Friends of St Mary's Home

Friends of St Mary's Church at Caerau

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Why did we become involved?

An article in the South Wales Echo was sent to Delia by Rosemary in January 1995. Delia lives in Bath and Rosemary was living in Llandaff, Cardiff at the time. The belief was that Cardiff City Council intended to demolish St Mary's and to allow further housing development upon the hill fort.

People wanted to keep the hillside as it was. Many people enjoyed a leisurely stroll up the steep hill to the church, but were distressed at the level of damage that was taking place. For example see this article in the South West Echo from 1994. The church had become seriously vandalised and some undesirable activity such as drug taking and the playing of loud music became a nuisance to the people living at the foot of the hill. One homeless person lived there in the tower for some time and unfortunately a fire that he lit culminated in the church catching fire. There was also the problem of thieves dumping and setting alight cars that they had stolen for joy riding.

House building had taken place in the Church Road at the rear of Heol Carnau prior to 1995, the road names marking the history of the area as follows :-

Hillfort Close, St Mary's Close, Roman Close, Centurion Close.

This development was on the site of the former brickworks and did not affect the scheduled area.

An extract of Delia's letter to me following the news that I had sent her reads as follows :-

"Thank you for your letter. I was sad to hear about St Mary's Church and just after getting your news we visited and took some photos. The area now is almost completely spoilt. The little church is almost derelict, and burnt-out cars are everywhere. As a result of my visit, I wrote to the Lord Mayor and asked him, as a matter of urgency, to look into the possibility of preserving the site, and turning the church into a local monument.

I've received a reply saying that my letter has been passed to the Director of Planning and he will be getting in touch with me."

In 1995, the housing estates of Caerau and Ely were deteriorating. Since that time the area has improved tremendously. A lot of effort on the part of the Council has obviously taken place. The politicians have rightly focused on material needs, while our concerns have been for the longer term aims of preserving important monuments for future generations, particularly St Mary's Church because it would be only a few years before the tower would collapse.

Delia's letter to the Lord Mayor included the following :-

"I recently visited Caerau Woods, near the Ely estate, and was very upset to see the condition of St Mary's Church which now barely stands at the top of Caerau Hill.

Having grown up in this area, St Mary's Church was where I and many of my friends were confirmed and where some were later married. I could not believe that such a previously beautiful area and its small, ancient church which has stood on that hill for centuries could have been allowed to be so spoilt, and the church vandalised almost to the point of destruction.

I am informed by friends still living in Cardiff that the Council proposes to demolish the church completely and allow further housing development on this ancient Roman site. How can you allow this? It is unbelievable that a city like Cardiff which boasts many new public buildings and plans to build an opera house in time for the new Millenium cannot protect this once beautiful spot.

I would ask you to make the church and the immediate area surrounding it a protected site and set about renovating it so that it can remain for all time a local monument of which the people in the surrounding area can feel proud.

Please act now before it is too late."

At the time of writing this letter, neither of us knew that Caerau hillfort was a scheduled monument.