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Parish of Caerphilly History

St Martin's Church
St Martins Church Caerphilly

The present church, described by the late Sir John Betjeman in the book entitled “Parish churches in England and Wales” as being “large and dignified” stands near the site of the former church, Capel Martin. It was erected in 1878-79 during the Incumbency of the Rev. Thomas Jenkins and was consecrated on the 17th of December, 1879, by Bishop Ollivant, of Llandaff. The original building is in the early English style of architecture from designs by Mr. Buckeridge, architect. It was built however under the supervision of Sir John L. Pearson, the well know Ecclesiastical Architect, as the designer had passed away before the structure was undertaken. The cost was £5,500. To accommodate the growing population of Caerphilly, the Church was enlarged by the addition of two bays in 1904-5 at a cost of £4,000. The South Aisle was added in 1938 at a cost of £2000 – the money being donated by local parishioners, to mark the occasion of the 50th Jubilee of St Martin’s Church in 1929.
There has been a “Chapel of Ease” in Caerphilly since at least the 16th century. The earliest reference discovered is in 1552. It appears in the Pembroke-Bute Papers, which I presume are in the National Library of Wales. In these there is a reference to a 1576 Conveyance of land between Mary Herbert and Nicholas Herbert of Cardiff, which refers to a deed of grant to Matthew Herbert in 1552 of land in Eglwysilan – which includes the Parsonage at Eglwysilan and the “Chapels thereunto belonging at Llanfabon and St Martin’s by Caerphilly”.

Henry Lloyd, in his “History of Caerphilly, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time”, published in 1900, says the church was built two centuries before the first Nonconformist buildings appeared and that it was built at the expense of the Lewis ‘s of Van as a mission church ( the same more or less, as a Chapel of Ease). It was repaired considerably in 1701 and 1745 and in the Bishop of Llandaff’s Visitation Return for the Parish of Eglwysilan in 1771 there are records of the Curate, Edward Jacob saying that the Chapel of Ease – St Martin’s “is in such a ruinous state of repair that it is dangerous to perform there”. In the 1781 Return it says that St Martin’s “was recently repaired very decently by subscription”.  In 1820, the building was pulled down and completely rebuilt – John Goodrich of Energlyn seemingly being the main benefactor. It was consecrated July 23rd, 1822.

 The site of the new church was conveyed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on 25th March, 1875. Then an acre was added to the churchyard in 1883 and about one acre again in 1904.

 An order in Council dated June 19th 1850, constituted St. Martin’s into a Consolidated Chapelry. It was declared a Rectory on 7th November 1867. The Rectory site was conveyed on 3rd August 1868, and the National School was also erected about that time. The new church was substituted for the old church on 22nd January 1880, and a faculty was obtained for taking down the old church on 3rd August 1882.

A fine and dignified tower was added in 1910, at a cost of £1,780, the architect being Mr. G. E. Halliday of Llandaff. It was erected in Commemoration of the visit of their late Majesties King Edward V11 and Queen Alexandra to the town on July 13th, 1907. It is 75 feet 6 inches in height, built of Pennant stone in the style of the fourteenth century English Gothic. The clock made by Niehus Bros. of Bristol was added in 1911, following public subscription. It was electrified in 1980, and in 2000 was rebuilt and upgraded by J.B. Joyce and Co., who also restored the Westminster chimes. The magnificent peal of eight bells was cast by John Taylor of Loughborough in 1910, and is set in the key of F. They were a gift from Miss Catherine Anthony, formerly from The Grove, Caerphilly, who was a great benefactress of the church, and who also gave the brass Eagle lectern. The bells are named after members of her family, and are considered by ringers and being one of the best rings of eight bells in South Wales.
The glorious East window above the High Altar was a gift from Lord Windsor, in memory of Baroness Windsor. It was she who made the conveyance of land in December 1867 for the purposes of building a church school in Park Lane. This building has had a somewhat colourful history – first as a National School, which was closed in 1905 when the local authority wished to make it a Council School. It was retained by the parish only after a battle through the courts from 1905 to 1913, and it then became “St Martins Church Hall” or “The Parish Hall” - with this use permitted through a “Cy-Pres Scheme” granted by the House of Lords in 1913. It was extended in 1920 to provide more space for the Sunday School, and used every since then by the church and by a number of local organizations providing wider aspects of education and training for young people.

The font remains in the traditional place near the main door, signifying baptism as the entrance into Christ’s family. It is possibly the oldest feature of the church, and was previously used in Capel Martin for many years. After some years of mysterious absence, it was found at a local farmhouse and placed in the present church.

The organ of fine quality is a Father Willis, which was installed in 1891 at a cost of £515.  
In with 1953, it was extended with additional pipework in memory of the war dead. In 1968 the organ was rebuilt and enlarged by Percy Daniel of Clevedon, to a specification drawn up by Ralph Downes, and the pipe complex was moved to the South Aisle and housed in a modern case, designed by George Pace, with a detached stop key console in the sacristy. Dedicated by the Archbishop of Wales 23rd April 1969. Following a fire in 1977, the console was moved into the nave under the pipe complex and in 1982 a "Trumpet" stop was installed.

 The Lady Chapel, where the blessed sacrament is reserved, was re-shaped into its present form in 1969 by George Pace, at the same time as the organ case was moved. This is now set aside for prayer and private contemplation, and occasional services.

The Reredos behind the High Altar was given in memory and in thanksgiving for the ministry of the first Rector, The Reverend Thomas Jenkins, which spanned 28 years. The marble is similar to that in Worcester Cathedral and it has within it three statuettes. The middle one is Our Lord, bestowing his gift of peace. On the right as you look up from the nave is the Apostle Thomas, holding his “T” square, and on the left is Saint Martin, with sword in hand, cutting his cloak in two to share it with a needy beggar
Stained glass windows adorn the church. Recent donations in memory of faithful parishioners include a window on the north side depicting St Joseph the Carpenter (1993), another on the south side depicting the new-born saviour in the arms of His Mother, Mary (2002), and the latest on the north side, depicting “Christ the Light of the World” (2011).
The church is grade 2 listed building, so designated “for its architectural interest as a large Victorian town church of ambitious scale”. It is, indeed, the largest church in the district and is frequently used for community purposes, such as concerts, large weddings and funerals, and inductions of public officials.

St Andrew's Church
St Andrews Church Caerphilly
St. Andrew’s Junior Church began in the army barracks at Penyrheol until the Church, which was under construction, was completed. The number of children attending Sunday School was well over 100 and continued to grow, so a Church was much needed for the area. Having used the barracks for almost a year, St. Andrew’s Church was finally dedicated by Bishop Glyn Simon on the 17th September 1962. In his address he mentioned the need of a hall/church for new areas. The church was packed and, to quote from a press cutting, many people who were unable to get in stood outside.

On the first Sunday after the dedication Bishop Glyn Simon came to celebrate the Holy Communion, unbeknown to anyone at St. Andrew’s, there were 50 communicants. Junior Church on that day had 137 children present. Services continued with Holy Communion once a month when the celebrant was the Reverend Islwyn Jenkins. Then the Reverend Washinton Jones came out of retirement to take all Sunday services. Six years later St. Andrew’s had their first Deacon and there was much rejoicing. A year later Father N. Penrhys Evans was priested and celebrated his first Mass on 9th June 1968. This was a great help to the Rector Lewis Clarke who for the previous year had been dashing about from church to church to celebrate the Eucharist.

St. Andrew’s became very active, money was to be raised by holding whist drives, discos, hiring the hall out to various organisations and also selling of bricks. Youth clubs were started and these grew and grew.

Father N. Penrhys Evans left the parish in September 1969 and was succeeded in the same month by Father Keith Kimber (Deacon). While Father Keith was at St. Andrew’s the Church House was built in the grounds thus easing the burden of the curate cycling to and from Van Road (no car in those days). Father Keith left in 1972 and was followed by Father David Yeoman (1972-1976) and Father N. Stavrakis (1976-1979). Father H. Evans then came out of retirement to occupy Church House and serve St. Andrew’s for two years. People were grateful to him for his care and concern for the Lea community. He was succeeded by Fr. Wyn Beynon, Fr. Neil Sheard (1986-1990), Fr. Vernon Hodgeson (1991-1993), Fr. David Waters (1993-1997), Fr. Mark Williams (1998-1999), Fr. Roger Pitman (2000-2002). Fr. Andrew Davies (2003-2006), Fr. Philip Leyshon (2007-2009) Much has been done over the years to change the structure of the building, all the south side has been rebuilt and the Church has been redecorated throughout; Reserved Sacrament has been installed and dedicated in the Chapel of Christ the King which also contains the altar, altar rails and pews from Christ Church. If space would allow much more could be written on the life and witness of the community of St. Andrew’s. I will finish by recollecting from the press of twenty five years ago as a tribute to them that Canon J. 0. Williams, Mr. Hubert Gatehouse and Mr. Ernest Coleman, Church Wardens, escorted the Bishop. Also present were Curates Reverend D. Prosser, the Reverend D. Parry and the Reverend A. J. D. Williams, formerly Curate of St. Martin’s. The organist was Mrs. Doris Court. These good people got St. Andrew’s started and to them we give our thanks.


The Caerphilly & District Credit Union started its life in St. Andrew’s Church, Penyrheol in October 1988. They were then known as Penyrheol & Trecenydd Credit Union, the first meeting was held at St. Andrew’s, the Church was also used as a collection point every Tuesday morning for the local community. All meetings were held in St. Andrew’s and there is now a shop premises in Caerphilly with collection points stretching from Caerphilly to Upper Rhymney.

Bishop Barry signed up as a member of Ely Credit Union. For the launch of the shop premises, and expansion to the whole of the Caerphilly basin, we had no other than the next Archbishop of Canterbury as the very special person to launch it. From his very busy schedule this indeed was a very great honour for the movement and also endorsed the support of the church as a whole to the Credit Union movement. Four communicants of St. Andrew’s were among the original volunteers and still volunteering. We are extremely proud that our church played such an important part in the Credit Union movement locally.

St Catherine's Church
St Catherines Church Caerphilly
St. Catherine’s Church — one of the three churches in the Parish of Caerphilly — has recently published a book celebrating the first 100 years of Mission.

The church was originally built in 1904-5 as a “pre-fabricated” corrugated-iron Mission Church in response to the expansion of the town in that area and the great spiritual revival taking place in South Wales at the time. Much of the early part of the book draws heavily on detailed accounts in the Parish Magazines of the time, and on newspaper articles.

In the period 1923-26, the building was given a slightly more permanent form, and a Parish Hall added. For the next 30 years or so, St. Catherine’s became a Parish in its own right, with its own Vicar. In 1956, following a re-organisation of the Church in Wales, the church was re-assimilated into the Parish of Caerphilly. A large part of the book covers this period, with memories, experiences, descriptions and photographs provided by former clergy (and their families), together with past and current members of the congregation. As well as the church being a focus for the spiritual life of the community, the church hall formed the focus for much of the social life of the community, and the text and illustrations of the book illustrate this very richly.

In the early 1990s, following a Quinquennial Inspection, the original building was deemed to be unsafe, and was closed with immediate effect – and demolished shortly thereafter. During the next 9 years, the Church Hall was used as a temporary Church while fund-raising for the re-construction took place. The book describes and illustrates the Mission and community-building which took place in parallel with the fund-raising, leading to the re-building and subsequent consecration of the new St. Catherine’s church building in the Millennium Year, 2000. Although more modern in design, it still fulfils its original purpose of providing Mission and Service to the local community.

To celebrate the Centenary of the church, a number of events – both spiritual and social – were organised in 2005 and 2006, the most special being a visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, during the Caerphilly Praise weekend in September, 2005. The later parts of the book describe and illustrate on the planning and preparation for the major events – and the events themselves – and in doing so record the spirit of growth, change and Mission which they fostered.

However, although concentrating on the 100 years of Mission at St. Catherine’s, the book does not end with the Centenary celebrations. Instead, it encourages the reader to look forward to a continuing sense of Mission at St. Catherine’s (and in the Parish of Caerphilly as a whole) – God’s work is nowhere near complete in Caerphilly! Perhaps the 3 most important words in the book are to be found on the last page, inside the back cover – but I’ll let you purchase a copy to find out what they are…!

To quote from the Introduction:-

“…it is through constant evolution – and the willingness to embrace new ideas and adapt accordingly – that St. Catherine’s has survived for over a Century, and shows no sign of doing otherwise in the future!

Two things have not changed, however: the sense of Mission which ‘was and is and always will be’ the constant driving force at St. Catherine’s, and the foundation of prayer on which it is based.”

Copies of the book can be ordered from Caerphilly Parish Sub-Wardens, St. Catherine’s Church, Mill Road, CAERPHILLY CF83 3FE at a price of £8.00 (+£2.00 P&P).