Talybont Road, Llanrwst, LL26 0AU
The parish of Llanrwst has historic connections with the promotion of the Welsh language, and has served a small but widespread Catholic community for over a hundred years. The present church dates from 1956 and is a simple building in a modern vernacular style, an early work by Stewart Powell Bowen (who went on to form the nationally celebrated architectural practice Bowen Dann Davies). The church and presbytery are sympathetically grouped, and the interior has a modest dignity that survives with little alteration.
During the latter years of the nineteenth century, Bishop Mostyn was a keen promoter of the use of the Welsh language in the readings at Mass. With the blessing of Pope Leo XIII, he persuaded two Oblate Fathers from Brittany to come to North Wales, trusting that the similarities between the Breton and Welsh languages might be conducive to this end. Fathers Trebaol and Merlour arrived in August 1900, and after six month spent preaching in Holyhead, they were sent to Llanrwst, which had previously been served from Colwyn Bay.
On 1 December 1901 Fr Trebaol opened a chapel in rooms over a stable, dedicating it to SS Tudwal and Grwst. In his sermon, speaking in Welsh, he recalled how during the Anglo-Saxon invasions, St Tudwal had left his monastery near Pwllheli to found the episcopal see of Trecon in Lower Brittany. Although the Llanrwst congregation was small, and there was local opposition to the establishment of the Catholic mission, its numbers soon increased. In 1904 a group of Breton nuns, Daughters of the Holy Ghost, arrived to found a convent, and gave lessons in French, music and needlework.
At the end of World War I, land was donated to the parish in Trefiw and a home was opened there for sick priests. Fr Hugh Weld-Blundell, one of the sick priests, acted as chaplain until 1929, while the chapel at Llanrwst was closed. In 1930 a church was opened in Trefiw, and then in 1933 Fr Trebaol’s old chapel was reopened in Llanrwst. It remained in use, on and off, until the new church in Llanrwst was opened in 1956 under the auspices of Fr Donnelly, who re-introduced the Welsh Mass. The new church, Eglwys-y-Bugail Da (Church of the Good Shepherd) was blessed by Bishop Petit on 10 September 1956. Its cost, excluding furnishings, was £12,100. The architect, Stewart Powell Bowen, was the founder of Bowen Dann Davies, a practice which came to prominence in the 1970s and 80s, their work being amongst the best architecture from this period to be found in North Wales (including the 1964 church of Our Lady of Lourdes at Benllech, Anglesey, qv).
The church is rectangular on plan and stands perpendicular to the road. It consists of a nave with narthex and sanctuary, with a small projection on the right hand side containing the entrance and Lady Chapel. The sacristy and presbytery, which were built at the same time as the church, form a long range set back from, but parallel to, the road. The church has a reinforced concrete frame which is expressed internally, with non-structural brickwork, faced in roughcast render. The roof is steeply pitched and laid with Welsh slates in diminishing courses. There is a random stone gable wall to the porch and the recessed entrance doors are of oak. The windows are timber framed with round heads and leaded panes; those in the west are a trio of very tall lancets.
The simple interior, which is open up to the roof with its reinforced concrete frame exposed, has changed little since the church was built. The large stone altar has been brought forward and the canopy and altar rails have been removed, but the crucifix and tabernacle remain in their original locations. The baptistery is now used as a creche, but retains its rails. The original pendant light fittings also survive. The west stained glass window came from a church at Betws-y-Coed which closed in the 1980s, and other glass is said to have been made by Irish University students. Some of the benches may previously have been at the local ‘Farmers Arms’ Public House.
Architect: Stewart Powell Bowen
Original Date: 1956
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed