Building » Blaenavon – Sacred Heart and St Felix

Blaenavon – Sacred Heart and St Felix

Ellick Street, Blaenavon, NP4 9RA

A modest school-chapel established in 1868 by the Capuchin Franciscans, who ministered in the Cwmbran district at that time. The church retains much of its original character.

In 1864 Mgr Thomas Brown OSB, Suffragan Bishop of Newport and Menevia invited the Capuchin Friars of Pantasaph to take charge of the ministry in the Cwmbran district of South Wales. The friars soon established the mission in Blaenavon, with Mass celebrated in a room above a warehouse. In 1868 the present church was constructed as a dual purpose church-school; it was built largely through the benevolence of an unnamed local noblewoman who was a Franciscan tertiary. It is one of a number of churches and school-chapels built in South Wales by the Pantasaph friars; others include Abersychan (1863), Risca (1868), Abertillery (1875-6) and Cwmbran (1882). These buildings are generally of a simple Gothic character and in most cases, as here, their original architect has not been established; they would benefit from further research.

Twentieth century additions to the church include Stations of the Cross erected in memory of John Higgins, and stained glass windows in memory of the Rev. Richard Jennings (d. 1942). The church was reordered following the Second Vatican Council and a new hardwood forward altar installed. Today the church is a chapel-of-ease to St Alban, Pontypool (qv).


The building is a simple pitched roof church with plain Gothic detailing and is the gable entry type; it is constructed of randomly coursed rock-faced granite with sandstone ashlar dressings and slate roof coverings. The adjoining presbytery is rendered. The nave is of three bays, with triple lancet windows in each bay of the south side. At the east end the sanctuary is under a lower ridge line with transepts under a lower line still. The south transept is the sacristy and the north is part of the presbytery. There is a large window at the east end with simple Gothic tracery. The entrance arch is of three orders, above is a niche with a painted stone statue of the Sacred Heart.

Inside, a small vestibule leads into the nave (beside this is the confessional). The floor covering is carpet throughout and the walls are painted cream. The barrel vaulted ceiling is plastered and painted. There is a pointed arch and one step to the sanctuary, with a modern portable font at the north side. The sacristy lies to the southeast and is accessed via a door from the sanctuary. The modern panelled hardwood altar is up three steps with the modern Gothic oak sedilia in front; beyond the altar is the tabernacle on a plinth with retables and candles either side. The Stations of the Cross are painted plaster reliefs set in oak Gothic frames, the first signed Maurice Vanpoulle; a brass memorial records that these and the tabernacle were erected in memory of John Higgins. The windows are slightly Art Deco in style and have simple Christian emblems including crosses and ‘IHS’; a brass memorial records that they are in memory of Fr Richard Jennings (d. 1942), former parish priest.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1868

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed