Building » +Wrexham – Cathedral Church of Our Lady of Sorrows

+Wrexham – Cathedral Church of Our Lady of Sorrows

Regent Street, Wrexham, LL11 1RB

From 1898 the pro-cathedral church of the Diocese of Menevia and since 1987 the cathedral of the Diocese of Wrexham. Built in 1857, it is an early work of E. W. Pugin in the late thirteenth century style favoured by his father Augustus Welby Pugin. Compared with E. W. Pugin’s later work, the design is subdued, but its impressive tower with broach spire, which has been rebuilt twice due to mining subsidence, is a prominent landmark in the town. The church was considerably enlarged and altered in the mid-twentieth century, but retains its Puginian spirit. It has associations with St Richard Gwynn, one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, whose shrine is in the Lady Chapel.

From 1824 Mass was celebrated in Wrexham by the Rev. John Briggs of Chester. The Catholic community met in a house in Market Street and later in Cutler’s Entry. In 1828 a chapel was built in King Street at the expense of Richard Thompson, a member of an English family of ironmasters who had moved from Wigan to help develop the coal and iron industries. When the congregation became too large for the chapel, Thompson provided funds for the building of the present church, endowing it with an annual sum of £100 and gifting a further £100 for a set of Stations of the Cross. E. W. Pugin was appointed as architect for the church and presbytery in 1857 at the age of 23, making it one of his earliest commissions.

In 1898 the Diocese of Menevia was created by Pope Leo XIII, with Wrexham as the episcopal seat, and Our Lady of Sorrows was consecrated by Bishop Francis Mostyn as pro-cathedral on 7 March 1907. In 1957 a northwest porch and sacristies were added and the sanctuary reordered by the architect Frederick Roberts of Mold. Further alterations and additions including the ‘north cloister’ followed in 1966 (drawings for this by Roberts, under the umbrella of the Anthony Clark Partnership, are in the diocesan archives). Since 1987 the building has been the cathedral church of the Diocese of Wrexham. 

The cathedral houses the shrine of St Richard Gwynn, who was executed for his faith on 15 October 1584 and is one of Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970. An annual celebration and pilgrimage are held at the church on the Sunday closest to his death. 


See list entry, below; this does not set out clearly the sequence of alterations and additions.

As originally built, E. W. Pugin’s church consisted of a nave with side aisles, southwest tower, sanctuary, Lady Chapel and sacristy. It is in the late thirteenth century early decorated style, as favoured by his father, A. W. N. Pugin, and built of coursed ashlar stone quarried at Minera, with slate roofs. The tower has a broach spire with lucarnes and projecting band courses. The clerestory to the four-bay nave consists of a row of rose windows, and the large east and west windows are impressive in their scale and tracery design. At the west end is an organ gallery.

In 1957 the northwest porch and the sacristies were added by Frederick Roberts of Mold. He also reordered the sanctuary to incorporate the cathedra and canons’ stalls and moved the former high altar to its present position in what became the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, adding a new altar. The former sacristy became the Lady Chapel, and Roberts removed the wall between the sanctuary and the new Lady Chapel, replacing it with the existing ironwork screen. Nine years later the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was extended to the north and east, and the window that had been behind the altar was removed and set in the new north wall. The resulting recess between the porch and the extended chapel was enclosed and is known as the north cloister. The sacristies were also extended by a link corridor to the north chapel. The area suffers from mining subsidence, and the spire has been rebuilt twice, once in the early twentieth century, and again in 2007.

The present high altar dates from 1959 and contains relics of St Sixtus and St Lucy. This, the cathedra and the choir stalls were all designed by Roberts. Pugin’s decorative scheme for the sanctuary has been almost completely obliterated; the ceiling was similar to his surviving work at Shrewsbury Cathedral, but four painted and gilded panels of angels playing musical instruments over the sanctuary arch are all that survives. On the north wall of the sanctuary is the original aumbry, and on the south the piscina. The carved stone ambo, designed by Peter Paul Pugin, was recovered from the church of Our Lady and St Edmund in Great Malvern in 2007 by the present Dean. The east window was donated by Lady Ffrench, daughter of Richard and Ellen Thompson, in memory of her husband, Thomas, the fourth baronet who died in 1892. The central roundel is a pieta, around which are images of Welsh saints, apostles and archangels. The Pugin font has been relocated to the east end of the south aisle with its original setting of Victorian encaustic tiles.  

The stained glass in the nave windows is late nineteenth century by Hardman & Co; each window is in memory of a prominent member or benefactor of the church. Those which were originally where the porch and Blessed Sacrament extensions intervened have been relocated. The Stations of the Cross, which are painted on linen laid on copper, date from 1906. They were originally framed, but were reinstalled as part of the 1957 reordering, and set into the wall surface. In the cloister is the tomb chest of Ellen Thompson, wife of Richard, who died of cholera in 1854. It incorporates a fine effigy of the deceased in medieval dress. This originally stood at the west end of the north aisle but was moved when the porch was built. In the cloister too are the arms of the Bishops of Menevia from 1898-1987.

List descriptions


Reference Number: 1801
Grade: II  
Date of Designation: 31/01/1994  
Name of Property: Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Mary  
Unitary Authority: Wrexham  
Community: Offa  
Easting: 333156  
Northing: 350468  
Street Side: S  
Location: Opposite the junction with Grosvenor Road.  

History: Built in 1857 at the expense of Richard Thompson, iron master and colliery owner, to designs of E. W. Pugin. Designated the Pro-Cathedral of the diocese of Menevia in 1907.  

Exterior: Coursed and squared stone with slate roofs. Tower and spire to (liturgical) SW, nave with 2 lean-to aisles, clerestory and lower chancel. Additional aisle and side chapel to north. Late C13 style. West doorway in steep archway with shafts and hood mould, flanked by steep pinnacled niches. 5-light window above. 2-light windows in west walls of aisles, which are divided into 4 bays by buttresses, with 2-light geometrical traceried windows beneath angled hood moulds. Rose windows as clerestory lights. SW tower and spire, with steep trefoiled window in base of tower, lancet in upper stage, and paired bell-chamber lights. Brooch spire with lucarnes and projecting bands. Massive trefoiled east window in chancel, comprising rose window with a band of quatrefoil lights below.  

Interior: Early English arcade of 4 bays, clustered shafts with fillets, and hood moulds which form trefoils between each arch. Gallery in western bay, carried on chamfered timber piers. Splayed clerestory lights, and stilted arches to aisle windows. Wagon roof with wall posts on corbels to principal trusses. Clustered shafts to deep moulded chancel arch. Painted figures of angles on gilded ground set in shallow panels over chancel arch. Paired narrow arches to Lady Chapel to north. Full-height eastern arch, containing window. Stained glass in aisle windows form a series of memorial windows, none are signed or dated, but their style is reminiscent of that of Kempe and Tower, and they are probably late C19-early C20. NW window possibly earlier, a neo-medieval style incorporating a mosaic of fragments. Memorial to Ellan Thompson, (d. 1854), in side chapel of outer north aisle: recumbent effigy on an arched panelled tomb-chest with low-reliefs.  

Reason for designation: Group value.  


Reference Number: 1803
Grade: II  
Date of Designation: 31/01/1994  
Name of Property: Presbytery at Roman Catholic Cathedral  
Unitary Authority: Wrexham  
Community: Offa  
Easting: 333135  
Northing: 350472  
Location: Adjoins the R.C. Cathedral, to which it is linked by a stone covered way.  

History: Built as the presbytery to the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Mary (now the cathedral) in 1857, to designs of E. W. Pugin, and extended later in C19 with additions to rear wing.  

Exterior: Brick with stone dressings and slate roof. Gothic style, 2 storeys, 4 window range with advanced outer gables and doorway in angle of central range with right hand gable. Arched doorway in chamfered stone architrave beneath lean-to porch carried on chamfered and braced struts, continuing between the two gables. Plain narrow lights to ground floor of left hand wing, the upper windows paired foiled lancets. Similar paired windows in entrance range. Canted bay window with transomed lancet lights in right hand gable, and triple foiled lancets above. Upper windows throughout have pale brick relieving arches over. Both gables surmounted by cross finials. Axial and gable end stacks. Return elevation to right has paired foiled lancets on each floor, the upper windows beneath a gabled dormer, and wide advanced gable beyond, with canted bay window to ground floor, and paired lancets beneath relieving arch above. Later extension beyond this gable, in a similar style, with single lancet window and squared bay window set across the angle.  

Interior: The central range of the frontage is entirely occupied by the full-height stair hall, with heavy chamfered wood staircase and balustrade of galleried upper landing. Original layout and some detail including joinery and encaustic tiled floor to entrance hall survive.  

Reason for designation: The presbytery forms an integral part of the designs for the cathedral site, and is a good example of the domestic gothic style typically used for buildings with an ecclesiastical function. Group value with Roman Catholic Cathedral.  

Boundary wall and gates to cathedral

Reference Number: 1802
Grade: II  
Date of Designation: 31/01/1994  
Name of Property: Boundary Wall and Gates to Roman Catholic Cathedral  
Unitary Authority: Wrexham  
Community: Offa  
Easting: 333167  
Northing: 350496  
Location: Forms the boundary of the church yard with Regent Street to the north of the cathedral, the gates aligned with the main west door.  

History: Probably designed as part of the original plans for the church site, and therefore probably to designs of E. W. Pugin in 1857.  

Exterior: Coursed and squared rubble wall, with steep raking copings, and gate piers with gabletted copings, to which cast iron lamp standards are attached by iron brackets.  

Reason for designation: A rare survivor of Victorian gothic street furniture, forming an important element in the cathedral site. Group value with Roman Catholic Cathedral.  

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Welby Pugin; Frederick Roberts

Original Date: 1857

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II