In the 19th century, Cardiff was one of Britain’s major ports. London was the largest, needless to say, but Cardiff became a major coal exporting port after a railway link was added. At this time, the Norwegian had a significantly sized merchant fleet and Cardiff became one of the major centres of Norwegian operations.
At this time, the work of Sjømannskirken, the Norwegian Church Abroad organisation, resulted in a church being built in Cardiff Bay in 1868 to serve the religious needs of Norwegian sailors and expatriates. The original structure was clad in iron sheets and became known as the Norwegian Iron Church. However, it was reclad in wood at the end of the nineteenth century and then became the Little White Church.
During the industrial revolution, many Norwegian seafarers decided to settle in Cardiff to run businesses associated with shipping. One of the significant new residents was Harald Dahl, the father-to-be of Roald Dahl. The family were regular attendees of the church and Roald was baptised here.
The coal export business went through a slow decline, starting even before World War I, and post the second world war the export trade moved away from Cardiff. The involvement of Norwegian missions and associations declined, and the church was closed and deconsecrated in 1974. Roald Dahl played a strong role in campaigns to save the church from complete destruction, and although he did not live to see its reconstruction, it was saved and was reopened in 1992 by Princess Märtha Louise of Norway.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 16 July 2017
Posted as part of My Sunday Photo