“Don’t let the corporate men destroy your city” – Patti Smith
(When she played at The Exchange and noted the state of disrepair)
Built between 1883 and 1886 to house the business negotiations surrounding the global sale of coal mined from the South Wales valleys, the Coal Exchange is a symbol of Wales’s industry and prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is famous as the place where the first million-pound cheque was written, to buy coal for France. Roald Dahl’s father was a member of the Exchange. But as the coal industry wound down in the mid-20th century, so did the Coal Exchange and trading ceased in 1958.
In the 1970s the building was Grade II* listed and it was originally earmarked as a potential home for the new Welsh Assembly.
More recently, it has been home to a range of creative industries. It has been used as a set for many films and television programmes, notably the “Titanic” episode of Doctor Who. Its Hall has hosted great and memorable gigs by the Manic Street Preachers, the Stereophonics, Van Morrison and Patti Smith.
In 2013, the majority of the building was closed, following a structural survey, by order of Cardiff Council. However, a small number of businesses continued to operate from one wing. In September 2014 the building’s current owners went into liquidation and handed the building to the Crown Estates, opening the way for a community campaign to emerge to save the building.