Building » Brynmawr – St Mary

Brynmawr – St Mary

Catholic Road, Brynmawr, NP23 4EF

A modest brick building of 1863, constructed as a combined church and school, the latter now a parish hall. The building was extensively refurbished in the mid-1960s, when it was refaced with stone and many original furnishings were replaced. A good carved stone high altar and reredos remain.

The Catholic community of Brynmawr developed with the town’s mid-nineteenth century industrial expansion. The first regular Mass was established in 1857, and in 1863 a sizeable church was opened (the Coflein website incorrectly gives the date of construction as c1957), and a resident priest appointed. Attwater describes Brynmawr as ‘that city of death’, referring probably to the numerous outbreaks of cholera during the nineteenth century. In January 1870 a massive explosion occurred in the town, when barrels of gunpowder held at a dealer’s warehouse were accidentally ignited killing at least two and causing widespread damage to many buildings, including two chapels.

In the late 1890s St Mary’s was renovated by Fr Beauvoisin, the mission priest, with financial support from the Marquess of Bute and others. The building was re-roofed, a porch added, its old stone floor replaced with timber boarding, new seating introduced and a Caen stone altar installed.

In 1963 extensive renovation was carried out to mark the centenary of the church; the building, originally a brick structure, was refaced with stone. The centenary was marked on 10 February 1965, presided over by Archbishop John Murphy of Cardiff; the celebrations had been delayed by two years due to the extent of the renovations. The presbytery appears to have been demolished after this time, providing space for part of the modern school. Today the parish includes the church of St Mary in Abertillery (qv), where the parish priest resides.


The building is designed in a simple Gothic style. It is built of brick and faced with randomly coursed, rock-faced local stone with ashlar dressings; the roof coverings are slate. There is a gabled porch at the west end, above is a blocked circular window. At the top of the gable ends are finial crosses. There are round-headed windows either side of the porch. The church is five bays in length; on the south side each has large round-headed lancets. To the north is the former school building, attached and running at a right angle; it has rectangular windows with uPVC double glazed units. A smaller room runs off to the east. At the east end the church has a modern apse with blocked round-headed lancets.

Inside, the porch leads into a nave, five bays in length and aisleless. There is a modern suspended ceiling. The font is located in the northwest corner beside the entrance to the hall. There is a modern box-type confessional also at the west end. There are painted statues of St Joseph and St Patrick in niches high up on the west wall. The floor covering is timber boarding in the nave and herringbone parquet in the sanctuary. The sanctuary is up one step; it has cast and wrought iron communion rails with timber top piece. The forward altar is made of stone slabs, the original high altar behind of carved and painted stone, with carved reliefs of the Coronation of the Virgin and the Annunciation under canopies either side of a canopied Benediction throne. A brass memorial beside the altar records the donors of the candlesticks. As at Abertillery, the chancel has recently been decorated with Gothic-style stencilling. An unsigned painting of Our Lady Star of the Sea is located high on the south wall. There are large painted wooden statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Windows with simple Celtic cross designs appear to be mid-twentieth century.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1863

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed