by  • July 6, 2013 • Cardigan, Ceredigion, Church, Medieval, Modern, Period, Post-Medieval, Site Type • 0 Comments


    Roger de Clare may have founded the parish church, the secular church of Cardigan Priory, in 1158. In 1165 Lord Rhys granted it to Chertsey Abbey, probably confirming an earlier grant to the same. The Abbot of Gloucester made an unsuccessful attempt to claim the church in 1175. Reference was made to the presentation many years earlier of Cardigan Church to the Bishop of St. David’s by Roger de Clare. Three burgages in the town had been given to the same.

    Chancel corbel of ca. 1400 in September 2009 (c) Cath Lloyd

    Chancel corbel of ca. 1400 in September 2009 (c) Cath Lloyd

    Ca. 21st February 1411 the Pope summoned the Abbot of Chertsey to Rome. The Vicar of St. Mary’s, Thomas Duy, complained that of the annual income of 100 marks (£66.13s.6d.) made by the church, largely from vast numbers of pilgrims, he received only about 7s. a year. The Pope considered allowing him a staggering third – £22.4s.6d. – an enormous sum for a Vicar. Thomas Duy was still the Vicar in 1413. With the disappearance of Holy Trinity Church ca. 1485, St. Mary’s Church formally became the Parish Church of Cardigan.

    On 22nd May 1497 Richard Robyns became the Vicar. Hugh Weythe replaced him on 1st June 1502. In 1517 John Frodshame ceased to be the Vicar and Morgan Meredyth succeeded him as Vicar that year. In 1535 Morgan Meredith received £10 per annum as Vicar of Cardigan. In 1537 the abolition of pilgrimages deprived a profitable income from the Shrine of Our Lady of Cardigan.

    On 16th March 1538 Thomas Barlow, the infamous Bishop of St. David’s, visited what he called the“…shamefull detestacion called Our Ladyes taper of Cardigan…” in order to interrogate the Vicar of St. Mary’s and Prior of Cardigan regarding the shrine. The shrine consisted of a statue of the Virgin Mary with the Holy Child, which had once held a taper in her hand. Thomas Hore, who was to be the last Prior, related the story as he had heard it upon arriving in Cardigan five years earlier. Barlow summarised thus:-

    Item, that the image now situate in the church of Cardigane, which ys used for a greate pilgremage to this present daye, was founde standing upon the ryver of Tyve, being and arme of the see, and her sonne upon her lappe, and the same taper bernynge in her hande.

    Item, that the same ymage was caryed thens unto Christes Church of Cardigane, and the sayd ymage would not tarry there, but was found thre or fowre tymes in the place where now is buylded the church of Our Lady, and the taper brunnynge in her hande, which contynued styll burnynge the space of nyne yeres without wastynge, untill the tyme that one foresware hymselfe thereon, and then it extincted and never burned after.

    Item, that sence the ceasinge of burnynge of the sayd taper, it was enclosed and taken for a greate relique, and so worshipped and kyssed of pylgremes, and used of men to sweare by in difficill and harde matters, wherof the advauntage admounted to greate sommes of money in times passed, payenge yerely of the same Xxti nobles for a pencion unto thabbot of Cheresey…”

    Thomas Barlow’s concern was with the taper, rather that the statue itself, as this had long been venerated as a relic. The Prior had only ever seen the nether end, “…where it appeared wood unto his judgemente…”

    Thomas Barlow also questioned the Vicar, Morgan Meredith, who had been there for 21 years. He recalled the origin of the timber at the base of the taper:-

    “…Item, that Prior [actually Vicar] John Frodshame tolde hym that because the people toke the waxe awaye, he put the tree beneth, that the people shulde not dyminesh the substance of the taper…”

    This led to Thomas Barlow’s contemptuous dismissal of the taper as “…a pece of olde rottene tymber…” and he slated the “…abbominable idolatry and disceatfull jugglinge…” on the part of the Priors and Vicars down through the centuries. The taper was sent to Thomas Cromwell and the statue was burned in Chelsea, London, soon afterwards. Both the Prior and the Vicar were ordered to preach the folly of idolatry worship.

    Tudor font in September 2009 (c) Cath Lloyd

    Tudor font in September 2009 (c) Cath Lloyd

    In 1546 there were 400 houseling people or communicants. Philip ap Howell, priest, received 29s.4d. for saying the Mass of Our Lady:-

    “…There is within the said parish one service called Our Lady Service, wherunto there doith belong certain landes and Tenements the which of olde tyme were gyven to thentent to fynd a prest to sing Our Lady Masse in the parishe churche of Cardigane…”

    In 1548 it was noted that:

    “…there is…one service, called Our Lady Service, and lands given to the yearly value of 45s. for a priest to sing Our Lady Masse in the parish church of Cardigan, sung at this time by SirPhilipe ap Hoell, a very aged man. There belongeth also one challis of silver, valued at 60s. – being laid to gage for 53s.4d. by the
    Stipendiarie Priest Wm. Morris, also lands for the benefit of the poor; Griffith Sporrier, Parish Clerke and Receiver wages 26s.6d

    On 8th March 1553 Edward Powell leased:

    “…Lands granted to maintain a priest or chantor to say the Mass of St. Mary in the parish church of Cardigan, 2 parcels of 10s.2d. and 6s.10d….”

    1639 date-stone in the Porch, May 2013 (c) Glen K Johnson

    1639 date-stone in the Porch, May 2013 (c) Glen K Johnson

    Griffin Williams was said to be the Vicar that year. In 1555 the Crown paid a pension of £2.0s.8d. to Philip ap Hoell for “…lately celebrating in the parish of Cardygane…” In 1563 Rev. Peregrine Daindle was the Vicar. Rev. Nicholas Harry was either his predecessor or successor. In 1601 Rev. Res Owen was probably the Vicar. In 1607-31 Rev. Jevan (or Ieuan) Griffiths was the Vicar. The church was mentioned in Camden’s “Brittania” in 1607 and is illustrated on John Speed’s map of 1610. Rev. Evan Griffiths’ son, Abel Griiffiths, and grandson, Matthew Griffiths, became prominent figures in the town. In 1618 Rev. William Morris possibly became the Curate. According to a plaque, a porch was added in 1639 at the nave door – “Janson Lewis, Arthur Griffiths, Church Wardens Anno 1639”.

    In 1644 when the Civil War reached Cardigan, General Rowland Laugharne and his Puritan troops came to the church:-

    “…Then we did enter the church of St. Mary and did find it deserted. Straight away my men did set to work to destroy the many Popish adornments of the church, and especially one sergeant, who was a pious man, and visited by the Almighty in dreams. I did endeavour to restrain him but the sergeant did call aloud “shall we not utterly destroy the ornaments of Baal, that are in the Lord’s house?” Nevertheless I did entreat them to spare the great window for its beauty sake, and I rejoice to think it is still unharmed, though it did portray divers idolatry figures and a representation of a priest all in red by an altar. My men did break much painted glass and heads of angels and other goodly matter for which I felt grieved, but God ordained that we should destroy them, indeed many did blame me, that I did spare the great east window. After the men had broken much in the church, we did sing psalms and pray unto God and then we left again by the porch…”

    In 1647-49 Rev. John Barnwell was the Vicar. In 1660 Rev. William Owen held the position of Vicar. In 1662 Rev. Charles Price, a native of Radnorshire, was ejected from his living as Vicar of Cardigan by the Puritans and Rev. John Morgan became the Vicar. Price was described as “…diligent in public work and edifying in private discourse…” In 1666 Rev. Richard Harries became the Vicar. In 1674 the two smallest bells were recast by two travelling bell founders – Robert Ingle and John Stadler, who were paid £8 for their work by the Mayor and Corporation. They built their casting pits very close to the north side of the tower, perhaps weakening the foundations. In 1684 Rev. Daniel Gwynne was the Vicar or Curate.

    Lost Medieval Tomb, St. Mary's Church (Glen Johnson Collection)

    Lost Medieval Tomb, St. Mary’s Church (Glen Johnson Collection)

    In 1685 Edward Lhuyd illustrated a monument here, since vanished. On it was carved the figure of a priest in a cassock and cowl, with a Latin inscription, meaning:-

    Here Lies Thomas Albermarle, rector of the church of Cardigan. I beseech you, brothers, pray for me as I shall for you, in so far as I am able…”

    On 2nd September 1693 Rev. David Jenkins, the Vicar, married Janet Hughes. The nave was substantially rebuilt in 1702-03 according to a plaque in the porch: -

    1703 date-stone in the porch, June 2013 (c) Glen K Johnson

    1703 date-stone in the porch, June 2013 (c) Glen K Johnson

    The body of this church was rebuilt in the years 1702 and 3. Hugh Thomas and Thomas Bevan, Church Wardens.”

    Much of the north side of the nave may date from this time, the south side being much older. A copy of the list of benefactors remains inside the church.

    On 11th August 1705 the tower collapsed. In 1710 a brief under the Great Seal was obtained for rebuilding it, but only £400 was received – not enough to complete the job. On 12th April 1711 the foundation stone of the new tower was laid, but the work was halted on 25th October 1711 when funds ran out with the tower at forty feet in height. On 30th October 1714 Rev. Rice Griffith of Cardigan was the Vicar and remained so until 1717. In 1717 Rev. Thomas Richards became the Vicar until 1729. On 5th May 1729 Rev. Thomas Richards died and was buried in the churchyard on 7thMay 1729. His successor was Rev. James Phillips. In 1729-30 Rev. James Thomas was the Curate (Vicar?). In 1731 Rev. Rice Evans became the Vicar. The new vicar in 1737 was Rev. Hugh Pugh, B. A., who was presented the position by the King, succeeding Rev. Rees Evans. In 1739 Rev. Morgan Gwynne may have been the Vicar. In 1742 Rev. David Jones was the curate.

    The tower was rebuilt in two stages, begun in 1711 and completed in 1748.

    St. Mary’s Church tower in May 1997 (c) Glen K Johnson

    In 1743 Rev. John Davies became the rector until at least August 1777. In 1743 the poor-box was robbed. On 14th August 1745 work was proposed to complete the tower. The upper part of the church tower was finally completed in 1748. A plaque was unveiled that year commemorating all of the benefactors. The Vicar that year was Rev. William Powell and the churchwarden was John Morgan, who gave £10. 10s towards the work himself. John Lloyd of Peterwell, M. P. for Cardiganshire, and John Symons of Llanstinan, M. P. for Cardigan Borough, gave £100 and £20 respectively towards recasting and setting up the church bells.

    In the early-mid C18 one Rev. John Jones was, at some point, the Vicar. In 1754 a clock was installed in the new tower for the first time. John Warner & Sons of London re-cast at least one of the bells that year. In 1759 Andrew Brice called the church “…a goodly structure…” On 16th September 1760 Rev. John Davies baptised Thomas Lloyd of Coedmore, Llechryd. In 1762 Herbert Lloyd of Peterwell granted a clock to the church. In 1763 a monument was erected here to the memory of the late John Morgan of Cardigan, former Sheriff of Cardiganshire. In June 1774 Thomas Lloyd was the Curate. From July-August 1774 Edward Meyrick was the officiating Curate. Following the death or departure of Rev. John Davies, Rector since 1743, in late 1777 Rev. David Davies was an officiating minister – perhaps the Curate in 1777-94. In March 1778 Rev. John Evans became the Vicar until 1800. During 1778 William Morris officiated at services here – perhaps the Curate, though here at the same time as Rev. David Davies. In 1783 a new silver gilt service of Communion Plate was donated, together with a new altar piece – the gift of the late Lady Laetitia Cornwallis, who was buried in the churchyard. A pair of chalices, two Patens, an oval-shaped Alms-dish and huge tankard-shaped Flagon were all provided at this time, all of silver-gilt. In 1784 Rev. William Nicholas became the Parish Clerk or Curate. On February 20th 1786 Elinor Nicholas, wife of Rev. William Nicholas, died aged 55. In 1794 Rev. John Evans prosecuted William Jonathan and John Jones, two labourers, on suspicion of their having robbed the poor box in the church. In January 1795 Rev. Sampson Owen was the Curate. In 1800 Rev. John Evans was the Vicar. On 15th May 1802 Rev. William Nicholas, the Parish Clerk, died aged 60.

    On 4th January 1803 Rev. Sampson Owen, the Vicar, married Sarah Hughes of St Mary’s parish. In 1805 the church bells were damaged through over-zealous pealing to celebrate Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar. In 1808 Samuel Rush Meyrick noted:

    The church in 1808 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    The church in 1808 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    “…THE CHURCH is dedicated to the Virgin Mary; and is a venerable handsome building, consisting of a spacious nave, with a noble tower at its’ western end, and a porch on its south side. But the most elegant and most ancient part, is its chancel, which is turreted, and strengthened with buttresses ornamented with light gothic pinnacles, and its windows of the ornamented pointed arch. The entrance of the porch is a flattened pointed arch, sometimes termed the gothic ellipse; and an inscription above it seems to indicate the date of its erection; it is as follows:- JANSON LEWIS ARTHUR GRIFFITHS CHURCH WARDENS ANNO 1639.” Above this has been placed the following: “THE BODY OF THIS CHURCH WAS REBUILT IN THE YEARS 1702 AND 3. HUGH THOMAS AND THOMAS BEVAN CHURCH WARDENS.”

    Over the western door of the tower is also an inscription, but it is now so entirely obliterated as to be altogether unintelligible. It probably relates to the building of the tower, which fell down in the year 1705; and was rebuilt chiefly at the expense of the gentlemen of the county, and those connected with it. It is a vicarage, and in the gift of the Lord Chancellor.

    Grimacing corbel at Chancel arch (c) Cath Lloyd

    Grimacing corbel at Chancel arch (c) Cath Lloyd

    In the eastern window are some small remains of painted glass, among which may be discerned the arms of Edgar Atheling, and some others; a rose, a hand, wings, and six or seven heads of angels: formerly this window was wholly of painted glass. Eight grotesque heads support the rafters of the roof…and there were formerly six figures of men and women holding shields carved in wood, leaning by the wall of the chancel, which originally, perhaps, supported the roof. There is a fine pointed arch, the upper part of a door in the northern wall, and a niche not far from itIn the south wall of the chancel is an ornamented niche very elegant and light. A screen over the altar, of the Ionic order, has been erected, but by no means corresponds with the rest of the building. The font is very much carved, and in shape octagonal, but much more modern than most in this county…On the south side of the nave, on a black mural monument, is the following:-

    Underneath lyeth the body f Mrs Dorothy Ashenvel who departed this life Jan. the 13th 1763 aged 52. Also The Body of Mrs Anne Lilly who departed this life February 12th 1766 aged 57. Also The Body of Elizabeth Daughter of the said Mrs Lilly and Wife of Mr. John Richds of this town, who departed this life Octr the 5th 1767 aged 29.”

    Next to this monument is the door from the porch, and beyond that the poor box, over which is a board, with the following inscription painted on it:-

    …This poor Box was broke and robbed of all yt had been put in by pious benefactors from Easter 1742 to Easter 1743. They have also stolen and dissembled also and have put it even amongst their own stuff: Therefore ye children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed, neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy ye accursed from amongst you. Josh: C 7, ver. 11, 12. He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and look, what he layeth out, it shall be paid him again.” Prov. 19, 17”

    Between this board and the pulpit, on a black marble monument, is the following inscription:-

    Near this place lieth interr’d the Body of Elizabeth late Wife to David Jones of this town Alderman, and Daughter of Owen Picton Clark, who exchanged this life for a better ye 20th day of December Anno Domi 1703 Aged 45 years. Also ye body of ye above said David Jones deceased the 29th Day of April Anno Domini 1707 Aged 33 years.”

    In the chancel on a flat stone, upon the ground, and on the north side the altar is inscribed:-


    Here also lyeth ye body of George Miles Esq. Son to ye said Eynon who died mar 1627. Here also lyeth ye body of Hector Miles Esq: son of the said Geroge who died ye 26th of…in the year 1657. Here also lyeth ye body of John Miles Esq son of the said Hector who dyed ye 6th day of…1623…buried at ye…7 years

    On the north side of the altar is another flat tombstone but being covered by the chest, and almost obliterated, it was impossible to make out the inscription. On the north side of the nave, on a large board, is painted the following:-

    “The tower of St. Mary’s Church in Cardigan, with five large bells, chimes, and clock therein, fell down the 11 Aug. 1705. In 1709 a brief under the great seal was granted for rebuilding it, but no more than £400 was received for that purpose fromthe Undertaker. 12Th April 1711, the foundation of the new tower was laid, and the building carried on to 25 of Oct. 1711, and being then 40 feet high above the ground and the £400 exhausted the work stopped 14th Aug. 1745; a subscription for carrying on the building was chiefly therewith, but partly at the expence of ye Parishoners carried on and finished, Anno 1748. The Rev. Wm. Powell, A.M. Clerk, and the above named John Morgan, Esq. Church Wardens. [List of subscribers follows].

    Next to this is another board containing the names of those persons whose liberality induced them to contribute towards erecting the present church in 1703. [Further subscribers' list follows]

    Near to this is a neat small marble monument to the memory of a gentleman who was travelling through Wales, and suddenly died in this town. It is an ellipse of black marble, and on it a white urn, on which is inscribed the following:-

    To the Memory of Edw. Savage late of London who departed this life 30th of Nov. 1802 Aged 40 years.

    The present incumbent is the Rev. John Evans…In the churchyard are several monuments; and there is a stone building erected near the south east angle of the church, in which are two arches, each containing a handsome marble monument. That on the south side has a shield…and under this is the following inscription:-

    “Underneath lye interr’d the remains of Mary eldest daughter of Sr Francis Cornwallis of Abermarless in the County of Carmarthen Knight and late Wife of John Morgan of theis Town, Esq. Who caused this monument to be erected in Testimony of his just regard to the Memory of a wife of whose sincere affection tenderness and fidelity he had upwards of thirty years experience. She departed this life the 19th of Nov. 1741. Aged 77 years.”

    On the north side, the inscription is almost obliterated: all that can now be made out is, “Underneath lye interred the Body of Mary Lloyd wife of David Lloyd Surgeon…Town.”

    In 1810 five new bells were cast for the church by John Rudhall of Gloucester. On 2nd July 1813 Rev. Thomas Morgan, Curate here and also Rector of Bridell and Master of the Cardigan Free Grammar School, died aged 34. He was succeeded as Curate and Master of the Cardigan Free Grammar School by Rev. George Griffith. On 6th November 1819 Rev. James Bowen, Vicar of the church and Master of the Cardigan National School, died aged 32. In early 1821 Pryse Pryse, M. P., gave “…a gallery of free sittings…” to the church at a cost of £200. In 1824 Rev. Griffith Thomas became the vicar until 1876.

    By 14th September 1827 Arthur Jones of Castle Green (Cardigan Castle), Sheriff of Cardiganshire, had presented a new organ to the church. Abraham Thomas was described as the Sexton of Cardigan in 1829. In 1830 the Pryse family of Gogerddan presented the church with a barrel organ. On 6th May 1831 Pryse Pryse, M. P., was about to donate a new clock to the church.  On February 20th 1832 Hannah Thomas, wife of Rev. Griffith Thomas, died aged 46. Two days later their only child, Richard Griffith Thomas, died aged just five days. In 1834 the church was marked on J. Wood’s map of Cardigan. In 1844 Rev. Evan Lewis became the Curate. In September 1844 the Bishop preached at St. Mary’s Church – apparently the first to do so for centuries – the following appeared in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘ on 6th September 1844:

    “…CARDIGAN—On Saturday evening last, the Lord Bishop of St. David’s arrived at the Angel Hotel, in this town, and upon his arrival having been made known, the Rev. Griffith Thomas, vicar of St. Mary’s, waited upon his lordship, when he kindly consented to preach three times on the Sunday following: in English at eleven, in Welsh at three, and again in English at six. The congregations at each service (notwithstanding his lordship’s visit being quite unexpected) were exceedingly numerous and highly respectable and at three o’clock, the time his lordship preached in Welsh, the church was crowded to excess. The sermons were most impressively delivered, and attended to with the profoundest attention and we believe that this is the only instance of a Bishop’s having preached at St. Mary’s Church for centuries. Certainly we are not aware of any record in Welsh history of a bishop preaching at Cardigan three times the same Sunday. We have read that “Dewi Sant” preached in a field on the Pembrokeshire side of the Tivy many many years ago. His lordship left the Angel Hotel on Monday morning, on his way to Dolgelly, and on leaving we understand he expressed his approbation of the entertainment he met at the above hotel...”

    On 11th June 1847 the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘ referred to a new nave window near the pulpit was being installed, considerably enlarged to the design of Mr. Waugh who also installed a larger pulpit and conducted other works. W. Jenkins of Blaenbarthen, Llangoedmor, was the mason. The article reads:

    CARDIGAN CHURCH.- We are glad to find that our much respected vicar, Rev. Griffith Thomas, has, at his sole expense taken out a small window near the pulpit, and introduced one of considerable larger dimensions, and the skilful manner in which it was executed reflects the highest credit upon Mr. William Jenkins, mason, and Mr. Waugh, designers of the same…”

    In 1848 Rev. Richard Lee Lewis was the Curate and Master of the Cardigan Free Grammar School. In 1851 Rev. Thomas Harries became the Curate. There were 274 attendees and 200 scholars here every Sunday morning and 161 attendees and 50 scholars in the evening. In 1854 Rev. W. Thomas became the Curate. In 1855 Rev. David R. Davies became the Curate. On 17th October 1855 H. Woodyer, architect, was carrying out alterations at a cost of £520, including new seating. David Morgan, St. Mary Street, was employed here as a builder. New seats were beinginstalled on 23rd August 1858. The Cambrian Archaeological Association visited in August 1859.

    St. Mary's Church circa 1860 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    St. Mary’s Church circa 1860 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    In 1861 D. Jenkins of Cilgerran and J. Thomas of Llechryd built a new south porch. In September 1867 Rev. W. Rees, the Curate, left for Aberporth. On 17th January 1868 Rev. John Rees became the Curate. Ca. 1870 it was proposed that the nave be rebuilt in order to accommodate more seats, but the idea was quashed on the advice of William Woodward. He removed all of the old seats and provided new and longer ones to increase the capacity. In 1871-75 Rev. Thomas Jones was the Curate. On 22nd October 1875 an appeal was made for a new church organ. On 28th April 1876 John Thomas of Noyaddwilym, Llangoedmor, was the contractor for building a new organ chamber. Rev. Griffith Thomas died on 20th May 1876, aged 87. On 27th May 1876 the following appeared in the ‘Aberystwyth Observer‘:

    “…DEATH OF THE REV. GRIFFITH THOMAS.—The truly venerable vicar of Cardigan, the Rev. Griffith Thomas, expired at his residence at Pontyclifon, on Saturday morning, at the patriarchal age of 88. The rev. gentleman was ordained by the Bishop of Burgess in the year 1813, and appointed to the curacy of Llangoedmore; he afterwards became curate of Cardigan. and was collated to the living of St. Mary’s in 1824, by the then Lord Chancellor, on the recommendation of Sir Pryse Pryse, of Gogerddan, during the whole of which time to his retirement in 1873. he officiated as chaplain of the county goal. He was also prebendary of Brecon, and at one time filled the post of domestic chaplain to the Duke of Clarence, afterwards to His Majesty King William the Fourth. The deceased gentleman failed in his ministerial duties the beginning of the past winter, and expired in exactly six months to the day from the time he took to his bed. He was greatly beloved by all classes of his parishioners, and his meek and Christian spirit, and venerable appearance will long be be kept in remembrance by them he was in every sense of the word the father of his flock, and departed from our midst as resignedly and peacefully as he had lived. The benefice, which is the gift of the Lord Chancellor, is worth about £ 157 a year. During the illness of the late vicar, the laborious work of the parish has been most successfully and energetically carried out by the Rev. T. Jones, B.A., curate, to whom the deceased was greatly attached…”

      Rev. T. Jones was a temporary successor until the new Vicar, Rev. William Cynog Davies took the post on 24th November 1876, remaining the vicar until 1900. On 25th November 1876 the following appeared in the ‘Aberystwyth Observer‘:

       “…FAREWELL SERMONS OF THE REV. T. JONES B. A. —Owing to the preferment of the Rev. W Cynog Davies to the living of Cardigan, the Rev. T. Jones, who has officiated as curate for the last seven years. preached his farewell sermons in St. Mary’s church on Sunday afternoon and evening last. The church was crowded on each occasion, and both preacher and people were deeply affected at the separation,; Mr. Jones having endeared himself to the parishioners by his amiable and kindly disposition. For the past two years the rev. gentleman had, owing to the illness of the late Vicar sole charge of the parish, as well as the chaplaincy of the county gaol, under his care the Church in Cardigan has greatly increased and prospered. For the present Mr. Jones still retains his appointment as chaplain of the county prison. We understand that a testimonial to the rev. gentleman is in progress, which has met with ready support from the church congregation and others…”

    In February 1877 an illuminated address was presented to Rev. Thomas Jones, Curate, upon his departure to Pembroke Dock. In 1877 Rev. David Richards became the Curate. On 3rd March 1877 the following appeared in the ‘Aberystwyth Observer‘:

       “…THE CHURCH IN CARDIGAN.—Under the lead of the Rev. W. Cynog Davies, the new vicar, the church in this town has commenced an improved existence. It used to be said that the town bell at the Guildhall was always in use, but its tongue is now eclipsed by that of the church of St. Mary’s. At 8.15 every morning the bell rings for daily prayers. There are services every Wednesday and Friday evenings, and on Saints day throughout the year. On Sundays services are held at 10 and 11.30 a.m., and 6 and 7.15 p.m.. the afternoon being reserved for the Sunday school. On Ash Wednesday a celebration of the Holy Communion took place.…”

      On 20th April 1877 the following appeared in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘:

      1. CARDIGAN. A magnificent new Organ has just been completed by Messrs. Foster and Andrews, of Hull, for St. Mary’s Church, Cardigan, in a chamber erected on the north side of the chancel. There are two manuals, the great organ with 7 stops, and the swell with 8 stops. There are 30 notes of separate pedal pipes (16ft.), and 7 composition couplers and pedals. The front pipes are disposed on a projection, which has a most imposing appearance. It will be formally opened in May


    Poster for Organ Recital at St. Mary's Church, 13/09/1881 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    Poster for Organ Recital at St. Mary’s Church, 13/09/1881 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    On 7th June 1877 the Bishop dedicated the new church organ by Foster & Andrews of Hull, which cost £440. In 1877 Rev. William Cynog Davies married Miss Mary E. Jenkins, eldest daughter of Jonathan Jenkins of Cilbronnau, Llangoedmor. On 26th November 1880 the fourth bell was being repaired. It had been badly damaged after falling from its’ bearings whilst being over-enthusiastically pealed for a wedding. From 1880-1900 William Lewis of No. 6 Church Street was the Sexton. In December a bazaar was held at the Guildhall to raise money for the Church Bell Fund. In 1881 Rev. T. Williams became the Curate.

    The cemetery was closed on 2nd May 1881. That year several organ recitals by Dr. John H. Gower were performed here. A surprise religious census in 1884 showed 139 attending morning service and 239 attending in the evening. In 1887 Rev. William Cynog Davies calculated average Sunday attendance as being 242 persons in the mornings and 347 in the afternoon. On 22nd March 1888 Mary Elizabeth Davies, wife of Rev. William Cynog Davies, died aged 56. In 1890 Rev. Thomas Jones became the Curate. On 29th July 1892 it was complained that the churchyard had become very overgrown. On 3rd May 1894 David Davies, Stanley House, Pendre, became a church warden. In April 1895 David Griffith Davies of Castle Green (Cardigan Castle) became a warden. On 20th March 1896 tenders were sought for conducting minor repairs and redecorating, which was carried out by William Charles Wilson & Sons, Pendre, to the specifications of Richard Thomas, architect. On 26th September 1898 the following appeared in the ‘Evening Express’:

    “…DOUBLE ACCIDENT IN CARDIGAN CHURCHYARD. ONE LAD KILLED AND ANOTHER INJURED. Alfred Davies, aged ten, Arthur Davies, aged twelve, sons of Mr. William Davies, manager for Mr. T. M. Daniel, of the Tivy Cycle Works, who resides at Tintern Cottage, met with serious accidents in Cardigan Churchyard on Friday morning. They had climbed a tree in search of horse chestnuts, when the branch on which was the younger lad gave way, and he fell on a tombstone. During his descent he collided with his brother, who also fell to the ground. Alfred sustained a fracture of the skull, and was otherwise so seriously injured that he died early on Saturday morning. Arthur had his arm broken, and received a number of scratches…”

    In March 1899 the Curate, Rev. Thomas Jones, left. At that time the new Curate was Rev. J. Rowland Thomas. In 1900 the striking weights of the clock broke. On February 19th 1900 William Lewis, Sexton of the church for twenty years, died aged 68. On 29th November 1900 Rev. William Cynog Davies, Vicar since 1876, died aged 67. On 28th March 1901 Rev. David J. Evans was inducted as the new Vicar. On 9th April 1901 Rev. David J. Evans married Miss Laura Dorothea Hughes. On 17th May 1901 the following item appeared in the ‘Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser‘ regarding the old barrel organ at the church:

    THE OLD BARREL ORGAN IN ST. MARY’S CHURCH…This old instrument of singular appearance was located mid-way in the gallery, and what a huge structure to look at in front. Its wings spread to right and left on an extensive scale, and the decorator’s art had been called into requisition to emblazon its face with gold leaf and royal blue, to imitate its mute pipes. And to his credit the work was accomplished with mathematical precision. The body was of rather small dimensions compared with the magnitude of its wings, and not very attractively designed, yet it was supplied with all the facilities for musical enjoyment which ingenuity could devise in a barrel organ of the period. Within this piece of furniture, which was partitioned off on either side into several receptacles, the musical barrels were placed. The description of those barrels were but little known, except to the organist. On an elevated seat at the back, sat the grinder of the instrument Mr. David Roberts, familiarly known as “Roberts White Hart”, a stout and red-faced gentleman, with dignified appearance. Now-a-days the manipulator sits in a conspicuous place in front of the organ. In those days he had be contented with a “back seat,” and was hid from view with a curtain suspended by brass rings from an iron bar bent into semi-oblong shape, which extended fully five feet to his rear. Often on Sunday mornings we cast a hurried glance round when the curtains were drawn aside, to catch a glimpse of the organist changing the barrels – this was indispensable through the change of tunes – which art he skilfully performed, and we surveyed with an indescribable curiosity. On a panel in front of the gallery under the organ was an inscription as follows:- Presented To St. Mary’s Church by Pryse Pryse, Esq., M. P., Gogerddan. A. D. MDCCCXXVII…David Roberts…successor at the organ was Evan Evans, known as “Evan Shal”, junior, which office he retained until the demolition of the old instrument…”

    Postcard of St. Mary's Church, 1904

    Postcard of St. Mary’s Church, 1904

    On 3rd June 1904 there were proposals to enlarge and beautify the church. Tenders were sought for redecoration, removal of the ceilings and enlargement of the nave. Lewis Lewis of Cardigan, architect, was the contractor and the work took place in 1904-06. Herbert Millingchamp Vaughan, earlier in 1904, had queried the tradition that Thomas Johnes of the Hafod had removed the Norman East window in the 1770’s. He said of the church, that:

    “…the whole chancel has a bare and dreary aspect, thanks to the low dismal stucco ceiling which has replaced a fine old timber roof that was highly ornate with carving…”

    In March 1905 Rev. David Bankes Evans succeeded Rev. T. J. Evans as the Curate. Three new stained glass windows were installed in the chancel in 1906. In 1906 Rev. David J. Evans was the Vicar and Rev. D. Bankes Evans remained the Curate until 1914. Lewis Lewis’ renovations were completed at a cost of over £700 and the church re-opened on 7th November 1906. David Miles and Thomas Evans had been the builders employed. On 9th November 1906 the ‘Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser‘ commented:

    ca1910 - J Clougher & Son Poscard view of the church interior before restoration (Glen Johnson Collection)

    ca1910 – J Clougher & Son Poscard view of the church interior before restoration (Glen Johnson Collection)

    The massive and beautiful tower has been restored, and while maintaining all its antiquity, modern improvements have been introduced by the conversion of the basement into a commodious vestry room, with new approaches to the gallery and belfry. A new roof has been placed on the chancel, and while its outside work has been strengthened, all the beautiful workmanship of nearly 900 years ago has not been disturbed. The grand original Norman Chancel Arch still remains in all its pristine beauty, the chancel itself being paved with richly coloured encaustic tiles, laid out in panels, and approached by a white marble step. The origanl frame work of the windows are intact, but they have all been releaded, and furnished with Cathedral glass, the upper sections bearing emblems of the Trinity and other sacred symbols, in coloured glass. The chancel windows are particularly effective, the Cathedral glass being interspersed with panels of coloured glass bearing fleur-de-lys and lilies. The nave is paved throughout with a flooring of oak blocks on the inter system, forming comfortable and silent walking. The ventilation has been thoroughly looked to, and the heating of the church improved…The whole of the restoration was entrusted to, and has been very ably carried out by Messrs. J. Williams and Sons, Felingynllo, the contractors…Mr. L. Lewis, as architect, and the contractors are to be congratulated on their successful work. Coming to the interior decorations, the contract of which was secured by Messrs. David Miles and Thomas Evans, it may at once be said they are chaste and ornate in the extreme, and carried out under designs prepared by the architect…”

    On 21st January 1910 an item appeared in the ‘Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser‘ on the installation of a Memorial Window to David Griffith Davies of Castle Green (Cardigan Castle), which had been completed on the south side of the nave and had that week been dedicated by the Bishop. The window was by Messrs. Clayton & Hill. On 25th January 1912 it was revealed that Rev. David Timothy Alban would succeed Rev. David J. Evans as Vicar, and Rev. David J. Evans left on 14th April 1912. On 20th June 1912 there was a theft of money and items from the church, though the thief was apprehended soon afterwards. On 7th July 1912 Rev. David Timothy Alban’s induction took place. An oak lectern was later presented in memory of Rev. David J. Evans. In February 1913 a plaque was unveiled at the church in memory of Rev. William Cynog Davies. On 27th February 1914 two cottages on Pontycleifion were acquired for demolition in order to improve the church entrance from

    The new Curate in March 1914 (Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser)

    The new Curate in March 1914 (Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser)

    the north. On 27th March 1914 Rev. George Thomas Walters was appointed Curate, succeeding Rev David Bankes Evans. By 15th May 1914 two more cottages had been purchased and later that year they were demolished and a dwarf wall and railings constructed. Rev. George Thomas Walters (b.1888) became the Curate that year. In 1915 an article entitled “Stained Glass at Cardigan Church” by Prof. E. Tyrrell Green appeared in the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Magazine. On 19th November 1915 tenders were sought for building walls and railings at the north side of the churchyard. Some trees here were uprooted by a severe gale on 27th December 1915. On 28th January 1916 Rev. George Thomas Walters, Curate of St Mary’s, announced his imminent departure. Rev. Benjamin J. Jones became the Curate in March 1916.

    On 1st October 1916 Rev. David Timothy Alban announced his forthcoming departure as Vicar. Rev. David Morgan Jones of Aberporth was inducted as Vicar by the Bishop on 21st January 1917 and remained Vicar until 1931. On 2nd May 1917 the Curate, Rev. Benjamin J. Jones, married Miss Margaret Francis Harris of Carmarthen. In January 1919 Rev. Benjamin J. James, the Curate, left Cardigan. Rev. Evan Glanrid Jones (b.1888) became the Curate in May 1919. A Memorial Window commemorates George Stuart Berrington Davies (of Castle Green), 2nd Lieutenant, 5th Battalion Rifle Brigade, who died aged 20 from an illness contracted whilst on active service in North Russia. In 1920 Rev. David Morgan Jones, B. A., was the Vicar; Rev. Evan Jones, M. A., was the Curate; and Rev. Gilbert Basil Jones was the Honorary Curate. On 23rd June 1920 a memorial tablet to Major R. W. Picton Evans was unveiled.

    On 2nd November 1923 the Vicar, Rev. David Morgan Jones, proposed renovations to the church including a new East Window. Work commenced in 1924 including the removal of the C19 gallery and low stucco ceiling and the installation a memorial window inscribed: – “In grateful memory of the men and women of this parish who gave their lives for their country 1914-18”. The same year Rev. E. Glanrid Jones was succeeded as curate by Rev. James Lewis Davies (b.1886). In 1925 a stained glass window was installed in memory of the late Arabella Ann Davies of Castle Green. Restoration work was still in progress that year. In 1926 a new vestry was erected and a new pulpit and reredos installed. A new panelled ceiling was installed that year, with all of the restoration work by W. D. Caroe. The church was re-opened and dedicated on 25th March 1927. On 1st April 1927 the following appeared in the ‘Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser‘:

    THE RESTORED CHURCH. DESCRIPTION OF THE WORK ENTAILED. It is rather difficult to describe the work of renovation and restoration done to the Church because so much has been done in the way of preservation that does not meet the eye of the average visitor to the edifice…The chancel of the Church is certainly 13th Century work, beautifully restored in the 15th Century. The nave was partially rebuilt in the 17th Century and re-timbered in the early 19th Century, the floor of the chancel being then raised nearly three feet in the chancel and slightly less in the nave. The tower fell and was rebuilt in two stages in the earlier part of the 18th century. The chancel was re-roofed in 1906 and considerable expense was then incurred in improving the conditions.

    East Window in September 2009 (c) Cath Lloyd

    East Window in September 2009 (c) Cath Lloyd

    The work just undertaken under the direction of Mr. W. D. Caroe, Westminster, the well-known ecclesiastical architect, began with the erection of a memorial East window to the men and women of the town, and especially the men and women of the congregation of St. Mary’s who died on active service in the Great War. This window is a beautiful piece of work designed by Mr. Horace Wilkinson, the well-known artist of 101 Gower street, London, W. C. 1. This window, which contains all the existing fragments of the old glass found in the Church, depicts in the long central light Christ Crucified, and the figures of His Mother and St. John in the central side lights. In the two outer lights Archbishop Baldwin and Geraldus are shown. All the figures stand beneath canopies of 15th Century type. Angels are shown above and beneath the figures, holding shields – which reading from left to right, are:- The Archidiocesan Shield of Canterbury, in the base beneath, the Arms of Richard I. Above the figure of the Blessed Virgin is the shield of the late Bishop of St. David’s, beneath are the Arms of Rhys ap Tewdwr. At the base of the central light is the Diocesan Shield of St. David. Above the figure of St. John is the Seal of Cardigan, and beneath, the Shield of Wales. Above the figure of Giraldus is the Seal of the Ecclesiastical Province. Beneath is Giraldus’s own Shield – six argents, and gules. On the ground at Giraldus’ feet lies a bishop’s mitre pointing to the fact that he was twice chosen Bishop of St. David’s but not consecrated, and an ink-well showing that he was the historian of his time. The old glass portions in the tracery openings above are the Shield of St. Edward the Confessor and emblem of the Holy Trinity, one of the wheels on which the seraphim stand and various portions of ornament in the triangular shapes. Are the side of the four seraphim are “The Four Winged Creatures” representative of the four Evangelists.

    THE SOUTH WINDOW. The South Window in the Sanctuary continues the scheme. On the dexter side Archangel Gabriel, who holds the Lily of Annunciation, is shown, balanced with the Archangel Uriel who holds a scroll on which is painted ‘The Angel that was sent unto Me.’ In the centre is the figure of St. George. A label at the base is shown stating that this window was given by “D. Berrington G. Davies, Esq., to the Memory of George Stewart Berrington Davies, 2nd Lieut. 5Th Batt. The Rifle Brigade, born January 31st 1890, died October 26th 1919 from illness contracted on active service in N. Russia during the Great War. And to the memory of his Grandmother, Arabella Ann Davies, of The Castle Green, born January 9th 1843, died June 25th 1923.” A design has been prepared for the North Window to conclude the series of Angelic Hierarchy. In the long lights beneath will be represented St. David of Wales with St. Michael and St. Raphael.

    The condition of the chancel arch was such, and the need of preserving the ancient fane so great, that the Parochial Church Council were led to extend the work. The floor has been reduced in the chancel to within a few inches of the original floor, and in the nave to the actual level of the old. The fine and beautiful chancel arch is now exposed and gives the idea of great space looking looking down the Church. A new Altar and Reredos (with a representation of Christ the King in the centre panel). Sanctuary panelling, communicants’ kneelers, choir stalls and priests’ desks have been provided. These are in oak, magnificently carved and a beautiful addition to the ornamentation of the Church. The ceiling of the chancel has been panelled in oak and the organ has been restored and set back into the chamber. The old gallery has been removed and seating of like capacity has been provided by the opening of the tower wall, where there is seating for 40 people…A pulpit (in memory of the late Mrs. Davies, Claremont) will complete the chancel furnishing, and an oaken tablet will be affixed in the north wall containing the names of the fallen heroes. Numerous and serious defects in the structure of the Church have been completely corrected…The cost of the whole is approximately £5000…The builders engaged were Messrs. Booth & Son, of Banbury (under the superintendence of Mr. Murray) and the exquisite oak work in the sanctuary and chancel is the work of Messrs. Lort & Francis, Ecclesiastical Craftsmen, Crediton. These firms, together with the Architect Mr. W. D. Caroe, and the artist, Mr. Horace Wilkinson, deserve sincere congratulations upon the manner in which the restoration scheme has been carried out…”

    In 1928 Rev. David John Davies succeeded Rev. James Lewis Davies as Curate. About that year a new oak pulpit was donated in memory of Mrs. Mary Davies, Claremont, Cardigan, who died on 18th November 1927. In July 1930 Rev. David John Davies, Curate, left and in 1931 J. D. Bartlett was the Curate. In 1931 Rev. Canon David Morgan Jones moved to Llanelli and Rev. Edward Lee Hamer succeeded him as Vicar on 17th April 1931, remaining Vicar until 1950. On 18th December 1931 it was agreed to erect a memorial gate to the Misses North. That same year Alban Caroe and E. A. Hall designed a new lectern in Alban Caroe’s style. Nathaniel Hitch carved the angels. New windows were by Walter Wilkinson. On 25th February 1932 the Bishop visited the church. On 27th April the Bishop dedicated a memorial tablet to those fallen in the 1914-18 War, a carved oak lectern in memory of Rev. D. J. Evans, and a carved oak pulpit in memory of Mrs. Davies, Claremont.

    North Memorial Gate, St. Mary's Church 10/04/2013 (c) Glen K Johnson

    North Memorial Gate, St. Mary’s Church 10/04/2013 (c) Glen K Johnson

    On 5th January 1933 the North Memorial Gate was dedicated by the Bishop. In August 1934 Rev. William John Davies became the new Curate. In 1936 Rev. Benjamin Alec Lewis of No. 22 St. Mary Street, became the Curate after Rev. William John Davies, the previous Curate, left for Tumble. At Easter 1939 there were 391 communicants. In August 1940 Rev. E. Walter Evans became the Curate, succeeding Rev. Benjamin Alec Lewis. A memorial window on the north side of the church bears the inscription “To the glory of God and in everlasting memory of Sgt. Pilot Desmond Thomas, R. A. F., beloved eldest son of David William Charles and Eleanor May Stephens of Pantgwyn, Cardigan, a devoted member of this Church, who made the Supreme Sacrifice, July 12th 1941, aged 19 years.” In September 1942 Curate Rev. E. Walter Evans left and Rev. H. G. Beynon Hopkins became the Curate. In November 1944 Rev. E. Lee Hamer was appointed a Canon. On 28th September 1945 Rev. H. G. Beynon Hopkins ceased to be the Curate and was succeeded by Rev. David Donald Roberts. A new altar was donated circa 1946 in memory of Mrs. Anne Llywelyn Peregrine of Oaklands, St. Mary Street, Cardigan, who died on 17th February 1946. In August 1946 the curate, Rev. David Donald Roberts, married Miss Annie Howells of Llandybie.

    On 4th July 1947 an electric organ-blower was installed. On 10th September 1947 the memorial window to Desmond Thomas was unveiled. On 26th March 1948 Curate Rev. David Donald Roberts left. At Easter 1948 Rev. Alun E. Davies of Treharris became the Curate. In 1949 Rev. Canon E. Lee Hamer was the President of the Cardigan Auxiliary Bible Society. On 12th June 1949 Lizzie Hamer, wife of Rev. Canon E. Lee Hamer, died aged 63. About 1950 Rev. Maldwyn Griffith succeeded Rev. Alun E. Davies as the Curate. In April 1950 Rev. Canon E. Lee Hamer announced his retirement. On

    Rev. & Mrs. D T Price, 08/12/1950 (Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser)

    Rev. & Mrs. D T Price, 08/12/1950 (Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser)

    23rd January 1951 Rev. David Thomas Price was installed as the new Vicar. The clock was repaired in 1952. The flagstaff was struck by lightening and destroyed on June 27th 1953. The weather-cock was repaired that October and the flagpole replaced. D. J. M. Peregrine wrote a booklet about the church in 1954. In October 1954 the Curate, Rev.  Maldwyn Griffiths, left for Aberaeron. In 1955 Rev. David Thomas Price and his wife, Nana Price, lived at the Vicarage.

    Rev. David Thomas Price died aged 56 on 26th September 1955 and on 28th October 1955, Canon T. E. Jenkins was confirmed as the new Vicar. The church’s west gate still had a cast iron overthrow at that time. The Bishop of St. David’s installed Rev. Canon T. E. Jenkins on 25th January 1956. On 14th September 1956 the Archbishop of Canterbury visited the church. On 8th February 1957 Rev. James Ernest Jones became the Vicar – inducted in April that year and remaining Vicar until 1974. On 30th August 1957 it was revealed that the Curate, Rev. D. L. B. Evans, was about to leave Cardigan. On 6th June 1958 the Bishop dedicated new doors in memory of Dr. W. T. Havard. In December 1958 Rev. John Carew Thomas became the new Curate. On 6th March 1959 former Vicar, Rev. Canon E. Lee Hamer, died aged 75. On 19th June 1959 a new west door (in memory of Miss M. Gwladys R. Peregrine of Claverley, North Road) and floodlights were donated to the church and were dedicated on 15th December that year. By 21st August 1959 volunteers had begun tidying up the churchyard.

    Cover of Induction Service Programme for Rev. Alfred Joseph Davies (Glen Johnson Collection)

    Cover of Induction Service Programme for Rev. Alfred Joseph Davies (Glen Johnson Collection)

    By 21st October 1960 the bells were undergoing repair. On 9th September 1961 the Bishop dedicated the restored bells. The church was made a listed building that year. According to another source, Rev. Ernest Jones had the bells re-cast in 1964. On 27th April 1969 Prince Charles made a surprise appearance at a Sunday morning service. In 1969 the headstones were removed from parts of the churchyard, and placed around the cemetery walls. In 1969 Rev. J. Parsons was the Curate. On 31st January 1974 Rev. Alfred Joseph Davies was inducted as the new Vicar and remained so until 1987. In 1976 Canon Rev. T. B. Jones may have been the temporary Vicar. In January 1977 the organ was re-built. In December 1978 Cllr. D. Percy Griffiths was ordained here by the Bishop. In 1979-82 Rev. T. E. Jenkins was the Curate. In 1984-86 Rev. D. J. Clarke was the Curate.

    Cover of Concert Programme, St. Mary's Church 07/02/1986

    Cover of Concert Programme, St. Mary’s Church 07/02/1986

    In December 1988 Rev. Canon William Hughes Richards became the Vicar until 2001. In September 1992 Rev. Philip Johnes became the Curate until 1994. A brief history and description was compiled for visitors to the church in 1996. In 1996 Rev. Peter A. Lewis was the Curate. In 1999 Rev. Gerald A. Sykes was the Curate. In October 2001 Rev. Canon William H. Richards retired. In September 2002 Rev. John Powell became the Vicar of St Mary’s and was inducted in December. He was the Vicar in 2002-10. He left in September 2010.

    In September 2011 Rev. John Bennet was installed as the new Vicar and remained as such in 2011-13. Refurbishment in 2012 included a new roof and re-instatement of the pinnacles on the chancel.


    The church was described by CADW in 1992:

    St. Mary's Church on 12th December 2012 (c) Glen K Johnson

    St. Mary’s Church on 12th December 2012 (c) Glen K Johnson

    HISTORY – C12 origins, C15, C18 and C19 parish church in blue lias stone, ashlar for west tower, chancel and organ chamber, rubble for nave. Slate roofs, hipped to chancel east end. West tower, broad aisleless nave with south porch and embattled chancel with north organ chamber and low vestry. Nave is medieval but substantially rebuilt according to plaque in porch in 1702-3. Windows, much renewed in later restorations, are of flat-headed mullioned type with arch-headed lights typical of C17 and south door has post Reformation segmental-pointed head. Another plaque in porch of 1639 may refer to alterations or to a new porch. Present porch is early C20, Gothic, with carved heads of Archbishop Davidson and Bishop Owen. Tower fell in 1705, was rebuilt up to 40ft in 1711 and completed in 1748, and is large with minimal Gothic detail, single bell-openings and low west door. Big diagonal stepped buttresses to front angles. North east stair tower. Chancel is of exceptional quality for West Wales, C15, Perpendicular style with ashlar traceried 3-light windows, 3-bay, buttressed, embattled and pinnacled (most of pinnacles taken down) with north east corner stair. North side has High Victorian organ chamber of 1877, extensively dressed in red brick and low flat-roofed vestry probably of c1926. One original window is lost to organ chamber.

    RESTORATION – Restoration history is unclear, 1702-3 plaque says that ‘body of the church’ was rebuilt. Engraving in Meyrick (1810) shows nave south windows of early C19 type, yet existing mullioned windows look earlier. The C15 chancel roof was already removed by 1810. In 1847 easternmost nave south window was enlarged to designs of Mr Waugh; alterations including reseating are recorded in 1855 by H Woodyer, architect; the organ chamber dates from 1877; small ICBS grants are recorded from 1882-6; a restoration occurred in 1904-6 by L Lewis of Cardigan. Then from 1924-7 a further restoration was undertaken under W D Caroe when chancel ceiling was replaced and progressively the chancel was refurnished (reredos and pulpit 1926, lectern 1931).

    Tudor piscina in the Chancel, September 2009 (c) Glen K Johnson

    Tudor piscina in the Chancel, September 2009 (c) Glen K Johnson

    INTERIOR – Plastered nave with C18 5-sided plastered ceiling. Two sections of corbelling in nave walls and moulded pointed niche, possibly a door-head in north wall. North east rood stair door. Chancel arch C15, blue lias with chamfered piers and moulded arch. Chancel has 2 surviving finely carved stone roof corbels (of 8 illustrated by Meyrick1810) and 1926 panelled timber ceiling. Fine ogee-headed crocketted piscina. Extensive early-mid C20 pale oak furnishing and 2 stained glass windows, east and south of 1924-5 by Walter Wilkinson. East window preserves some fine fragments of C15 glass, sole survivors of the outstanding medieval glass window removed by T Johnes to Hafod and burnt in the 1807 fire. Three 1906 stained glass chancel windows with floral plaques and one nave stained glass window of 1910. Chancel north window of c1950. C15 panelled font. Some marble plaques of late C18 to mid C19 by Wood of Bristol, Phillips of Haverfordwest and W Behnes of London.

    GATES AND GATEPIERS – Early C19 tall gate piers in blue lias ashlar, corniced with stepped caps and cast-iron urns. Piers are panelled. Iron gates with top rails ramped down, quatrefoil middle rail and dog-bars.

    ADDITIONAL (1994) – there is evidence for a blocked door to the NW side of the nave and another blocked door head to the SE side of the chancel, with another near the SE angle, set higher up, probably the reredorter [photographic evidence held].

    Marked on 1834 map. Similar to entrance gate piers to Castle Green House.


    Cardigan Shire Map, John Speed 1610

    NLW Allt-Llwyd MS 1

    Drawing, Edward. Lhuyd c1685

    Kendal Presbyterian Chapel Accounts 1711

    Carmarthenshire Record Office: Coedmore MS 38

    Parish Registers – St. Mary’s, Cardigan

    The History & Antiquities of the County of Cardiganshire, Samuel Rush Meyrick 1808

    Pigot’s Directory 1830

    Ledger of David Davies, Bridge, Cardigan 1830

    Carmarthen Journal 1831

    Map of Cardigan, J Wood 1834

    Pembrokeshire Herald 09/09/1844; 1847

    The Religious Census of 1851

    Archaeologia Cambrensis III Vol. V 1860

    A History of Cilgerran, John Roland Phillips 1867

    Slater’s Directory 1868

    A List of the Sheriffs of Cardiganshire, John Roland Phillips 1868

    Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1868; 1870; 1875; 1877; 1880-81; 1887; 1892; 1894-96; 1899-1902; 1904-06; 1910-21; 1923-24; 1926-27; 1930-33; 1935-36; 1938; 1940; 1942; 1944-48; 1950-51; 1955-61; 1963-78; 1992; 1994; 1997-2002; 2004; 2006; 2008-11

    Post Office Directory 1871

    Illuminated address – Rev. T Jones, St Mary’s Church, Feb. 1877

    Luncheon Ticket – Dedication of Organ, St. Mary’s Church 07/06/1877

    Analysis of Collections – St. Mary’s Church 1878-79

    Posters etc – Organ Recitals by Dr John H Gower, Cardigan Parish Church 1881

    Cardigan Observer 1884

    Kelly’s Directory of South Wales 1884; 1914; 1926 

    A Guide to Cardigan & District, William Edward Yerward James 1899

    Walks & Wanderings in County Cardigan, E Horsfall-Turner 1903

    Cardiganshire. & Its’ Antiquities

    Cardigan Priory In The Olden Days, Emily M Pritchard 1904

    Postcard – Interior of St Mary’s Church, T F Baldwin 1910

    Transactions of the Royal Historical Association, H E Malden 1911

    Historical Society of West Wales Transactions Vol. I, 1911

    Cardiganshire. Antiquarian Society Magazine 1915

    Postcard – Cardigan Church From Priory, Squibbs 1920’s

    Postcard – Memorial Window, St. Mary’s, Cardigan c1927

    Episcopal Registers of St. David’s

    History of Abbeys Vol. II, Browne Willis

    Statement of Account – St. Mary’s Church 31/12/1938; 31/12/1969; 31/12/1979; 31/12/1980; 31/12/1981; 31/12/1982; 31/12/1983; 31/12/1984; 31/12/1985; 31/12/1986; 31/12/1987; 31/12/1988; 31/12/1991; 31/12/1996; 31/12/1999

    Accounts – Cardigan Auxiliary Bible Society 1949

    A Brief Historical & General Survey of St. Mary’s Parish Church, Cardigan, D J M Peregrine 1954

    Postcard – St. Mary’s Church, Valentine’s c1960

    Welsh Saints & Shrines Vol. 2 : Our Lady of Cardigan, Rev Silas M Harris 1964

    The Church Bells of Cardiganshire

    Ceredigion 1976

    The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare Through Wales & England 1793-1810, M W Thompson 1983

    A Guide to Cardigan 1989

    The Gateway to Wales, W J Lewis 1990

    The 1992 Cardigan Guide

    Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest – Cardigan, CADW 1992

    The 1993 Guide to Cardigan

    The Cardigan Guide 1994

    St. Mary’s Church – A Brief History c1994

    Cardigan ‘95 1995

    The Cardigan Guide 1996; 1997

    The Official Cardigan Guide 1998; 1999

    Cardigan Town Trail 1998

    Princelings, Privilege & Power, Leslie Baker-Jones 1999

    Pilgrims & Preachers 2000

    The Cardigan Guide 2000; 2001

    Cardigan – Official Guide, Western Mail 2002.


    In 1476 John ap Ieuan donated land in Cardigan town to St. Mary’s Church in order to support a chantry there to pray for his soul. In 1535 Nicholas Harry was the Master of the Chantry. Reference was made in 1537 to a burgage in Cardigan belonging to the Chantry, perhaps near the cemetery of the church. A deed of the 25th April 1545 suggests that the “cantors” held a burgage on High Street. In 1546 came the survey and dissolution of the chantries. The Chantry Priest of Cardigan had annually 106s.6d.. The income of the Chantry amounted to 118s.6d.. The King’s Tenths amounted to 12s.. It was said to have been in decay  “…of old time…” In 1548:

    “…In the Chantry certificate of the Chauntrey of Cardigan called Mr. John ap Evan his Chauntrey, there are lands given to the yearly value of £6.5s.8d. to sing four masses in the week for his soul yearly for ever…”

    The Act for the Dissolution of Chantries was passed in November. On 8th March 1553 Edward Powell attempted to lease “…land lately belonging to the chantry called Mr. John ap Ieuan Chauntrey in the town of Cardigan…”. The same year, former incumbent, Griffin Williams, received a pension of £5, which he still received in 1555. On 22nd June 1581 Edward Powell held Chantry Lands, which were recorded again as “Tir y Chauntry”, enclosures belonging to the Crown, on 8th October 1583. On 23rd June 1593 the lease was held by Edward Powell’s son – also Edward Powell. On 25th October 1620 the property belonged to Sir John Lewis of Abernantbychan and Coedmore, Llechryd, who leased it on that date to William, Edmund and James Bradshaw of St. Dogmaels Abbey.


    None available


    Cardigan Priory in the Olden Days, Emily M Pritchard 1904

    History of Abbeys Vol. II, Browne Willis

    Records of the Court of Augmentations Relating to Wales & Monmouthshire, E A Lewis & J

    Conway Davies 1954

    Welsh Saints & Shrines No 2 : Our Lady of Cardigan, Rev Silas M Harris 1964

    Conquerors & Conquered in Medieval Wales, Ralph A Griffiths 1994.

    © Glen K Johnson 06/07/2013


    Accounts of St. Mary's Church 06/04/1877 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    Accounts of St. Mary’s Church 06/04/1877 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    St. Mary’s Church Accounts 1877

    Ticket - luncheon - Dedication of organ at St. Mary's Church 07/06/1877 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    Ticket – luncheon – Dedication of organ at St. Mary’s Church 07/06/1877 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    Ticket for Luncheon, Dedication of new organ, St. Mary’s Church 1877

    Accounts of St. Mary's Church, 08/05/1879 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    Accounts of St. Mary’s Church, 08/05/1879 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    St. Mary’s Church Accounts 1879

    St. Mary's Church ca. 1900 (Glen Johnson collection)

    St. Mary’s Church ca. 1900 (Glen Johnson collection)

    Interior of St. Mary’s Church ca1900

    Avenue of trees, St. Mary's Churchyard ca. 1903 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    Avenue of trees, St. Mary’s Churchyard ca. 1903 (Glen Johnson Collection)

    ca.1903 Avenue of trees, St. Mary’s Churchyard

    Chancel of St. Mary's Church, 1903 (E Horsfall Turner)

    Chancel of St. Mary’s Church, 1903 (E Horsfall Turner)

    Chancel of St. Mary’s Church, 1903 (E Horsfall Turner)

    East Window, St. Mary's Church, 1904 by Tom Desmond

    East Window, St. Mary’s Church, 1904 by Tom Desmond

    East Window, St. Mary’s Church, 1904 (photo by Tom Desmond)


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