Building » Bangor – Our Lady and St James

Bangor – Our Lady and St James

Holyhead Road, Bangor, LL57 1NS

A former Church in Wales church in Decorated Gothic style, built in 1864-6 from designs by Kennedy & Rogers, with additions of 1884 and 1894 by Rogers and Harold Hughes respectively. The list entry describes the church as ‘an ambitious composition with a fine tower and spire’; it is a landmark in the Bangor Conservation Area, and retains a number of furnishings of note. Purchased for Catholic use by the Diocese of Wrexham in 1998, it replaced J. J. Scoles’ church of Our Lady, Bangor, built in 1833-4 and now a Wetherspoon’s pub.

In 1824 Bishop Peter Collingridge OFM, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District, sought to establish a mission in North Wales. He enquired Fr John Briggs of Chester as to the best location and Bangor was chosen. St Mary’s mission was established in 1827 with the first Mass held either in a room in James Street or at Union Street in the Hirael district. There was great difficulty in finding accommodation due to anti-Catholic hostilities, so services were often held in the homes of members of the congregation, including a property at Park Hill and a house in Kyffin Place (later the Kyffin Arms). The regular congregation in the early days was small, but was augmented by Irish Catholics en route to and from London, who would break their journey in the city (among whose number was Daniel O’Connell, leader of the campaign for Catholic Emancipation). In the early days the mission was financially support by the Jesuits at Stonyhurst (this ceased in 1838 after a dispute with Bishop Baines, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District).

In 1833, having purchased a site in the Pendref area of the city, Fr Carbery initiated construction of the church of Our Lady. Opened in 1834, this was designed by J. J. Scoles, who about this time also designed the gothic chapel at Stonyhurst for the Jesuits and the classical church of St Winefride at Holywell (qv). Several sources describe the design for St Mary’s as Gothic, but it might be more accurately described as neo-Norman or Romanesque.

By the 1920s the church was deemed too small for the regular congregation, and during the rectorship of Fr J. E. Quinn a plot in Upper Farrar Road was purchased for a new church. After Fr Oswald Lofthouse was appointed parish priest in 1931, Bishop Vaughan of Menevia instructed the parish to sell the site, since it was unsuitable and the community was unable to raise the funds for a new church. Instead, the proceeds from the sale were spent on the repair of the old church.

In 1960 under Fr Joseph Thompson Our Lady’s was extensively renovated and reordered, with a newly-rendered façade and new furnishings. Overcrowding continued to be a problem, and in 1963 a chapel-of-ease dedicated St Pius X and St Richard Gwyn was opened at Bethesda (now closed).

In 1985 Fr Patrick Breen acquired the building adjacent to the church and had it converted to provide a priest’s flat and a catechetical centre with meeting rooms and a theological library.

With an increasing congregation and a greater spirit of ecumenism, the idea of sharing a church with the other Christian denominations was first considered in 1989, and subsequently a number of places of worship in the city (including St David’s Cathedral) served as Mass centres on various occasions. Then in 1996 the diocese acquired the former Church in Wales church of St James, which had closed in 1994 and had a seating capacity twice that of Our Lady’s. The first Sunday Mass in the newly-dedicated Catholic church of Our Lady and St James was on 8 September 1996.

The Anglican church of St James had been built in 1864-6 to meet the needs of the rapidly-growing population of Bangor, which doubled to 10,000 between 1831 and 1861 (Mainstone, 1973, p. 4). The architects were Kennedy & Rogers (Kennedy was diocesan architect), the contractor W. T. Rogers of Pen Parc, Beaumaris and the cost approximately £4,000. The church was built in memory of Dean James Henry Cotton (d. 28 May 1862), vicar of the parish of Bangor for twenty-eight years and Dean of Bangor Cathedral for twenty-four years. One of the major benefactors was Mrs Price, widow of a former vicar of Bangor, while Dean Cotton himself collected £1,400 from house-to-house collections in Liverpool. The foundation stone was laid by Mrs Price on 29 June 1864, and the completed church was consecrated on 7 September 1866. A south chapel designed by Rogers was added in 1884 in memory of J. W. Hughes, churchwarden and benefactor of the parish. A vestry was added in 1894, designed by Harold Hughes. In 1955 the pews were replaced by chairs. In 1965 the church was refurbished and redecorated, with the choir stalls relocated from the chancel to the nave and the south aisle converted into a war memorial chapel, furnished with an altar from Christ Church, Machynlleth. With the transfer of the Catholic parish to the ‘new’ church in 1998, the J. J. Scoles church of Our Lady was sold and re-opened as the Black Bull pub.

On Sunday 10 May 1998 a plaque in the north aisle of the new church was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Edwin Regan of Wrexham, commemorating the early Catholic clergy and worshippers of Bangor.

In 2002 Our Lady and St James also became the university church for the Catholic students of Bangor.


The building is described in the list entry (below), and repetition is unnecessary. However, the following details and furnishings may also be mentioned:

  • The modern altar is located at the west end of the chancel; it is of carved sandstone with a central pillar with blind cusped tracery matching the original reredos, which remains in situ. A matching tabernacle plinth is located in front of the reredos  
  • The stone octagonal pulpit has a rounded base and a niche with cusped tracery housing a freestanding statue of St Paul
  • The octagonal font is of Bath stone with marble pillars; a brass plaque records its presentation to the church in 1866 by Hugh R. Hughes, a Surgeon of this City
  • The east window depicts scenes from the life of Christ; it dates from 1864 and was created by Pilkington, as were the west windows
  • A window in the side chapel depicts the Last Supper (in memory of William Williams, Rector of Llanddyfnan d. April 1868)
  • A window in the north aisle (possibly by Hardman) depicts the Resurrected Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene, to Mary Grace Griffith d. 2 February 1901
  • Another similar window in the north aisle depicts the Resurrection of Lazarus and Christ with Martha and Mary, to Hedworth Lee d. 31 January 1873
  • A re-set stained glass panel in the north aisle is of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception; an inscription at the bottom states that it is from the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and was installed in September 2008. It is possibly by Earley of Dublin. A similar panel of the Baptism of Christ is located by the font.
  • Brass memorial by the font to James Henry Cotton d. 28 May 1862
  • Brass memorial at the east end of the nave to Capt. George Marshall, d. 28 June 1900 at Kumasi in present-day Ghana
  • A slate memorial at the east end of the north aisle commemorates the early Catholic clergy and worshippers of Bangor; it was dedicated and blessed James by Bishop Edwin Regan of Wrexham on 10 May 1998.
  • Original pitch pine choir stall seating is located in the chancel.

List description

Reference Number: 4083
Grade: II
Date of Designation: 02/08/1988
Date of Amendment: 13/03/2008
Name of Property: Church of Our Lady and St James
Unitary Authority: Gwynedd
Community: Bangor
Easting: 257561
Northing: 372032
Location: At the corner with Ffriddoedd Road; small churchyard set in the slope.  

History: built 1866 by Kennedy and Rogers, architects of Bangor; Kennedy was diocesan architect. S chapel added in 1884 and vestry/chamber to NE built in 1894 by Harold Hughes of Bangor. Erected as a memorial to Dean Cotton; cost £4,000.  

Exterior: decorated Gothic with curvilinear window tracery. Prominent 3-stage SW tower and broach spire; 6-bay triple nave plan with lower 3-bay chancel and attached NE vestry range. Snecked rubble masonry with Anglesey marble dressings; slate roofs, gable finials, corbelled eaves, stepped buttresses (gabled to chancel and plinth and cill bands). The tower also serves as the main entrance; 2 tiers of blind gabled lucarnes; uncarved label stops. 2-light impaled trefoil louvred opening to bell stage with quatrefoil cill band over circular clock face with rounded label; heavily moulded entrance with wooden ceiled inner porch. Polygonal vice to E side. Acutely pointed and non-medieval traceried windows on chapel S face flank paired lancets – similar windows to N nave; 3-light impaled trefoil window to E face over entrance with foliage capitals. Paired and single light windows to chancel and 4-light double cusped E window. 2-light window, below punched quatrefoil, to vestry E face with stone chimney stack. Twin gabled W end with high plinth and 3-light windows. The masonry detail of the whole building is slightly unfinished. The triangular shaped churchyard, bounded by contemporary Gothic railings, is entered from E between gate piers.  

Interior: the interior has cylindrical piers to the nave with a plain ‘hammerbeam’ roof on uncarved springers. The S nave as a Memorial chapel. Gothic furnishings including octagonal font with marble columns. Good stained glass window of crucifixion to Lady Chapel by A Gibbs.  

Reason for designation: listed as a good gothic revival church, an ambitious composition with a fine tower and spire.  

Heritage Details

Architect: Kennedy & Rogers

Original Date: 1866

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II