Building » Carmarthen – St Mary

Carmarthen – St Mary

Union Street, Carmarthen, SA31 3DE

A well-detailed design of the early 1850s by Charles Hansom in the Second Pointed Gothic style, the intended north aisle and south transept omitted for reasons of cost. The interior retains Hansom’s carved altar (brought forward) and fine reredos. In the 1880s the church was altered and Hansom’s original presbytery was replaced by a monastery/clergy house by Albert Vicars, after the Passionist order took charge of the mission. The church contains a quantity of stained glass by Mayer of Munich and others. With the clergy house it makes a prominent contribution to the local townscape.

In the later 1840s a steady flow of refugees from the famine in Ireland passed through Carmarthen, and the regiments stationed in the Carmarthen barracks often included Irish solders, many of them Catholics. In 1850 the Rev. Peter Lewis arrived to establish a Catholic mission in Carmarthen, with services held in a converted property at the junction of Water Street and Goose Street. Fr Lewis had previously been at Pembroke, where he had overseen the building of the church of St Mary (qv) in the dockyard settlement. In Carmarthen he prevailed upon the Herbert family of Llanarth Castle, Monmouthshire to purchase a site in Union Street and donate it to the church. Some funds for a new building were raised by local subscription, but most came from Miss Catherine Richardson of Bath.

The architect for the new church was Charles Hansom of Bristol, who had previously provided the designs for St David at Swansea and St Michael at Brecon (qqv). The builder was Daniel Santry of Carmarthen. Construction started in 1851 but during the course of the building work Fr Lewis was replaced by the Rev. Lewis Havard from Brecon. In the event, the funds available were not sufficient to complete the church to Hansom’s original design, and the intended north aisle and south transept were not built. A small presbytery was attached at right angles to the church on the south side. The church was opened by Bishop Thomas Brown OSB on 4 August 1852. Contemporary reports of the opening indicate that the carved altar and the reredos were designed by Hansom.

In 1888 the care of the parish was entrusted to the Passionist Order, who remained in Carmarthen until 1986. In 1889 under Fr Dominic O’Neill, the first Passionist Rector, the church was restored and given a new painted ceiling (painted over before the end of the twentieth century) and a new west gallery with an organ. At the same time the original small presbytery was replaced by a substantial three-storey monastery or clergy house. The architect for these works was Albert Vicars of the London firm of Vicars & O’Neill (who also designed the Passionist church of St Joseph, Highgate in London). The works were funded by the Misses Richardson and Abadam, Mr Charles Morris and others. Miss Richardson died in 1891 and was interred in the burial ground at St Mary’s; a £50 legacy from her allowed for new marble and alabaster altar rails (since removed). In April 1895 Bishop Hedley of Newport and Menevia blessed a new 14 cwt bell, and in 1896 the bishop returned to be presented with a bejewelled Gothic mitre made by Hardman, Powell & Co. and donated by Miss Alice Abadam of Picton Terrace, Carmarthen.

A primary school was built nearby in 1923 and a parish hall in 1936 (since rebuilt). Since 2000 the church has been served by Marist priests. In 2016 a new Holy Door of Mercy was formed in the north wall of the church, allowing step-free access.


The church and its furnishings are fully described in the list entry, which was revised and expanded in May 2024, following Taking Stock: Listed Buildings – Full Report – HeritageBill Cadw Assets – Reports (

The former monastery/Clergy House was separately listed in February 2024, following Taking Stock: Listed Buildings – Full Report – HeritageBill Cadw Assets – Reports (

Heritage Details

Architect: Charles Hansom; Albert Vicars

Original Date: 1852

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II