The Memory Lingers
Despite the fact that St Mary’s remained a ruin from the seventeenth century and that by the middle of the 18th century all parishioners of St Mary’s were worshipping at St John’s where a separate gallery was created to accommodate them, the memory of St Mary’s lingered, and parishioners still identified themselves with the ancient parish. Separate churchwardens continued to be appointed, and they submitted separate accounts.
So, when the time came for St Mary’s to resume its independent status, no new parish needed to be created, no new parish boundaries were drawn, for there had been an unbroken continuity for eight hundred years. The separation was effected simply by the then vicar of both parishes resigning the living of St Mary’s.
The industrial revolution of the eighteenth century caused the quick and widespread expansion of Cardiff. Bute West Dock was opened in 1839, and workers migrated to Cardiff, settling, in particular around the areas of the docks.
In 1801, the population of Cardiff was estimated at 1,870; by 1840 this figure had risen to over 10,000 of whom 6,000 were residents of St Mary’s parish. The need was pressing. The second Marquess of Bute provided a site, £1000 and bought the patronage from the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester. The vicar issued an appeal for funds to build a new church. St Mary’s would rise again!
The New Church
Extra money was raised, including funds gifted by William Wordsworth from a poem (‘Let the new Church be worthy of its aim/That in its beauty Cardiff may rejoice’). Its setting was very different from the former building. Nestled within the expanding docklands area, surrounded by terraced housing, shops, schools, pubs and clubs it became a welcoming haven for the many immigrants, visitors and seafarers who wound their way into Cardiff through the Docks.
The first vicar to take up residence of the new church of St Mary was John Webb, shortly succeeded by William Leigh Morgan, and by 1845 the church building was complete, greeted with great celebrations and processions through the town.
Both clergy were appointed by the Second Marquess of Bute who had evangelical leanings, which meant that the early days of the new St Mary’s was also decidedly evangelical, deeply rooted in the parish.
However, in 1871 Canon Morgan, as he was then titled, moved to a quieter country parish, and with his departure there was a turning point in the life of St Mary’s. The third Marquess of Bute had been strongly influenced by the Tractarian movement in the Church of England and had subsequently become Roman Catholic. However, he still retained responsibility for the appointment. The man he chose was Reverend Griffith Arthur Jones.
John Crichton Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute
Cardiff Docks, showing West Bute Dock built by the Second Marquess of Bute, opened in 1839
By the end of 1843, with the exception of the two towers, the church was complete, and opened for public worship on 16 December. By 1845, the Church building was complete, and on 8 November it was consecrated. The vestry building on the right of St Mary's in this picture was erected in 1907 in memry of Fr Jones