Campaign aims to save Cardiff's Coal Exchange

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Media captionThere is a campaign to save the building

Wales risks losing a key part of its historical heritage according to campaigners trying to find a buyer for Cardiff's Coal Exchange.

The Victorian building's owners went into liquidation earlier this month.

One conservation expert warns that basic maintenance work is urgently needed before the winter sets in.

Cardiff Council said it recognised the building's significance and along with Cadw hopes to lead a working group to take the project on.

Meanwhile, Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty wants interested groups to join forces to secure its future.

The Coal Exchange is regarded as one of the city's most significant historical buildings, and was the place where the first ever £1m cheque was signed.

Image copyright Glamorgan Archive

The Coal Exchange - a short history

  • It dates back to 1883 when Cardiff was at the centre of the coal trade
  • Steam coal and ship owners and their agents met daily on the trading floor
  • At one time the price of the world's coal was determined there and in 1904 the world's first recorded £1m deal was struck at the exchange
  • It closed in 1958 after the decline of the coal industry in Cardiff
  • It was earmarked as a future home for the Welsh Assembly but that plan fell through after devolution was rejected in a 1979 referendum
  • In more recent years it has been used for concerts, dinners and other events
  • There were plans for the exchange hall to be restored and a 1,300-seat banqueting hall, public square, office space and innovation centre developed

Former owners GYG Exchange Limited said earlier this month that increasing maintenance costs and difficult market conditions had forced them into liquidation, despite what it described as "significant investment" in the building over the years.

Ownership of the building has now reverted to the Crown.

Conservation expert John Avent warned basic maintenance was urgently needed to protect it before the end of the year.

'Public safety'

Mr Doughty, who has formed an action group, told BBC Wales he had held productive talks in recent days with the council and individuals and is still confident a "creative solution" can be found.

"I've actually been overwhelmed by the response from people all across Wales - from engineers and architects to people who had enjoyed the Coal Exchange as a building," said Mr Doughty.

"It's clearly going to require a very significant sum of money and effort to save and it's clearly going to be a very difficult process."

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Media caption'Huge historical importance' says MP, Stephen Doughty

In July, representatives of heritage body Cadw and the council attended a meeting in Cardiff to discuss concerns about plans for a £20 million redevelopment to include the demolition of some parts of the interior.

Historian Phil Carradice said, "It's an iconic building in Cardiff's history, it's an iconic building in Welsh history and I think it's an iconic building in world history. And the fact that it's no longer a viable concern I think is appalling.

"It needs to be protected, it needs to be preserved. It's as important as one of the great castles of Wales in its own way."

Cardiff Council said that it recognised the significance of the Coal Exchange, had worked over the past year with the former owners "to try to find a feasible way forward".

Image caption Boarded up - the Coal Exchange has been compared to a castle in terms of historical importance

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