George Street, Pontypool, NP4 6HL
A neo-Norman church of the 1840s by J. J. Scoles. The Capuchin Franciscans from Pantasaph took on responsibility of the church in 1860 and eventually established their house of studies here. The building was renovated and reordered in the mid-twentieth century, when ceramic furnishings by Adam Kossowski were introduced. The view towards the church and presbytery from the west is of high townscape value.
In 1838 Mgr Peter Augustine Baines OSB, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District wrote a report to the Propaganda Congregation recording the Catholic population of Wales as 6,250; of these over half were in Monmouthshire and some 600 in Pontypool (Attwater, 1935, 75). By 1840 there were sixteen missions serving the fast-growing Catholic communities of the mining districts of South Wales, but many were without dedicated Mass centres. A mission was established at Pontypool in 1844 and construction of the church began in the same year, being completed in 1846, when the building was opened by Dr Brown, Bishop of Newport and Menevia. The architect was J. J. Scoles, working in the same Neo-Norman style that he had employed a few years earlier at St David’s, Cardiff.
Within the first five years of the mission, the Catholic population of the town increased to 870. In 1860 a scarcity of secular priests meant that Capuchin Franciscans from Pantasaph were invited to take over the mission. The charismatic Fr Elzear Torreggiani OSF (later Bishop of Armidale, New South Wales) established a number of missions from Pontypool, including Abersychan (1863), Risca (1868), Abertillery (1875-6) and Cwmbran (1882).
According to the potted parish history in the dedication brochure, in 1881-2 the church was extended westwards and a gallery added, increasing the capacity to 240 (the list entry states that the gallery was added in the 1950s). The large presbytery was built in c.1870-1 (according to Newman; the parish history says 1849, i.e. before the friars, but this seems less likely) and served as a Franciscan house of studies until 1891, when the friars withdrew and secular priests took on the ministry.
A parish hall was built at some point after 1938. In the early 1950s the church was closed for a while due to licensing restrictions and fell into a state of disrepair; after repair and redecoration it was reopened for Midnight Mass, Christmas 1954. The renovation was carried out under the direction of F. R. Bates & Son of Newport, and involved new seating and a new high altar. Stations of the Cross were designed by Adam Kossowski (who also provided the Stations for Cardiff Cathedral about this time). The church was consecrated on 13 October 1955 by Archbishop McGrath of Cardiff.
On 17 June 1980 a new forward altar was dedicated by Archbishop Murphy of Cardiff.
The church is described in the list entry (below), but the furnishings are not covered in any detail. The following points can be added:
Reference Number: 18830
Date of Designation: 28/08/1997
Date of Amendment: 28/08/1997
Name of Property: St. Alban’s R.C. Church
Unitary Authority: Torfaen
Street Side: W
Location: North-west of Pontypool town centre across the relief road.
History: Built in 1844-46 in an economical version of the then fashionable Norman style, to the design of J J Scoles the prolific Catholic architect.
Exterior: Built of squared coursed brown limestone rubble with a Welsh slate roof. The church is aligned north-west/south-east. Neo-Norman style with a nave, apsed sanctuary and north-east entrance porch. Six bay nave with each bay framed by strip pilasters and containing a small single light arched window; these are modern steel framed in three panes. Doorway with framing Norman colonettes with scalloped capitals. Small single bay chapel projecting to the left of this, from bay 4. Early C20 gabled dormer with lattice casement over the doorway. The apse has five windows with pilasters between and a conical roof.
Interior: The interior is very plain and is plastered and ceiled throughout. Plain rere-arches to the windows. Open roof supported on principal rafter type trusses with collar beam queen struts and curved feet. Small west gallery with organ. This, and all the joinery, including the plain benches, date from a refurbishment in c1958.
Reason for designation: Listed as a good example of a Roman Catholic missionary church of the 1840s which was designed by a notable Catholic architect and survives in a little altered condition.
The presbytery and surrounding walls (including gateway, steps and post box) were separately listed (Grade II) in June 2023, following Taking Stock. List descriptions at:
Architect: J. J. Scoles
Original Date: 1846
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II