Building » Tenby – Holyrood and St Teilo

Tenby – Holyrood and St Teilo

St Florence Parade, Tenby, SA70 7DT

A substantial late-Victorian church by F. A. Walters, a prolific Catholic architect of the later phase of the Gothic Revival. Walters’ design was not fully realised, and the interior has lost many of its historic furnishings. The building lies outside the Tenby Conservation Area but occupies a sensitive site opposite the medieval town wall. A former convent building, also by Walters, adjoins and has group value with the church.

As early as the 1840s Mass was occasionally said at Tenby by Fr Peter Lewis, who travelled from Haverfordwest. Fr Dominic O’Neill of the Passionist Fathers held services in a basement in Bridge Street near the harbour and established a mission in 1888, saying Mass in the chapel of St Bride in Brychan Yard in Upper Frog Street. The present church was built under the auspices of another Passionist, Fr Placid Wareing, to designs by the well-known Catholic architect Frederick Walters (the first of three he built in Wales). The church was opened by Archbishop Vaughan of Westminster in April 1893. The Tablet (15 April 1893) offered this architectural description:

‘The portions of the church at present completed consist of the nave and chancel, with part of the sacristy, accommodation being provided for about 300 persons. The whole plan, however, embraces in addition an aisle on the north side, with tower and porch at the west-end, also additional sacristy accommodation, with organ chamber over, having open arch into the chancel. The style of architecture is that known as the late “decorated,” or 14th century period, and the materials used externally are random coursed rubble of the local limestone for the walls, with window tracery and other dressings of Bath stone, the roof being covered with Broseley tiles. The eastern gable end, facing the road and the old town walls, is a conspicuous feature with its rich tracery window and ogee canopied niche containing the statue of St. Teilo in full episcopal vestments. The west front contains a large and handsome tracery window, and at the north corner is a turret terminating in a small spirelet and vane, which will eventually form the angle staircase to the future tower. The south side is externally complete, the wall being divided by buttresses and having two small projecting chapels, while light is given by four two-light tracery windows. On the north side the arches, which are to open into the future aisles, are filled in by a temporary wall with temporary windows pierced in each bay. The interior is lofty, with open timber roofs, painted in colours as a foundation for future decoration. The Rood beam with carved and decorated cross and figure, in the chancel arch, is a striking feature. The High Altar of simple but massive stonework, supported by four marble columns, is surmounted by a richly decorated wooden baldacchino, or canopy, suspended from the room by wrought iron chains of handsome design, gilded and decorated. The Tabernacle is of beaten metal, richly gilded, enamelled, and jewelled. The floors are laid with wood block paving, where they are not in red tile, and the church is warmed by hot air, on Grundy’s system. The architect is Mr. F. A. Walters, F.S.A.; the contractor is Mr. Ceorge Richards, of Tenby, and the cost of the building, exclusive of site, is about £2,000’.

In September 1894 Fr Vincent Bull, priest-in-charge, laid the foundation stone for what was intended as a Gilbertine monastery on the site adjoining the church. Also designed by Walters and built by George Richard, this was in the Tudor Gothic style. The monastery venture did not succeed and the building eventually became a convent and girls’ school, run by the Sisters of Mercy. The school moved in 1979 and the building (which is listed Grade II) is now a bar/restaurant.

The church was designed to be enlarged as funds allowed, but this did not prove possible and the north aisle was not built. The building was richly fitted out, but many of the furnishings were removed in post-Vatican II reordering. More recently (in 1989) a porch has been added across the west front and (in 1992) the parish hall replaced.

List description

Reference Number: 6230
Grade: II  
Date of Designation: 26/04/1977  
Date of Amendment: 28/03/2002  
Name of Property: Church of the Holy Rood and Saint Teilo
Unitary Authority: Pembrokeshire  
Community: Tenby  
Town: Tenby  
Easting: 213333  
Northing: 200350  
Street Side: W  
Location: Situated on the W side of St Florence Parade opposite the town wall just S of the entrance to St George’s Street.

History: Roman Catholic church in late Gothic style by F A Walters. Foundation stone laid August 1892, opened April 1893. Nave, chancel with E end to the road, and NW thin tower. An intended N aisle, with NW porch, was never built. It was supposed to cost £2000. Tenby was served from Haverfordwest from the 1840s, services in the Buccaneer Inn St Julian’s Street, in the basement of Sparta House, Bridge Street, in the 1870s, and then from 1888 in the church of St Bride, Brychan Yard, Upper Frog Street. Father Placid Wareing built the present church, which was consecrated by Cardinal Vaughan in 1893. Since the late C20 liturgical reforms most of the fittings have been removed. At the opening in 1893 there was a rood beam with cross and figures, a stone high altar on 4 marble columns, gift of the Connaught Rangers, with painted and gilded baldacchino on chains and a tabernacle of repousse metal given by Miss James of Pantsaison, Monington, Pembs, all now gone. In a chapel, an alabaster altar given by a visitor in 1893, the chapel walls panelled in Bath and Caen stone with relief carving of the Entombment. Also a Caen stone angel and a Caen stone screen with marble shafts and alabaster panels. The chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel was redecorated in blue and gold by Mr Wise of Burns & Oates of London, in 1895, with picture of Virgin and Child over the altar. Statues of St Joseph and the Sacred Heart were placed on carved corbels in 1893. Kelly’s Directory of 1926 mentions a fine alabaster altar in the S or Holy Cross chapel and stained glass over the Lady altar. Stained glass windows to Stewart and Dover families inserted, over altar, in 1929.  

Exterior: Roman Catholic church, grey limestone laid in irregular courses with Bath stone windows and red Broseley tiled roofs. Nave with thin Pembrokeshire-type NW tower, and chancel, N aisle never built. W end has tower to left, step back in wall and coping to right, to suggest a S aisle, coped gable and cross finial. Tall 4-light pointed W window with flowing ogee tracery and hoodmould, over later C20 full width lean-to deep porch with central entry. Sloping buttress to right, mostly covered by porch roof. Tower is thin with plinth, battered sides, coped embattled parapet and lead spirelet. Single pointed small bell-light each side and small loop on W and N at mid height. N side has stub wall for unbuilt N aisle. First bay of N wall is limestone with ogee-pointed N door and hoodmould. Double doors with wrought iron hinges. Another stub wall to left, then rendered temporary wall with 4 2-light wooden windows. NE tall chimney with ashlar gabled cap. Nave S side of 5 bays with 2-light ogee-traceried pointed windows with hoodmoulds, and stepped buttresses between. First bay is blank, second and fourth have full-length windows, third bay has window cut short by low lean-to with 2 tiny windows, and fifth bay has projecting chapel with catslide roof and short 2-light window. Nave E gable is not coped but has shoulders, that to S with tiled coping that to N carrying the chimney. Blank E wall to SE chapel. Chancel has lower roof but high eaves, single light to S wall. E end has coped shouldered gable, sheer buttresses each side with ashlar gables, and sill course between, under 2 tall narrow single lights with ogee tracery under quatrefoils. In gable is an ogee niche with crocketed finials and statue of St Teilo, 1893. N side has Tudor arch in wall, for an intended opening. Lean-to vestry with monopitch roof against E side of a wall running out from nave NE corner.  

Interior: Pointed original W door. Painted plastered walls with 5-bay steep arch-braced scissor-truss roof with thin hammerbeams on corbels. Four bay N arcade immured in wall. Three ashlar octagonal piers with moulded caps and bases, double-chamfered arches and hoodmoulds with 3 ornate leaf-carved corbels. Responds do not have the moulded capitals. W end timber gallery of 3 bays on 2 chamfered posts, with front of narrow vertical panels over brattished beam, reached by stone stairs in tower. Pointed N door, ogee piscina to right. Pointed E vestry door with hoodmould on leaf stops, to left of chancel arch. High pointed moulded pointed chancel arch with hood and carved head stops. Narrow short chancel with panelled segmental pointed roof with sunburst bosses marked IHS. S chapel has segmental-pointed arch and lean-to roof, and S wall has another lower lean-to recess for Lady altar with 2 tiny windows. Fittings: later C20 replacement altar and reredos. Two statues of St Joseph and Sacred Heart, 1893, formerly at base of chancel arch now on corbels on wall each side. S chapel has shelf and tabernacle remaining of altar and corbel with carved stone angel. Lady altar of alabaster, with marble statue and Gothic panelling. Two stained glass E windows of 1929, Crucifixion and Resurrection; nave S first window, SS Mary Magdalen and Paul; second window, over Lady altar, the Annunciation; two tiny lights by altar; third window SS Peter and John. S chapel has 2-light window of SS David and Teilo. W window has 4 saints on clear glass, SS Stephen, David Lewis, John Lloyd and Philip Evans. Etched glass doors in original W door, Holy Rood and St Teilo.  

Reason for designation: Included as a substantial late Victorian Gothic church by one of the leading architects working for Roman Catholic patrons.

Heritage Details

Architect: F. A. Walters

Original Date: 1893

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II