Building » Newport – St Michael

Newport – St Michael

Clarence Street/St Michael’s Street, Pillgwenlly, Newport, NP20 2DA

A substantial late nineteenth century Gothic Revival design, built by the Rosminians for the Irish Catholic population of the dock area. The church is of high townscape value and is notable for a complete set of stained glass by Hardman and Mayer of Munich.

The 1830s and 40s saw large-scale Irish emigration to the Pillgwenlly (‘Pill’) area of Newport, seeking work in the docks. In 1847 the Institute of Charity (Rosminian Order) was given charge of the Newport mission and 1862 the Rev. John Bailey and his brother the Rev. Michael Bailey were sent to the area. Three cottages in High Street (now St Michael Street) were acquired for use as a chapel and school. Shortly afterwards some land adjoining was acquired from the Tredegar Estate for the construction of a permanent church. The foundation stone for this was laid on 29 September (St Michael’s day) 1886, and the church was opened by Dr Hedley, Bishop of Newport on Michaelmas Day the following year. The church was built on previously-disturbed ground and deep concrete foundations were needed. The architect was William Gardner of Newport and the builder W. M. Blackburn, in large part using volunteer Irish labour. The church sat 600 people (excluding the gallery, which was added later) and the cost of £4000 was met largely by public subscription. The 120 ft tower and spirelet containing eight tubular bells were added in 1893, again from designs by Gardner; the builder was Lewis Hall.

The church has a full set of stained glass windows, the east and west windows by Hardman, circa 1894, and the aisle windows by Mayer of Munich, circa 1890.

In 1898 St Michael’s Hall was built in Clarence Street, also providing additional school accommodation. More recently this has been the presbytery, with a modern extension at the rear serving as a parish hall. A new school in Oswald Road was built in 1930, from designs by C. F. Bates.

Fr Michael Bailey died in 1904 and is commemorated by a brass by John Hardman & Co in the south aisle. The presbytery at St Mary’s, Newport was also built as a memorial to Fr Bailey.

In 1906 Fr Ernest Hill came to St Michael’s, and became its first rector when an independent parish was established in 1921. He enlarged the sanctuary area and added an oak choir gallery at the west end, installed at the time of his death in 1926. His successor Fr Joseph Hurley added an oak vestibule and confessionals in the early 1930s. In 1936 a new Compton organ was installed in the west gallery, with Austrian oak casing. The high altar was probably also installed at this time.

In 2006 the Rosminians passed the care of the parish to the Archdiocese of Cardiff, and since 2007 it has formed part of the large Newport parish of All Saints, served from St Mary’s. The presbytery/former school now houses refugee families.


The building is described in the list entry (see below). It is a large and ambitious Gothic Revival design, rare in the diocese in being provided with a clerestory. The degree of architectural ambition and quality of fitting out were due in no small part to the energies and taste of its builder, Fr Michael Bailey, who worked against considerable odds and is commemorated by a brass memorial by John Hardman in the south aisle. This shows the priest recumbent with an attendant angel, a model of the church in the background.

The list entry refers to the Mayer stained glass windows, which are in the aisles and are a remarkably complete and unified set of circa 1890. They were erected to the memory of parishioners, and depict scenes from the life and Passion of Christ, and some of the parables. The windows in the Lady Chapel depict the Annunciation. The east and west windows are by Hardman and are slightly later (circa 1894); they depict angels and saints.

Other features and furnishings of note are:

  • Stone gothic reredos against the east all of the chancel, with tall central tabernacle throne and gradine
  • Stone gothic forward altar, possibly the high altar reduced and brought forward after the Second Vatican Council
  • Stone and marble gothic communion rails at the sides of the sanctuary only (possibly 1920s; the original altar rails were pitch pine)
  • Stone gothic font (now moved from the western baptistery to the Lady Chapel)
  • Polychrome oak statue of St Michael the Archangel against column to left of entrance to sanctuary, continental (possibly Stuflesser)
  • Mid-twentieth century carved Stations of the Cross, probably continental
  • At the west end of the nave, a copy of the bronze statue of St Peter at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Is this that which was presented to St David’s Cathedral, Cardiff in 1925?
  • A polychrome oak statue of St Anthony of Padua
  • A pieta in the war memorial chapel (in the former baptistery)
  • Copy of the well-known image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Rome, poignantly placed by Ann Bickerstaff ‘in memory of her husband John Bickerstaff, lost at sea November 15th 1916; and of her son James Bickerstaff, lost at sea December 19th 1916’.
  • An oak choir gallery added at the west end in 1926, with statues of saints and good carved detail
  • Compton organ above this, its oak case flanking either side of (and partially concealing) the west window
  • The nave pews are modern

List description

Reference Number: 18175
Building Number:  
Grade: II  
Status: Designated  
Date of Designation: 31/01/1997  
Name of Property: St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church
Unitary Authority: Newport  
Community: Pillgwenlly  
Town: Newport  
Locality: Pillgwenlly  
Easting: 331813  
Northing: 186813  
Street Side: 
Location: Located on the corner of Clarence Street and St Michael’s Street.

History: Designed by W Garner, foundation stone was laid in 1886 and the church opened in 1887. Paid for by public subscription and built by volunteer Irish immigrant labourers.  

Exterior: Late C19 church in Gothic style, consisting of nave, continuous N and S aisles, and tower on SW corner. Constructed in coursed, Pennant sandstone with Bath stone dressings beneath a slated roof with two copper ventilators with conical roofs. Clerestory lit by six lancet windows with cusped heads. Lean-to, single storey aisles, lit by six, simple, two-light traceried windows. The W window is large, four-light with simple ‘Y’ tracery. Small projecting W porch with cusped outer door carried on engaged columns. Slender, square, three stage tower. Lower two stages in coursed Pennant stone. Pointed doorway on S side beneath canopied niche containing a statue of St Michael. Upper stage in Bath stone, base decorated with blind arcaded frieze with ballflowers above. Engaged octagonal shafts set on corners of tower rise to plain pinnacles with short, Bath stone spire. Narrow, louvered, cusped-headed belfry lights set on each face of tower. The E end has large traceried, four-light window similar to that of the W elevation.  

Interior: Open scissor-framed roof with arched principles. Arcaded aisles in Early English style with richly moulded arches and capitals, supported on simple round columns. Timber screen in Jacobethan style to W end beneath organ loft. Retains complete set of high quality stained glass windows, installed in 1894, manufactured by Mayer of Munich. Modern furnishings.  

Reason for designation: Listed grade II as a good example of a late C19 Roman Catholic church notable for its surviving high quality stained glass and strong architectural character with well detailed interior and important townscape value.  

Heritage Details

Architect: W. B. Gardner

Original Date: 1887

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II