Keep it, change it

If there is one thing that exercises the bureaucratic brain cells of Town Planners it is ‘change of use’. After all, it might just disrupt the delicate equilibrium that only they can divine from a mountain of procedures and committee-based decision-making.

Spoiler alert for all planners… when places first emerge, anywhere on the planet, they tended to aggregate around a few houses, a church, a pub and a some commerce-based building. What they never thought they needed to get the whole affair up and running was an office full of planners and councillors to pontificate on and guide the great new adventure. If they did I would offer a suggestion for its shape, size and sense of relative importance (with a clear and present indication deep down in Cardiff Docks)…

What's left of the docks?

Which brings me to a lovely example of ‘change of use’ a mere few steps away from the above luxury office space. Way back in 1868 a Norwegian Church was constructed between the old Bute East and West Docks, as a place of cultural and spiritual solace initially for sailors of the Norwegian Fleet that frequently used Cardiff as a port of call.

It was originally clad in iron, being known as the Norwegian Iron Church, with a forward-thinking design that would allow it to be dismantled and moved as needed. For obvious reasons when viewed today, it later became known as the Little White Church, and now occupies pride of place overlooking Cardiff Bay, some half a mile from its original location.

Norwegian Church

So, the original design came to be tested in order that it could find a new berth. However,  the demise of a religious need over time also resulted in the very same building undergoing a successful transformation (or ‘change of use’ as the bureaucrats would have it). Who said there are too many coffee shops in the world these days?

Norwegian Church [3]

The old building has a strong link with a great son of Llandaff, and descendant of Norwegian stock, as Roald Dahl was baptised in the very building back in its original location, worshipped there as a child, and returned to sponsor its preservation in the newly emerging Cardiff Bay world of pleasure.

Norwegian Church [2]

Until we speak again, spare a thought for the Little White Church, and how the world has transformed from fire and brimstone to latte and cappuccino!

Worship in the Bay

Sunshine at 14 2Juno was a cat who knew what contemporary worship was all about… following the movement of any warm rays that shone into her home. Cardiff is not internationally known for its high sunshine quotient, so this act of worship required a depth of spirit and a persistence from deep down in the soul.

So this got me  reflecting on the current state of worship in my native city. With the sounds of a slightly out of tune bell-ringing practice resounding from St. Mary’s Church on Bute Street, I thought about the spiritual foundation of this once thriving maritime city being located somewhere ‘down the docks’. So perhaps the newly minted Cardiff Bay would be the place to investigate the changing face of contemporary worship. Traditionally worship has needed a place, usually in the form of a church…

Norwegian Church [2]


The Norwegian Church was originally built to meet the spiritual needs of Scandinavian seamen during their stay in the port of Cardiff. But a cursory knowledge of the area (aka being an old git) immediately indicates it is not located today where it was originally erected. True, its water-side setting on the Bute West Dock was seriously disrupted when the dock was firstly closed, secondly filled in, and finally built over with residences and a dual carriageway! So relocation would surely be for reasons of accommodating the recognised ley lines of the spiritually inclined. Well, perhaps not, as that would be forgetting that a new source of 21st century worship is… um… coffee!

Norwegian Church [3]

With coffee challenging for the mantle of a dominant religion, I wondered what might offer any competition. Look no further than 100 yards from the altar of the bean… Is it sharp? Is it groovy? Well, yes to both of those; but is it a home of worship? Katradius is an imposing marbled neighbour to the Senedd, home of Welsh government.

Sharp & groovy [1]


Sharp & groovy [2]





And it conveniently represents everything that contemporary politicians seem to worship… mammon. Such outward projections of ostentatious élan are hardly within the purview of your modern day happy clappy’s! For here lies the home of corporate finance, nonchalant in its lack of connection with everyone else who passes it by; pointedly projecting to the watery horizon beyond the enclosed bay upon which it sits (and no doubt slurps from the secretive and exclusive pond for the already bloated and bounteous).

World Harmony Peace Statue [1]Perhaps there is a spiritual sign, at the mid-point between coffee and dosh, as I stroll bayside in deep contemplation of what became of the historic fire and brimstone tradition of Welsh methodism. No, it was not the new location of spiritual leadership and guidance, cunningly placed next to a car park. It is the World Peace Statue, with no less a message of deep calling for the secular masses who pass it by often oblivious to its presence.

Was I really having these deeply philosophical reflections? Or, in reality, was I just imbued with Juno’s other main source of worshipful activity… contemplating the next meal! Strange that, because a cursory glance across Mermaid Quay illuminates the other modern day focus of our worship…

Mermaid Quay

Until we speak again may your worshipful exertions bring you whatever nourishment floats your boat!