Tredegar Road, Ebbw Vale, NP23 6JQ
A large interwar Gothic Revival design by C. H. Hill of Abergavenny, not imaginative or original in its design but making a powerful contribution to the local townscape. Post-Vatican II reordering saw the removal of original sanctuary furnishings, but the architectural character remains largely unchanged. Furnishings include two good stained glass windows by J. E. Nuttgens.
As with many parts of South Wales, the Catholic community of Ebbw Vale developed following the arrival of Irish immigrant workers at the time of the Great Famine. Many were employed in the town’s iron and steel industry and mines. In 1840 there were just sixteen missions serving the region, and ministering to the large numbers of impoverished Catholics was a considerable challenge. By the 1860s numbers in Ebbw Vale had increased considerably, recorded as 750 in 1866. In 1865 a mission was established, in a tin hut chapel on Tredegar Road, dedicated to St Mary. The first Mass was celebrated by the Capuchins, who had been invited to take on the ministry of Cwmbran in 1864. However, the mission was served from Tredegar until 1868, when the first resident priest was appointed.
Around 1904, during the rectorship of the Rev. D. Hallahan, the diocese purchased a nearby plot housing a stable block, belonging to the Richard Thomas and Baldwin’s (RTB) Steelworks. However, it appears that the present church was not built until 1924, under the Rev. John Fitzpatrick. Designed by C. H. Hill of Abergavenny, this was one of the larger Catholic places of worship in South Wales, seating over 640 people. The builders were Foster & Hill of Abergavenny. The building included schoolrooms beneath.
The church was reordered in the 1960s following the Second Vatican Council, when the high altar and reredos and a number of other furnishings were removed.
In 1998 a Friends group was established to raise funds for urgent structural repairs; these took place over the following six years and included masonry repairs and redecoration of the church and hall (which had been damaged by flooding). Today the presbytery is an end-of-terrace house immediately to the north of the church and the lower rooms serve as the parish hall.
The church is in early Gothic style (with Decorated detailing), faced with a combination of random and coursed granite, with ashlar and yellow brick dressings, and slate roofs. It is longitudinal on plan, consisting of a long six-bay nave and aisles with a chancel under a lower ridge to the east; there is no tower or transepts. The central entrance is flanked by attached buttresses and has a banded stone pointed arch below a five-light east window of equal lancets, the central one incorporating a stone statue of the Madonna and Child (post-1939) under a nodding ogee canopy. At the sides, the west walls of the aisles have paired lancets. The side elevations are of seven bays, with paired lancets to the aisles and clerestory. There are also pairs of tall slit windows in each bay of the lower (hall) level, with an arched entrance in the sixth bay of the south elevation. There is a single lancet at the east end of the north aisle. The sanctuary is square ended and projects beyond the aisles; it is of two bays with two tall lancets and a blocked doorway on the north side. The east wall is rubble coursed, with some brick infill; it has a large, stepped five-light lancet window with yellow brick dressings. At the southeast corner an adjoining three-storey element is the sacristies or possibly the original presbytery; it has rectangular windows, one of which has mullions, and the east end is rendered.
Inside, a large narthex is formed by a modern timber and glazed screen under the gallery. The nave arcades have cylindrical columns on chamfered bases, and moulded arches with hood moulds. The roof is of scissor brace construction, with wall posts to the beams resting on moulded stone corbels. A chancel arch divides the nave and sanctuary, and there are side chapels to north and south.
The baptistery is at the west end of the north aisle; it retains a good carved stone octagonal font with waterleaf details and an oak lid. A stained glass window of the Baptism of Christ by J. E. Nuttgens was installed in 1948 in memory of the Fonseca family. There is a brass aumbry door and two marble memorials to the Rev. Augustine Fritz (d. 1902) and Rev. Francis Pius Rose (d. 1908). The steel baptistery gates are modern (possibly 1960s). A staircase leads to the gallery, which is two bays in length. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is located at the west end of the south aisle and is used as a day chapel. It has a modern stone slab altar, while a glass case on the west window sill houses the Blessed Sacrament for exposition; behind is a stained glass window depicting SS Peter and Paul, a later windows by Nuttgens, installed in 1953 in memory of John and Mary Torrington. Newman notes the ‘notable development in technique and in intensity of effect between the two windows’. There is a ceramic image Our Lady’s face after Michelangelo’s pieta, a memorial to the O’Sullivan families. The Stations of the Cross are painted ceramic; they were installed as a memorial for the men of the parish killed in the First World War, and were donated by various individuals and by the Catholic Women’s Guild. There is Sacred Heart shrine and Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in the north and south aisles respectively. The sanctuary is raised up two steps at the chancel arch, with the altar up a further three steps; the sanctuary floor is white terrazzo and the altar is stone with a painted yellow marble effect. The tabernacle is set on a modern hardwood plinth, above is a modern oak crucifix with painted corpus.
Architect: C. H. Hill of Abergavenny
Original Date: 1924
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed