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Story of Norwegians in south Wales told in new exhibition

17 May 2023 3 minute read
Cardiff Bay’s Norwegian Church. Photo by Michael Gwyther-Jones is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A new exhibition will tell the story of the Norwegians who came to south Wales in the mid 1800s as seamen and merchants servicing the coal trade.

The exhibition will open today (May 17) in the upstairs gallery at the Norwegian church in Cardiff to coincide with Norway’s National Day and the first anniversary of the church’s reopening.

Norway’s Constitution Day marks the anniversary when in 1814 the country asserted its right to exist as an independent nation after four centuries of Danish rule.

It took a further 91 years before this was finally achieved.

The exhibition will be available at the Norwegian church in Cardiff from today until the end of June.


At one point there were so many Norwegians living in south Wales that the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission established four churches – in Cardiff, Swansea, Barry and Newport.

The churches not only served as places of worship, but also as community centres, libraries, and providers of welfare and communication for people far from home.

As the coal trade declined, and congregations became more integrated into Welsh society, the churches closed.

However, the buildings in Cardiff and Swansea were preserved, albeit on new sites, and now the Cardiff church is the home of a thriving arts and cultural centre and café.

Thanks to a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant and with the support of the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission in Bergen, heritage officer Thomas Alexander Husøy-Ciaccia has been tracing the story of the churches in south Wales and their communities, and has curated a new exhibition at the Norwegian church in Cardiff Bay.

In a new video he tells Kevin Burden of the Welsh Norwegian Society about the churches’ place amongst the rapid changes in Wales in the 19th and 20th centuries.


To celebrate Norway’s National Day, Norwegians in national dress will lead a procession from the Wales Millennium Centre to the Church at 4.45 pm today, accompanied by the band of the Salvation Army.

Outside the waterside church the red white and blue flag will be hoisted and the national anthem – called “Yes, we love this land” – will be sung.

The Norwegian Church café will serve favourite food, such as waffles and cinnamon buns.

The exhibit will be available from 17th May and will run until the end of June.

A full programme for the celebrations as well as information about the Norwegians in Wales is available on the website of the Welsh Norwegian Society here.

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