Building » Newport – St Mary

Newport – St Mary

Stow Hill, Newport, NP20 1TP

A fine lancet Gothic design by J.J. Scoles, described by John Newman in The Buildings of Wales as ‘a confident and conspicuous effort just a decade after Emancipation’. The tall west tower (based on that of St Mary, Stamford) and later school and presbytery together form a prominent group in the city centre conservation area. The interior is lofty and spacious, with slender cast iron arcade columns adding to the feeling of lightness. Furnishings of note include three stone altars and good nineteenth and twentieth century stained glass.

The present site was given with an endowment and stone for the construction of a church by John Jones of Llanarth Court, and a small chapel was built by the Rev. Charles Haly of Usk in 1812. In 1822 a house was built alongside, but it was not until 1828 that a resident priest was appointed – Fr Burke, an Irish speaker. The congregation soon outgrew the 1812 chapel, especially after an increased influx of Irish immigrants in the 1830s, and in 1839 it was demolished and replaced by the present church. This was built for Fr Edward Metcalf OSB, who had been appointed rector in 1836. The architect was J. J. Scoles of London, who had previously provided designs for churches at Holywell and Bangor (qqv). The cost was about £2,500, met by public subscription and donations from the Herbert and Jones families of Llanarth Court and Clytha Park and Joseph Beaumont, agent to the Llanarth estate. The builder was a Mr Lawrence of Monmouth. The church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, was consecrated and opened by the Rt Rev. Dr Collier OSB on November 11 1840, when the newly-consecrated Bishop Brown, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District preached. Newman (The Buildings of Wales) describes the design as ‘a confident and conspicuous effort just a decade after Emancipation’ and it has been suggested that the church was built with an eye to its becoming a future cathedral.

In 1847 the Rosminian Fathers were given charge of the Newport mission, and in 1849 Fr Dominic Cavalli was appointed rector, a position he held for 43 years. In 1857 (not circa 1900, as stated in the list description) an infants’ school and convent (later St Mary’s Institute) were built alongside the church, from designs by Charles Hansom (Newman). In 1869 a parapet and pinnacles were added to the tower (a spire was intended by Scoles but never built) and in 1874 eight bells were installed. About this time also a rood screen was erected in the sanctuary, to celebrate the silver jubilee of Fr Cavalli’s ordination. J. H. Canning’s 1940 parish history states (p.17) that the screen had by that time been split and placed in front of the two side chapels, with the rood beam retained in the chancel arch in a raised position. However today there is no evidence of either screen or rood.

In 1905-6, a large new presbytery was built by Fr D. Hickey as a memorial to Fr Michael Bailey, builder of St Michael’s, Pillgwenlly (qv), from designs by F. R. Bates.

In 1910 the seventieth anniversary of the church was commemorated by the erection of a Caen stone reredos behind the high altar. Possibly soon afterwards the original east window was moved to the south aisle and replaced with a new window depicting the Assumption, by John Hardman (some sources date this to 1901, but the Tablet article of 1910 states that only the design for this had been prepared and installation would depend on the success of further fundraising).

The Lady altar (north) and the altar to St Patrick (south) were erected in 1913 and 1921 respectively. Also dating from 1921, stone panelling incorporating painted decoration in the sanctuary and a memorial to the parish dead of World War I (south chapel aisle). All were designed by F. R. Bates (Canning, p.20). A Second World War memorial was erected in the south chapel aisle in 1948.

The church was served by the Rosminians until 2002, since when it has been entrusted to secular clergy. Since 2007 it has been the heart of the large extended parish of All Saints, Newport, currently encompassing ten churches.


The building is described in the list entry (below). It describes the five-stage west tower which, as Newman points out, is based on the design of tower of St Mary, Stamford in Lincolnshire. The list entry draws attention to the slender iron columns of the nave arcade, with stiff leaf capitals, and the unusually lofty and spacious interior. In addition to sanctuary reordering mentioned below, post-war alterations (for which an architect and date have not been established, but the practice of F. R. Bates, Son and Price seems likely) include a gallery at the west end, baptistery (now decommissioned) and confessionals off the north aisle and new seating in the nave and aisles.

There are three stone altars against the east wall and one forward altar. The high altar is set within a small apsidal recess and has a reredos with figures of saints Joachim, Anne, Joseph, John the Baptist, Zachary, Elizabeth, Anna and Holy Simeon against gold backgrounds. The door of the tabernacle is of beaten brass with a representation of the Agnus Dei. Over the tabernacle are two figures of adoring angels. The high altar frontal is carved with quatrefoils incorporating painted figures of the crucified Christ and the Annunciation, flanked on either side by figures under trefoil canopies. In front of this is a forward altar, of substantial design and materials and presumably brought in from elsewhere. On each side of the reredos are two groups of six panels each with panels of painted angels playing musical instruments against a gold background. Quadrant curved marble communion rails enclose the outer sides of the sanctuary (probably early twentieth century, replacing the relocated screen, but the central section of the communion rails has been removed. The octagonal stone font has been moved to the sanctuary area in a post-Vatican II rearrangement and there is also a modern pulpit.

To either side of the sanctuary in aisle chapels are side altars to the Blessed Virgin Mary (north) and St Patrick (South), probably designed by F. R. Bates. These are Gothic designs with fine tabernacle doors and carved stone detail, each surmounted by a figure of the relevant saint under a canopy with marble infilling and embellishment in the arch/blind window above.

In the floor of the north aisle chapel is a brass plate memorial, near the burial place of Joseph Beaumont (d.1849), agent to the Llanarth estate and donor of the church. To him is also dedicated the St Joseph window, given by his son William.

In the south aisle chapel two large memorials record the names of 243 parishioners who died in the world wars of the twentieth century. The First World War memorial has the inscriptions in a white marble slab, set within a carved stone surround. The Second World War memorial has the inscriptions on brass plates fixed to a carved and painted wooden background, with central crucifix.

The fine glass in the three-light east window, depicting the Assumption of Our Lady, is by Hardman, possibly circa 1910. The window to the right is to Fr Metcalf, builder of the church and shows the priest kneeling at the feet of St Edward his patron, offering a model of the church, complete with the intended spire. This window is by Hardman, as is the St John window to the left of the main east window, given by John Arthur Herbert of Llanarth; both are dated 1859 (Newman). A more recent window in the north aisle at the west end is a fine design in opalescent glass by Charles Blakeman, depicting Christ saving St Peter from drowning (signed and dated 1951).

List descriptions


Reference Number: 3036
Building Number: 
Grade: II  
Status: Designated  
Date of Designation: 02/05/1980  
Date of Amendment: 31/03/2000  
Name of Property: Church of St Mary  
Unitary Authority: Newport  
Community: Stow Hill  
Easting: 331052  
Northing: 188048  
Street Side: E  
Location: Near junction with School Lane.  

History: 1838-40, by J J Scholes, architect.  

Exterior: Early English Gothic style, Bath stone with slate roofs. Elevation facing street has 5 stage tower with gabled buttresses; corner pinnacles and trefoil parapet; bell stage with 3 lancet windows. Next lower stage has trefoil arcading; next 2 stages have lancet arcading; main entrance archway below. To each side of tower, heavily buttressed aisles with round windows over lancets; R aisle has Gothic doorway. Louvre on ridge of nave roof.  

Interior: Spacious interior with braced wooden roof. Nave of 6 bays with tall iron columns on large water holding bases; large stiff-leaf capitals. Aisle chapel of 3 bays to each side. Decorated style reredos with polychrome figures of saints to rear of sanctuary and aisles. Aisle chapels each have elaborate reredos with sculptural reliefs, figures of saints, polychrome marble above. Stained glass of individual saints in aisle windows; Coronation of Virgin in stepped triple lancet behind altar.  

Reason for designation: Early C19 Roman Catholic church with strong presence, and unusually lofty and spacious interior. Group value with adjacent listed ancillary buildings.


Entry Name: St Mary RC Presbytery
Listing Date: 31 March 2000
Last Amended: 31 March 2000
Grade: II
Reference Number: 23130
Building Class: Domestic
Location: To S (right) of front of church.
County: Newport
Community: Stow Hill

History: Presbytery of 1905/6 by F R Bates, architect, of Newport.

Exterior: Two and three storeys. Pennant stone in low courses; bath stone dressings; slate roof, yellow brick chimneys. Central entrance through Gothic archway in broad splayed bay; Gothic window to each side. On first floor, central Gothic niche with statue is flanked by paired sash windows. To L, 2-storey splayed bay window with panelling between floors. To R of centre, three storey splayed bay with Gable, similar to L bay. Plain rendered elevation to R.

Reasons for Listing: Included for group value with St Mary’s RC Church.

Infant School

Entry Name: St Mary’s Catholic Infant School (St Mary’s Institute)
Listing Date: 31 March 2000
Last Amended: 31 March 2000
Grade: II
Reference Number: 23131
Building Class: Education
Location: To N (left) of front of church.
County: Newport
Community: Stow Hill

History: Roman Catholic School of circa 1900.

Exterior: Gabled front of three storeys plus attic. Pennant stone in low courses; bath stone dressings and quoins; slate roof. Two-light mullioned window to attic, and 2 to second floor. On first floor, 3-light mullion and transom window to L, and similar 2-light window to R. On ground floor, square-headed window of 6-Gothic lights; to R of this, Gothic entrance doorway.

Reasons for Listing: Included for group value with St Mary’s RC Church.


Amended by AHP 27.01.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: J. J. Scoles

Original Date: 1840

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II