Building » Abercynon – St Thomas

Abercynon – St Thomas

Cardiff Road, Abercynon, CF45 4RR

A functional structure built as a dual-purpose church and hall during the Great Depression, overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Cynon and Taff. Within the grounds is a Lourdes grotto with a Holy Well and Way of the Cross, built by unemployed miners. The shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage after reports of miraculous cures.

The Cynon district first began to be served by a priest around 1874, when the mission at Aberdare was established. Fr O’Reilly, the priest of Aberdare, would travel around the area to say Mass and administer the Sacraments. When the church of Our Lady of Lourdes was opened at Mountain Ash in 1900 the small number of Abercynon Catholics would travel there for Mass. Around 1910 the population of Abercynon began to increase as miners and their families moved to find work in the local coalmines; many amongst these were Irish and Italian. In 1921 a building fund was established to raise funds for the construction of a Catholic church, and in 1925 a site (previously used as a tip) was acquired. On 26 September the foundation stone of a church-hall was laid by T. T. Callaghan JP KCSG and blessed by Archbishop Mostyn of Cardiff. Work was completed in September 1927. This was the time of the Great Depression and mass local unemployment; during construction of the church Fr Carroll-Baillie organised a group of volunteers, including many unemployed miners, to build a Lourdes grotto and shrine at the rear of the site, overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Cynon and Taff. Three local wells were diverted into one and were dedicated as a Holy Well. Cardinal Bourne of Westminster visited the church and grotto in October 1927. Following reports of cures and blessings the site became a popular place of pilgrimage, known as ‘the Welsh Lourdes’.

In 1974 the then parish priest, Fr Shore oversaw the replacement of the timber built parish hall with a replacement by F. R. Bates, Son & Price. In recent decades the grotto had fallen into disrepair and become overgrown, but as a result of a fundraising campaign launched in 2011 it is once again restored.


The building is a gabled hut-type chapel with rendered walls likely constructed of brick and a shallow-pitched concrete pantile roof. The church is of eight bays, with mainly segmental-arched windows, arranged in three tiers on the entrance elevation. A lean-to porch at the west end is a later addition, while a hipped lean-to at the east end contains sacristies etc.

Inside, the small porch leads to the rear of the nave; there is a meeting room to the south and WCs to the north. The roof is lightweight open timber construction and is set on brick pilasters. The nave is of five bays and the sanctuary two; there is some coloured stained glass in the windows. There are matching terrazzo altars with statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady to the north and south and statues of St Patrick and St Augustine on the west wall. The floor throughout is timber, while the stepped sanctuary has some carpeting. The altar and font (located within the sanctuary) are hardwood veneered and mid-twentieth century in date. There is a pitch pine panelled ambo and behind the altar is a painted panelled and canopied reredos with a brass tabernacle. The foundation stone is to the north and there are statues of St Joseph and the Holy Infant to the north and St Anthony to the south. Doors lead off to the sacristy and a confessional.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1927

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed