Building » Cardiff (Splott) – St Alban-on-the-Moors

Cardiff (Splott) – St Alban-on-the-Moors

Swinton Street, Splott, CF24 2NX

An ambitious early design by F. R. Bates, built by the Rosminian Order to serve the newly-developed Splott area. The church is stone built and its design takes full advantage of the prominent corner site, with a polygonal corner baptistery/turret. The interior is architecturally quite plain but retains a number of furnishings of note, including an altar attributed to A.W.N. Pugin.

Splott was the name of a farm on the marshy flat lands to the west of Cardiff. The area was developed by the Tredegar Estate in the 1880s and 90s as an area of artisan housing, with broad streets and stone terraces. Land was set aside for places of worship for the various denominations, and in June 1891 a large Catholic school-chapel on Swinton Street was opened by Bishop Hedley, served by Rosminian clergy from St Peter at Roath (qv). The cost was £1900, subscribers included the Marquess of Bute, who gave £350. The chapel (seating 80) was on the upper floor of the building, and was furnished with an altar and reredos from the Lady Chapel at Roath. A crucifix group with figures of Our Lady and St John came from the old church of St David (qv), and now hangs in the present church.

By 1897 the upper room had become too small and was required for the school, so an iron church was built alongside, the Marquess of Bute again being the chief benefactor. A presbytery was subsequently established at 177-179 Carlisle Street.

The foundation stone for the present church was laid by Bishop Hedley in June 1910. A large stone building in Perpendicular Gothic style, its architect was F. R. Bates of Newport, the contractor James Allan of Cardiff. The church seated 600 and was opened by Bishop Hedley on 16 July 1911. The high altar was given by Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart, son of the third Marquess of Bute and Member of Parliament for Cardiff. Statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Alban were given by Fr Dominic Fennell OSB in exchange for the old iron church, which was reused as the predecessor to the current church of St Joseph in New Zealand Road, Cathays (qv). The Lady altar came from St Marie’s Rugby (also a Rosminian church), and is attributed to A.W.N. Pugin (the statue of Our Lady was given by Fr John Bailey IC). A pieta was given by Bishop Hedley and the pulpit by the workers at the Dowlais iron and steel works.

A presbytery was built next door to the church on Cameron Street in 1927. The church was dedicated by Archbishop McGrath of Cardiff on 3 September 1949. An off-site parish hall (at Tremorfa) was built in 1954 but was demolished in 1969. In 1984 the old parish school next door on Swinton Street was closed, re-opening as St Alban’s Nursing Home in 1990. In 1987 a new parish hall was built to the north of the church. In recent years the church has been repaired and its interior extensively redecorated, with much stencil work and polychromy, by volunteers (Bill Yonker, Pete McKendry and the late Henry Jacobson). The church continues to be served by the Rosminian Order.


The church is an early work by F. R. Bates, an ambitious stone-built Perpendicular Gothic design, comparable in some ways to contemporary nonconformist church architecture (eg. the late medieval style and asymmetrical polygonal corner turret). The architecture of the building is fully described in the list entry (below), and there is little to add in this regard. It can be noted that the niche in the west gable (described as a tabernacle in the list entry), housing a carving of the pelican in her piety, has lost its flanking pinnacles and gable cross.

The list entry does not describe the internal furnishings (some of which have been repainted in recent years). Chief amongst these are:

  • The high altar and reredos, of Bath stone with green Cippolino marble detail, the reredos with carved panels of angels and the instruments of the Passion; given in 1911 by Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart.
  • In the polygonal chapel recess giving off the south aisle, the Lady altar is from the Rosminian church of St Marie, Rugby, and is attributed to A.W.N Pugin. The statue of the Virgin and Child was presented by Fr John Bailey, first mission priest at Splott. There is a piscina to the right of the altar, and all is recently and colourfully repainted.
  • In the polygonal chapel recess giving off the north aisle, the pieta was given by Bishop John Hedley (now on a new base).
  • The pulpit, of Bath stone with alabaster figures under canopies, is placed in the sanctuary and has lost its base. It was given by workers at the local iron and steel works.
  • The octagonal stone font has been moved to the sanctuary from the baptistery at the base of the turret at the west end. The former baptistery has been fitted out as a chapel, with mural decoration in Russian Orthodox style.
  • An inscribed foundation stone (now painted) is set into the left respond of the chancel arch.
  • Polychrome statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Alban on either side of the chancel arch were given by Fr Dominic Fennell OSB.
  • To the south of the sanctuary, the Sacred Heart chapel is painted deep red, with stencil decoration, and has a Gothic stone altar and piscina to right.
  • The sanctuary and nave and aisle circulation areas are paved with encaustic tiles (imported salvaged tiles in the extended part of the sanctuary).
  • At the west end of the nave, over an oriel-type window affording views from the narthex, are mounted a crucifix with flanking painted figures of Our Lady and St John, brought here from old St David’s.
  • On either side of this, stone wall plaques record Fr Palmer, builder of the church (d. 1929) and the dedication of the church in 1949.
  • Stained glass of mainly interwar date in the sanctuary, side chapels, aisles and baptistery. Finest is the east window, depicting the martyrdom of St Alban, by Atkinson Brothers of Newcastle, the gift of Mr F. Primavesi, 1916 (The Tablet). The parish history states that stained glass and the Stations of the Cross were erected during the rectorship of Fr Ottway (1931-45).

Furnishings now removed include the communion rails and gates and the organ (located in an organ chamber on the north side of the sanctuary), built with funds from the Carnegie Trust.

List description

Reference Number: 18291
Grade: II  
Date of Designation: 08/04/1997  
Name of Property: Church of St Alban’s On the Moors  
Date of Amendment: 08/04/1997  
Unitary Authority: Cardiff  
Community: Splott  
Easting: 320283  
Northing: 177003  
Street Side: N  
Location: On corner of Swinton Street and Carlisle Street.  

History: Built 1911 by F R Bates of Newport, architect.  

Exterior: Pennant sandstone with Bath stone dressings. Free perpendicular style. Cruciform plan with shouldered tower. Tower has pyramidal roof, castellated parapets, two 2-light windows to each face; to N and S, shoulders with castellated parapets; below these, transepts with 4-light windows. Sanctuary has two 2-light windows to S elevation. East end has 5-light window in free Perpendicular style; to N of this, roof slopes down to link with adjacent house (not included), two 3-light windows to each floor. Nave clerestorey of 5 bays has triple-arched windows recessed beneath hoods, below these, aisles have broad lancets. South aisle has polygonal chapel with castellated parapet, and broad 2-light window to each face of polygon. West front has relief of pelican in tabernacle at gable apex, 5-light Perp window with outer pairs of lights steeped down around porch apex, all recessed under hood. West porch has gabled central section (saint in tabernacle) with broad arch with plain splays to narrower doorway flanked by lobbies with square windows. SW baptistery turret, two storeys, Bath stone, octagonal with steep roof, castellated parapet, upper level has 2 windows to each face of polygon, lower level has cusped lancet to each face. North elevation similar to S but with gabled porch near W end of nave.  

Interior: Broad nave with scissor-braced roof on carved stone corbels. Aisles with N and S central chapels, confessionals to N. Glazing to W porch. Former baptistery. Broad segmental tower arches to sanctuary.  

Reason for designation: Listed as relatively rare large-scale resourcefully-composed example of Roman Catholic church.  

Heritage Details

Architect: F. R. Bates

Original Date: 1911

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II