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Friends of St Mary's Church at Caerau

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Stunning shot of St. Mary's from Ely Bridge, sadly minus its ancient cross. Photographer Kevin Ford, a valued Friends supporter.

St. Mary's Autumn 2016 Update

Stolen Cross

St. Mary's one remaining 13th Century stone cross was taken, we believe, on the Sunday of the August Bank holiday, following an illegal rave on the church site. Friends reported the cross missing on Bank Holiday Monday. Caerau Cllr Peter Bradbury is leading the investigation together with police to discover its whereabouts, after residents and Friends made a search of the church grounds, but found no traces of it. A piece of stone believed to be its base was later recovered and is safely stored with Cadw. P.C. Alan Davis used a drone to survey the damage at the top of the tower, but nothing significant was revealed.

At the Friends' November Taskforce meeting, very long thin twine and a strong cable fragment were found (previously obscured by thick undergrowth), which could have been used with a drone to pull the cross down. This is only one of several theories. Another is that the cross simply fell from the tower and was taken away by someone. The most likely explanation, however, is that the cross was stolen, and the search for it will continue.

Naturally, Friends and residents are upset by the loss of St. Mary's remaining cross. Cllr Bradbury said that the removal of the cross was a disgraceful act of targeted vandalism and criminal damage, possibly a crime of religious hatred. It was hoped St. Mary's other cross, that was removed during the 2002 consolidation of the collapsed tower, had been stored for safekeeping by the council, but a search by Bereavement Dept. did not find it. If you have any information regarding the missing crosses, please contact us.

Loss of St. Mary's ancient cross awakens memories of the time when, following its deconsecration in the late 1970's, St. Mary's was laid bare to the elements and many of its priceless and wonderful artefacts were lost. For example, St. Mary's 13th Century Sutton font and Piscina were discovered in pieces by a visiting Cambridge historian and archaeologist, Howard Thomas, from Barry, who reassembled them as best he could. Some years later, a former St. Mary's choirboy, Ivan Woodberry, visited Mr. Thomas and with the latter's agreement, took possession of the font and Piscina for safekeeping. Ivan had tended St. Mary's graves for many years, long before the Friends was formed.

There is a picture of the intact font in our book, page 41, and also on our website in the Photo Gallery, archive section. These photos were bequeathed to the Friends by the late Reverend Victor Jones (Father Jones), who restored St.Mary's Church in 1959/60.

St. Mary's Repair Meeting, 1st November at the HUB

This was attended by Caerau and Ely councillors Peter and Elaine, Jessica from Cadw, Carmel and Alan from Bereavement, Dave H from ACE, Friends and residents.

A statement received from Dave Wyatt of Cardiff University regarding the Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) bid was read out at the meeting. It included very positive plans to allocate 21,000 for training local youngsters under supervision of qualified masons to carry out repair work on St. Mary's. The result of the HLF bid is expected to be known early next year.

Friends at the meeting reported that re-pointing/repair of the upper tower is becoming more urgent, as its west wall is visibly deteriorating with two large stones missing and progressive water damage.

Carmel reported that three members of Bereavement Dept. are now trained in lime mortar work and could continue with like-for-like repairs following on from the high quality repairs done to date by Architectural Stone.

Site Security was also raised again and it was hoped the issue could be revisited and measures put in place to deter ongoing vandalism of the graves and church structure. The date of the next repair meeting will be Tuesday 7th March, 1pm at 'Our Place' The Forge. Please come if you can.

Students working on site and Taskforce Volunteers

Regular grave surveys are being done by local school students under Cadw supervision using the Friends' copyright graveyard map to track on-going damage to graves.

Vandalism is a major concern to Taskforce (TF) volunteers who give up their time every month to help make the church and hill a pleasant place for people to visit.

As well as tending the graves, TF volunteers carry out light gardening and hedge trimming. They and other volunteers regularly collect litter and debris. The site currently looks well cared for thanks to their dedication, and also the work done by Bereavement and the landowner Ralph David.

Please continue to visit St. Mary's as often as possible and report any concerns to the police phone number 101 mentioning "heritage crime" and quoting the St. Mary's post code CF5 5NA.

Jessica from Cadw is in contact with police re police responsibility (of which they were not aware) for heritage crime, and is informing their 101 phone operators so they will in future classify these crimes correctly and send police to the sites affected, rather than merely putting them on back burner.

Delia Jay, Founder, the Friends of St. Mary's.