Built in 1843 to replace the former Norman Priory Church, St Mary’s Church tells the story of a thousand years: from Norman Conquest to the Reformation, from Civil War to the Industrial Revolution, and celebrates the place that faith has played and continue to play in the growth of Cardiff

The site of the former Priory Church of St Mary’s, marked in the side of the Prince of Wales Pub near Central Station

The rage of the Taff

The original St Mary’s Church was built a few   decades after the 1066 Norman invasion.  Built on the river’s edge, it was prone to flooding particularly after the confiscation of the Chantry Funds used to upkeep the bridge, walls and quay against the “rage of the Taff.”

On 20 January 1607, a severe flood swept across the south west of England and south east Wales, washing away part of St Mary’s churchyard and through the building itself.  It was damaged even further during the battles of the English Civil War.

After the restoration of King Charles II in 1660 no services were held there apart from burials and baptisms but the parish of St Mary’s  remained.  The congregation worshipped in nearby St John’s, in an area of Cardiff now more highly populated.

St Mary’s Church, built in 1843, was more akin to a preaching house than the layout we have today.

Built on steel and coal…

In the 19th century, Cardiff flexed its muscles on the back of steel and coal.  Workers from around the world migrated to Cardiff, settling around the areas of the docks.  Cardiff was growing fast. 

From 1801 to 1840, its population surged from 1,870 to over 10,000, over half of whom lived in St Mary’s parish.

There was need for a new church.

In the late 19th century, St Mary’s Church begun to be transformed by the ministry of Fr Griffith Arthur Jones.

…and poetry and love

The new church was opened in 1843 on land given  by the Second Marquess of Bute, and with money raised from the sale of a poem about St Mary’s Church by Sir William Wordsworth.

In 1872, the Third Marquess, a convert to Roman Catholicism, appointed Fr Griffith Arthur Jones a Welsh speaking priest.  He transformed St Mary’s into a church characterized by catholic faith although not     without some objection and controversy!        However, Fr Jones was loved and respected across Cardiff, and known for his deep faith, pastoral care and loving heart.

At one time, over fifty different languages were spoken in Butetown.  St Mary’s Church continues to thrive as a diverse congregation in the midst of this multicultural community, working together with local churches and people of other faiths and none to strengthen community life and help improve the lives of all who live and visit here.


Check out our growing gallery of items at St Mary’s, each with a tale to tell. Our blog, too, has an array of articles about our past and present and future!

Stories to tell

Every item at St Mary’s has a story to tell. We want to share them with you! Many of the items will share something of our faith and beliefs, and how we worship and pray. They are also the story of a Community of Faith, and many items come with personal tales to tell – just waiting to be discovered. Check it out here

To live is to change

Our blog is full of articles that explore not just our past but what we are doing now and what’s important to us. There are some fascinating insights into our heritage, like this article which explores the differences and similarities of two very different priests. Read more here

Let the new Church be worthy of its aim,
That in its beauty Cardiff may rejoice!


Check out this video from Cryptic Cardiff

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