Incumbents of St Martin in Roath
1886 1888 William Charles Cotes (priest in charge)
1889 1897 Harry William North (priest in charge)
1897 1900 John Henry Filmer (priest in charge)
1901 1903 Evan Alexander Sutherland (Vicar Designate)
1903 1905 Evan Alexander Sutherland
1906 1909 Henry Griffin Hellier
1909 1909 David Lancelot Henry Jones
1909 1917 William Edward Boyes
1917 1923 Henry Stephen Nicholl
1923 1934 Lemuel John Hopkin James
1934 1939 Louis Edward De-Ridder
1940 1947 Grosvenor Humphrey Arthur Stephens
1947 1983 Dennis Stanley Raymond Brown
1984 2000 Harold George Clarke
2000 Irving David Hamer
During the 19th Century, the Port of Cardiff grew rapidly as coal from the mines in the South Wales valleys was exported across the world. The port and associated industries needed workers and Cardiff saw a huge inward migration of people from many different communities. Housing was built to accommodate these workers and new churches were built to meet their spiritual needs. The first church building on this site was opened in 1886 to accommodate the growing Anglican population in the Parish of Roath. It was a simple structure made of wood and iron but, being very much smaller in size than the present church, it couldn't accommodate the growing local community. The present building was begun in 1897 in a Gothic and richly decorated Victorian style and consecrated for worship on 20th October 1901.
In February 1941, the church was targeted and hit by German incendiary bombs. Very little of the original interior apart the Calvary: this is preserved on the north wall at the entrance to the Holy Cross Chapel. The intense fire destroyed one of the most elaborate church interiors in South Wales. Only the shell of St Martin’s, survived – though luckily the vestries remained intact, with the church’s vestments and plate. Kempson’s broad, lofty interior, which had been dominated by a vast and elaborate reredos given as a Great War memorial, provided the skeleton for a new St Martin’s, designed by the practice of Nicholson & Rushton and completed in 1955. It is a notable example of post-war church architecture and an inspiring setting for worship.
The present St. Martin's church rose from the charred ruins in 1951 and this is the church that you see today. The new building saw the heavy decorated tracery of the earlier windows replaced with early-English type lancets, giving a more open effect, and clear glass replacing the dark green glass. The Chancel and High Altar area were also lowered considerably at the same time.
Two magnificent windows were created by Hugh Easton for the church. Detail of these is given under Art
During the war years Services were held in the Vicarage, the Choir Vestry and for the most part at St Cyprian’s the second church in the parish. On Saturday 17th December 1955 the present Church was re-dedicated and opened for worship.
Over recent decades, the development of the building has continued, with the inclusion of a great deal of devotional artwork by Frank Roper, representing different periods in his artistic life. The Lady Chapel altar and statue of Our Lady and Child were additions to the church in the 1970s. The three altars in the church are all of the same style, made of granite and vary only in their size. The font, which survived the bombing, continues to be used and in recent years has been moved to its present position at the centre of the west of the nave.
The cloister along the north wall of the church was built in 2010/11. It has given the Albany Road aspect of the church a new and welcoming appearance.
It was blessed by Archbishop Barry Morgan on 10th April 2011 during the Solemn Mass and opened the same day by Mr Peter Harling. The statue of Our Lady in the cloister to the north of the nave is by Siegfried Pietzsch and was originally commissioned for the now closed church of St Clement, Briton Ferry.
The mosaic of Christ the Pantocrator over the north porch was created by Aidan Hart and dedicated by Archbishop Rowan Williams during the High Mass on 22nd September 2013.
The cloister has a variety of uses: it welcomes and engages all who pass by; it serves as an entrance into the Church; local artists use it as a ‘gallery’; the music students and the congregation use it as a bar, coffee shop, a place of meeting and greeting.
At Saint Martin’s the Christian Faith in the Catholic Tradition continues to be celebrated and taught, building on the foundations laid in 1886 when the first Church was opened on the site.
A Wider Perspective
In the 1830’s a small group of Oxford Dons was fired with fresh enthusiasm for the Gospel and concern for the Church of England. The group, which included Newman, Pusey and Keble, began a movement that was to cause immense upheaval within the Church. It was to have lasting influence on theology spirituality, liturgical practice and even church architecture. In essence, the group re-affirmed that Church of England had, since the Reformation in the 15th Century and in its subsequent developments in the following centuries, neglected its Catholic roots and identity. This Oxford Movement, as it later became known, would help the Church re-discover these vital roots. Scholarship and theological orthodoxy, combined with personal sanctity and holiness were seen to be the way to recover a renewed vision for the Church. The teaching of the Oxford Movement has had its lasting influence upon the Anglican Church throughout the world.
Saint Martin’s from its first days has been a child of this movement. The daily celebration of Morning and Evening Prayer and the offering of the Mass punctuate each day of the year. This practice and celebration of the Christian faith nourishes and sustains the People of God, and brings the needs and concerns of the community and the world before God in prayer.
The Parish of Roath Saint Martin
Between c.1880 and 1900 fields of Roath were giving way to a suburb of new housing accommodating more than 13,000 people, with Albany Road as its main artery. On November 10th, 1886 (the eve of the feast of St Martin) an iron Church was opened in Albany Road, on part of the Plasnewydd Estate of the Scottish landowner, the Mackintosh of Mackintosh. This mission church was served by priests from the church of St Margaret, Roath, until 1899 when the “old tin church” was closed and the congregation moved to St Cyprian’s in Monthermer Road which had just been opened.
In 1889 Fr Harry North had been appointed to serve the district, establishing a definite Catholic tradition. He was much mourned when he died in office in 1897. The permanent church was built during the ministry of his successor, J. H. Filmer, who brought Fr Ronald Knox to preach at the first service. (Filmer subsequently became a Roman Catholic, serving as a domestic prelate to two Popes and Master of the Guild of Ransom.) St Martin’s position as a leading Anglo-Catholic parish (formally established in 1903) notable for its liturgy and music was confirmed under the distinguished incumbency of Fr William Boys (1907-17), who had been a curate at St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, in London under Fr Henry Westall, and then at St Mary’s, Cardiff. The principal service in the church in 1902 is recorded as “Choral Holy Communion”, with Mass celebrated daily. In 1922 St Martin’s was one of the parishes supporting the Cardiff Anglo-Catholic Congress. The post-war renewal of St Martin’s was led by Fr Dennis Brown, vicar from 1947 to 1983. The liturgical and choral tradition established a century ago continues under the present vicar, Fr Irving Hamer.
The Foundation Stone of Saint Martin’s was laid in 1899, and the first service in the new church was on Saturday, September 14th, 1901, the preacher being Dr Francis Pigon, Dean of Bristol. On the first Sunday, Dr Charles Gore, then a Canon of Westminster, preached morning and evening. The Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd Richard Lewis on the Sunday 20th October, 1901.
On the 20th May 1903 the Parish of Roath Saint Martin was erected and on July 28th that same year the Revd Fr Evan Alexander Southerland was instituted as the first Vicar. There have been ten Vicars since Fr Sutherland, including the present Vicar, Fr Irving Hamer.