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Friends of St Mary's Church at Caerau

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Dear readers, many apologies for not up-dating you sooner.

Following our 'Inspection' visit to the St. Mary's site in March 2006, after which we contacted all the Authorities involved regarding the weather and vandal damage to the Church and area, we received an email from Judith Leigh, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) who is the Officer responsible for Wales.

Here is an extract from her email to us, dated May 2006.

Dear Friends of St Mary's Caerau. I took the opportunity of a brief visit when in Llandaff this week. It was brief because it took me some time to find as I was using an old map! I was very pleased to see it, (St. Mary's Church) having heard about it in the past.

What struck me was that although there is some dumping etc in the lower part of the lane and the roar of the motorway is unavoidable, the landscape context of the church still survives. The Friends certainly deserve congratulation for ensuring the survival and repair of this building.

I thought the consolidation work had been done well and that basically the structure was in good condition. However it has been damaged by vandals. The mortar, probably carefully chosen with aggregate to match the original, and from the conservation point of view very appropriate, has not been robust enough especially in exposed wall-top areas to stand up to sustained attack, and it looks as though stones have been levered off. In the porch the flat 'seat' stones have been deliberately chipped. The geotextile which was laid on the ground as a base for the stone chippings, which form the path and surround to the building, now shows through the stone covering in an unsightly way. The adjacent late C19 monument has been damaged with the capstone wrenched off.

I suppose that given the church's situation ( St. Mary's stands alone at the top of Caerau Hill and is therefore particularly isolated and vulnerable) and accessibility (The church is completely unprotected) some vandalism is unavoidable and the building as a whole seems robust, but certainly in need of regular monitoring and patch repairs.

Judith says that she would be happy to attend the next inspection with us, and we have accepted her offer.

At the time of writing this news item, we are still, unfortunately, awaiting a definitive response from Cardiff City Council, whose responsibility it is to maintain the Church and Site. We will write again when we have their response.

Delia Jay and Rosemary Lewis
July 2006