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Church House Farm, the Thurstons & St. Mary's

By Jean Crozier with additional material from Ben Thomas

Hello Delia and Friends of Caerau -- I am cc-ing my cousins Cheryl and Tony Lutzmann on this message, as they are the 'connecting link' between myself and you -- and I do hope that, at some time, you and I will have the chance to meet in person.

As Cheryl likely told you when she and Tony were with you at Caerau earlier this year, our family, the Thurstons, rented the Church Farm for a period of several years -- I believe from late 1887 until about 1906. My grandfather (Cheryl's great-grandfather), Frederick Thomas Thurston, was born at Caerau June 30, 1890 and his sister Blanche was born there 13 April 1888 -- they were the last of 10 living children born to George and Mary Thurston. Both George and Mary are buried in the cemetery there at the church.

Cheryl's grandmother, Mary was the eldest daughter of Frederick Thomas Thurston; my mother, Phyllis, was the second daughter. Both Mary and Phyllis had a strong attachment to St. Mary's; my mother maintained quite a correspondence with the City and the Diocese, in the 1980s and 1990s, in an effort to have the church restored or, at the least, maintained. She would be so very happy to know that you and your associates have done such a beautiful job of sorting out and 'righting' all that can be done to keep the relic of this beautiful little church, with all its family memories, intact.

A picture of St. Mary's hung on the wall of my grandparents' bedroom when I was a child; it now hangs on my own wall, and I treasure it. Similarly, an oil painting of the church and the churchyard, completed in the late 1940s, was presented to my mother several years ago; it also now hangs on my walls, and is such a treasure. Whichever one of my daughters inherits it will treasure it as much as do I.

I realized, in talking with Cheryl and Tony, that my mother had shared a great many of her memories of St. Mary's with me. In addition, I've visited that site several times, and have taken one of my daughters and some of her children to the site. We have many memories, both current and ancient.

The last time I was there, I was accompanied by Stephen Jones, who collected the stories of many Ely residents, including some of my relatives -- Stephen, of course, is such a wealth of information about the area, which he kindly shared with us, and which allowed me to piece together more of the Thurston family story.

I had written and published, in 2008, a family memoir of the Thurstons, and included many details and memories relevant to St. Mary's. You may want to visit the website. The Cardiff public library purchased two copies of the book (each book consists of a two volume set), I believe one copy is housed in the Bridgend library. There may also be a couple of copies still with my cousin, Liz Gooding (grand-daughter of William Thurston, who ran the garden and greenhouse at Dinas Powys) should you wish to purchase a copy for your own retention -- there are only a few copies left, so I'm selling those at a very reduced rate of $20.00 CDN (about 12 pounds sterling) for the two volume set. If that's something in which you might be interested, let me know and I'll see if there are, indeed, any copies still available.

Photographs of St. Mary's, at various times of its 'life', are included in the book.

With my very best wishes, and the hope that I will be able to bring my other daughters to see St. Mary's at some time in the not too distant future.


Ben Thomas writes...

From my recollections...

Church House farm was I understand, a smallholding dairy farm. Its Farmstead stood directly in front of St Mary, with Church Road dividing the Farm house from its farm yard. Milk Eggs and Chickens would likely been key products.

It exited before the Council Caerau Housing estate was built, when there was many Market Gardens in the area, producing fruit and vegetables.

This year 2020 is the centenary of the Councils expansion of Cardiff into the area with the construction of what was then known as the Ely Housing Estate. Caerau would remain comparatively undeveloped around Caerau Lane until about 1950.

The Railway connections at the Two Ely Railway stations would have provided an effective means of distributing farm produce from the area and would have provided an efficient means of distributing perishable farm products as well as live stock.

The living of St Mary's was I understand, transferred to the then New St Davids Church in the 1880, when a new parish was created on land previously in the Parish of Llandaff where The Church of St Peter and St Paul ( Llandaff Cathedral) was the Parish Church, other religious denominations where both active and had places of worship in the area

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