Moving on: A window on the world

St Mary’s has ambitious plans as we make the most of our resources to create a sustainable Church that makes a difference to the wider community. This week, we received the final document and drawings from our Architect for some interior and exterior reordering. As we prepare to begin the process of seeking grants, our series of articles ‘Moving On’ shares some aspects of our plans.

Bute Street is a busy street with many people coming and going between the city centre and the Bay

Bute Street is a well-trodden path.  Visitors and tourists use it as a means to get from the city centre to the Bay.  Cardiff has been called a ten minute city and yet, on one particular Tourist Map widely available across Cardiff, between the city centre and the Bay is a rather undetailed part of the map, a ten minute walk, which doesn’t highlight any point of interest.  We know this area as Butetown but we don’t know it as an area of no interest!

Part of our development work is about celebrating the community of Butetown, its past and present, its history and culture, its life and loves!  We believe that Butetown has much to share with the world, so let’s share it!

Until now

The façade of St Mary’s Church on Bute Street is fairly misleading to modern eyes.  At times, it may look as if the church is closed and closed down.  No lights are seen through the windows, the doors are locked.  In fact, the central doors are not doors at all – they never have been – they back on to an internal apse, as do the tall windows.  Meanwhile, the two side doors, long ago used as one of many entranceways now lead nowhere. Until now.

Our work to the East end of St Mary’s, and to the boundary wall and entranceway, as well as the gardens will provide a colourful interaction with all who pass by, making the church building and gardens more accessible and inviting.  Amongst many other things!

The two central doors are not doors at all – they back onto an internal apse, as do the windows above which allows no light to shine from the inside out!

Wild Side

Our gardens are beginning to emerge with a sense of creativity and colour, carving out areas for nature to flourish, and provide opportunities for us to get close and closer to the natural environment, caring for the world and for our own health and well-being.  There will be volunteering opportunities, a chance to share and learn new skills, to be active and work alongside others, as we seek to strengthen community life and build friendships.  As well as being a place where people can work and explore, the gardens will also be a place where people can sit and relax.

Our plans will also serve as an inviting welcome to those who step into Butetown and, perhaps, will entice them to stay a bit longer, and not hurry through to the leisure and pleasure of Cardiff Bay, as we share and celebrate all that our community has to offer.

Our gardens are beginning to flourish, giving way to nature and providing a stimulating and relaxing environment for people!

Simple and Natural

For decades, surrounded by a growing city with developments scattered around us, Butetown has not always reaped the benefits of investment.  It has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the city, and yet we are just a stone’s throw from the vast investments of Cardiff Bay, the political power house of the Senedd, and of County Hall.  As the city centre and the Bay squeezes in, we want to ensure that Butetown stands tall and strong.


Perhaps we take so much for granted here – but what is simple and natural to us is not so easily achieved by many other parts of the country and even the world.  We know how people of different faiths, religions, creeds, cultures and colour can live alongside one another as friends and neighbours, working together to build and strengthen community life.  We want to share this with the wider world.

At St Mary’s, we will create a large central gateway in front of the War Memorial crucifix inviting people to enjoy the gardens and church.  The doors on the right of the church will give way to a new glazed entranceway, leading to a Display Area, telling the story of St Mary’s and, through our history and experiences, the story of Cardiff, and rejoicing in the diverse and multicultural community of which we are a part.  This area will support a hub of activity celebrating our history, heritage and identity.

Gathered for Remembrance Sunday at St Mary’s with some of our Muslim friends

Identity and Being

On the left of the building, another glazed door will reveal our Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which will share something of our own identity as Christians, and offer a window on the world, physically linking what we do inside the building with the world outside and the community and people we are called to serve.

Living with difference and diversity means having a strong identity, feeling confident to share that with others, being able to enter into dialogue, willing to learn about each other with openness and interest.

Yes, we want to put St Mary’s and the wider community of Butetown on the tourist trail and in the public mind, whilst always being faithful and committed to the people who live here, responding to their need, raising aspirations, building confidence, increasing opportunity, caring for people’s health and well-being, and building on all that is good about the place where we live, and the people we live alongside.

We’re excited to be moving on.

This is the first of several articles sharing our future plans.  Our next article explores the work that we are aiming to achieve with our gardens, and what other future opportunities there may be.

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