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Friends of St Mary's Church at Caerau

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Annual Inspection 2011

The annual inspection of St. Mary the Virgin Church at Caerau was held on Saturday 5th March 2011. We met at the church at 12 noon and had about 30 people on site, including some new supporters who had not previously attended. The reason for fewer attending than last year was that we asked that no children be brought to the site due to the possible danger posed by the damaged tower, which also, regrettably, prevented our Junior Friends from attending.
The little church on the hill watching over the community.
Taken from Heol Trelai.

By the time we met at midday, the sun was shining and the site looked lovely, bathed in Spring sunlight, the church grounds having been nicely cleared of rubbish by the Bereavement Department. Even the wind dropped for the next hour or so. Much of the litter and debris near the security gate at the foot of the hill had also been cleared, but ‘fly-tipping’ of household waste and appliances remains an on-going problem which detracts from the natural beauty of the site. We are hoping that the council will erect ‘anti-dumping’ signs.

The first half hour was spent chatting to everyone, especially our new supporters including Oliver Davis, who is a local archaeologist with a keen interest in the Caerau Hillfort, and Paul Kemble whose recent aerial photo of St. Marys and the hillfort in the Echo created wider interest in the site. We also welcomed for the first time Peter and Jean Jones, Father Jones’s brother and sister-in-law, who brought with them a lovely painting of the church (see web site photo of Peter holding the painting) by a friend and local artist inspired by Father Jones’s story. All enjoyed a very welcome cup of tea or coffee generously supplied by Dave Horton and Simon Murray of Communities 1st, with Welsh cakes and shortbread biscuits contributed by The Friends. Delia, Tony (Delia’s husband) and Rosemary and her son, Peter spoke to as many people as they could and interesting suggestions were made, some relating to the problem of vandalism by young people.
The chancel wall in need of repair.

While Friends continued to chat and mingle, Delia and Rosemary carried out their formal inspection, noting the worrying amount of stone which had been hacked or had fallen from the north west corner of the tower, and the damaged rendering on the east side of the beautiful white chancel arch. Stones were missing or damaged in many of the pared-down walls and the inside of the tower, but there was little or no new grafitti.

This was a very enjoyable meeting and we were able to tell our supporters the good news that we had been recently informed by Martin Birch, Senior Officer at the Bereavement Department responsible for the up-keep of the site, that repairs to the tower and chancel would be going ahead starting on Monday March 7th, two days after our inspection. We hope by the time you read this report repairs will be underway or complete, and we will report further after the completion.

Had the repairs not been approved by the Council spending committee, it was always a possibility that the lovely old tower would collapse or have to be taken down. This would have been a sad loss for the community and for all who have worked to keep the church in at least its present ruined form, including the remains of the tower with its one surviving cross. Delightful glimpses can be seen from Heol Trelai (see website photo taken from near Heol Ebwy) of the cross still peeping out above the trees and hedgerows and watching over the local community, as it has done for more than seven centuries and we hope will continue to do depending on continuing preservation of the tower.
Supporters enjoy a cup of tea and Welsh cake.

The meeting concluded with a short talk of architectural interest by Rosemary explaining the difference between Norman and Gothic arches. Norman arches often have pillars supporting a semi-circular arch, which is usually highly decorated. Gothic arches are plain and rise to a simple point, but they have a certain elegance and refinement about them. One can roughly date churches by these two styles. St. Mary’s has Gothic arches and written records date it to AD 1260.

The Friends are looking forward to their next event, The Celebration of Father Jones’s Life, which will be held at the site on the 4th June 2011 with the cooperation of Communities 1st, so please note the date now in your dairies! Full details will be posted on our website in good time for the event.

Please keep visiting for information about the work and events of The Friends.

Our heartfelt thanks to all those who attended and we hope to see you all again soon.

Delia and Rosemary

Supporters mingle and chat. Rosemary and Delia carrying out their inspection
while chatting to Paul.
Peter Jones holding painting of the church
by a local artist who was inspired by
Father Jones's heroic renovation and
rebuild of St. Mary's.
Supporters mingle and chat.