Penygraig Road, Townhill, Swansea, SA1 6LA
An interesting but altered design of the 1960s by Thomas Price, built to replace an earlier church hall of the 1920s serving the Mayhill and Townhill housing estates, which were developed between the wars. The building has a plain brick exterior, visually the poorer for the loss of the original concrete campanile, and an interior also slightly compromised by alterations.
The Townhill area was developed for housing by Swansea Town Council from 1908. The Mayhill Estate was built as the product of the South Wales Cottage Exhibition of 1910. The Townhill Estate (further west) was laid out in consultation with the pioneer town planner Raymond Unwin and developed between 1920 and 1929 with standardised semi-detached houses. A church/hall was built in 1925/6 on a site between the two estates in Penygraig Road, near the junction with Townhill Road, one of the estate houses serving as a presbytery.
In 1967 designs were prepared by Thomas Price of F. R. Bates, Son & Price for a new church next to the old hall, and the building was erected the following year. The building was designed to reflect the new liturgical needs emerging from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and was broadly fan-shaped on plan, with seating arranged around the altar on three sides, to facilitate active participation in the liturgy. Comparison between the design drawing and the standing building suggests that the design was slightly changed in execution, and the building has also been altered since. Writing in 1989, John Newman described the church as ‘a cubical body, partly outlined by a concrete frame behind which the side wall curves back. Brown brick, the frame outlined by thin green strips. Skeletal concrete campanile’. At some time after this, perhaps about 2013, the campanile was taken down and replaced by a brick porch and it appears that some alterations were also made to window openings.
The church was built in 1967-8 from designs by Thomas Price of F. R. Bates, Son & Price, and is modern in style and fan-shaped on plan. Lacking the leavening and vertical effect of its original campanile, the building exterior now looks slightly blockish. It is not conventionally orientated; the liturgical east end is towards the south. The building has a concrete frame with facings of brown brick laid in stretcher bond with raked joints. The flat roofs are covered with metal. The north (liturgical west) front towards Penygraig road is slightly convex with four slit windows. The west (liturgical south) side originally had the campanile at the left hand end, now replaced by a modern brick porch. To the right of the porch the wall has three rectangular windows with small-paned glazing which are detailed in a different way to the other windows and may be later insertions. The wide south (liturgical east) front has two blind canted sides with a lower flat-roofed forebuilding containing a chapel and sacristies. The east (liturgical north) side has two windows of abstract design with heavy concrete lintels and transoms.
Internally, the main space is roughly T-shaped, with the sanctuary at the head of the T. The floor is wood parquet, the walls are of barefaced cream/grey brick with elements of the concrete frame and the internal rainwater downpipes exposed. The ceiling is flat, with an oculus over the altar. There are clear signs on both side walls of the ‘nave’ of original openings, arranged in a random abstract pattern, and now blocked. The sanctuary is a raised platform against the canted liturgical east wall. Behind the sanctuary a central opening to a small chapel and the sacristies has been infilled with glazing. All the sanctuary fittings are of random coloured stonework and appear to be later in date than the 1960s. The wood and metal bench seating is probably original. The windows are largely clear glazed, though there is a small amount of modern frosted coloured glass.
Architect: F. R. Bates, Son & Price
Original Date: 1968
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed