Scwrfa Road, Dukestown, Tredegar, NP22 4AT
A simple stone-built Gothic chapel of the 1860s, built to serve the largely Irish immigrant community of this industrial town. The interior is relatively unaltered and contains some attractive furnishings, though none of special note.
In 1827 a young priest from Waterford, the Rev. Patrick Portal, was transferred from Poole to the mission at Merthyr by Mgr Collingridge, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District. Working in conditions of great hardship, Fr Portal described the mission (which included the town of Tredegar), as ‘one of the most severe and disagreeable I have ever heard of.’ Fr Portal died in 1835, just eight years after his appointment, and was followed by a Dublin priest, Fr Carroll, who resided at Dowlais. The mission was one of just sixteen which in 1840 served the mining region of South Wales, and ministering to the thousands of impoverished Catholics was a considerable challenge. Fr Carroll ministered here until his death in 1847. During this time the Catholic community of Tredegar grew dramatically, with the arrival of Irish immigrant workers escaping the Great Famine to find work in the local coal and iron works.
In 1852 the Rev. John Dawson began to say Mass at a public house at Tredegar. Eight years later in 1860, with considerable outside assistance, the community was able to establish its own church. The Cardiff Times reported on 30 June: ‘The magnificent building erected at Dukes-Town, near Tredegar, is just completed by that indefatigable, competent and tasty (sic) architect, Mr Thomas Taylor, of Church-square, Tredegar. It is estimated to hold upwards of two thousand persons, and will be opened for divine service on Tuesday next. The service will commence with high mass, at 11.00 am, and a sermon will be preached by the Very Rev. J. M. Sweeney O.S.B., Prior of the Benedictine Monastery of St Michael’s, Hereford. There will be evening service at half-past six. The Rev. John Dawson (the resident pastor), a gentleman highly esteemed and beloved in Tredegar and its neighbourhood by all denominations, has issued tickets of invitation to numbers of respectable persons, and it is expected that some of the first families in this and the adjoining counties will attend’. Although the church is sizeable, the reported capacity of 2000 was clearly something of an exaggeration.
According to Kelly, Tredegar was served from Rhymney until 1863, and the presbytery was built in 1864 (after the mission acquired its own resident priest). Kelly also states that the chancel was built at this time, with Bishop Brown of Newport preaching at the reopening on 17 October 1865. This appears to be confirmed by a Merthyr Telegraph report of the reopening ‘after undergoing considerable renovation and enlargement’.
According to the Powells’ History of Tredegar, the church was reopened on 11 November 1900 after further alterations and improvements, at a cost of about £700 (contractors Messrs Sullivan and Jones, Merthyr). The nature of those alterations and improvements is not stated, but in view of the works undertaken in 1865, the statement on the Coflein website that they involved extension of the sanctuary (giving the date as 1902) is unlikely; it is more likely to refer to a refurnishing of the sanctuary.
A memorial window depicting Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette was installed in the mid-twentieth century, commemorating the parish dead of each of the World Wars.
The church is in a simple Gothic style, consisting of an aisleless nave, lower sanctuary and southeast sacristy. It is constructed of randomly coursed rock-faced granite with Bath stone dressings (except on the west front, the walls are all now rendered), and modern concrete tile roof coverings. The gabled west front has a central pointed entrance and three paired trefoil-headed lancet windows with quatrefoils over. There are similar windows to the north and south sides of the nave, while the later sanctuary has three single-light lancets.
Inside, a narthex with modern glazed screen has been formed under the western gallery, which is supported on iron. The main interior has plastered and painted walls and a plastered canted ceiling. The nave is of four bays, and separated from the shorter chancel by a tall, wide pointed chancel arch. There are two banks of seating in the nave on either side of a central alley, at the west end of which is a carved and painted octagonal stone font. A marble memorial and crucifix on the south wall is to the Rev. William Williams, mission priest (d. 1895). The sanctuary has been extended forward of the chancel arch and is raised up one step, with a forward altar (formerly the Lady altar) with blind tracery and a carved ‘M’ detail in gold. Against the east wall and two steps higher is the former high altar, probably later in date than the church and possibly of 1900, with blind tracery, carved IHS detail in gold, and a canopied niche containing a brass Gothic tabernacle. The windows throughout have cathedral glass and various memorials apart from the sanctuary window, which is partially stained glass with a depiction of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette; it is a memorial to parishioners who died in the First and Second World Wars.
Architect: Thomas Taylor
Original Date: 1860
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed