wales, including the father of the author, Roald Dahl.

The Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay today

After the war, as Welsh coal and so the Norwegian presence in Cardiff declined, the church passed into the hands of the Lutheran Church. It closed in in 1974 and was left to deteriorate. The Cardiff Bay Development Corporation proposed demolition in 1987 to make way for a road, prompting the establishment of the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust, the first President of which was Roald Dahl. The Church was subsequently moved to its current site at East Dock, where the landowner requested that it was reclad in timber. Timber for the cladding, and for replacements to the framing were provided from Norway. The church was officially reopened on 8 April 1992 by Norwegian Princess Märtha Louise, and now operates as a community arts centre hosting cultural events.  

In 2022 the first phase of the Norwegian Church Heritage Project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, undertook to collate information and knowledge of the both the Cardiff Church and other seamen’s missions across south Wales at Newport and Swansea. In 2023 a second phase of work began to carry out further research and a programme of outreach and promotion regarding the history and heritage of the Norwegian community in Wales.  

As part of this project, the Royal Commission has carried out new, detailed survey work of the church to ensure digital preservation within the National Monuments Record of Wales, and to provide a basis for future digital education or engagement resources. Laser scanning of the interior and exterior has created a highly accurate point cloud of the structure (view a video fly-through on YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmEoo1ytmCE. and its fittings, while UAV photogrammetry of the exterior has provide a detailed model of the exterior (view the model on Sketchfab https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/eglwys-norwyaidd-norwegian-church-nprn-9321-51135848fd47446cae60dd36f05a6553. We have also carried out a new, detailed photographic survey, which will be available on our online database Coflein soon.

An aerial view of the Norwegian Church photographed by RCAHMW’s Survey Team

Susan Fielding Senior Investigator (Historic Buildings)

Bethan Hopkins-Williams Public Engagement Officer

18/06/2024

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