Pontardawe Road, Clydach, Swansea, SA6 5NS
A substantial church built in 1915 by the Benedictines to serve the expanding industrial community of Clydach. An intended larger sanctuary was never built. The building is designed in a simple Edwardian free style, round-arched with Gothic touches, the walls pebbledashed. The broad interior space with its elaborate open timber roof is impressive, and the church has a number of modern stained glass windows.
In the early nineteenth century Clydach was a small village in the Swansea valley. The Swansea Canal, which was built in the 1790s to carry coal from Ystalyfera to Swansea port, passed through the village. A steady increase in population during the second half of the nineteenth century was boosted by the opening of the Mond Nickel works in 1902. A Catholic congregation began meeting in the area in 1907 under the auspices of the Dom Anthony Cox OSB from St Joseph’s Swansea, and in 1915 the new church of St Benedict was built in Pontardawe Road. The Downside Review wrote in July 1915:
‘The new church at Clydach, near Swansea, has now been brought to completion through the energy and self-denying work of Dom Anthony Cox. The building, which was designed by Mr F. R. Bates of Newport, will seat 300 persons at present, but the accommodation will be considerably greater when the sanctuary has been added, that part of the design being omitted for the present to reduce the cost. The church was formally opened on June 6, Abbot Butler being present and preaching on the occasion. The state of Bishop Hedley’s health prevented him from attending the opening ceremony to the great disappointment of all’.
F. R. Bates & Son are recorded as carrying out various unspecified alterations and additions in 1931 (information from Alan Randall, Diocesan Archivist), but the intended sanctuary was never built.
In 1927 a community of Ursuline nuns took up residence in Manor Park House, a mansion across the road from St Benedict’s, and remained in occupation until 1996. The church was served from Ammanford from 1930 to 1944, since when it has been served by the Society of the Divine Saviour (Salvatorians).
St Benedict’s is a large building in a simple free Gothic style. The external walls of the building are pebbledashed, with footings of coursed local stone. The roofs are covered with Welsh slate. The plan comprises a low narthex fronting a wide aisleless nave with short lower transepts and with a pitched roof which is continued over a short sanctuary (a larger intended sanctuary was not built). The sanctuary is linked to the presbytery. Because of the fall in the ground, both transepts and sanctuary stand on an undercroft. The church is not orientated and the liturgical east end faces north.
The (liturgical) west end has a single-storey forebuilding with a lean-to roof between end pavilions with hipped roofs. The round-arched main entrance with boarded door with blind gothic panels is in the left pavilion, while there is a rounded-headed window in the right pavilion and three small round- headed windows in the centre (the original baptistery?). Behind the forebuilding rises the broad end gable of the nave with a central round-headed window of five stepped lights with tracery and a projecting gabled bellcote and cross at the apex. The side elevations of the nave are of six bays, divided by buttresses with slated heads. Each bay has a pair of round-headed windows. The gabled end walls of the transepts have similar windows, with a lower pair lighting the undercroft. The sanctuary has a pair of windows high in the wall but the end wall is blind.
The interior of the nave is a single broad space with an elaborate open timber roof with scissor braces and secondary curved braces brought down onto wall posts with small stone corbels. At the east end is a tall round-headed arch into the short sanctuary, flanked by smaller arched openings. That on the left leads to a side chapel, that on the right to a stair down to the undercroft. The sanctuary has windows on each side, and a round-headed recess in the blind end wall (presumably the intended chancel arch), where the high altar/ gradine is surmounted by a modern statue of the risen Christ. There is also a modern forward altar. In 2007 a new chapel dedicated to St Vincent de Paul was formed off the south side of the nave from what was formerly a store room and a confessional, with marble statues of St Vincent and St Louise de Marillac donated by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul.
Other furnishings include a small stone font with octagonal bowl and what are presumably the original timber benches. Six windows on the north side of the nave have figures of archangels in stained glass which could be original to the building. All the windows of the south side have glass by Rachel Phillips installed circa 2005; six windows depict saints and recent figures, the other windows have coloured borders and a roundel with the word Pax. In the narthex are three small windows commemorating the Ursulines at Manor Park House; the windows were designed by Colwyn Morris, made at Glantawe Studios and installed in 1998.
Architect: F. R. Bates
Original Date: 1915
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed