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The Friends' St. David's Day Inspection 2009

A beautiful sunny day with a cold breeze found the church remains in good condition, with only two pieces of senseless graffiti on the inside wall next to the arch, and on the opposite wall of the tower. The earlier- noted blue graffiti had been mostly cleaned away. The large, red granite grave stone in front of the church tower was also clean of graffiti although its top is still off and lying on the ground. This could easily be repaired if the Council would authorise it. The stonework was largely undamaged with no major holes or evidence of attempts to dislodge the stones. There is however a large pile of stones in front of the Arch, these appear to be left over from the last repair of the Arch.

The 2009 inspection team.
An inspection earlier in the week by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) representative, Judith Leach, noted that stronger mortar would be beneficial and SPAB is going to make this recommendation to Cardiff City Council, who are responsible for repairing and maintaining the legally Protected Monument. A copy of our report will be sent to Martin Birch of the Bereavement Department, the Department of the Council charged with overseeing repairs and cleaning, and we will support the suggestion that stronger mortar is used in future for repairs.

There did not appear to be any new damage to the graveyard, where many graves remain heavily overgrown with brambles. Most of the graves behind the church are difficult to identify because their markings have been eroded or deliberately damaged and also the brambles cover many of the stones making it difficult to walk among them. This is distressing to relatives who have loved ones buried at St. Mary’s and we frequently receive complaints from people about the state of the graves. We intend to request the Bereavement Department to supply a detailed account of all the ninety or so graves which occupy the church site.

One of our loyal supporters, Ivan, has been trying to tidy up the graves on his frequent visits to the site, and Susan and David Brooke, who live close to the church, regularly collect litter and replace small dislodged stones. All this helps to give the site a ‘cared-for’ look, which may help to deter people from random acts of vandalism. Unfortunately, though, the medieval earth ring work outside the graveyard has been damaged by people riding trail bikes or quad bikes. This is spoiling the historic iron-age ring work, which deserves better protection from this type of abuse. The hill fort is protected in law, as is the church, and we will write to Cardiff Council to bring this to their attention.

The initial inspection team this year consisted of nearby residents Sue and David Brooke, Linda Jones, Ruth and Paul King, Val Davies, Ivan Woodberry, and Delia and Tony Jay. Rosemary Lewis was unable to attend due to her husband’s sudden hospitalisation, and our stalwart supporters, Jean and Cliff Evans were prevented from coming by Jean’s serious ankle injuries. The Rev. Victor (Father) Jones was hoping to join us but health and frailty have again prevented him making the long journey. He has asked us to pass on his deep gratitude and blessing to everyone involved in supporting the work of The Friends and their efforts to keep his beloved ‘old church’ standing.

St. David's Day celebrants singing in the ruined body of the church.
We were shortly joined by Iona Gordon and Richard Evans and also Dave Horton, who will be taking over from Iona at Communities First. Iona and Dave had organised the St. David’s Day walk for Communities First, providing coffee and soup and rolls at St. Mary’s, as well as a ‘geocache’ treasure hunt. About 35-40 adults and children attended in all, including our most senior supporter, Ken Pinches who is remembered by Father Jones for his help with the 1960 rebuild. Darren Bradley, the church warden from St. Mary’s sister church, St. Timothy’s was also there. Delia and Tony had attended St. Tim’s 9.15 a.m. Communion Service prior to the Inspection. See pictures of St. Tim’s wonderful (and famous) window.

It was a lovely day and a pleasure to see so many people. We sang a hymn and the Welsh National anthem in the ruined body of the church. It is great that so many residents and former residents continue to support the efforts to keep the remains of this lovely old church standing. The work of Communities First should also be praised for their efforts to involve the Caerau and Ely community in protecting this important landmark for present and future generations.

We urge you, dear supporters, to visit St. Mary’s and the hill fort whenever you can, and please keep up your reports to us of ongoing damage or vandalism in order that we may report it to the authorities as soon as possible. Please also draw it to the attention of your local and national MPs.

Our very best wishes to everyone.

Delia and Rosemary.
The Friends of St. Mary’s.

See more photos in our inspection gallery...