Beach Road, Benllech, LL74 8SW
A striking Vatican II-era design by S. Powell Bowen of Colwyn Bay, its almost vernacular forms and materials bedding the building down in its island context. The church is largely square on plan, its two steeply-rising monopitch roof sections creating a dramatic top-lit internal space.
In 1959 Bishop Petit of Menevia appointed Fr J. Jackson parish priest of Beaumaris. At that time Benllech was served from Beaumaris, with a regular Mass being held in a dance hall. The town had a small resident Catholic population but, as in many resort towns in North Wales, numbers were boosted during the summer months by holidaymakers. Upon appointment, Fr Jackson took charge of the fund for the construction of a permanent church, established by his predecessor Fr Rowlands. A plot was soon purchased at a cost of £950, but it would take a further five years of fundraising before construction began. A plan by a Caernarfon surveyor in the diocesan archives shows an early proposal for a traditionally-designed stone-built church with a pitched roof, transepts, and north porch. However, the design as built (by Stewart Powell Bowen of Colwyn Bay) was for a striking low-rise modern church with prominent steep monopitch roof sections, expressing the spirit of renewal and aggiornamento at the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). The interior was flexibly planned to allow for small winter congregations and larger summer ones, with seating and standing spaces on separate levels. Construction started in 1964 and was completed the following year, at a total cost of £15,500. The church was opened by Bishop Petit on 5 September 1965.
Today the church is served from Amlwch by the Oblate Fathers.
The church is located on a slightly sloping site with ramps and steps leading from the small car park. It is set on a plinth of grey engineering bricks except for the sanctuary, which is set on a plinth of rubble coursed granite. The exterior walls are faced with a painted roughcast render. The windows are timber framed with slate sills and the doors are timber with glazed panels. The monopitch roofs are covered with slate and copper and the flat roofs have felt coverings. There is a simple thin cross of painted steel fixed to the west wall. The entrance is located between the projecting baptistery and sacristy.
Inside, a small porch leads on to a narthex/standing area with the former baptistery (baptismal font not present) in the west corner (currently used as a choir area), and the sacristy in the east corner. The flooring is a mixture of is carpeting and quarry tiles. The ceilings are covered with pine tongue and groove boarding. The standing area is top lit by five deep-set skylights; a pine balustrade along the front is a later health and safety precaution. Steps and a ramp (another recent addition) lead down into the main worship area; the north wall is angled towards the sanctuary that lies to the east. The sanctuary is up one step (original communion rails removed) with the altar up three further steps; it is a double-height space flooded with light from the large skylights, in contrast to the low ceiling of the main worship area. The altar is located close to the front of the sanctuary; it is constructed of massive slabs of Penrhyn slate. The brass, cylindrical tabernacle is placed on the back wall set on a hardwood bracket with a slate above on which a slender wood and metal crucifix is placed; above this is a striking sculptured fish emblem with PX detail.
Other furnishings include painted ceramic Stations of the Cross, modern painted wood statues of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Sacred Heart and a marble memorial by the sacristy door commemorating Blessed William Davies, martyred in Beaumaris on 27 July 1593. The hardwood benches are original to the church.
Architect: S. Powell Bowen
Original Date: 1965
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed