Maengwyn Street, Machynlleth, SY20 8HW
A simple, economical design by the architects of Clifton Cathedral, this is an early post-Vatican II church, built in 1965, square on plan with the seating arranged around the altar. It was considerably rebuilt after storm damage in 1984, losing much of its original internal character.
The parish of Machynlleth was established in 1927 when the first parish priest, Paul Edward Hook OSB was appointed. Initially Mass was said in a rented house close to the railway station. During Fr Hook’s tenure a local couple, Mr and Mrs Winnington, purchased Hyfrydle House to serve as the presbytery. At the back of the house they built a wooden chapel that served as the Mass centre; they also supplied the vestments and furnishings.
In 1939, at the invitation of Bishop McGrath of Menevia, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) took over the pastoral care of the parish and were given the role of missionaries to the whole of central Wales. Having obtained Maengwyn House, the order initially established a chapel dedicated to Our Lady in one of the rooms of the property; this was replaced in 1943 by a chapel in the grounds built by Br Aloysius C.SS.R.
By the early 1960s it was evident this chapel was no longer adequate for the needs of the parish so plans were initiated to build a new church. This was still a modest congregation and a poor parish, and the £14,000 cost of construction was met entirely by the Van Neste Foundation. On 7 June 1965, Bishop Petit of Menevia blessed and opened the new church of Our Lady, Help of Christians (St Mair). Designed by Sir Percy Thomas & Son of Shrewsbury, the church was very simple in appearance and designed in the spirit of the ongoing liturgical reforms of Vatican II, with a central sanctuary and altar. It could seat 120 people and the space was capable of being subdivided, creating a smaller worship area for weekday Mass.
In 1978 the Redemptorists left Machynlleth and sold the monastery, leaving one priest, Fr Bernard Griffin C.SS.R., to continue as parish priest. With volunteer help he acquired two derelict cottages and converted them into a presbytery. In January 1984 the roof of the church was damaged during a storm and the church required complete renovation. Fr Charles Lloyd, who had previously overseen the construction of the new churches at Tywyn and Aberdovey (Aberdyfi) (qqv) was approached by Fr Griffin to assist in the repairs. In April of that year Fr Griffin retired through ill health and Fr Lloyd was appointed to serve as parish priest of Tywyn, Aberdovey and Machynlleth. He took a direct involvement in the repairs, doing much of the work himself. A former forge located within the grounds was re-roofed and adapted to serve as a temporary Mass centre while the church was being repaired. After completion the forge became the parish hall and was dedicated to St Gerard. On 8 September 1992 a new polished black slate altar and font were installed.
The church is a modern design constructed of yellow brick walling with grey brick detailing and a pre-cast coffered concrete roof with concrete entrance canopy. There are a combination of high level slit and tall slit windows. Inside, a small porch with WC leads into the main worship area. The walls were originally bare brick but are now plastered and painted and there is also a modern suspended ceiling. The floor covering is of quarry tiles. The seating is arranged in a C-shape around a central sanctuary, which is raised two steps. The altar (1992) is placed centrally and is of polished black slate. The tabernacle is brass and set within a niche lined with polished black slate. The font is located in the nave, north of the sanctuary and is of the same materials and date as the altar. The east wall of the sanctuary has the sacristy behind, accessed on the north side with an office above. In the northwest corner of the nave is a shrine of Our Lady with a modern wall-mounted statue of the Madonna and Child. A confessional is in the southwest corner. The benches are pine with pebbled concrete supports. The Stations of the Cross are plaster reliefs.
Architect: Sir Percy Thomas & Son
Original Date: 1965
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed