Every Thursday door loving bloggers from around the world come together to share photos of doors and tell the stories behind them. My entry to Norms Thursday doors this week is from Cardiff the capital of Wales which we visited for a St. David’s day walk on Sunday. The little white clapboard church with its stubby spire where Roald Dahl was baptised is in stark contrast to the imposing modern buildings including the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff bay.
The small door has the word welcome in three languages croeso (welsh) welcome (English) and velkommen (Norwegian).
In the 19th century Cardiff was a major west coast port along with Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. Millions of tons of coal were exported to power the factories of the industrial revolution as well as steam trains and ships. It is claimed that the first million pound cheque was signed in Cardiff’s coal exchange building. This may be a myth but certainly the new found prosperity attracted a large international community including many Norwegians. A lot of pit props were made from Norwegian spruce and Norwegian merchant ships would have been a common sight in the docks.
In 1868 the Marquess of Bute gave the Lutheran church of Norway a piece of land close to the docks so that they could build a church. The first church was built out of iron sheets and designed to be moved if necessary on the instructions of the harbour master. In 1894 it was clad in wood and became known as the little white church.
The Dahl family
One of the Norwegians attracted to Cardiff was Harald Dahl from Oslo. He settled in Llandaff and co-founded a shipping company. He and his wife Sofie worshiped regularly in the little white church and all their children were christened there. Roald was named after the explorer Roald Amundsen who beat Captain Scott to the South Pole.
Roald Dahl became one of the best known authors of Children’s books including Matilda, the BFG, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the chocolate factory. His books have sold more than 250 million copies world wide. I am sure we have all got our favourites.
The church became a refuge for Norwegian sailors offering food and shelter especially during the first world war and the second world war when Norway was under Nazi occupation.
After the second world war the Coal industry declined as did the port of Cardiff. The last seamen’s priest Per Konrad Hansen was withdrawn and the church was closed and deconsecrated in 1974. It seemed likely that the church would be demolished to make way for road widening but the church preservation trust with Roald Dahl as its first president managed to raise £250,000 to allow the church to be disassembled and put into storage.
Cardiff bay has undergone an immense transformation in recent years with the Cardiff millennium centre being built on the original site. In 1992 reconstruction of the church was started and it was reopened by Princess Martha Louise of Norway. Although he did not live to see it I think Roald Dahl would have been proud.
It is now a coffee shop, art gallery and craft centre and visitors can still see the christening bowl where Roald Dahl and his sisters were christened. On warm days you can sit outside with a drink and look out over the bay. Find out more here
Visiting Cardiff bay and the Norwegian church
Cardiff bay is about two miles from the train station and town centre. We enjoyed a pleasant river walk along the Taff trail which starts in Roald Dahl Plas. If you are feeling less energetic you can catch the train or the Number 6 bus.
The Cardiff bay barrage which was one of the most ambitious engineering projects in Europe created an enormous freshwater lake by capturing water from the river Taff and the river Ely. It has allowed the port area to develop from the notorious Tiger bay into one of the most prestigious waterside developments in Britain. You can also visit the Welsh Assembly building or some of the many shops or restaurants in the vicinity.