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Friends of St Mary's Church at Caerau

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Photo courtesy of Kevs Ford.

Christmas News

December 2013

We have learnt that St. Mary's church and grave yard are unfortunately to be temporarily closed to the public due to health and safety concerns.

We had been hoping that the necessary repairs to preserve the tower and other parts of the structure, identified by our March Inspection, would go ahead and would be sufficient to make the structure safe.

However, at a meeting called by Martin Birch of the Cardiff Bereavement Department held in the Canton Library and attended by the Friends and supporters, Councillors, ACE, CAER, CADW, and Cardiff Conservation Department, as well as surveyors and engineers, we were informed that a survey of the site, undertaken by KEW, recommended immediate closure, which the authorities could not ignore. Until the necessary work to keep the area safe could be assessed and costed, it will be undesirable to allow the public on to the site and barriers are needed to deter access.

Naturally, the Friends are disappointed by this turn of events, which we have fought to prevent over the last two decades. When we wrote our book, St. Mary the Virgin Church, in 2008, we did so because, should the worst happen and St. Marys be knocked down, there would be a record of its existence. We have filed copies of the book in the five collection libraries, at Aberystwyth, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Dublin, for research by future scholars, and we hope that others who have the book will pass on the knowledge of the old church on the hill.

A second survey is to be undertaken by suitably qualified person/s before any irrevocable decisions are made. We asked, and the Councillors at the meeting agreed, that this second surveyor be specifically instructed to estimate the cost of a quick fix to secure the tower and chancel arch, while longer-term measures and funding are being considered.

Councillor Peter Bradbury is working hard to get a satisfactory solution as no one wants to see the loss of one of Cardiff's oldest heritage buildings, and nor do the people of Caerau and Ely want to lose their famous and iconic landmark, which has watched over our community for nearly eight centuries. On the positive side, the meeting heard suggestions to make the site sustainable, including setting up a trust to fund future repairs, and using the repairs/rebuilding to train local young people in the skills of stone masonry.

Rosemary and I always thought that, for St. Mary's to remain into the 21st Century and beyond, a new use must be found for the building. Father Jones believed that one day St. Mary's would rise again for people would worship there, and perhaps they will, but in a different context.

Our other news is we have conducted a brief survey of saddle-back churches in and around Cardiff identified by Rosemary Lewis's research for our book (page 13). We have photographed five, which will be added to the Friends' website. Four of these are well preserved and remain functioning churches. The fifth, and the prettiest in my view, is St. Michael's at Michaelston-super-Ely, which is now up for residential use, having been deconsecrated. St. Michael's is one of the stops on the popular CAER Heritage Trail Walks, the Medieval Michaelston Walk. St. Mary's, which also had a saddle-back roof, is visited on the Caerau Celtic Hillfort Walk. For more information about these and other walks please visit the CAER and ACE webites.

We wish you all an enjoyable Christmas and a peaceful New Year, and as usual, our grateful thanks to all our supporters. Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

St Michael's Church at Michaelston-super-Ely. St. Mary's in the 70s.