The recently renovated Coal Exchange in Cardiff was the hub of the international coal market at the turn of the century. It was here in 1904 that the first “million pound deal” in history was done and the first million pound cheque was signed.
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, which was reconstructed by Edwin Seward in 1911.
Following its opening, 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 floor might have as many as 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 here.
Cardiff’s reliance on coal made the city highly vulnerable to any downturn in the demand for it. With the end of the war the docks went into further decline. The Coal exchange closed in 1958 and coal exports came to an end in 1964.
The exchange building went into period of decline despite gaining Grade II listing in 1975.
The turn of the millennium saw the building used as a film location and refurbished as a music venue where artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereophonics and Biffy Clyro performed.
Sadly due to safety issues, the venue was closed for good in 2013 and the future of this historic building was bleak.
Jump forward to 2016 and the news the site had been acquired by Signature Living and was to be transformed into a Luxury Hotel and Spa.
Lawrence Kenwright of Signature Living described The Exchange Hotel as a ‘cantankerous old lady’, referring to the extensive renovation and structural issues which had to be overcome in order to get to where we are today. Signature Living has maintained the history and character of the Grade II listed building to make it the masterfully restored and beautifully preserved structure it deserves to be.
The building was in dire straits merely a few months ago, with tonnes of debris and speculation of an unstable framework. It was clear to see why the entire world thought there was no hope for the former hub of the world’s coal trade.
But Signature Living saw the same spark and potential that we saw in the once defunct 30 James Street – Home of The Titanic, and we took on the project with open arms, determined to make it a bustling business once more. Only this time by making it the most luxurious hotel that Cardiff has to offer.
Our opening weekend was a testament to the success of the restoration, showcasing the care taken in maintaining the heart and soul of the building. We preserved the historical furnishing and original aesthetics, and people were impressed with the love and care that went into making sure The Exchange Hotel was as glorious as it once was.
Team Refrigeration are delighted to have been a part of providing a new lease of life for this important historic building by providing external refrigeration to help with the launch and during the fit-out of what will be a great addition to the Cardiff scene.