Newport Road, Cardiff

The one mile walk from the city center to the Inkspot along Newport Road revealed more church buildings of interest for adaptive reuse and the history of the city. (Newport Road is so named as it was the main road from Cardiff northeast to Newport before the highway came along.)

The first building of interest that I came across was just off Newport Road. My observations indicated that this building was a former church probably adapted to a new use similar to the Wallich Centre (see post on Cathedral Road, Cardiff) but with a strong religious component. A sign on the building read “UCKG Help Centre,” which suggested that it provided help to those in need. My ideas for the possible targeted audience included people experiencing homelessness, depression, or low-income. I identified the Centre’s religious focus from a sandwich board in front of the entrance advertising holy/healing oil.

I was correct in my supposition that the building’s original use was a church (after I discovered I mistakenly identified two other buildings as former churches I began to doubt my guess with this building). It was built as a Unitarian Church in the 1880s. However, I was mistaken in the new use. It turns out that UCKG stands for the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and therefore the building is still being used as a church, just not its original denomination.

The second building appeared permanently closed when I passed. This one clearly used to be a church.  The building appeared to be secure and in good condition, which is beneficial for any potential reuse.  This building was built as the Church of St James the Great in the 1890s and closed in 2006. A newspaper article from 2008 announces the redevelopment of the church’s spire into a seven-story flat (flat=apartment, please excuse my British vocab and spellings, such as centre, while I discuss British places).  The rest of the structure would be converted into 11 other one- and two-bedroom flats. However, there was no indication when I was passing that this has occurred or was in the process of occurring. There is no further mention of this redevelopment online, suggested it either fell through or is being held up.

I passed one more church building on Newport Road, one still used for religious worship, before reaching the Inkspot. This building interested me as it was a larger church complex than any of the others I passed, was a block away from the Inkspot, and part of a complex blocked off for construction work of some unknown sort.

Passing four church buildings, three of which were no longer housing their original uses, intrigued me. Coming from Pittsburgh, my immediate assumption was that Cardiff must have experienced a significant population loss. After all it used to be a major port—exporting more coal than probably any other port in the world. The port closed some time ago and Cardiff stopped exporting coal. I imagined this change resulted in the loss of many jobs and therefore a significant population loss followed. Yet, the population statistics for Cardiff over the last 200 years destroyed this theory. The population dipped slightly from 1971 to 1981, but by 1991 Cardiff had more residents than ever (see Cardiff Timeline for population statistics). The port closing may have influenced the dip in population, but net population loss cannot be the cause of the closed and adaptively reused religious buildings I observed in Cardiff.

I cannot verify my second theory for the reason these buildings lost their original uses. This theory is a change in the religious views of the population. This can go two ways. The first idea is that people are becoming less religious (this is how the Dutch explain their large number of churches adapted to new uses). I found a few articles that identify a similar trend in all of Britain (Number of Christians falls, Muslims pass on faith at higher rates than Christians). The second idea is that while the overall population is growing, people are still moving out and those that are moving in are of a different demographic or religion and therefore do not want the same religious institutions as those that came before them. Both theories are mostly speculation as I haven’t found detailed statistics on religious beliefs and practices in Cardiff, Wales, or Britain.

5 thoughts on “Newport Road, Cardiff

  1. Sad state of affairs. I am from a nearby town. Cardiff has quite a few new churches which are not seen in the old buildings but in hotels and centre’s around Cardiff. The picture of empty churches can be somewhat misleading, it does indicate a drop in traditional churches and established religion. However there is a new wave of people groups forming churches especially from Africa and Fiji that are bringing life back to UK. Britain which once evangelized these nations are finding the sons of those nations coming back and evangelizing us with a fresh zeal and vision for the church and this is good, healthy and much desired.

    • Thank you for your insight. As I only spent a few days in Cardiff this is a trend I wasn’t able to notice. (Also I apologize for the delay in my response, I was on a temporary hiatus from my blog.)

  2. I was just walking down Newport Road the other day, looking at the churches. I was surprised how many fine buildings there were, both on the main road and down various side-roads. Just my luck that my camera’s battery ran out, but I did manage a few photos, which can be seen if you scroll down towards the bottom of this page:–the-south-east.html . I’ve enjoyed looking at your blog.

  3. Pingback: Visualizing the Wealth Gap | urbantraipsing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s