Building » Burry Port – Our Lady Star of the Sea

Burry Port – Our Lady Star of the Sea

Pencoed Road, Burry Port, SA16 0NP

A small hexagonal brick church by Percy Thomas & Sons, built the year before the firm won the competition to design Clifton Cathedral, which is also an (irregular) hexagon on plan. Simple in form and detailing, Our Lady Star of the Sea reflects the move at the time of the Second Vatican Council towards church plans that encouraged active participation in the liturgy.

Burry Port was a small fishing settlement until the 1830s, when substantial docks were built to export the products of the Gwendraeth coalfield. In 1849 a large copper works was built on the dock. The railway arrived in the 1860s. In the twentieth century anthracite was the main export and after 1914 there was Royal Ordnance factory at Pembrey Burrows nearby. All these industries have now closed, though the docks remain.

In 1917 the Rev. John Jarvis arrived as chaplain to Lady Catherine Ashburnham at Pembrey House and also ministered to Catholics working at the ordnance factory. When Lady Catherine left Pembrey, Fr Jarvis remained as parish priest for both Pembrey and Burry Port. In 1932 Lady Howard Stepney, a Catholic convert, purchased a hall in Pencoed Road, Burry Port for use as a church. It had previously served as a military canteen, YMCA hostel, cinema and skating rink.

By the late 1950s the building was in poor condition and funds were raised locally for the building of a new church. Designs were prepared by Sir Percy Thomas & Son and the new church was opened by Bishop Petit of Menevia on 30 August 1964. It seated 200 and cost £16,000. The church was designed to a hexagonal plan, with the altar placed to allow the priest to say Mass facing the congregation as well as facing eastwards as traditionally. A large forecourt was created in front of the new church on the site of the previous hall. The same architects also designed a new parish hall, built behind the new church.

The interior was reordered in 1988 (architect Ron James of Llanelli), with a new Welsh slate mensa over the original base of the main altar and slate plinth for the tabernacle. The side chapel was divided from the body of the church by a glass screen. The new altar was consecrated and the church dedicated by Bishop Mullins of Menevia in January 1989.


The church is not orientated; the liturgical east end faces north. The building is hexagonal on plan with a small narthex projection with canted sides at the front and a rectangular side chapel and a rectangular sacristy attached at the rear, flanking a small projecting sanctuary with canted sides. The walls are of dark grey brick laid in stretcher bond and the shallow conical roof is covered with natural slate. From the apex of the roof rises a fibreglass fleche. The narthex has a fully glazed front with timber cladding above, against which is attached a small statue of Our Lady. The two side walls flanking the narthex have full-height strip windows.

Inside, the floor is tiled, the walls faced with cement render and the roof slopes close-boarded with the iron ribs of the roof structure exposed. Large square openings, now glazed, in the left rear side wall open into a small side chapel. On the right rear side wall are doors to the confessionals and sacristy. The windows in the body of the church are all clear glazed. In the small carpeted sanctuary the altar stands on the upper of two steps with full-height stained glass windows to either side. The windows are not dated but clearly of the later twentieth century; they depict Christ and Our Lady and commemorate a number of local families. Amongst other furnishings the benches are presumably original, while the altar and tabernacle were both remade with slate detailing in 1988 by Osborne, Davies & Sons of Carmarthen. The timber Stations of the Cross were, according to the parish website, carved by Italian craftsmen.

Heritage Details

Architect: Percy Thomas & Son

Original Date: 1964

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed