Friends of St Mary's Home

Friends of St Mary's Church at Caerau

Gallery News History Memories Book
Grave Map Location About Contacts Copyright

St Mary's Annual Inspection Report

March 2nd 2013

Bore Da, and a great day it was! The weather was good also.

About 25-30 supporters and friends came to exchange news and hear about the year’s events and future plans from Friends Founder Delia Jay, CAER (Caerau And Ely Rediscovering) Heritage Project Manager Dr. Oliver Davis, and Ely Councillor Peter Bradbury, ending with a delightful story from our much loved story-teller, Cath Little, about the two dragons that were destroying the foundations of a Welsh castle, until the red dragon ejected the white dragon and gave us our Welsh red dragon national flag.

Friends and supporters took the opportunity to see for themselves the state of St. Mary’s and the Hill. We were particularly pleased to see one of our oldest supporters, Ken Pinches, who helped Father Jones with the heroic rebuild and restoration of St. Mary’s in 1959/60. Ken commented that he wasn’t going to help put the roof on again!

Today much talk was of last year’s visit from Time Team and the CAER Heritage Project, which plans to take over where Time Team left off.

Olly, Dr. Davis, confirmed that money had been made available for another year of the CAER Heritage Project, as well as additional funding to organise heritage trail walks linking St. Mary’s and Caerau Hill Fort to other historic sites in Cardiff, which it is hoped will raise awareness of Caerau Hill and, perhaps, help the constant struggle to reduce the vandalism which has plagued St. Mary’s for so may years. Included in CAER’s plans are new excavations on the hill, engaging Caerau and Ely schools and residents in their interesting history and archaeology.
Friends and supporters.

Re the church structure, we were disappointed to see that fires had been lit using stones pulled from walls to make a fireplace in the entrance porch, and two in the body of the church leaving scorch marks on the walls, particularly the South West corner inside the nave (where the south wall joins the east wall of the tower), which was badly marked. Councillor Peter Bradbury took prompt action in notifying Martin Birch of the Council Bereavement Department and asking them to come and remove stones and clean the fire marks etc. (We were grateful to learn later that Martin proposes to have the dislodged stones replaced and the fire debris removed.)

It was good to see not much more graffiti or damage to the gravestones than already existed. The site was generally clear of rubbish, with thanks to Dave Horton’s monthly “ACE” (Action Caerau & Ely) task force of volunteers visiting on the first Tuesday of each month to clear litter and tidy up the site. Please note the next task force gathering is Tuesday, April 2nd at 11am at the church. Please come if you are able to spare a couple of hours on that day, and bring gloves and secateurs if you wish. Dave usually provides rubbish bags and litter picking tongs.

A full report of our damage inspection will be sent to Martin Birch at the Bereavement Department. We are grateful to Martin and his teams for their diligence and getting repairs and cleaning done, especially in these financially difficult times.

We hope that the increased interest in the Hill Fort will benefit St. Mary’s by attracting funding in its own right to preserve this ancient but much neglected landmark, which is so loved by the majority of Caerau and Ely residents as well as former residents living in other parts of the country and the world. We can’t emphasise enough the importance of keeping the church tower, standing visible as it does atop the now famous Iron Age fortification, not only for today’s generations but for those who come after.

Our sincere thanks to all our supporters for coming and making it such a happy occasion. Special thanks are due to loyal supporters Angela, Arun, and Paul, who assisted with arrangements for the day, in particular the provision of much appreciated tea, coffee and soup, as well as the usual Welsh cakes.

Delia Jay

Delia's Speech

Jeff Trask's model of St. Mary's.
Bore Da, Good Afternoon.

As most of you will know I am Delia Jay, co-founder with Rosemary Lewis of the Friends of St. Mary. This year is our 18th annual inspection.

A lot has happened since that time when Rosemary and I started our campaign to save St. Mary’s from complete destruction and as a part of that campaign began walking up the hill to the church on or near to St. David’s Day to formally inspect St. Mary’s and report back to the authorities, hoping they would listen to our pleas and carry out the necessary repairs.

In that respect, not much has changed.

What has changed is that CAER - Caerau And Ely Rediscovering Heritage project - has at last become a reality. Time Team’s visit to the site last year was the icing on the cake; Caerau’s – our - wonderful site has become known to the rest of Wales and the nation and world at large.

I’m told that the CAER project will continue where Time Team left off. In a moment you will hear more about this from Olly, Dr. Davis. The Cardiff Story Museum in the Old Library building now displays the work and effort that has gone into bringing this project to life, including a beautiful model of St. Mary’s crafted by Jeff Trask one of our valued supporters. The Cardiff Story Museum is well worth a visit if you have not yet done so.

The creators of CAER intend to continue their work in partnership with Caerau and Ely schools and residents which is already bearing fruit in that children and adults have become drawn to the amazing history and archaeology on their doorstep – a sentiment shared by the Time Team archaeologist, Francis Pryor in his blog - and are signing up for courses on offer via the CAER website.

Walls still standing.
The fragile ruin of St. Mary’s will need looking after and we are pleased to report that many of the repairs identified at last year’s inspection were approved and carried out by Martin Birch’s Bereavement Team - and our thanks also to Ely councillor Peter Bradbury for assisting with this. However, ongoing repairs will be necessary if it is to survive and we hope this will include safeguarding its landmark tower against further collapse.

The introduction of monthly ‘task force’ gatherings of volunteers and others led by Dave Horton from Community First Group ACE - Action Caerau and Ely - will help achieve this. The task force meets at 11am here at the church on the first Tuesday of each month to collect litter, carry out small pruning jobs and look for damage and report it. This will go a long way to helping St. Mary’s survival. One thing I can’t emphasise enough is, it would be such a terrible loss to the community if St. Mary’s landmark tower which can be seen from the bypass and other parts of Ely & Caerau, were to be lost.

I hope that in the exciting plans ahead for this site, the need to preserve the fragile remains of St. Mary’s will not be ignored.

Finishing on a positive note, future plans for CAER include the introduction of heritage trails linking St. Mary’s and the hillfort to other important historical sites e.g. St. Fagans Museum of Welsh life, which will further raise awareness of this marvellous site for future generations.

Thank you all so much for coming today.

Before I hand you over to Olly, I would like to thank Angela and Arun and Paul our loyal Friends supporters for stepping in and helping with the arrangement today when Dave Horton was unable to attend. My very grateful thanks to you all. Also my sincere thanks to everyone for coming today.

Thank you.

Supporters mingle and chat.
Listening to the speeches.
The speakers.