Building » Barmouth – St Tudwal

Barmouth – St Tudwal

King Edward Street, Barmouth, LL42 1PE

A late Gothic Revival church with Arts and Crafts influences, constructed in 1904-05 from designs by Alfred Gilbertson of Liverpool. Built of Minffrodd granite and yellow Cefn sandstone, the church with its southwest tower with saddleback roof is (with the large attached and contemporary presbytery, also by Gilbertson) of high townscape value. The interior is notable for a fine collection of oak furnishings by Ferdinand Stuflesser of Austria.

The harbour town of Barmouth started to develop as a holiday resort in the late nineteenth century. The first priest appointed to the town was the Rev. Robert Maurice around 1878; he stayed for just six months. He was followed by Fr McMahon, whose rented house at Aberamffra Terrace served as the chapel and presbytery. However the attempt to establish a permanent place of worship failed as the Catholic community was small and without sufficient means to maintain a priest. In the late 1870s and 1880s the Jesuits from St Beuno’s College spent their summer holidays in the vicinity and provided for local Catholics. In 1884 the Rev. Thomas Donovan, based at Bollington, Cheshire, was appointed to the Barmouth mission by the Bishop of Shrewsbury (whose diocese at that time included the county of Merioneth), and immediately set about raising funds for the building of a permanent chapel.

On 7 August 1891 a tin hut chapel dedicated to St Tudwal (a local saint from the sixth century) was opened in Park Road. This was always intended as temporary, and fundraising for a permanent church continued under Fr Donovan’s Rev. W. A. Baggaley and Rev. C. B. Wilcock.  

It was Fr Wilcock who was able to purchase the site of the present church, located on the north side of the town, from a Mr Williams who personally donated £25 towards the construction of a new church. After raising the necessary funds Fr Wilcock appointed Alfred Gilbertson of Liverpool to design the new church. Bishop Francis Mostyn of Menevia (later Archbishop of Cardiff) laid the foundation stone on 15 August 1904. The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard reported that the church was to have a sanctuary tower and seating for 250 people, and identified Messrs Lloyd, Williams & Jones of Barmouth as the masons, Messrs Thomas & Parry of Llanbedr as the joiners, with the painting carried out by Mr John Roberts. The church opened in 1905, at a total cost of £5,041. It was the first Catholic church built in the county of Merioneth since the Reformation. Writing in 1935, Attwater (p. 137) was slightly damning with faint praise: ‘whatever one’s opinion of their architectural merits [church and presbytery] are solidly constructed and vast for a place the size of Barmouth’. Many of the furnishings were installed after opening, including the high altar (costing £400) and Stations of the Cross (£80). The tin hut chapel was sold for £300 in 1906 and in 1909 the new church was declared free of debt and consecrated.


The church and attached presbytery are designed in the Early English Gothic style and constructed of randomly coursed Minffordd granite with yellow Cefn sandstone dressings, and roof coverings of local slate. The church has a southwest tower with angle buttresses, paired lancet bell-openings with louvres, a saddle-backed roof and a canopied octagonal niche at the top with a statue of Our Lady; the entrance is through the tower. The short sanctuary is side-lit by gabled pseudo-transepts. The windows are a combination of paired lancets (aisles), single lancets (second stage of the tower), rectangular (ground floor of tower and west end), and curvilinear tracery (upper west end and sanctuary). There are carved stone crosses at the top of each gable. The presbytery is three storeys with a double gabled front, mullioned windows, and a single oriel window. 

Inside, the tower porch leads to a narthex with a gated baptistery set in a projecting bay in the centre of the west wall. The baptistery window has a hopper and cathedral glass quarries; the octagonal font is of sandstone with a hinged oak lid and carved script ‘IN NOMINE PATRIS ET FILII ET SPIRTIUS SANCTI’. A stair to the gallery is in the northwest corner; to the side is a small shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour with an altar of pitch pine, which appears to be an addition though not recent. The narthex screen is pitch pine and glazed. The gallery has an open arcaded balustrade and houses a fine pipe organ in an oak case by Ainscough of Preston; there is access to the tower at the southwest corner. All of the windows have leaded cathedral glass. The floor is oak herringbone parquet except in the sanctuary, which is carpeted. The roof is of hammer-beam construction with cusped tracery detailing. The confessional and sacristy are through the northeast bay. There are a pair of high quality brass votive candle stands, a pair of hinged brass sanctuary lamps, and a modern carved wood and polychrome statue of St Tudwal at the west end of the nave.

There are numerous fine carved oak furnishings by Stuflesser which include:

  • The high altar, which has been adapted with the altar brought forward from the reredos. There is a richly carved frontal (the Last Supper), and the reredos has a fine openwork spire over the tabernacle and Benediction throne and fine reliefs (the Nativity and the Ascension)
  • The benches with square-ends with blind tracery details, with matching pair at the front
  • Polychrome statues of the Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate set on plinths with pinnacled canopies are at the east end of the aisles
  • Polychrome statues of St Thérèse of Lisieux, St Peter, St Joseph, and a guardian angel are in the sanctuary, each on canopied plinths
  • Stations of the Cross, polychrome low reliefs
  • Celebrant and deacons’ chairs, and server’s benches
  • Open arcade altar rails with cusped tracery have been removed but are stored against the sidewalls of the sanctuary
  • Wainscotting with cusped blind tracery in nave and sanctuary.
Heritage Details

Architect: Alfred Gilbertson

Original Date: 1905

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed