Building » Cardiff (Roath) – St Peter

Cardiff (Roath) – St Peter

St Peter Street, Roath, CF24 3BA

A major Gothic Revival design by Charles Hansom, built for the Rosminians in 1860-1. The tower was added in the 1880s, minus Hansom’s intended spire. Church and presbytery form a group of high townscape value. The church contains a good collection of stained glass by Mayer of Munich, Hardman and others. The interior underwent a destructive reordering in the 1960s but recent efforts have sought to reinstate colour and richness.

In the 1840s large numbers of Irish immigrants arrived in Cardiff, as in other parts of South Wales, in the wake of the Great Famine. St David’s alone was ill-equipped to deal with this influx, and Bishop Brown invited the Institute of Charity (Rosminian Order) to take charge of the Cardiff mission (as they had at Newport). This they did exclusively from 1854 until the mid-1880s. Acquisition of the site of the present church, in an expanding but still largely undeveloped area to the east of the town centre, was negotiated with the landowners, the Homfray Estate, by John Hemingway, an engineer and horse breeder. Ambitious plans for a large gothic church with spire were prepared by Charles Hansom of Bristol, for an estimated cost of £6000, for which funds were sought by appeals to Catholics in Ireland and the north of England. The foundation stone was laid by Fr Laurentio Gastaldi IC on 20 August 1860 and the church was opened by Bishop Thomas Brown of Newport and Menevia on 24 September 1861.

The infrastructure needed for a successful mission followed as and when funds allowed. In 1871-2 a school was built to the west of the church, on St Peter’s Street (on the site of the present Richmond Court), with the help of the Marquess of Bute, who had become a Catholic in 1868. A large presbytery followed in 1873 to the east of the church, to a gothic design by W. P. James of Cardiff. In 1878 a hall (the Guildhall) was built to the west of the school.

The church also continued to be added to and embellished. In 1882 stained glass by Mayer of Munich was installed in the sanctuary, and in 1883 the tower was completed with the financial assistance of Lord Bute; the architect was J. J. Hurley, following Hansom’s design, but without the spire. In 1884 a peal of eight bells was blessed and in 1891 an organ blessed by Bishop Hedley. In 1897-8 a rood screen was added, the gift of Lord Bute. The Tablet wrote:

‘The handsome stone chancel-screen recently erected in this church through the munificence and piety of the late Marquess of Bute, has now been completed by the placing in position of the rood upon its summit, together with the images of the Mater Dolorosa and St. John the Evangelist, and that of the Magdalene at the foot of the Cross. These figures are most admirably formed and coloured, and it may safely be said that few churches possess a finer series of statues than this. It only remains to fill into the smaller niches of the rood-screen the figures of saints which are necessary for the completion of the design—an addition which it is expected will soon be made’.

A statue of St Peter was placed in a niche over the church entrance in 1912, and between 1912 and 1913 a series of stained glass windows by Hardman of Birmingham were installed in the aisles. In 1926 six dormer windows were added, increasing the light in the nave, and the mosaic Stations of the Cross were also erected (designed by T.A. Jones of Cardiff, according to the list entry). In 1929 stained glass windows were installed in honour of the local martyrs John Lloyd and Philip Evans, beatified at that time. In January 1948 the church was consecrated by Archbishop McGrath of Cardiff. In 1955 a new parish hall (St Peter’s Hall) was built to the north of the church.

In 1966 St Peter’s was radically reordered to accommodate the new liturgical changes. This involved the removal of many of the historic furnishings, including the high altar, communion rails and rood screen. The altar in the Sacred Heart chapel was also removed, a panel of the Last Supper incorporated in the frontal of the replacement altar. In the nave, Hansom’s stone pulpit was removed, the benches replaced with new ones and the gallery at the west end reconstructed with a mortuary chapel formed to the north. The architect for these changes was Denis Clarke Hall.

In 1975 the church was listed as a building of special architectural and historical interest. More recently efforts (led by Fr David Myers) have been directed towards reinstating some of the colour and richness that was lost in the Vatican II reordering. In 2000-2 the interior was redecorated by D. P. Dowling & Sons of Stoke-on-Trent, including the stencilling of the sanctuary ceiling and side chapels, following the evidence of old photographs. In 2002, the concrete 1960s altar was removed and a new wooden altar, reredos and pulpit installed. These came from redundant Anglican churches in the Diocese of Manchester, the oak altar and pulpit coming from J. S. Crowther’s St Mary, Hume. In 2004 the church floors were completely retiled with Minton tiles. In 2006 a new organ was installed (by Späth Orgelbau of Rapperswil), Dame Gillian Weir performing at the opening recital. In 2009 the underside of the 1960s west gallery was glazed and, somewhat anachronistically, Victorian railway-style columns added. More recently, television screens have been mounted against the nave piers.

List descriptions


Reference Number: 13805
Grade: II*  
Date of Designation: 19/05/1975  
Date of Amendment: 24/05/2002  
Name of Property: Church of St Peter  
Unitary Authority: Cardiff  
Community: Plasnewydd  
Town: Cardiff  
Locality: Tredegarville  
Easting: 318970 
Northing: 177073  
Street Side: N  
Location: Prominently sited and facing directly on to the street.  

History: Built 1860-1 by C.F. Hansom, architect of Bristol. The contractor was John Webb & Sons of Birmingham. The sacristy and cloister were added in 1872 by W.P. James, architect of Cardiff, integral with the Presbytery immediately to the E. The SW tower was completed in 1884 by J.J. Hurley to Hansom’s original design. The reredos and other alterations were undertaken in the 1960s by Denis Clarke Hall, architect of Cardiff, when the rood screen was dismantled.  

Exterior: Church in French C13 Gothic style comprising nave and polygonal chancel, aisles with chapels, and SW tower. Of coursed rock-faced Pennant sandstone with lighter freestone dressings and bands and slate roof. Openings have polychrome arches of pale limestone and mainly Pennant sandstone but with red sandstone to the chancel and W window. The distinctive S aisle is 6 gabled bays with 3-light windows. A 3-bay polygonal chapel at the E end of the S aisle has a lower eaves line, single cusped windows and a 2-light E window under a gable. The nave also has 3 clerestorey dormers comprising 3-light windows with cusped heads and cusped barge boards. The chancel has 3-light windows beneath gables, including high-set windows above the aisle chapels. The 4-stage SW tower projects in front of the S and W elevations. The lower stage is the porch. On the S side is a doorway with 3 orders of nook shafts, moulded capitals, and moulded arch with hood mould and foliage stops. Double doors installed in the 1960s have narrow fluting. Above the doorway is a sculpture of St Peter in a canopied niche with crocketed gable. In the W face is a 2-light window with plain hood mould in the lower stage, while both W and E faces have single windows to the second stage, with stair lights to the L side in the W face. In the 2nd stage the S face has a pair of cusped lancets. The angles are rebated in the 2nd stage beneath moulded string course above which, in the 3rd stage, the rebates turn to angle buttresses. The 3rd stage has, in the S face, triple cusped lancets, in the W and E 2 lancets, below which are 5 blind star-shaped panels. The upper stage is ashlar and has 2 nook-shafted 2-light belfry windows. Above the windows the wall is rock-faced stone, and a moulded cornice and coping. (A parapet may have been intended but was not added.) The W front has a doorway with 2 orders of nook shafts and a hood mould with head stops. Double doors are of the 1960s. The doorway is flanked by single cusped lights. Above a string course are taller cusped lights incorporating pointed trefoils in the tracery, to the sides, and a tablet to the centre that incorporates cross, swords and helmet. The main W window is a rose window with polychrome surround and geometrical tracery. At the NW angle is a buttress with gabled cap. On the N side of the W front, balancing the tower to the S side, is the gabled baptistery at the W end of the N aisle, which has a 3-light W window. The N side has similar details to nave and chancel, and an added cloister. At the W end the cloister has a doorway in an ashlar surround, with cusped arch and open trefoils in the spandrels. The first gable bay from the W end is blind with lean-to cloister, the second is higher and incorporates a NW chapel with lower gabled projection. Further E the cloister has a moulded parapet, 3 windows with shouldered lintels, and an added lean-to. The sacristy is at the E end and comprises a 1½ storey wing that links to the W side of the Presbytery. The N side has 4 full dormers and a modern projection. The S side is 3-window with 2-light transomed windows and cusped lights to full dormers.

Interior: In the porch is a blocked arch to the S aisle, and an arch leading to the nave. Both have one order of nook shafts, moulded capitals and hood moulds with ballflower stops. The baptistery on the N side of the nave is reached through a 2-bay arcade with round central pier and stiff-leaf capital. Between porch and baptistery is an organ gallery enclosing a vestibule at the W end. The 6-bay nave arcade has octagonal piers and chamfered arches in late C13 style. The roof has arched and scissor braces on corbelled walls posts and has a boarded underside. There is no chancel arch, the division between nave and chancel being painted quatrefoils above and between the scissor braces. The chancel has an additional arcade bay continuous with the nave arcade, within which is a subsidiary 2-bay arcade to the aisle chapels, with round central pier and foliage capitals. The chancel has an arched-brace roof with painted underside. A reredos added in the 1960s of fluted polished stone is placed in front of the lower part of an original reredos, the upper part of which comprises sculpted angles on corbels and beneath gabled canopies, in between which are panels with foiled circles, and on a string course and with moulded cornice. The windows have painted reveals. The Lady Chapel in the N aisle and Sacred Heart Chapel in the S aisle both have pointed wooden arches on round shafts from the aisles. They have painted ceilings and reveals, the Lady Chapel ceiling repaired and repainted after bomb damage in the 1939-45 war. The Lady Chapel has a cusped piscina and 5-bay reredos by Padraig Pearce. This has cusped arches and pinnacles and marble shafts. The central bay has a canopied niche with a sculpted figure of Mary, while the outer panels have scenes in mosaic from the life of Mary. The NW chapel has an arched entrance with round freestanding piers and stiff leaf capitals. The Perpendicular style octagonal font has a panelled stem and quatrefoils around the bowl. It has been moved from the baptistery to the nave. In the Sacred Heart Chapel the stone altar has a bas-relief of the Last Supper. Stations of the Cross are dated 1926. They are composed of wall panels of Venetian mosaic set in frames of grotte rouge marble designed by T.A. Jones of Cardiff. The church retains a complete set of late C19 and early C20 stained glass. The chancel windows are of 1883 by Meyer of Munich, one of which was donated by the 3rd Marquess of Bute. They show New Testament scenes above scenes of the early evangelists in Wales, England and Ireland, namely SS Fagan, Patrick, Gregory and Augustine. In the Sacred Heart Chapel the E window, also by Meyer, shows St Catherine at the foot of the Cross. The other chapel windows are by the firm of Hardman of Birmingham, and depict SS John the Evangelist, Patrick, Bernadine and Helen. The Lady Chapel N windows, also by Hardman, have figures of SS Joachim and Anne. The nave S aisle has memorial windows by Hardman dated between 1893 and 1910. They narrate scenes from the Nativity to the Passion of Christ. In the N aisle are 5 memorial windows by Sanders in the style of the Birmingham school, of the period 1905-14. They narrate biblical scenes including the sacred heart pleading, the marriage at Cana, the Annunciation and Expulsion from Paradise. A further window in the Baptistery shows the Baptism of Christ. The porch has a stained glass window inserted in 1929 commemorating John Lloyd (1630-79), a seminary priest, and Phillip Evans (1645-79), a Jesuit Priest, both of whom were executed in Cardiff and were canonised in 1970 as 2 of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales.  

Reason for designation: Listed grade II* as an especially fine Gothic Revival church, particularly distinguished by the well-proportioned tower and the gabled aisle and chancel windows, with good internal detail including a complete scheme of high-quality late C19 and early C20 stained glass.  


Reference Number: 26658
Grade: II
Date of Designation: 24/05/2002  
Date of Amendment: 24/05/2002  
Name of Property: St Peters Presbytery, including attached forecourt railings  
Unitary Authority: Cardiff  
Community: Plasnewydd  
Town: Cardiff  
Locality: Tredegarville  
Easting: 318999  
Northing: 177088  
Street Side: N  
Location: To the E of the church at the junction with Bedford Street.  

History: Built in 1872 by W.P. James, architect of Cardiff, for the fathers at St Peters church, of 1861, and St Peters School, which was also built in 1872 and formerly stood opposite the church.  

Exterior: A simple Gothic style 2-storey Presbytery with double-depth plan, of snecked rock-faced stone with lighter freestone dressings, and slate roof with coursed stone ridge stacks. The walls are set back from the street behind cast iron railings attached to the porches in the St Peters Street and Bedford Street elevations. Windows have mainly cusped heads and incorporate either 2-pane sash windows or replaced top-hung casements. The main entrance is in the 3-window elevation S to St Peter Street. The central ashlar-fronted porch has a steep gabled roof and a trefoiled arch with a single marble shaft and stiff-leaf capitals, and double iron gates with fleur-de-lis finials. A half-lit panelled doors has a shouldered lintel and pointed overlight. The door is flanked by tall cusped windows with iron bars. The sides of the porch have 3 open cusped arches. A single-light window is to the L and in the upper storey a 3-light window over the porch and single light window to the L are both carried above the eaves beneath gablets. To the R of the entrance is the gable end of the Bedford Street front. This has a canted bay window under a hipped roof, above which is a 2-light window with relieving arch. The 4-window L (W) side wall, facing the church, has 2 half-hipped bays to the roof. In the lower storey are V-shaped windows in ashlar surrounds with shouldered lintels, with pairs of windows above. Further N the cloister and sacristy of the church are attached at right angles. The E front facing Bedford Street has 4 pairs of windows, to the R of which is a 3-light window then a steep gabled porch. The porch has a shouldered lintel to the doorway with pointed overlight, and side windows. A replaced door inside the porch has a pointed overlight. The upper storey has 2 pairs of windows under gablets to the centre and L, to the R of which is a 3-light window under a half-hipped roof. A lower projection at the N end is continuous with the Bedford Street elevation and has a single end stack. It has 3-light and 2-light windows under shouldered lintels and a pair of cusped lights upper L under a half-hipped roof. Its N gable end has a boarded door in the lower storey, a window with shouldered lintel L and a plain window upper L. Its W side wall has 2 lintelled windows in the lower storey and cusped half-dormer above.  

Interior: The interior is planned around a long central corridor from the main entrance, which also provides direct access to the sacristy and church.

Reason for designation: Listed for its architectural quality as a distinctive Gothic design retaining good external detail, and for group value with the church of St Peter.  

Heritage Details

Architect: C. F. Hansom; J. J. Hurley

Original Date: 1861

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II*