Meyrick Street, Pembroke Dock, Pembroke, SA72 6AL
Built in 1847 at a time of major Irish immigration to the dockyard in the wake of the Great Famine, St Mary’s is one of the earliest nineteenth century Catholic churches in Pembrokeshire. The main fabric of the building appears to be little altered, and while few if any original furnishings survive, later furnishings of note include an east window by Paul Woodroffe. The church makes a positive contribution to the local conservation area.
The Royal Dockyard at Milford Haven was established in 1814, in a location previously known as Pater which became known as Pembroke Dock. The dock brought a rapid increase in population, both from those building and working in the dockyard and from military units stationed in the town. There were also Irish immigrants, whose number greatly increased in the mid-1840s in the wake of the Great Famine. The first resident priest was the Rev. Peter Lewis, who lived in the town from 1845. Money was raised by local subscription and a church was built in 1846-7 on a plot of land leased from the Meyrick family, the principal landowners. The design was provided by Joseph Jenkins of Haverfordwest.
In 1862 the church was enlarged by the addition of a sanctuary and sacristy; the architect for these additions was John Cooper of Pembroke Dock (Buildings of Wales).
The building was further enlarged in about 1900, when a hall in complementary Gothic style was added at right angles to the church. It may have been at this time that a new recess for a Lady altar was formed at the northeast end of the nave. The old high altar reredos was moved to a new location behind the Lady altar in 1927 (it has since been removed and the Lady altar recess blocked). New stained glass by Paul Woodroffe was installed in the east window in 1929.
In the 1960s a large post office building next to the church site was acquired for use as a presbytery; it was demolished in the early 1980s to make way for the existing presbytery and adjoining houses.
The church is in a simple Gothic style. The plan comprises an aisleless nave and sanctuary. The external walls are of local rubble stone with heavy cement pointing and dressings of ashlar stone. The pitched roof is covered in Welsh slate. The gabled west front has a simple pointed central doorway with a two-light traceried window over and a floriated cross at the apex of the gable. To the left of the doorway is the outline of a small blocked window with a pointed head. There are thin octagonal turrets at the corners. The nave side walls are divided into bays by flat buttresses: four on the north side, five on the south side. Each bay has a pointed window with a dripstone; some of the original moulded dripstones have been renewed in a simpler form. At the head of the wall is a corbel table. The east wall of the sanctuary has a gabled bellcote (no bell). Set at right angles to the north side of the church and connecting with it is the parish hall of circa 1900, which has one window with Y tracery, two three-light windows under segmental heads and a doorway at the north end.
The nave interior has plain plastered walls and an elaborate but rather thin open timber roof with wall-posts on carved stone corbels, hammerbeams and tall curved braces to the collars of the principal trusses. The underside of the roof slopes are boarded. There is a timber western gallery, now partly underbuilt. The nave windows are set in deep plain reveals. At the east end of the north side is a wide moulded pointed arch on short colonettes with massive floriated capitals. This was originally the location of the Lady altar. The altar has now been removed and the arch blocked, with a door with pointed head linking to the adjacent hall. The chancel arch is tall and pointed, the sanctuary short with a boarded waggon roof of two bays. The two-light traceried east window contains stained glass of 1929 with figures of St David and St Patrick and a naked boy, by Paul Woodroffe, member of the Art Workers’ Guild and a pupil of Christopher Whall.
A comparison with early photographs shows the extent of internal change. Most of the present finishes and fittings appear to be relatively modern; the timber and iron sanctuary rails were installed in the 1980s, the timber benches replaced the original benches some time after 1960. The hanging crucifix over the altar was apparently purchased in 1935 at a local sale of the effects of a Spanish nobleman.
Architect: Joseph Jenkins; John Cooper
Original Date: 1847
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed