Building » Mountain Ash – Our Lady of Lourdes

Mountain Ash – Our Lady of Lourdes

Miskin Road, Mountain Ash, CF45 3UA

A fairly ambitious Gothic Revival design of the 1890s by Bernard Smith of London, with a radical sanctuary addition of 1962 by Thomas Price. The original church has good detailing and proportions, but the intended tower was never completed and most of the historic furnishings have been removed. The adjoining presbytery is contemporary with the church, but has too been altered.

The opening of the Deep Duffryn and Navigation coal mines in 1850 and 1855 saw a large influx of workers to Mountain Ash, including many Irish immigrants. From 1860 Catholics in the town were served by Rev. Charles Timfers, based at Aberdare. In 1877 a separate mission was established, when the Rev. Armand Hamelin started construction of a chapel-school at the junction of Ivor Street and Napier Street. Funds were very limited but following numerous heartfelt appeals by Fr Hamelin in the pages of The Tablet, the building was completed and opened by Bishop Hedley in 1879. The letters are a poignant evocation of the privations of that time.

In 1884 Mountain Ash acquired its own resident priest, the Rev. James O’Reilly. In the 1890s he was given a field by Lord Aberdare and Messrs Nixon & Co., a better location on which to build a new church, presbytery and school. The church and presbytery came first, the foundation stone being blessed and laid by the Bishop of Newport in September 1897, the Earl of Dumfries assisting. The completed church was opened by the Bishop of Newport in April/May 1899, and the school followed in 1904 (since replaced). The architect for the church and presbytery was Bernard Smith of London, the contractors Collins & Godfrey of Tewkesbury. The Marquess of Bute was also a major donor. The Tablet reported the opening:

‘For over 20 years the Catholics of Mountain Ash have had to use as a chapel on Sundays the small structure used as schools in Napier-street, and it has been the aim of the Rev. Father O’Reilly, since his advent to the district about 18 years ago, that a church should be erected. His efforts have at last been crowned with success, and a handsome church, dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception’ has been erected on central site in the town from the designs of Mr. Bernard Smith, Westminster Chambers, Victoria-street, London, by Messrs. Collins and Godfrey, Tewkesbury, at a cost of over £3,000. The building is in Gothic style, with a nave 81 feet long by 28 feet wide, and a sanctuary 19 feet by 17 feet, in addition to which there are a priests’ sacristy, acolytes’ sacristy, baptistery, vestibule, and organ gallery, the latter being at the west end. The altar is of Pons stone, with a tabernacle three feet high, over which is a carved oak pinnacle canopy with recess for a crucifix. The reredos of carved wood will shortly be erected. This will be a magnificent piece of wood carving’.

In 1962 the sanctuary was radically remodelled by Thomas Price of F. R. Bates & Son, with the removal of the high altar and the formation of a large trapezoidal opening to a side-lit alcove addition. Possibly at the same time, or maybe at the time of the consecration of the church (by Archbishop Murphy of Cardiff in February 1975), a forward altar was introduced and the communion rails, original Stations of Cross, nave pulpit and pinnacled statue alcoves on either side of the sanctuary arch removed.

Today Our Lady of Lourdes is the principal church of the Mountain Ash parish, which also includes the churches of St Joseph at Aberdare and St Thérèse of Lisieux at Hirwaun (qqv).


A Decorated Gothic design of 1897-9 with a modern addition of 1962. The church is built of randomly coursed stone with sandstone ashlar dressings, the roof coverings are slate. The building consists of an aisleless nave and chancel under one continuous ridge line. Giving off the nave at the west end is an incomplete tower with turret and baptistery, a porch gives off the north side and a confessional the south side. The sanctuary is squared-ended, with a stone-faced modern extension with a convex east wall. A single-storey link on the north side contains the sacristy and leads to the contemporary presbytery.

The east end has a large three-light window with elaborate cusped tracery, angle buttresses, stone kneelers and copings and a stone cross finial. At the sides, attached buttresses mark the bay divisions and the windows are lancets with cusps and dagger tracery and hoodmoulds with squared stops. There are ashlar bands at sill and stop level, the latter continuing over the buttresses to meet the kneelers. On the north side, the gabled porch has angle buttresses, a moulded arched entrance of one order with hoodmould and a rectangular west window. On the south side, the westernmost bay has a projecting confessional with catslide roof. The sacristy link gives off the easternmost bay, with a chimney built into the buttress. At the west end, the intended tower was never completed and the base is capped off with a hipped roof. It has angle buttresses, a chamfered plinth and a triple lancet window; on its south side is a projecting stairwell to the internal gallery.

Inside, from the narthex a gated baptistery and stair to the gallery lead off. The narthex opens into the nave under a low segmental arch below the gallery. The nave is of five bays. An arched and scissor braced roof structure rises from stone corbels, with exposed rafters and purlins and painted plaster panels between. The walls are plastered and painted, the floor covering of terrazzo type with some areas of carpet. A tall chancel arch leads to the sanctuary up two steps. Beyond this, a trapezoidal opening of 1962 has three further steps to an alcove for the tabernacle.

The following furnishings are of note:

  • The forward altar is of reconstituted marble with an applied brass ‘PX’ detail, possibly 1975 by Thomas Price.
  • Possibly contemporary with this, the tabernacle is set on a rusticated stone plinth.
  • Statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Lourdes on either side of the sanctuary arch appear to be original but have lost their canopied surrounds.
  • There are brass memorials to the dead of two World Wars.
  • The benches are oak and panelled with trefoil ends, replacing chairs.
  • The organ dates from 1960, by Henry Willis & Sons.
  • The octagonal stone font with oak cover is original or early and remains in the baptistery; it has been inappropriately painted blue and white.
  • All the windows have leaded Cathedral glass (there is no sign of the window attributed to Paul Woodroffe mentioned in the Buildings of Wales Glamorgan volume, 2004, p. 452).
Heritage Details

Architect: Bernard Smith; F. R. Bates, Son & Price

Original Date: 1899

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed