St Andrew’s United Reformed Church sits at the corner of Marlborough Road, Wellfield Road and Pen-y-lan Road. It holds a special interest to us as it is where our Society holds it’s monthly meetings.
A fundraising campaign is underway at St Andrew’s Church to raise funds for urgently needed roof repairs. A booklet outlining the church history is available from the church for £2 with proceeds going towards church funds.
The following article is taken from our Society Project Newsletter, Vol 2 No 4, published in Autumn 1984. It has been supplemented with additional pictures, newspaper articles and links to other pages:-
ST ANDREW’S UNITED REFORMED CHURCH
ROATH PARK PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The Presbyterian Church of England – local background
It was in 1864 that the Presbyterian Church of England first obtained a footing in Cardiff, the meetings being held in the Cardiff Arms Rooms. On October 5th, 1866 the building in Windsor Place was opened for public worship, when the Rev. Dr Guthrie of Edinburgh and the Rev. Dr James Hamilton preached. But it was to the Rev. J.D.Watters, M.A., that the prosperity of the church is mainly due. After a brilliant University career he was ordained minister of Windsor Place in October, 1881, and, under his influence, the church became one of the most influential in the town. In 1887, a mission was opened under the auspices of the church in Harriet Street, Cathays, and in 1893 a splendid block of buildings for work among the young was erected in Windsor Place. As soon as the debt was cleared, the way was left open to found a new cause at Pen-y-lan.
The New Roath Park Church
Many of the following notes are derived from an excellent little booklet published in 1947 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the church. It was kindly lent to me by one of their members, Mrs M.S.Newton, for the purpose of extracting information for this Newsletter and it covers the period from the foundation in 1897 until 1947. I regret that the subsequent history of the church is not immediately available but the present Interim Moderator, Allen Powell, who is a history graduate, intends to make some enquiries and will make the results available to the Society.
The church stands on the corner of Pen-y-lan Road and Marlborough Road facing the junction of Wellfield Road and Ninian Road. Its fine 150 feet spire with its corner spirelets and its three horizontal bands of Red Mansfield stone is the tallest of any non-conformist church in Cardiff.
The building was completed in 1900 to the plans of E.H. Fawckner, of W.G.Habershon and Fawckner, who were, incidentally, architects of the Park Hotel, Cardiff (1885). Habershon, who was Lord Tredegar’s architect, had the honour of having a street in Splott named after him. The doorway, like most of the external stone, is in need of a good clean to exhibit to its best advantage its traceried arch and decorated panels. It is a copy of the 13th century west door of Tintern Abbey and the great window above is a copy of the transept windows in Melrose Abbey in Scotland. Some may discern the hint of an apparent theological incongruity in copying architectural features from two great Roman Catholic Abbeys destroyed by the Reformers.
The interior gives an immediate impression of spaciousness. The sheer expanse and rich colour of the matching woodwork of the seating, the massive balcony, the roof and the organ case is almost overwhelming. The organ, which cost £800, and was opened on 19th September 1900 at a special service conducted by the Rev. Dr. George Hanson, of Marylebone Church, London, is a masterpiece of Messrs Harrison and Harrison.
The times and the locality
In the 1890’s, Wellfield Road had not been built. Lord Tredegar was proposing to open up the Pen-y-lan area for house building. Pen-y-lan Hill, from the Taff Vale Railway bridge near Ty Gwyn Road, was a narrow country lane with high hedges. The same was true of the present Cyncoed Road, on which , when they came into use, motor cars had difficulty in passing one other. The upper part of what is now Waterloo Road was a narrow footpath straggling up from the old bridge (demolished October 1985) between wire fences through allotments to the top of the hill.
As already mentioned, the initiative for founding a new church in the area came from the Presbyterian Church of England at Windsor Place. That church was flourishing. Although their church had been enlarged, it was still inadequate. It was clear, in the words of a contemporary record that “if Presbyterianism was to grow in Cardiff it could only be done by starting a new cause.”
The architect having been engaged, and a site having already been chosen, with “sufficient space for the church hall, class rooms, manse and caretaker ‘s house,” in addition to the space for the future church itself, a meeting of 41 interested persons was held at Windsor Place Church on 10th February 1896, presided over by the pastor, the Rev. J.Douglas Watters. They had to seek the official sanction of the Presbytery of Bristol for the opening of a new cause. Meanwhile they ordered specifications to be prepared for a hall and class rooms and appointed a strong Building Committee of 23 members chaired by the pastor.
A pioneer of the cause.
The Rev. J. Douglas Watters, M.A., who guided so ably the planning and development of the new church did not live long enough to see the fruition of his work. He died on September 5th, 1898, at the age of 47. He had rendered yeoman service to the University College, Cardiff, from its foundation and had taken a leading part in establishing the Faculty of Theology, to which he acted as Honorary Secretary up to the time of his death.
The first membership roll of the new congregation shows that practically all of the 60 names were transfers from Windsor Place and transfers continued for several years.
A group of Elders of Windsor Place, led by Sir John Gunn and Mr James Manuel fulfilled the duties of a Kirk Session until the new congregation was in a position to elect its own. In the first minutes appear the names of those who were to become prominent in the affairs of the new church:-
W.W.Pettigrew (Parks Superintendent) , William McKenzie (Chief Constable of Cardiff), William Young, the fruit and potato merchant of Oldwell”, Pen-y-lan, T.B. and W.E.Leitch of Cressy Road, James Strachan of Pen-y-lan, and others.
The memorial stone of the new Hall was laid by Lord Windsor on 24th March,1897; and the Hall itself was opened, free of debt, on 5th September in the same year. The opening service in the Hall, which had a narrow platform with small preaching desk, was taken by the Rev. J.Douglas Watters on 5th September, 1897.
Three days later, the congregation received official recognition by the Presbytery “raising the cause to the status of a sanctioned charge.”
The congregation had made up its mind on a pastor, and, on 27th January, 1898, the Rev. W.E.Shaw (from St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Swansea) was inducted to the Pastoral Charge.
Attendances were so good at the first services that the seating accommodation in the Hall soon became inadequate, making it necessary to press on with the erection of the Church.
Two foundation stones of the Church were laid on 12 April, 1899 by Lord Tredegar and Henry Robson of London who for many years was in charge of the Synod ‘s Church Extension work. Already half of the contract price of over £8,000 had been subscribed or promised, personal guarantees had been signed for £5,000, and the provision of 800-900 sittings did not seen too rash an undertaking. Another memorial stone records “Builder: Jas. Allan. Erected 1900”.
Dedication of the Church
On Wednesday, 20th June 1900, the Rev. John Watson, D.D., of Sefton Park Church, Liverpool , the Moderator of Synod for that year conducted the Dedication Service. He was at the height of his fame, preacher, but as “Ian Maclaren”, author of several popular stories.
The First Session had been appointed on the previous Sunday, 17th June, 1900 by the induction of Mr James Manuel, and the ordination and induction of Messrs Thomas Burns, Albert Gardner, David Ireland, W.W.Pettigrew and William McKenzie (Session Clerk).
The initial membership of 60 had risen to 79 in January 1898, and, five months later, to 119. The trend continued thus:
1900 – 150, 1905 – 276 , 1910 – 341, 1913 – 367
Mr Shaw ‘s pastorate lasted from January, 1898 to December 1907 when he went to a church in St Leonards-on-sea, where he remained until 1922 after which he was in retirement until his death in 1937. The Rev Lewis Robertson, M.A., Minister of Windsor Place Church acted as interim-moderator until the congregation’s new choice, the Rev J. Reynolds McLean, from Park Terrace Church, Gateshead, was inducted to the pastoral charge on 30th April, 1908.
A disastrous fire destroyed the Windsor Place Church on 20th February, 1910 and the Roath Park Church gave what assistance they could to their mother church. They had to come to the rescue in May, 1910 to house the meetings of the Annual Synod (later called the “General Assembly”) of the Presbyterian Church of England, which had been planned to be held in Cardiff.
The year 1913 was the peak year for membership; the number 367 was never exceeded; and in fact, in the next period, a slow but steady decline set in. Church membership is not the same thing as church attendance; and the peak of average church attendance had probably come a few years before 1913, as indicated by the concern being shown by the office-bearers at that time. Attendances fell sadly below the accommodation for 800 – 900 people. The gallery itself had been built to provide seating for about 200 people.
During the first World War, J.R. McClean, because of his heavy national commitments, called in the help of D.T.Davies and J.Reid Howatt. The latter, a retired minister, but vigorous in his old age, served from December 1916 to January 1918. McClean resigned from the pastorate in September, 1917 and died with tragic suddenness in July, 1921.
The Sunday School
Mr Davies, who later became pastor of Forest Hill Church, London, acted as assistant pastor from June 1915 to January 1916, when he accepted a call to Manchester. It was he who re-modelled the Sunday School to help stem the rapid decline in numbers, setting up a “Primary Department”, leading to a new concept of Sunday School work with regular training classes for teachers and grading of pupils . The new approach was successful. The drift was arrested and the school gained a reputation in Cardiff and beyond for efficiency.
Scouts and Guides
Which is the oldest Scout Troop in Cardiff ? Both St Martin’s, Albany Road and St Andrew ‘s claim the honour. Somebody should investigate and adjudicate. The history of the Boy Scout movement in Cardiff, as far as I know, has yet to be written. Our Society holds some information about the early Scout Movement at St Martin’s. This will be referred to when we produce some notes on that Church. Meanwhile, the Jubilee Booklet of the Roath Park Presbyterian Church does not specify dates. It merely records that the period of the First World War saw the establishment of the Scout movement at Roath Park.
The Inter-War Period, 1918-1939
The main part of the period between the wars was bridged by three short ministries, those of the Revs. J. Macara Gardner, M.A. , John R.Coates, M.A., and ELL. Allen, M.A., Ph.D., D.D.
Mr Gardner came in January, 1918 and left in June, 1922 to take up a pastorate at Palmers Green London.
Mr Coates’s ministry lasted from September, 1923 till January, 1928, when he was appointed Professor of Old Testament Studies on the central staff of the Selly Oak College, Birmingham, where he continued until 1945.
Dr Allen, who succeeded him in September, 1928, left in November 1931 to take up the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church in Kowloon in Hong Kong, and later became lecturer in theology at King’s College, Newcastle (University of Durham).
At the time of the Jubilee Booklet (1947) the Rev. Sydney J. Haggis, M.A., had been with the church since October 1932. The decline in membership, after a sharp rise and fall in the mid twenties, was arrested about half way between the two wars. Since then, for about twenty years, it remained about the 200 mark.
The Second World War, 1939 – 1945
Despite war damage in the vicinity, including houses in Pen-y-lan Road, the church buildings, almost miraculously, escaped all serious damage from enemy bombers.
One of the most outstanding activities during the war was the setting up and running of the Canteen for service-men. It was a co-operative enterprise with members of the nearby Roath Park Methodist Church. Here, men and woman in uniform from the U.K., all parts of the Commonwealth and the United States and other countries were welcomed with refreshments and hospitality. The number of those helped frequently reached as many as 500 to 600 in one evening.
In 1944, the Roath Park Christian Forum was formed, a war-time prayer meeting of the five local Free Churches.
When it became part of the United Free Church movement, the elders had to consider re-naming the church so as to avoid confusion with chapels of other denominational origin bearing the name “Roath Park” . The name chosen was “St Andrew’s” – an appropriate name for an English Presbyterian Church in Wales whose congregation, like that of its mother church in Windsor Place included so many Cardiff Scots. And with a minister by the name of “Haggis”, is it any wonder that Cardiffians came to call it, rather affectionately, the “Scottish Presbyterian Church”
MINISTERS 1898 to 1947
1908- 1917: J. Reynolds McClean
1918-1922: John R. Coates
1932 : Sydney J. Haggis
There is a War Memorial inside the church on the front wall remembering five members who lost their lives in World War I.
A Little Bit of Church History – 1912
In 1912, the then church minister J. Reynolds McLean wrote the following pamphlet to church members in as a plea to remove the remaining building debt:
Presbyterian Church of England, Roath Park, Cardiff.
1st October 1912
A Little Bit of Church History.
THE story of the founding and development of Roath Park Presbyterian Church of England is one of the most creditable in the annals of our denomination. It is a record of faith, enterprise and good works, and those who took part in the initial stages have good reason to look back with pride on their labours. It was in 1895 that some of the members of Windsor Place Church, together with other Presbyterians living in the Park district, secured the site on which the Church now stands, but it was not till March 24, 1897, that the Earl of Plymouth laid the foundation stone of the Hall, the only portion of the premises it was thought necessary to build for some years. Services were held for the first time on Sunday, September 5, of the same year, the Rev. J. D. Watters, M.A., officiating.
From the day of the Opening services it was seen that the founders were fully justified in their conviction that a new Church was required in the district, for the Sunday services were exceedingly well attended, the membership grew apace and a sincere enthusiasm marked the efforts of those associated with the new charge.
In February, 1898, the Rev.W.E.Shaw was inducted as the first minister, and with his coming and earnest endeavours, a still greater impetus was given to the work, success attending every enterprise. It was not long until the Hall was crowded to the doors, and the imperative need of beginning to build the Church itself, was recognised by all. After the preliminary arrangements had been completed, the foundation stones were laid on the 12th April, 1899, by Lord Tredegar and Sir Henry Robson, J.P.
The Church was completed and formally dedicated to the worship of the Most High God on Sunday, 20th June, 1900, the special preacher being the Rev. John Watson, D.D. The Church is an ornament to the City and, in every way, worthy of our Presbyterian Church of England.
In 1908 the Rev. W. E. Shaw removed to St. Leonards-on-Sea, and the present minister, the Rev J Reynolds McLean, was inducted;
The cost of the whole premises, including Church, Hall and class-rooms, vestry, furnishings organ, etc., together with alterations and additions that were afterwards found to be necessary, was not far short of £14,000, which does not include nearly £1,000 paid in interest on overdrafts. Those who have a knowledge of ecclesiastical architecture agree that, considering the quality of the work and the accommodation provided, this expenditure was very reasonable indeed, we have insured the premises for £15,000.
The congregation, assisted by many kindly friends in other Churches, has done most nobly in the endeavour to grapple with this large outlay and it speaks volumes for the energy, enthusiasm and generosity of all concerned that, at the present time, only some £1,100 remain to be paid.
But, it is felt that this debt is a serious encumbrance and a heavy burden and should be removed without any delay.
We are encouraged to make one great last effort towards this end by the generosity of our elder, Mr. J. Manuel, ].P., who has helped with large sums again and again: he promises to give the last £200, provided the congregation make a united attempt at once to meet the overdraft. we, therefore, appeal, in terms of the enclosed circular for the sum of £900.
Will you kindly help ? And, if necessary, will you make some personal sacrifice for this object? Any sum, however small, will be acceptable, but we hope your sympathy will dictate the largest possible amount, so that by the end of June, 1913, we may be able to announce that our Church is entirely free from debt.
We cannot hope to raise all the money within the bounds of our own membership, so we trust interested and generous friends will come to our assistance, that the work of God and His Church may be strengthened and advanced.
Tydraw Road, Cardiff.
Session Clerk: Mr. W. McKENZIE.
Deacons Court Clerk: Mr. J. ALLISON.
Treasurer: Mr W YOUNG.
Secretary Church Extinction Fund:
Mr. G. A. BERTALOT. 9, Princes Street, Cardiff.
J Reynolds McLean
James Reynolds McLean was born in Belfast and was minister at Roath Park Presbyterian Church between 1908 and 1917. Whist a church minister he became an army recruiting officer and rose rapidly through the ranks eventually becoming recruiting British Army recruiting officer for Ireland. He died in 1921. The following articles tell something of his career:
Detailed description on Church Architecture :
CADW describe St Andrew’s URC Church as follows and categorises it as a Grade II* listed building:
HISTORY: Built 1899-1901 by Habershon, Fawckner & Groves, architects, for the English Presbyterians, at a cost of £11,000. It was designed to seat 700 with a further 140 in the W gallery.
EXTERIOR:Early Decorated style chapel, its exterior strongly resembling a parish church with lofty nave, NW tower and spire, shallow transepts, lower and narrower chancel (housing an organ), and hall and Sunday School on the S and E sides. Of coursed rock-faced Pennant sandstone, Bath stone dressings, and slate roof behind coped gables.
The asymmetrical W front has flanking stair towers to the gallery, of which the S is 2 stages while the N is taller and carries the lofty spire. The W doorway is modelled on the W door of Tintern Abbey. Two doorways are set within an outer arch, which has 3 orders of nook shafts, foliage capitals and moulded arch. The doorways have a single central shaft and cusped heads, while the tympanum of the outer arch has blind tracery incorporating cusped circles against a diaper-work back surface. Each doorway has double doors with vertical ribs. The doorway is flanked by 2-light windows with impost bands carried over as a hood mould, and foundation stones below the sills. The 5-light W window, said to have been modelled on a window in Melrose Abbey, has a sill band and crocketed ogee gable, with hood and head stops. An angle buttress to the R side has a gabled cap with blind arcading, and polygonal pinnacle. On the R (S) side is a 2-stage stair tower, with angle buttresses, and hipped roof behind a plain parapet incorporating blind arcading to the abutment with the main chapel. Its W doorway has a pointed arch with continuous moulding, double doors with vertical ribs, above which is a 3-light landing window with sill band. On the S side of the tower is a cusped light with hood and foliage stop, above which is a 3-light landing window with sill band.
The N side of the W front has a 3-stage tower, incorporating gallery stairs, with a tall parapet spire. It has angle buttresses with gabled offset to the lower stage. A projecting doorway is under a gabled hood. It has 3 orders of shafts with foliage capitals, a finely moulded arch with cusped inner order, and double ribbed doors. A hood mould has foliage stops. A cusped roundel beneath the apex has radiating blind tracery. The N side has a 2-light window with hood mould and impost band, above which is a small cusped light with hood mould lighting the stair. The middle stage has a sill band, and each face has a 5-bay arcade with shafts and foliage capitals to cusped arches. The outer bays are blind, the 3 inner bays have narrow lancet windows. The buttresses have gabled offsets to this stage. The tall bell stage has 2 2-light windows with ringed shafts and foliage capitals, and louvres, inset with raked sills. Diaper work is over the windows and then the parapet has blind arcading and coping. The buttresses are crowned by broad polygonal pinnacles with spirelets. The octagonal parapet spire has 2-light lucarnes in the cardinal directions. Red sandstone bands incorporate small roundels and string course with gabled hoods.
The N side, facing Marlborough Road, is 4 buttressed bays with 3-light windows, of which the 2nd from the W end is beneath a gablet, with impost band. The shallow N transept has a 5-light window and angle buttresses. Beyond it is a further bay with 3-light window. Set back against the E return wall of the nave is a polygonal porch with ribbed door in a moulded surround and lintel, and cusped lights in the side facets. The N side of the chancel has a single cusped light, and a rose window to the E wall is above a hipped-roof projection with canted mullioned bay windows.
The S side of the main chapel has 3-light windows similar to the N, while the S transept window is only glazed in the tracery lights. There is a short link from the transept to the hall and Sunday school on the S side of the chapel. The hall W elevation has angle buttresses, doorways R and L with ribbed doors under pointed arches with glazed quatrefoils to the tympana. Above each doorway are 3 stepped lights. In the centre is a projecting polygonal bay with 2-light windows, parapet with moulded cornice and red sandstone coping. Above it are shallow buttresses framing triple cusped and transomed windows lighting the gallery, with small window above. The S wall has a cusped lancet at the W end, then 5 cusped lancets grouped together further R. The 1½ storey Sunday school projects on the SE side of the hall. Its W elevation has a pointed doorway to the L with ribbed door under a shouldered lintel and glazed cusped light in the tympanum. To its R are 3 pairs of cusped lights and 2 gabled 3-light roof dormers with timber-framed gables. The faceted S wall has 3-light windows with cusped lights while the E side has two similar 2-light windows and 3 roof dormers similar to the W side. The E side of the hall has an added hipped lean-to below triple cusped lights. The S side of the chancel has a hipped outshut housing vestry and additional school rooms.
INTERIOR: The entrance vestibule has 2 2-light Tudor Gothic glazed screens opposite the entrance. Double panelled half-lit doors are R and L of the screen, with similar doors in the side walls which lead to the stairs. The open-well stairs have open arcaded balustrades. The lofty and spacious interior of the main chapel has a 6-bay hammerbeam roof, which has a wider bay opposite the transepts, and has cusping to the upper sides of the brackets and arched braces, crown posts and a boarded underside. Transverse arches with openwork spandrels are between the hammerbeams. The transepts have 2-centred arches with one order of ringed nook shafts and foliage capitals, while the transept windows have hood moulds with foliage stops. The S transept window is blind below the transom. The chancel arch has 3 orders of ringed shafts with foliage capitals, 2-centred arch and hood mould with crowned heads to the stops. A W gallery is supported on 2 cast iron columns with foliage capitals, cast by Walter Macfarlane & Co of Glasgow. The gallery front has blind cusped arcading.
The main pews have moulded ends. Choir stalls have poppy heads and moulded backs. The polygonal pulpit has 2 segmental-headed panels in each facet. The organ has blind arcaded panelling below the pipes. The hall has a 5-bay roof with diagonal braces on corbelled brackets. A reredos is partly concealed behind an inserted stage, and comprises a 2-centred arch with foliage stops. A W gallery has a panelled front incorporating open ironwork panels. A separate room is beneath the gallery with porches to the outer sides.
REFS: Newman, John, The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan, 1995, p 303.
REASONS: Listed grade II* for its outstanding architectural contribution to the E end of the Roath Park district, with an especially fine spire, a well-preserved and spacious interior, the whole retaining its original character.