Fr Jones of Cardiff

Part 1: Cardiff

Fr Griffith Arthur Jones arrived in Cardiff as the Vicar of St Mary’s in 1872. The first part of this trail guides us through various places in this city to help us tell the story of his life and ministry particularly in the Docks area of Cardiff, although you don’t have to travel to do this!

There’s no particular order to the route you need to take. The places aren’t chronologically ordered. Each venue simply invites you to discover an aspect of Fr Jones’ life and faith.

Cardiff Castle

A dear old man, with a delightful face: kind, simple, innocent, and childlike’

Cardiff Castle was rebuilt by the Bute family, and the third Marquess of Bute scandalised society when he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1868.  Despite this, he still held the patronage of St Mary’s Church.

When the ageing Evangelical Vicar, Canon Leigh, retired to a quieter country parish, the man who lived beyond these walls, the richest man in the world, sought out someone from within the catholic tradition of the Church of England.  He set his sights on Fr Jones who arrived at St Mary’s in 1872.

The Oxford Movement, which begun in 1833, rediscovered the catholic heart of the Church of England.  It began in the pulpits of the Oxford Colleges but by the time Fr Jones arrived in Cardiff it had already started to take root in the lives of priests and parishes throughout the country, priests like Fr Jones who studied in Oxford until he was ordained deacon in 1851.  Up until his arrival, St Mary’s was decisively evangelical and he discovered a church that was akin to “a preaching house” and not conducive to catholic worship.  Things were about to change.

There were many difficulties both local and national.  Two years after his arrival, the government passed the Public Worship Regulation Act (1874) to limit the growing ritualism within the Church of England, punishing priests who celebrated what was perceived to be ‘the Mass in masquerade.’  Many of Fr Jones’ opponents in Cardiff perpetuated the rumour that he was in the pay of the Roman Church, and would to go to the Castle every morning for his orders!”

Listen to what one of his Curates, Mr Smallpiece, wrote about his first meeting with Fr Jones in 1895.


AUDIO TEXT: It was on April 1, 1895 that I first saw the old Vicar at S. Mary’s Clergy House, after a twelve hours’ journey from Yorkshire.

‘A dear old man, with a delightful face: kind, simple, innocent, and childlike,’ was the remark I made in my diary on that occasion. I remembered the fuss there had been in 1889 when the present Archbishop of Armagh preached at High Mass in S. Mary’s on the opening of the Church Congress, when I was at Cambridge, and knew that the Vicar had been one of the pioneers of the Catholic Revival in Wales.

It was agreed on the following day that I should have the vacant curacy, and three weeks later I took up my quarters in the Clergy House, which was to be my home for the next five years – years which, in spite of many anxieties, both personal and parochial, I shall always rank among the happiest of my life.”

St Mary Street

“The stillness that fell over S. Mary Street, though crowded at that midday hour, was simply wonderful.’

Here, in St Mary Street, we find a whisper of the end of Fr Jones’ life, and what he meant to so many people when he was alive.

Then, as now, the street was lined with shops, pubs, hotels and other business, a busy place of commerce and trade, of entertainment and theatre, of hustle, bustle and noise.  It was through this street that the funeral cortege of Fr Jones made its way.

The night before his funeral, Vespers was celebrated at St Mary’s, crowded to the door.  People dropped into church to watch and pray at intervals during the night, the coffin covered with a purple pall, surrounded by six burning tapers.   At the early morning Masses, many communions were made.  At the Sung Mass at 10.30am the Church was packed, and the procession through the streets headed by cross bearer and acolytes, choir, clergy and the successor of Fr Jones at St Mary’s, Gilbert Heaton.

Listen to what one of his biographers said about the procession:


“The stillness that fell over S. Mary Street, though crowded at that midday hour, was simply wonderful, and the expressions of sorrow quietly spoken as the procession passed along all bore witness to the loving esteem in which he was generally held.

It mattered not that but few dignitaries of the diocese thought it worthwhile to attend – that was all of a piece with the clear old Father’s treatment throughout his life, though even in that direction personal affection and friendliness prevailed. He never hankered after honour and preferment, knowing he was not and never intended to be “a safe man.”

The old Town Hall

The Town Hall which once stood here was the second to be built after the Medieval Guild Hall which had stood in the centre of High Street facing the Castle. Designed by Horace Jones of Tower Bridge fame, it was built in Italian style between 1849 and 1851.  Alterations, two years later, gave a new front elevation with slim Ionic columns, and balconies overlooking the street.

It was here, on 23rd October, 1905, with an Assembly Room packed full of distinguished guests, that Fr Jones took his place to witness an important moment in the life of Cardiff, and of one of his dearest friends and supporters.

Alderman Robert Hughes held in his hand a letter dated 21st October, 1905, the anniversary of the death of Lord Nelson.  He reads it aloud. “I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that it is His Majesty’s pleasure that the Borough of Cardiff be constituted a City, and that the Chief Magistrate thereof be styled Lord Mayor.

The assembly cheered, and the Mayor made his way to the balcony overlooking St Mary Street where a crowd had gathered and to which he announced the news to great celebrations, and then the dignitaries stepped back into the hall.  The new Lord Mayor had another engagement to keep.  He was due at St Mary’s Church for a service to commemorate the centenary of Admiral Lord Nelson’s death.  Lifted by the enthusiasm and joy, and wanting to show due honour to the first Lord Mayor of Cardiff, a candlelit procession was quickly planned to accompany him to the church and back. 

Listen to words from Fr Jones’ biographers about Robert Hughes


AUDIO TEXT: “As one of our most devoted Sunday-school teachers, Robert Hughes was in great requisition as a sponsor for the boys of his class; if any such boy who had been confirmed and was neglecting his Communion had been brought back, and if one of the clergy asked how it was, the answer would probably be from Mr. Hughes, “I did tell him.”

In fact, these words became a kind of proverb with us as to any returned prodigal: “Robert Hughes” (or some one like-minded) “did tell him”; and it meant that he was told that he ought to go to confession and properly prepare for Communion. The first Lord Mayor of Cardiff has made many eloquent and forcible speeches in his lifetime as Chairman of the Conservative Working Men’s Association, as President of the Cymrodorion, or as Mayor of Cardiff; but perhaps none have so charmed the angels of God by their eloquence as those simple words, “I did tell him.”

Saints and Stations

The area around the Station has received so many reinventions, and this continues today with the the new emerging Transport Hub, the BBC Studios standing solidly in Central Square surrounded by an array of offices and, not to mention, the giant of the Principality Stadium.

This area was once known as Temperance Town but, for now, let’s take advantage of this place of coming and going and new encounters with a few anecdotes.

One of his former curates, the Rev. C. W. James, who took charge of the Mission District at the Docks in 1880, wrote:

“I had always had the greatest affection and admiration for him: he was so kind, so buoyant in spirit, so courageous. When I first saw him on Cardiff railway platform twenty-six years ago (he had come to meet me on my visit to look at the curacy) I felt he was no ordinary man. The impression which his strong character and joyous temperament made upon me during my four years’ curacy at S. Mary’s is still with me, and I owe much to him for the brightness of hope he gave me. The memory indeed of those Cardiff clays and the clergy-house life with his fascinating personality have helped me, I believe, in those hours of depression which a parish priest sometimes has to go through in the course of pastoral work.”

Listen to the words of one of his dearest friends and supporters, Henry Thatcher, whose own grave lies next to that of Fr Jones in Cathays Cemetery, who wrote of an episode at another Railway Station:


AUDIO TEXT: “I remember, we, Vicar, Dobbin, and myself, were waiting on the platform of a certain station down south when the Vicar spied a convict in the charge of two warders apparently being taken from Portland to London for some purpose. Without a word he left us, and, pushing past the warders, he shook hands with and spoke a few words of sympathy to the poor convict. Looking back at it now, I cannot help thinking how few men would have risked opposition from the warders and taken the trouble to walk quite to the other end of the platform in order to cheer and brighten, if only for a few minutes, the life of a man in distress.”

A present day celebration at St Mary’s Church

St Dyfrig’s Church

Today, the Church often talks about the importance of establishing ‘Church plants’ as though they were a new thing – but ‘back in the day’ it’s how parishes grew, as they responded to the shift and surge of population and the creation of new communities.

As Vicar of St Mary’s, with a team of Curates and with the Sisters of the Society of St Margaret, the church’s presence moved outwards, meeting at first in rented rooms before establishing church buildings and which, in turn, became parishes in their own right.

Listen to the words of Fr Jones’ biographers about the Mission in Temperance Town which began in an upper room in Park Street near the stadium and led to the building of the former St Dyfrig’s Church.


AUDIO TEXT: The Mission at Temperance Town, which led to the formation of the present parish of S. Dyfrig’s, began with services held in an upper room in Park Street, near the Cardiff Arms Park, where the great international football matches are held.

The services in this district – so called because no public-house was permitted in any street of this part of Cardiff – were at first conducted by a layman, Mr. Kirby, who held a licence as lay-reader. Mr. Kirby was ordained deacon in the autumn after Father Jones became Vicar, and priest the following year.

Shortly after Mr. Kirby’s resignation in 1875 this room had to be given up, and it was not till the spring of 1876 that services were again held by the Rev. J. S. St. John in a school-chapel built on ground given for the purpose of a day school by the Marquis of Bute, but with his lordship’s knowledge that it would also be available for Church Services.

When it was opened on April 26, 1876, the Vicar announced that he looked forward to building a permanent church, for which ground had been purchased, and conveyed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He stated at the same time that this ground had been claimed by the Cardiff School Board, but that their claim would be strenuously resisted, as it was the only piece of land that the Church could obtain in that district.

At the services held in connection with the opening of this mission church, the sermon was preached by the Rev. S. E. Gladstone, Rector of Hawarden, who came to Cardiff straight from the dedication of the Chapel of Keble College, Oxford. It was this College which eventually obtained the patronage of S. Dyfrig’s.

In the dispute with the Cardiff School Board the Vicar was successful only in retaining part of the land, with the somewhat unfortunate result that S. Dyfrig’s covers every inch of the ground belonging to the Church, and with a Board or Council School quite adjoining.

St Mary’s in the midst of the docks. The small building to the right of St Mary’s Church is the old St Mary’s School. (Pic: BUTE EAST DOCK, CARDIFF (, CCL)

Owain Glyndwr Pub

The Vicar was a good sportsman, and I used to carry his rabbits for him. He was then much beloved by every one, just the same as in Cardiff.

This pub, nestled close to St John’s Church, was once known as The Tennis Courts.  Before it became a pub it was a court from which tennis balls were thrown against the north wall of St John’s Church tower but it also became the licensed premises attached to Nell’s Brewery where Robert Hughes, the first Lord Mayor of the City of Cardiff arrived as a Clerk after he left school at the age of 15 years.

Fr Jones has known Hughes since he was a boy, arriving in his previous parish of Llanegryn in 1857, the year that Hughes was born.  A quiet parish at the foot of the Snowdonia mountain range with a solitary hilltop church dedicated to St Mary and St Egryn, it was there that Fr Jones set about planting the marks of his ministry by introducing the riches of catholic teaching and worship. “It became,” so his friend, Titus Lewis, Vicar of Towyn said, “quite the leading parish church in the diocese.”

When he left the parish to become Vicar of St Mary’s in Cardiff, his successor, the Revd Griffith Roberts (who was later to become the Dean of Bangor) had taken Robert Hughes under his wing. Correspondence must have flowed between him and Fr Jones who used his influence to gain him a job and a new life in Cardiff.

Hughes worked his way through the ranks until he became one of the directors of Nell’s Brewery, leaving later for Worthington’s Brewery. In 1892, he won his seat as councillor by just 14 seats but was returned unopposed on four occasions.  He also stood for Parliament although without success and was President of the Cymmrodorion and Chairman of the Conservative Working Men’s Association.

“Hughes was not ashamed to admit that he came to the town a poor boy, with only eighteenpence in his pocket,” wrote the Evening Express many years later in 1905, reporting on a complimentary banquet in his honour. He remained a close friend and supporter of Fr Jones throughout his life, was a Churchwarden, Sunday School Teacher and donated the brass lectern in St Mary’s in celebration of the 32 year ministry of Fr Jones in the parish.

Listen to Robert Hughes’ words about his friend, Fr Jones


AUDIO TEXT: “When the Vicar came to Llanegryn I was an infant and he was head master of the Endowed School. When I grew a little older I sang in the parish choir. The Vicar was a good sportsman, and I used to carry his rabbits for him. He was then much beloved by every one, just the same as in Cardiff. Out of three livings presented to him Father Jones selected S. Mary’s, because it presented the best opportunities for work, he being at that time in the full vigour of his life. If ever there was a saint it was he.

“He had always a flower in his coat, at home and abroad, and by many that was regarded as one of the “marks of the beast.”


Bute Street

“The pulpit will serve very well from which to preach the Catholic faith.”

Almost half a century before Fr Jones walked its paved way, Bute Street had been mostly meadow and marshland.  Soudrey, the moors of south Cardiff. By 1830, the Second Marquess of Bute had sliced through the marshland to make a main road into the docks, running adjacent to the congested Glamorgan Canal whose 25 miles stretch from Merthyr Tydfil had been built on the back of iron.

Nine years later, West Bute Docks was opened, followed by the accompanying Taff Vale Railway.  The dock straddled Bute Street, sucking up ships from the sea, and sending them out laden with iron or coal cut from the dark hills of the Valleys.  A few decades on, and the opening of East Bute Dock in 1859 raised exports of coal to over two million tonnes a year.

“If you turn aside to the right you find a network of mean streets, or, turning to the left and passing through a desert of railways to a fringe of houses upon the edge of the docks, you find yourself in the midst of a scene of squalor hardly to be matched in the East-end of London,” goes an article in The Times (July 11, 1895). “The houses themselves are not, apparently, of particularly mean structure; indeed, the buildings of the lowest quarters of Cardiff are better than those in seaports of more ancient history. But the lower windows are all boarded up.”

“Innumerable children, unkempt and dirty, are playing in the filthy roadway, from which the sun causes a fetid smell to rise; groups of slatternly women, one in three bearing a black eye, loaf upon the pavement; now and then a loud-voiced harridan darts from one of the dirty entries to pour forth a volley of abusive threats against some person or persons unknown. And the listless men, some of them obviously mere hangers-on of a port and sodden with drink; while others, as the stains about their feet show, are dock labourers, or “hobblers,” who cannot find a job, are a sight, if possible, more depressing than the women.”

Listen to one of Fr Jones’s curates reminiscing about one of his earliest recollections of him in an encounter on Bute Street:


AUDIO TEXT: “My earliest recollection of Father Jones goes back rather more than thirty-three years ago. He had just been refused a faculty to move a huge pulpit which stood immediately in front of and obscured the altar. I remember, while walking with him through Bute Street, Cardiff, meeting one of his strongest opponents, whom he greeted most cordially, but when our friend exulted over their victory, “Never mind,” said Father Jones, in a most cheerful way, “the pulpit will serve very well from which to preach the Catholic faith.”

“An outspoken teaching of the sacramental system alone can meet the needs of fallen man”


St Mary the Virgin

From first to last, till the very day he was laid to rest, he was the children’s friend;

Throughout Wales, we are used to seeing candles on altars, priests wearing chasubles, the Eucharist celebrated regularly, votive candles being lit in prayer.

It wasn’t always liked this, however, and we have to be grateful to priests such as Griffith Arthur Jones who enriched the prayer, worship and teaching of the church in such a way to make such things commonplace today. But this is not about empty ritual – for these are simply beautiful expressions of belief and teaching which underpin them.

When Fr Jones came to St Mary’s he discovered a church building akin to “a preaching house” and not conducive to catholic worship. He was not hasty in introducing external ritual and expressions of faith, although he did meet with opposition along the way.

Although there have been other changes since then they are simply a progression of what he began, a rich heritage of faith and tradition. The beautiful High Altar and apse with its life sized statues of the Apostles were accomplished during his time, and one of the things he was swift to introduce was the celebration of the Eucharist each day. This continues.

“The cosmopolitan and shifting character of the population resulting from the proximity of St. Mary’s to Cardiff Docks made mission work both exceptionally necessary and exceptionally difficult. To use Father Jones’s own words: ‘Hindrances at every turn; bad homes, drinking, loose ways, rampant immorality, dancing saloons, temptations all around. It is really hard, uphill work.'” (Catholic Literature Association, 1933)

Listen to some of Fr Jones’ biography, the struggle he endured, his genial disposition and his care and concern for the young:


AUDIO TEXT: The Vicar was not one to lose heart easily, but he could scarcely fail to feel the strain of the uphill fight, and the frequent opposition must have told upon him. In course of time his genial disposition, and the cheery way in which he always met his opponents, gained respect for him and extended his influence; and in the meantime, if he was losing many of the old congregation, he was attaching to the Church the younger people and rapidly winning the affection of the children, to whom his guileless childlike disposition was naturally akin.

From first to last, till the very day he was laid to rest last year, he was the children’s friend; we used sometimes to think that he spoiled them, but at any rate one thing is certain, that he won their confidence at a time when almost every one else distrusted him and was ready to believe evil of him, and they never failed him.

St Mary’s Church upon the arrival of Fr Jones and after his retirement

His first sermon at S. Mary’s was on the text “God is love,” and he never forgot that in his dealings with men.


The Old Vestry

The Vestry meeting minutes books at St Mary’s make fascinating reading, and record for us some of the difficulties and opposition experienced by Fr Jones and his curates.

Within the seriousness of the situation, however, could be found much humour particularly when faced with “the most ridiculous and absurd reports” which many people believed.

One such instance was when it stated that “an empty coffin was taken into the church on the night of the Thursday in Holy Week, and that the Sisters of Mercy spent the night there worshipping it.” His biographers tell us that “It was said that we kept the church darkened all day on Good Friday; also that on the same day Mr. Sankey and I carried the Vicar round the church on our shoulders. Now, as Mr. Sankey is very tall and I am very short the Vicar must have had a very uncomfortable and precarious ride. However, nothing was too ridiculous for some to allege and others to believe.”

The local press published many letters both from opponents and supporters, and the clergy as they went about the streets were often shouted at. In spite of all opposition a band of supporters rallied round the Vicar and clergy, and things soon began to flourish.


AUDIO TEXT: “In those early days the organ and the choir – a mixed one – were in the west gallery, a three-decker stood in the middle of the east end of the nave, and the congregation mostly entered the church by the two east doors and porches on each side of the sham apse which forms the sanctuary. For some time the black gown was still used in the pulpit, and prayer meetings continued to be held after Sunday evening service in the vestry room at the north-west corner of the churchyard; in fact, Mr. Jones tried his best to conciliate the people by retaining usages to which they were attached until they died a natural death.

The prayer meetings were somewhat trying ordeals, as some of the extempore effusions were not conducive to devotion: on one occasion something or some one was compared to an “unthinking horse”; another time a person floundered hopelessly in a bog of words and ideas, and was driven to exclaim, “Thou knowest, Lord, what I do mean”; on most Sundays the conversion of the Vicar and clergy to the “pure Gospel” was prayed for.”

North Church Street

How different North Church Street looks today. When Fr Jones arrived at St Mary’s, this street was lined with terraced housing which wrapped around the church on all sides. 

It was in one of the terraced houses here that the Sisters of the Society of St Margaret at East Grinstead lived. In 1873, three sisters arrived in the parish.  Their number doubled in the next eleven years although it was stated at the time that “we could easily find work for double that number.” 

They lived at first in the upper storey of a house in Bute St before moving to a house in Maria Street and finally settling at 1, North Church Street. The street still exists, the houses long gone.  The sisters, too.  Their ministry ended in 1937.  They had enriched the life of the parish, cared for the sick, prepared people for baptism and confirmation, taught in schools, and established a House of Mercy and a Guild House for girls.

The murals  either side of the apse at St Mary’s are in their memory, and the statue of the Sacred Heart came from their house.  The image of Our Lady was given in memory of one of the sisters, Suzanne.


AUDIO TEXT: “I think it was in the autumn of 1873, that two Sisters of the Community of S. Margaret’s, East Grinstead, together with a lay sister, commenced a work in the parish, which has gone on and increased ever since. Of course there was a strong feeling against them at first … but by their simple goodness, gentleness, and tact they soon made their way in spite of it.

They were of great help in supporting the daily Eucharist in those early days, and their influence for good soon began to tell in everything to which they set their hands.”

Some said the Vicar meant to insult the parishioners by bringing Sisters into the parish – a patent insult to the Protestants – whereas really the Vicar had no idea of insulting any, Protestant or otherwise; but had they said that the Vicar wished these ladies to help him in making Catholics of the Protestants, and doing them good in body and soul, they would have been about right.”

St Mary’s School

On the corner of North Church Street and Bute Street stood St Mary’s School.  All that is left of the original building is the image of Our Lady and Child which is fixed into the wall of the present school at the far end of the street.

Schools formed an important part of Fr Jones’ ministry and the ministry of the Church. In a letter from Fr Jones, addressed and dated as The Deanery, Bangor, Sept. 7, 1890 (whilst visiting his friend, the Dean) he mentions the building of the new school.

“We have made another important move in the parish: we have commenced building new schools in North Church Street for about two hundred children, to take the place of the incommodious and poor rooms in which the schools have hitherto been held. If funds will allow I propose adding a cookery kitchen to these schools.”

These new schools were opened in April of the following year. ‘Besides these new schools,’ it was noted at the time ‘which are under the care of the Sisters of St Margaret’s, East Grinstead, there are in the Parish of St. Mary’s seven other National Schools under the management of the Vicar and a Committee consisting of the Parochial Clergy, the Churchwardens, and six other Managers.

Listen to what The Rev. Titus Lewis, Vicar of Towyn an old friend of Fr Jones, says about the school in Llanegryn


AUDIO TEXT: “Besides being vicar, he was grammar master of an endowed school in the parish. The endowment was sufficient to enable him to employ a teacher in elementary subjects, without assistance from Government.

There was some dispute as to whether the school should be inspected. He settled the dispute by taking the children out for a holiday on the day named for inspection, and the inspector could only see the inside of the school-house through the windows.

Father Jones no doubt enjoyed the holiday quite as much as the little ones, as he in that way avoided any outside interference with his special charge. He would not allow any man, or body of men, even the British Government, to interfere with his duties in the church of his charge, and parish, if, by any honest means, he could prevent it.

An old sketch of St Mary’s Church before the vestry in memory of Fr Jones was annexed to the North side
The present day St Mary’s School nestled next to St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
The vestries on the north side of the church were erected in memory of Fr Jones

“People loved him, and were sure of his loving sympathy in return, whether it were his fellow workers, clergy and laymen, or his friends and neighbours who understood him, or the general public.”

Fr Jones of Cardiff – memoir


“I am not a teacher of languages, but a priest of God’s Church, and my duty is to teach the people religion in the language they understand.”

Tyndall Street and Herbert Street, now populated by offices, student accommodation, hotels and a few houses has changed much since the nineteenth century. Then this place was a tightly packed community of terraced houses, with a large number of pubs and two churches and was home to a large number of Irish people who had left Ireland for work.

It’s no wonder, then, that the church which once stood here for a Welsh Speaking congregation soon got squeezed out. However, Father Jones and his faithful friend and supporter, Mr. Robert Hughes (who had grown up in his former parish) were in the forefront of the Welsh Church movement in Cardiff.

It was noted in the Parish Magazine at the time that “It is hoped Welsh Services will soon be permanently held in S. Mary’s Parish as a result of the Welsh Mission. A Welsh Sunday School has been started at Bute Terrace Schools in the afternoon, which has begun very successfully, and the Vicar has arranged to celebrate the Holy Communion in Welsh on the first Sunday in the month, there having been quite a sufficient number of Communicants at the Welsh Celebration during the Mission to make such a service most desirable; and it now remains for the Welsh Churchmen of Cardiff to aid the Vicar in his endeavours to restore, what it is a scandal to Cardiff to have lost, Welsh Services for the Church of the most important town in Wales.”

In 1889, a new church hall, Capel Dewi Sant, opened in Howard Gardens.  Three years later, a church was built on neighbouring land given by Lord Tredegar.   The church was bombed in 1941 but, in 1954, the redundant St Andrew’s Church became the new Dewi Sant for a Welsh speaking congregation.

“He was very keen on Welsh place-names, and was always ready to point out how such names showed the devotion of the Welsh to their Saints, and still helped to illustrate Church history and Church customs,” says his biographers.”

Listen to the words of Fr Jones from a paper read at the Llandaff Diocesan Conference in 1887:


AUDIO TEXT:Some years ago my dear old friend the saintly Father Lowder, who did such a wonderful work at St. Peter’s, London Docks, was staying in the parish where I worked before coming to Cardiff, and he attended my little Parish Church while there.

In that Welsh parish we had a small colony of English-speaking people, mostly the household and servants of the squire; and in addition to the ordinary Welsh services we had a service in the afternoon in English for the benefit of the English colony. After being at the Welsh service the dear good man Lowder took me seriously to task for having Welsh services, and asked me if I did not think it my duty to teach the people English, so that they might join in the Church services in that language–i.e. in other words, make the whole parish give up their own language and learn a new one for the sake of having their devotions in the English tongue.

Why it should not have been proposed the other way I could not quite see, namely, that the mere handful of English-speaking people should not learn Welsh to enable them to join in the ordinary service of the parish church.

However, my answer to Father Lowder was: “I am not a teacher of languages, but a priest of God’s Church, and my duty is to teach the people religion in the language they understand.”

I need not say I never heard another word about teaching English to my parishioners; Father Lowder was too sensible a man not to see the error of his advice about teaching English to a whole parish before teaching them the doctrines of Christianity, especially as I could teach them the faith in their own language far easier than I could teach them a new language.”

The former All Saints Church of Tyndall Street

“There seems to be no signs of mortality about it. The Welsh language for all practical purposes seems as unlikely to die as ever, and it is our duty manfully to try and meet the difficulty we have to deal with – the providing services in both Welsh and English in many of our parishes.”


Loudoun Square

I do not suppose that the Vicar ever thought it a merit not to have things nice about him: there the things were, and he simply never thought about having them different.

Half way along Bute street, between the Church and the Bristol Channel, is Loudoun Square where Fr Jones resided in rented property at number 52 which, along with the house next door, has become St Mary’s Clergy House.

Loudoun Square was one of the oldest public spaces in Cardiff, after Sophia Gardens, and consisted of a large square of three-storey decorative houses surrounding a green, tranquil park.  It had been home mostly to merchants and mariners, brokers and builders.  This was where the affluent settled.

An acre in size, with rockeries and walkways, shady sycamore trees and beautiful beds of flowers it was a pleasant oasis in the midst of the industrial booms and bangs but, soon, the wealthier residents were slowly beginning to move to the suburbs of Cardiff, and the Square was beginning to show signs of overcrowding as residents took in tenants to help pay high rents. 

“The luxury of his residence would not impress any man accustomed to the sumptuous extravagance of a Bloomsbury lodging at 18 s. a week,” wrote the Times on June 11, 1895. “The waiting-room was more like the waiting-room of a small cottage hospital than anything else in the world; his style of living was one of Spartan simplicity; the square in which he and the other clergy lived was precisely such as one might expect to find to the right hand or to the left of Commercial Road, E. His work is among the people, and he feels it to be his duty to live among them – that is all.”

Listen to what one of his curates wrote about life in the Clergy House at Loudoun Square.


AUDIO TEXT: “The feature which would probably first strike a stranger in the Clergy House was its interior dinginess and the simplicity of its furniture. There was no glebe house, and the Vicar rented two houses in the corner of Loudoun Square, and had them thrown into one to form the Clergy House, where he and the assistant clergy all lived together.

We did not, indeed, go in for sanded floors; but the carpets, furniture, wallpapers, paint, and whitewash all presented an air of venerable age and unstudied simplicity. Unstudied, for I do not suppose that the Vicar ever thought it a merit not to have things nice about him: there the things were, and he simply never thought about having them different. They were good enough for him, and I don’t suppose it ever occurred to any of us to question their being good enough for us also.

The Oratory, where we said the Lesser Hours, was approached down some stairs, and was very damp. Its walls had at some prehistoric period been distempered bright blue à la Reckitt, but had acquired some form of mural eczema which gave them a variegated appearance; the Office books, well thumbed inside, were mouldy outside, and clammy to the touch. Behind the prie-dieu where the officiant knelt was a simple dossal and ledge, and a plaster crucifix. On two brackets on the walls were very grimy plaster figures of Our Lady and S. Michael, patrons of the two churches in the parish. It was only on very rare occasions – in my time – that the Vicar joined in the Oratory Offices; it was really much too cold and damp a place for him; but he always made a point of saying the Offices in private

“He had the power of long-sightedness, and this was based on his crystal purity of intention, which rested on his devotion to and love of our Blessed Lord. His character and life were Christ-centred. In the true sense of the word he was an Evangelical Catholic who loved, confessed, and taught the truth as it is in Jesus.”


Canal Parade

On the evening of Friday 24th April 1885, Fr Jones, along with his curate, the Rev H.B. Wilkinson and others gathered in the rooms of a new Club for Young Men on Canal Parade with a ground floor devoted to boxing and single-stick (a martial art that uses a wooden stick as a weapon). The rooms upstairs were used for chess and bagatelle.

The premises had recently been made available by the relocation of a Timber Merchants, and Fr Jones stated that “it had for some time been their intention to start an institution of the kind, but they had not been able to find suitable premises before,” wrote the Weekly Mail (25th April 1885). When he discovered the company was relocating “he at once hit upon that as the right sort of place, and it having been agreed on all hands that it would serve their purpose they negotiated with the owners.  The rooms were subsequently offered at a reduced rent.

“The Vicar stated that the club was in connection with St. Mary’s Church,” reported The Weekly Mail, “and was a very necessary institution for the amusement of their young people. For his own part, he did not attach much importance to the religion of those who drew long faces and went about the place groaning and grunting. (Laughter.) He liked to see young people cheerful, merry, and joyous, as they ought to be.”

The Sisters of the parish also opened a Girls’ Guild House in Canal Parade – a kind of recreation room, “partly for work and partly for amusement, where the Guild girls may assemble and have rational amusement, and be kept from rambling about the streets; in a word, to keep them from mischief,” goes the biography of Fr Jones.

Listen to an incident from the life of Fr Jones concerning his work with young people alongside that of the Sisters.


AUDIO TEXT: One interesting story must not be omitted. Sister V. got hold of a little boy from a very bad home. The father had been transported, and the whole surroundings would not bear investigation. The boy (we will call him Tom) was brought to baptism, and some time after that he was admitted to the choir, when the Vicar spoke to him seriously, and told him that if he was in the habit of swearing and telling lies, he must leave off.

The boy stammered very much, but said, “No indeed, V-v-icar, I have not done so at all since I was baptized.” Some time after this, however (be it remembered Tom was living in a very bad street, as bad as well could be), Tom one day said to the Vicar, “V-v-vicar, there is a boy in our street” (a chum of his), “and he do s-s-steal, and indeed, V-v-vicar, he can’t h-help hisself. Will you speak to him?” The Vicar of course consented, and one morning Tom appeared at the Vicar’s house with the boy who “did steal and could not help hisself,” and the Vicar had a good talk with him.

He did not deny the charge in the least, and he gave a graphic account of the manner of proceeding: how a boy was to brush by an apple-stall and upset some of the apples, and then on the return journey kick the apples forward, and then pick up what he found on the ground; or how one was to put off his shoes and sneak into a shop without any one observing him, and “cop” a tin of meat, etc.

However, the Vicar got a promise that Tom’s friend, who “could not help hisself” from stealing, would give up doing so, and for some time this promise was apparently kept: but evil influences and example seem to have prevailed, and he returned to his old courses – and what wonder? He was afraid of saying his prayers before his father and mother. The poor lad has become a gaol-bird, a miserable wreck; he had nothing and no one to help him to what is better.

Not so, thank God, with Tom; he still stands firm. He attends church, says his prayers, and frequents the Sacraments, God grant him grace to persevere unto the end, and pray God bless Sister V. for bringing him to the better way.

St Samson’s Church

A third Mission during the time of Fr Jones occurred in the area adjacent to the neighbouring parish of St Paul’s Grangetown which started in the Spring of 1897 At first, services began “A third Mission in the parish was started in the spring of 1897, when services were begun in a rented room over a bakehouse and which was capable of accommodating 300 people.

This was followed by the building of a new church on the other side of the road, St Samson’s in honour of the memory of the early Welsh Bishop, S. Samson, of Dol, in Brittany, as the other Mission Church had been built in commemoration of Llandaff’s great Bishop, S. Dyfrig or Dubbricius.

“We rather dwell on this,” wrote his biographers, “as it certainly was characteristic of our old Vicar to have special veneration for the Welsh Saints. We remember how one of us suggested that the mission room near the Penarth Road should be called after S. Joseph, as it was opened on S. Joseph’s Day, March 19, or S. Patrick, as being near his festival; but he would have neither the New Testament Saint nor the Irish Apostle, his mind being bent on having a title from some Saint connected with the old British Church.”

Listen to the wolrd of Fr Jones as he writes about The Ceremonises of the Eucharistic sacrifice.


AUDIO TEXT: The Church is built on stones which shelter Christ’s Catholic Church. In the sanctuary stands the altar, as in heaven (Rev 4:2; 6:9). In heaven, Christ is in the midst of the golden lampstands, clothed in a long robe to his feet (Rev 1:12,13; 11:4), and there incense is offered in is presence for ever and ever (Rev 8:3)

On the altar stands the cross to indicate that all of our trust, our hope and our faith are in Christ and his cross; and the only sacrifice which we can offer is that offered on CaLvary. The candles indicate that the light of faith will guide and illuminate us, if we desire to draw near to the sacred mysteries.” (Y Primer Bach, 1870)

“S. Mary’s Catholic Schools” he caused to be blazoned on the large banner carried before the procession at the Whitsun School Treats, and that colour was nailed to the mast


HMS Thisbe

How the children loved him! Almost any day you might see him somewhere in Bute Road with a dozen or so of boys and girls round him, some hanging on to his coat, others holding his hands and legs, he smiling down upon them and talking to them all the while.

In 1869, the completion of the Suez Canal significantly shortened the sailing time between Britain and Asia, bringing Somalian and Yemenese sailors and stokers to the coal-quick port of Cardiff.  Some came, some went.  Some never went home, feeling, as it happened, quite at home in Cardiff.

The Docks were growing into a multicultural area of Cardiff, and the seafaring population formed a significant part of the parish’s population.  When Fr Jones arrived in 1872, the Mission to Seamen, with their own chaplain, was operating from a static ship, HMS Thisbe.

Listen to what one of the Chaplains at the time had to say about his dealings with Fr Jones:


AUDIO TEXT: “I was appointed Chaplain for Missions to Seamen in Cardiff Docks in 1880. As the work lay in S. Mary’s parish mostly, the Bishop licensed me to that parish. One of the first visitors we received on board of the old mission ship was the Vicar, I remember how cheered and encouraged I was by his sympathy and kindness.

Though this work amongst the seamen was carried on within his parish, and possibly not on the lines he would have wished, I never knew him in any way interfere, or even suggest, any other methods than those employed, and this I believe was the experience of my predecessors and successor.

I remember going up the side of the East Dock one day and seeing the Vicar on his hands and knees in the coal dust helping a poor sailor replace his clothes, etc., which had been flung out and emptied on to the quay by a Board of Trade man who fancied that Jack had some cigars and plugs of tobacco which had not paid duty. The Vicar’s kindness and good nature I feel sure prevented the officer from being roughly handled, as great indignation was expressed at the time by some seamen who witnessed the scene.

And how the children loved him! Almost any day you might see him somewhere in Bute Road with a dozen or so of boys and girls round him, some hanging on to his coat, others holding his hands and legs, he smiling down upon them and talking to them all the while.

(The Rev. R. J. Phillips, who was Chaplain to Seamen at Cardiff from 1880 to 1885

“He knew his people, and they knew him. He called them by name; he gave his life for them. And they knew it, and gave him love for love.”


Havannah Boys

“Father Jones had the tenderest heart and the strongest will ever found in man.” (The Western Mail, 1907)

How the scene in this part of Cardiff has changed in recent decades. The heavy industry of the docks has given way to leisure and pleasure. When Fr Jones arrived amongst the missionary ships was the Havannah, an Industrial Ship for boys.

Incidentally, the ships bell from the Havannah made its way to St Mary’s, and is rung each day at the beginning of Mass.

Listen to what Henry Thatcher, a friend and supporter of Fr Jones, a Lay reader and a Churchwarden for over 30 years, reminiscing about Fr Jones and the Havannah.


AUDIO TEXT: “It was originally built for missionary enterprise, though manned by officers holding Her Majesty’s commission; at Cardiff it was used as an industrial ship for boys, who attended the service on Sundays at S. Mary’s.

Year after year twelve to twenty of these boys were presented for Confirmation after instruction by one of the parochial clergy, who also usually held a class at other times weekly or monthly on board the ship. Several of the boys formed the choir at the Mission held in Penarth Road.

The Vicar naturally took great interest in these boys (none of whom, it may be mentioned, had actually been convicted – it was an industrial school, not a reformatory), and he always, however busy at the time, made a rule of being present at the annual Christmas treat given them by his friend, and for some lime Churchwarden, Sir Edward Hill, of Rookwood, Llandaff.

We well remember on one of these occasions a very small boy being brought in by a policeman, who had found him homeless and neglected. The little chap looked rather frightened, and then very astonished, when he found himself brought on the covered deck of a man-of-war, with rows of tables, at which sat boys dressed as sailors and drinking hot claret negus, pulling crackers, and singing songs quite uproariously, though soon he found himself washed and similarly attired and put under the care of a most kind matron, to make himself at home and as merry as the rest.”

Havannah’s Bell now at Mary’s Church and rung each day at the beginning of Mass

St Stephen’s Church

“I had always had the greatest affection and admiration for him: he was so kind, so buoyant in spirit, so courageous. I felt he was no ordinary man.” (Rev C.W. James, Curate, 1880)

The former church of St Stephen here was not under the care of Fr Jones. In fact, quite the contrary. It was formed and built by those who disagreed with the changes and transformations made by him, although much later it was immersed into the present day parish of St Mary and the church was closed and sold in the 1980s

Whilst the mission of St Mary’s extended into the docks with an iron church served by curates, when in 1888 another iron church, called S. Stephen, was built within the Docks, part of the parish having a district assigned to it by the Bishop under the Peel Act, the clergyman being appointed by a Patronage Trust, the old iron church was taken down, and services held by one of Father Jones’s staff at a schoolroom in that part of the parish.

Afterwards a building built by a Free Church sect came to be sold and was bought by the Vicar: the services being then transferred from the school to the newer iron church, which was dedicated by Bishop Smythies on April 15, 1888.


AUDIO TEXT: “It has been stated that bands of hooligans used to interrupt the services in church, but such was not the case; the only hooligans were respectable middle-aged and elderly men – “malcontents” we used to call them – who made a practice of causing all the annoyance and obstruction they could at vestry meetings, which happily were not held in the church, but in the vestry room before alluded to. But they found their match in the Vicar, who, with imperturbable good-humour, gave them sufficient rope wherewith to hang themselves – a feat they not infrequently accomplished. On one of these occasions, thinking to annoy the Vicar, a malcontent proposed that a notice-board should he put up in the churchyard inscribed with the following legend: “S. Mary’s Junction. Change here for Rome,” whereupon the Vicar calmly put the motion to the meeting, making the proposer an object of ridicule by thus “answering a fool according to his folly.”

But though the condition of things had its humorous side, it was very uphill and discouraging work, and the difficulties at times seemed well-nigh overwhelming; but our great stay and support was the daily-Eucharist which the Vicar established as soon as possible, whilst the Guild of the Good Shepherd for men enabled him gradually to gather together a band of faithful adherents who loyally tried to strengthen his hands, and gave him assistance and encouragement in various ways.”

“It was very uphill and discouraging work, and the difficulties at times seemed well-nigh overwhelming; but our great stay and support was the daily Eucharist which the Vicar established as soon as possible”

revd w.h. kirby

Flat Holm

The island of Flat Holm is the southernmost part of the parish of St Mary’s, and Fr Jones made occasional trips here.

With its association, too, with St Cadoc and St Baruc, it fitted comfortably with an important aspect of the faith of Fr Jones who valued so much the saints of our lands.


AUDIO TEXT: “Father Jones greatly enjoyed his occasional trips to the Flat Holmes, an island in the Bristol Channel, which formed part of S. Mary’s parish, where he could breathe a freer atmosphere for a few hours, as Ritualism and Anti-Ritualism were alike unknown there, and the few inhabitants welcomed his visits to hold a short service for them, baptize their children, or visit their sick; sometimes he took other clergy and friends with him, and the excursion formed a pleasant picnic or outing.”

He had learned the great secret in dealing with Welsh people – through their feelings – and could teach them Catholic truth in evangelical form.

The Vicar of Carnarvon, Rev. J. Wynne Jones, son of his first and only Rector


With all the demands of parish ministry, it was important for Fr Jones to take time out, to relax and recuperate, and his friends in Llandaff provided such opportunities. 

One of these friends was Sir Colonel Hill who had Rookwood built as his home and who had donated the beautiful Reredos at St Mary’s of the Adoration of the Magi, painted by Philip Westlake.  He also served as Churchwarden for a time, and he owned a dry dock near to St Mary’s Church.  The other friends were Mr and Mrs Watkins.

Listen to an account of the importance of friendship and rest to Fr Jones, told by one of his Curates.


AUDIO TEXT: “Whatever time he had to spare from his parish he very largely spent in visits to Llandaff to call on his friends there – Sir Edward Hill of Rookwood, and Mr. and Mrs. Watkins.

As a sportsman Father Jones did not give up his interest in shooting when, in after years, he was vicar of a large town parish. He became a great friend of a well-known citizen of Cardiff, the late Mr. Watkins, Manager of the London and Provincial Bank at Cardiff; and for several years in succession, especially in the early part of his Cardiff days, he greatly enjoyed Mr. Watkins’s invitations for grouse shooting in Cumberland.

His acquaintance with Mr. Watkins and his family was highly valued by them, and his visits both to Llandaff, where Mr. Watkins lived, as well as to his son’s residence in Cumberland, became opportunities for a deeper and closer friendship than any common interest in sport could bring about.

Longcross Street, Adamsdown

“He several times said, when I expressed sympathy, “It is God’s will, I must not murmur,” and his eyes so often turned to a little picture by his bedside of our Saviour with the crown of thorns (Fr Jones’ niece, Mrs Hickman)

In the autumn of 1903, owing to age and increasing infirmities, Father Jones resigned St. Mary’s, and retired to a small house in Adamsdown not far from the church which he named Lluesty Mair – St. Mary’s Rest. He was joined here by another champion of the Faith, Father Montagu Noel, formerly vicar of St. Barnabas, Oxford.

Almost every Sunday from the time of his resignation till his death, Father Jones said the Sunday Mass at St. Mary’s, and it was after doing so on Sunday, September 9,1906, that he was stricken with his last illness, to pass away a fortnight later while Father Noel read the last prayers for the dying.

Here his old friends visited him, and always got a cheery welcome from him. Many a little party of old and young met there, and enjoyed his society and hospitality, for he was always–though not a Bishop–“given to hospitality.” (Biography)

Listen to words from his niece, Mrs Hickman:


AUDIO TEXT: “Uncle Arthur was taken ill on Sunday, September 9th, when he came back from celebrating at S. Mary’s. At first his illness was not considered serious, and when I was written for and came down on Thursday with my eldest daughter he was quite conscious and very bright; and said so joyfully, when we carne into his room, “I knew you would come,” and he was so full of regret that he was not downstairs to give us a proper welcome.

Although in no actual pain, his illness was of a nature that for the first week caused him much distress and discomfort, besides the great weariness, and he was so unused to being ill in bed, but his patience was wonderful. He several times said, when I expressed sympathy, “It is God’s will, I must not murmur,” and his eyes so often turned to a little picture by his bedside of our Saviour with the crown of thorns.

He was so thoughtful, too, for those who were nursing him, and so grateful for the kindness shown him by his many friends. “People are so very kind to me,” he told me when I arrived. During those days before he became unconscious he often talked to me about my children, and my brother and his wife and child, all with much affection, and of friends, and he was so glad to see those allowed to see him, but the number had to be restricted owing to his weakness. He spoke to me with such pleasure of some boys whose mother brought them to see him at the beginning of his illness, saying how glad he was to see those “dear boys,” Those of us who were with him during his last days will, I am sure, always look back, through the sadness and sorrow of parting with him, to that time as a peaceful, holy passing away.”

Fr Jones (right) alongside his successor at St Mary’s, Fr Gilbert Heaton

Cathays Cemetery

After the long procession from St Mary’s through Cardiff, the funeral cortege of Fr Jones arrived here at St Mary’s Church where his body was laid to rest.

During his sickness, Fr Jones constantly repeated the words of the Magnificat which he himself said was a great joy of his life. Its opening words were suitably inscribed on his Memorial Card and also on the headstone of his grave.

We must add this touching incident of children yet lingering by the doorstep of his long home and resting-place. Five or six quite little children were seen one day kneeling on the ground round the grassy mound that marks his grave till a tombstone shall be set up; and when asked by the kindly Superintendent of the cemetery, “Do you know who is buried there?” the little ones whispered, “Yes, Father Jones.” BIOGRAPHY

Listen to words from the Western Mail at the time, reporting on Fr Jones’ funeral:


AUDIO TEXT: Father Jones’s funeral was a sight which will not easily pass out of the memories of those who witnessed it. It was an impressive function, quite in keeping with the views which the man had held and practised during his life-time.

Thirty-four years ago Mr. Jones was one of the most unpopular men in Cardiff and Wales generally; yesterday, however, not only his own people, but the city of Cardiff itself, honoured and respected his memory. His own people at S. Mary’s held him in the strongest affection, but-the public generally honour his memory as a good and brave man, who lived a consistent life in accord with his convictions in the face of much opposition and hostility.

The number of clergy and laity who followed his remains to the grave testified to the extent of his teaching and his influence. It may safely be said that no clergyman in the Diocese of Llandaff has influenced and brought so many clergymen to his way of thinking. His funeral, however, was attended by those who differed widely from him, but respected the man for his many virtues and his honesty of purpose.

A group of parishioners of St Mary’s visiting the grave of Fr Griffith Arthur Jones

%d bloggers like this: