St David’s Lane, Fford Fain, Mold, CH7 1LH
An accomplished building with a striking presence on the approach to the town centre, and a luminous interior of fine spatial proportions. The church is built of an attractive purple-coloured brick with a copper roof and tall bell tower. The architects were Weightman & Bullen, who developed a modern approach to church architecture about the time of the Second Vatican Council. The altar, font and pews are original to the church, which also contains stained glass by Dom Charles Norris. The church was built as part of an ambitious scheme that included presbytery, parish hall, school and convent.
During the 1850s and 60s Mass was said in a house in New Street and a lodging house in Milford Street, Mold. The mission was served first by the Capuchin friars from Chester and then later by the friars from Pantasaph. In 1862 a small church was erected at Fford Fain, close to the lead mill on the edge of the town, reputedly funded and constructed by the local members of the Catholic community themselves. A presbytery followed and a school was built alongside in 1871-72. Around 1881 a community of Jesuit priests expelled from France came to Mold and bought the old jail, where they established St David’s College. Although they went back to France in 1897, they returned to Mold in 1902, remaining until 1908. When the Jesuits finally departed, St David’s College was taken over for a time by an order of French nuns.
In the late 1930s a four acre site was acquired adjoining the church and school, where over time were built a presbytery, a much larger school, a church, a parish hall, and a convent. The presbytery was erected in 1955-56, designed by Frederick Roberts of Mold, who was also responsible for school buildings erected in the early 1960s. The convent was added for the sisters of the Sainte Union Congregation, who were appointed to teach in the school. Finally, in 1965-66, the church, hall and campanile were built to the design of Weightman & Bullen at a cost of £45,000.
The church was designed to form a group with the other existing buildings on the site; the architects’ original plan had an enclosed entrance courtyard at the centre. This, however, was amended as built to form a more open arrangement, with a car park separating the hall and church. It was designed to seat 260, with additional seating in the gallery. The most striking feature is the tall campanile with a single bronze bell and giant aluminium cross (originally of fibreglass). The church has a structure of steel reinforced masonry piers, faced in purple rustic Leicestershire bricks both externally and internally, and the roof is of steel and timber, covered in copper. There are two side chapels with segmental arches, one is dedicated to Our Lady and the other to St David. These are framed by deep internal buttresses that are penetrated by low passages. Above the entrance vestibule is a gallery, reached by a spiral staircase. The sanctuary is dramatically lit from a glazed lantern and is flanked on the south side by a chapel which is connected to the convent. The presbytery is also linked to the church via a flat-roofed sacristy.
In the walls of the transepts are eight abstract stained glass windows in dalle de verre, designed by Charles Norris, a monk from Buckfast Abbey. It is also proposed to incorporate the fine stained glass from the closed church at Morfa Nefyn in the tall side windows and possibly at the west end. These are by Jonah Jones (1919-2004), who studied with Eric Gill and set up his own workshop on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales. The original heavy timber benches, almost certainly designed by Weightman & Bullen, remain in place, with movable chairs in front of the sanctuary added after the altar of Darley Dale stone was moved back. The church has a large collection of vestments, assembled by Canon James Webb, incumbent 1986-2012, and also a good collection of plate.
A number of changes were made in the last decades of the twentieth century, including replacement of the timber west doors and a number of window frames in upvc; the conversion of a confessional into a Blessed Sacrament Chapel; the relocation of the font and conversion of the baptistery to a repository; the disposal of the metal altar rails and movement of the altar further back to give more room for seating; and the replacement of the copper pendant lamps with spotlights. Nonetheless, the church remains well preserved and maintained. The original green thermoplastic-tiled floor survives, but is reaching the end of its life.
Architect: Weightman & Bullen
Original Date: 1966
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed