Back to the beginning
Here, as you look across Bute Street from St Mary’s Church, all you see is a high wall, and a line which carries a train back and forth from the city centre to the Bay, three times an hour.
It’s a very different view from what you would have seen 180 years ago.
In 1839, just across the Railway line, in what is now known as Lloyd George Avenue, Bute West Dock was opened. Before 1830, Bute Street didn’t exist at all. Then you would have been standing on marshland which led to the sea.
Perhaps you can imagine the sight of ships and cranes, the screech of trams, the smoke, the sound of working men.
Cardiff was beginning to pull in workers from around the world, and they settled in the streets around the docks. Its population boomed. Within forty years it grew from 1,870 to 10,000 (by 1840) more than half of which lived in St Mary’s parish. A new church was needed.
The site of the church was given by the Second Marquess of Bute (you’ll see a statue of him a minute’s walk away at Callaghan Square).
He bought the patronage of the parish from the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester, and gave £1,000 – but extra money was needed, which included the sale of specially written poems by Williams Wordsworth and John Montgomery.
Nestled within the expanding docklands area, surrounded by terraced houses, shops, schools, pubs and clubs, the new church opened in 1843, although it wasn’t fully completed and consecrated until 1845.
The occasion was greeted with great celebrations and processions through what was then a town. Cardiff received city status in 1905.
WHEN Severn's sweeping flood had overthrown St. Mary's Church, the preacher then would cry:-- "Thus, Christian people, God his might hath shown That ye to him your love may testify; Haste, and rebuild the pile."--But not a stone Resumed its place. Age after age went by, And Heaven still lacked its due, though piety In secret did, we trust, her loss bemoan. But now her Spirit hath put forth its claim In Power, and Poesy would lend her voice; Let the new Church be worthy of its aim, That in its beauty Cardiff may rejoice! Oh! in the past if cause there was for shame, Let not our times halt in their better choice. William Wordsworth