Last month, I spent a few days each in Cardiff (the capital of Wales) and London. Before going, I had done some research on the adaptive reuse of church buildings in London, but none on Cardiff. Despite this, I almost had more success with exploring repurposed churches on the ground in Cardiff than London.
The pamphlet in my hotel room in Cardiff, highlighting things to do in the city, contained an add for the Inkspot–a crafts store housed in a former church. This was an amazing find as not only am I into the adaptive reuse of church buildings, but I am also a craft-person. Additionally, none of the repurposed churches I have come across in Pittsburgh have a use like this. Most in Pittsburgh are adapted to housing, restaurants/bars, and community centers. So this building presented a new option of how church space can be used.
As a crafts store, it was a bit disappointing. The items for sale were the same as what I would find in any crafts store in the US. Perhaps I should have expected that, as how different can paint or pencils be from country to country? I however was hoping for an experience more like going to the grocery store in the UK vs. the US. Both sell food, but the options are slightly different. First the fruit is more naturally sized, unlike our bananas and apples on steroids. In the bakery department, I found personal-sized baguettes, brioche, and crumpets. Yogurt flavors were different–such as strawberries and clotted cream. Among the juices I found Apple & Beetroot and Grape & Elderberry flavors. I thought the crafts store would be like that, similar products, but just enough different that I would be able to find somethings I wouldn’t find in a crafts store in the US.
As a repurposed church, the Inkspot was fascinating. The owner was in while I was visiting so I was able to add some facts to my observations. The building was built in 1868. When the 100 year lease came up in 1968, the landlord refused to grant the church a renewal. The building is located on Newport Road, which at least at one time was the main road between Cardiff and Newport (another potentially important city in Wales), near two intersections. It is prime real estate and in the 60’s there was talk of the road being widened, which would have required the demolition of the church. For whatever reason, this plan did not go through and in 1995 the owner and his family purchased the building to move their crafts store into it. Upon purchasing, they were advised to tear down the building and start from scratch, but they took the risk of spending the money to repair the damage from decades of being empty.
They modified the building slightly, by making the sanctuary two stories. The first floor had paper crafts, kids crafts, yarn, etc, while the second floor was dedicated to painting supplies with an art gallery in the back above where the altar used to be. The downstairs felt a little claustrophobic, but the upstairs still felt huge and airy. I could not decide from just walking around and observing the building if the two-story design was original or added during the repurposing. It must have been huge inside when it was a church. In addition to the crafts supplies for sale and the art gallery, there was space for artists studios in what I assume must have been office space previously.
I did not feel comfortable taking pictures inside where the sale items were, but I did take the picture below of the staircase. The white walls and green carpeting were used throughout the store.