Promenade Terrace, Mumbles, Swansea, SA3 4DR
This building now containing a church, hall and presbytery was originally built in about 1900 as a hall for Vaudeville shows, then became a cinema, and was adapted by the Douai Benedictines to serve as a Catholic church in 1919. It was much altered in 1979 and the building now has a largely modern character.
From its foundation in 1921 until January 1985 the parish of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Mumbles, was under the pastoral care of the Benedictines of Douai Abbey. The mission was founded from Swansea and served from St David’s Church from 1906, using a temporary building (a former chapel) rented by Canon Basil Gwydir of St David’s (who as a naval chaplain lost his life in 1914 in the wreck of the hospital ship ‘Rohilla’). He dedicated this to Our Lady Star of the Sea, and the first Mass was celebrated on 20 May 1906. The chapel continued to be served by priests from St David’s until 1919. In March of that year Fr Augustine Egerton of St David’s obtained a disused hall which had been built in about 1900 as a venue for vaudeville shows, known as Tom Owen’s New Pavilion. The building, which appears to have had a hall façade of fake half-timbering, later became a cinema. After rapid adaptation for Catholic use, the first Mass was celebrated by Abbot Hurley of Douai Abbey on 20 July 1919. He was to return in 1921 as the first resident priest at Mumbles, which became an independent parish in 1925. The church was refaced in concrete blocks in 1923, the work carried out by Mr J. Morris, who had built the cinema (notes by Abbot Hurley in Douai Archives).
In 1979 the building was repaired and adapted under the direction of F. R. Bates, Son & Price of Newport. A narthex was added at the front and inside a suspended ceiling was installed to improve the acoustics (and presumably to aid heat retention). The original stage, which had previously been adapted to serve as the sanctuary, was removed and a meeting room and sacristy formed in its place. A new sanctuary was formed in the main body of the church, with a wooden baldacchino over the altar designed by Geoffrey Webb, author of The Liturgical Altar (1933) (information from Abbot Geoffrey Scott). Somewhat large for this setting, and possibly anachronistic for its date, the baldacchino was later (post-1985) removed, its fate not established.
On St David’s Day 1985 the parish was handed over to the care of the Archdiocese of Cardiff, thus bringing to an end Douai’s association with Catholic life in the parish and in South Wales.
The building is rectangular on plan, with the hall and presbytery set at right angles across the north end facing the sea. The exterior was refaced with grey rock-faced artificial stone laid to courses in 1923. The pitched roof is covered with artificial slate and is carried down at the southwest corner over the narthex of 1979, which is faced with render. The main elevation of the church facing down Devon Place has three rectangular windows high in the wall with the narthex to the right. The other elevations are largely concealed.
The interior is a single rectangular space with a carpeted floor, plastered walls and a stepped suspended ceiling concealing the roof trusses. There are modern rectangular windows in the (liturgical) north, south and west walls, some with panels of twentieth century figurative stained glass, which appear to be fragments of larger windows. The sanctuary is simply a raised platform with a plain timber full-height panelled reredos.
Architect: J. Morris (builder); 1979 alterations by F. R. Bates, Son & Price
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed