Harbour Drive
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff CF10 4PA
 
 
Set amongst the ultra-modern buildings on Cardiff Bay’s waterfront is a charming old wooden church. This obviously Scandinavian building is the famous Norwegian Church built in the 19th century to cater for the religious and social needs of thousands of Norwegian merchant seamen who lived in the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
 
The Norwegian Church is now known as an Arts Centre but it is really much more than that. It is a memorial museum and still a place where the community can meet to enjoy a wide range of concerts, to hold meetings, dinners, wedding receptions, and attend dance and fitness classes. Although no longer consecrated, the church is popular for Wedding Blessings. Exhibitions are held in the Grieg Room and the Dahl Gallery.
 
Open
The building is open to visitors daily from 10:30 – 16:00 hours.
 
Facilities
Norsk Coffee Shop and Toilets.
Enjoy panoramic views of the waterfront and freshwater lake while partaking of a coffee, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea.
 
Disabled Access
Access is to the ground floor only. A ramped access to the building is provided at the rear; approach via Harbour Drive.
Disabled Toilets available.
 
Special Artefacts
Holding pride of place in the Arts Centre are several historic artefacts:
 
Harald and Sofie Dahl married in 1911 and settled in Llandaff, Cardiff. Born in 1916, Roald Dahl spent his childhood in the Welsh capital, where his family worshipped at the Norwegian Church. Both Roald and his siblings were christened at the church ad their family christening bowl is located in the Dahl Gallery.
 
The model ship hanging from the ceiling in the Grieg Room symbolises the journey through life and is always facing the altar. It was donated by the Norwegian Church in Liverpool.
 
The stained glass window is dedicated to the memory of Huw Roger Allan, vice chairman of the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust. The window of the fish represents the church’s history with Norwegian Sailors.
 
The Norwegian Sailors Memorial was donated by the Branch of the Norwegian Veterans Association for South- West Britain. The shield was made as a thank you gift for the Pastor of the Norwegian Church, Rolf Rassmussen. During the Nazi occupation of Norway, in World War II, the church became a lifeline for the Norwegian merchant sailing fleet which was unable to return home.
 
The anchor and oars were discovered beneath the chancel in the form of a cross. The oars are believed to be from the lifeboat of a Norwegian sailing ship. A small anchor was also discovered and is now displayed as a memory of the church maritime heritage.
 
History
In the 19th century, Norwegian ships transported Scandinavian timber to South Wales for use as ‘pit props’ in the coal mines, and would then export coal back to Norway.
 
This unusual Arts Centre recalls the days when Cardiff was chosen by the Norwegian Merchant Fleet to be the base for its operations. At this time, Britain’s three major ports were London, Liverpool and Cardiff, and the Norwegian merchant fleet was the third largest in the world.
 
Cardiff was the first British port to have a Norwegian Sailor’s church established. It was founded in 1868 by Herman Lunde of Oslo and built on land between the East and West Docks, donated by the Marquis of Bute.
 
The Church was first and foremost a seaman’s mission, but it was also a home from home for sailors where they could write letters home, read Scandinavian newspapers and magazines, and relax and chat with friends.
 
Church History
Over the years the small church was extended with the addition of larger reading rooms, and in 1885 a gallery and bell tower were added. Inside, the church was decorated with paintings and plants, and a model sailing ship hung from the ceiling in the chancel. Portraits of the royal families from Norway, Denmark and Sweden with paintings of Norwegian scenery were hung on the walls of the reading rooms, whilst tapestry runners and miniature Norwegian Flags decorated the tables.
 
The Church was very busy at this time and became world famous as a meeting place for Scandinavian sailors. Between 1867 and 1915 the church welcomed up to 70,000 seafarers annually, with many social evenings being held in a place where sailors could relax and converse with friends in their native tongue.
 
Closure
It was the oldest church in Britain founded by the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission and was the centre of Scandinavian religion, culture and tradition.
 
As the export of coal declined after WWII, the Norwegian ships turned elsewhere for trade. Eventually Cardiff Port fell into decline and the Seamen’s Mission was no longer supported by the Church of Norway. The Lutherans supported it for a while and the local congregation continued to use the building until it was closed and deconsecrated in 1974.
 
Cardiff Bay Regeneration
The building lay derelict and vandalised and was threatened with demolition when the Cardiff Bay redevelopers wanted the historic church site for the new Wales Millennium Centre.
 
Fortunately, the Norwegian Community, aided and abetted by international author Roald Dahl, decided to raise funds to save the church and move it to its new site next to the lock from which Captain Scott’s fatal Terra Nova Antarctic Expedition left. The Captain Scott Sculpture beside the church is a fine memorial to this brave man.
 
Roald Dahl Connection
The lovely little wooden building is famous for its connection with internationally renowned author, Roald Dahl. Dahl was born in Cardiff and worshipped in the church as a small boy.
 
The Welsh Norwegian community included maritime businessmen as well as seamen. In 1880 Cardiff resident, Harold Dahl from Oslo, co-founded a successful ship-broking company in partnership with Andnessen. This successful company had offices in the ports of Newport, Swansea and Port Talbot.
 
The Dahls lived in Fairweather Road, Llandaff and were members of the Norwegian Church congregation. On 13 September 1916 their son Roald was born and was baptised in the Norwegian Church. Roald and his sisters spent their early childhood in Cardiff, worshipping at the Church and regularly taking part in cultural activities.
 
In 1987 the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust was established to rescue the little white church and Roald Dahl became its first appointed president. Sadly, he died in 1990 before the reconstruction of the Church was complete.
 
In order to honour this famous first president, an annual Roald Dahl Birthday Party is held for children within the Church every September. This successful event is a lovely way to honour this great author’s connection with the building.
 
To find out more about Roald Dahl’s children’s books, his life and works, visit:
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0) 2920 877959
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Getting There
Detailed directions for travelling by ferry, bicycle, public transport and car can be found on the official website - link above.
 
51.2740
3.0942