History of St. Mary’s, Whitchurch
The present Parish Church of St. Mary’s in Whitchurch is not perhaps as old as you may think. Built between 1883 and 1884 to the designs of Mr J Pritchard, it replaced a much older and now demolished church of St. Mary, whose grounds exist today as a memorial garden in Old Church Road.
Records have shown that a church has existed in Whitchurch since around the 12th century, with the Old St. Mary’s originally being built in the 14th century.
At the end of the 18th century Whitchurch was a mainly agricultural village (noted for its pigs!) with a population of around 250 crammed into the 60 or so cottages and houses in the area. The building of the nearby Melingriffith Tin-Plate Works attracted labour to the area and the population increased to 696. Nevertheless, St. Mary’s remained the only church in Whitchurch, with seating for about three hundred people. All services were conducted in English. With the increase in population came the introduction of non- conformity, and more places of worship were built in the area.
1845 saw the creation of Whitchurch as an independent ecclesiastical parish with a Perpetual Curacy answerable to the Bishop of Llandaff. The first vicar of the parish of Whitchurch was Revd E P Thomas. He retired 1867, and was followed by Revd D T Davies who died in 1875. His successor was Revd J T Clarke who remained the incumbent for the next 28 years. Through the fund-raising efforts and appeals of Clarke, the new church as we see it today was built on its current site. Sadly the old church fell into a state of disrepair and had to be demolished in 1904.
The new church cost £3,559 to build, with £2,400 going towards the structure, and the remaining £1,159 towards fittings and furnishings. It was consecrated for divine service on 27th May 1885. As the illustration indicates, St. Mary’s has a tower in the south west corner, but apart from this, bears a close resemblance to the old church. The new St. Mary’s, just like its predecessor, has a nave, chancel and sanctuary, and sculptured windows, Going inside we find walls made of Pennant sandstone, tiled flooring and a fine wooden roof in the bowed boat style. The original yellow brick walls have since been cemented over and whitewashed, and these are not the only additions to have been made over the years: thanks to charitable donations from church members and friends of the church, St. Mary’s has seen the addition of a North Aisle, and a reredos ( on the east wall behind the altar ) made of marble and stone and dating to 1936 , thanks to the efforts of the St. Mary’s Ladies Working Party. The magnificent crucifixion scene depicted in the east window was created in memory of Mr W R Davies, the managing director of the Tin-Plate Works. ( The original east window is now in the vestry.) Generous donations also included the tower clock and a peal of bells that can be heard for miles around before services.
This information was kindly put together by a Parishioner of St. Mary’s Church, and we gratefully acknowledge his hard work.