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 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.
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.
…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.
ARTICLES OF FAITH
Our blog is filled with an array of articles, including a series of posts called ‘Articles of Faith’ which unveils the history and heritage of St Mary’s one object at a time!
Face to face with the past
The only thing which remains of the former Norman priory church is this stone corbel head which is now inside St Mary’s, worn and weathered. Find out more about this nodding gesture to the past here
To live is to change
St Mary’s Church was transformed in the late nineteenth century by the ministry of Fr Griffith Arthur Jones. This interesting article looks at the differences and similarities of him and his evangelical predecessor. Read more here
“Let the new Church be worthy of its aim,
That in its beauty Cardiff may rejoice!“