Rating Row, Beaumaris, LL58 8AL
A late Gothic Revival church with Arts and Crafts influences constructed in 1909-10 from designs by Alfred Gilbertson of Liverpool, partly at the expense of Amy Elizabeth Imrie, the White Star heiress. Post-Vatican II reordering has seen the loss of some notable furnishings, but some furnishings of note remain, and the church makes a good contribution to the Beaumaris Conservation Area.
The town of Beaumaris began with the building of the castle in the late thirteenth century and it soon became the administrative centre for Anglesey. Its Norman French name ‘Beau Marais’ translates as beautiful marsh. The Ven. Rev. William Davies was imprisoned and then martyred in Beaumaris on 27 July 1593. According to pious legend, Fr Davies prophesised from the scaffold that Mass would not be said in the town again for another 300 years.
The town developed as a holiday resort in the nineteenth century after the completion of Thomas Telford’s Menai Bridge in 1826. However, it was not until 1898 (305 years after Fr Davies’ prophesy) that the Mass returned, when the Oblate Fathers from Holyhead established an Anglesey mission at Beaumaris. Mass was initially held in the town hall and then in a room over a butcher’s shop, a priest coming from Holyhead each weekend to serve the mission. Soon afterwards, the mission was served from Bangor and efforts to raise funds for a permanent church were instigated. Miss Amy Elizabeth Imrie (1870-1944), Catholic convert and heiress of the White Star shipping line in Liverpool, provided considerable financial assistance to the venture (she later entered the Poor Clares and became Abbess of Sclerder in Cornwall). Bishop Francis Mostyn of Menevia laid the foundation stone for the church on 22 September 1909 and it was opened the following year on Whit Sunday. The church was designed in Gothic style by Alfred Gilbertson of Liverpool, and was described by The Tablet at the time of the opening as ‘an added gem to an already charming watering-place’.
The priest lodged in a house opposite the church belonging to a Mrs Thompson until a presbytery was built around 1930 for the Rev. E. Hemphill. During the Second World War, Beaumaris became home to many evacuees from Liverpool as well as numerous Polish refugees, swelling the congregation considerably. At the time the parish priest, Fr Brady, purchased an old chapel in the town for use as a parish centre. The church was reordered after the Second Vatican Council, with the removal of the high altar and reredos and altar rails.
The church is of the late Gothic Revival period with free and varied curvilinear tracery throughout, and is constructed of randomly coursed dark green stone with Talacre stone dressings. The building is fairly squat in appearance, similar in height to the surrounding housing. At the west end is a projecting canted porch with an original stone carved relief of the crucifixion in the gable over the entrance. Above this is a broad, low pointed arched west window with elaborate tracery. The nave is of four bays and the sanctuary is of one bay and side-lit by gabled pseudo-transepts. The sanctuary and nave are under a continuous ridge, separated by raised parapets and taller buttresses. There are carved stone cross finials at the top of each gable. A projecting sacristy at the southeast corner is connected to the presbytery by a short timber-framed cloister.
Inside, the nave is broad and aisleless, with a hammerbeam roof. The walls are plastered and painted, the floor carpeted. At the west end a pipe organ rests on a raised floor on the south side. The sanctuary is up one step, and has a hardwood herringbone parquet floor. Today it has a rather bare appearance, compared with its pre-Vatican II fitting out. The modern altar, ambo and tabernacle plinth are of solid oak and veneer, possibly by Ormesby of Scarisbrick. The sacristy and confessional are through the south wall; a matching portable baptismal font is located in the sacristy.
Architect: Alfred Gilbertson
Original Date: 1908
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed