Parish History


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A History of St. Joseph's Church, Penarth

Between 1820 and 1840, the Catholic population of Cardiff grew from a mere two to over 1000, and this number was swelled by visiting sailors from all over Europe. In the early years of the 19th century the tiny village of Penarth consisted of some 15 houses with a population of about 70 people. The increasing demand for Welsh coal to feed iron furnaces all over the world led to Penarth Docks being opened in 1856. The ever increasing Catholic population of Penarth was swelled by the Catholic crews of visiting ships from France, Spain and Portugal. Their spiritual needs were met by visiting priests from the Rosminian Mission in Cardiff, based at St. David's Church, in what is now St. David's Metropolitan Cathedral in Charles Street.

In 1860 Fr. Stephen Bruno became Penarth's first resident priest. Fr. Louis Nedelec replaced Fr. Bruno in 1862, with Fr. Vincent Vilas, Fr. John Hayde and Fr. Bruno again, serving the Catholic population in various Mass centres. Fr. Nedelec began the Baptismal Register for Penarth in 1862. In 1863, Fr. Fortunatus Signini, Senior Catholic Priest at St. David's began formal negotiations with Mr. James Tompson at St. Fagan's Castle, requesting him to facilitate the purchase of a plot of land from the Plymouth Estates for " …the education of their children, and also to provide a place of worship…". Lady Bute finally acceded to Fr. Signini's request, and a plot of land in Maughan Street (which later became High Street) was purchased from the Plymouth Estates, and on 14th May 1876 work began on building a combined school and chapel.

The new school chapel was opened in 1877 by Rt. Revd. John Cuthbert Hedley O.S.B., then Auxiliary Bishop of Newport and Menevia. The first resident priest in charge was appointed in 1878. Fr. Henry Clark I.C. moved into the parish and lived in a house in Ludlow Street. He was a Crimean War veteran, and served as Parish Priest in Penarth until 1884. Fr. Clark left Penarth in 1884, and was replaced for a short time by Fr. George Harrison I.C. who, subsequently returned to St. Peter's in Cardiff. On his departure from Penarth, the parish was handed over to Bishop Hedley, who delegated his secretary, Fr. Thomas Anselm Burge O.S.B. to minister to the faithful, pending the appointment of the next parish priest. Dom Anselm was a monk of the Ampleforth community and left Penarth when he was chosen as the Prior of Ampleforth. Dom Anselm was succeeded in 1885 by Fr. William McClement who served as parish priest until his sudden death in February 1901. The new priest-in-charge was Fr. Stephen Rosetti who remained at St. Joseph's for fifteen years overseeing the development of the school and the building of the current church in Wordsworth Avenue. The first stage of the new church was completed in 1915, and opened by the Rt. Revd Frederick Keating, Bishop of Northampton. The second stage of construction and the adjacent presbytery were completed in 1920, but the twin towers planned for the west end of the church were never built.

Following Fr. Rosetti's retirement through ill health in 1916, Monsignor James O'Reilly was appointed parish priest. He was made a canon of St. David's Cathedral, and later appointed Vicar General of the Cardiff Archdiocese by Archbishop Francis Mostyn. Monsignor O'Reilly suffered a stroke and died in 1928. He was succeeded by Monsignor Henry Irvine. who was also to serve as Vicar General.

On Monsignor Irvine's retirement in 1940 the parish welcomed Monsignor Daniel Hannon for 8 months until his consecration as Archbishop of Cardiff. His successor, Canon William Coonan was parish priest for only 6 months before his untimely death. Canon John Jarvis was then appointed and remained through the war years until 1949 when Canon Herbert Holland took charge. Canon Holland died in 1959 of heart failure while mowing the lawn in front of the presbytery. The next parish priest was Monsignor Peter Gavin who was appointed Vicar Capitular of the Archdiocese and later as Vicar General by the newly appointed Archbishop John Murphy. It was during this period that St Cadoc's Secondary School (now St Richard Gwyn) was built and opened in 1965. After Monsignor Gavin died in 1967 there was a delay until Father Sean Kearney became temporary administrator. In 1968 Monsignor Daniel Mullins took over, later becoming Vicar General and later Bishop in 1970. In 1983 the new Archbishop John Ward moved into the presbytery and Bishop Mullins moved to Port Talbot. Until the new parish priest arrived Father Clive Loosemore, who was the curate at St Joseph's, was appointed administrator and remained for the next 18 months. Father Thomas Nulty then became Parish Priest in 1985.

"From 1997, in response to the current shortage of priests, the Archbishop decided to "cluster" the parishes of St Joseph's Penarth and St Mary's Dinas Powys and they would be served by two priests both resident in Penarth. Thus Father Matthew Jones became the parish priest in 1997 assisted by Father Andrew Maggs (1997-2000).

In 2000 Fr Joseph Boardman (2000 - ) was appointed parish priest with Fr Matthew Hemson as curate (2000-2002). Since 2002 Father Boardman (now Monsignor Boardman) has been serving the two communities on his own.

In 2008 the two parishes were amalgamated into one and renamed "St. Joseph's and St. Mary's Parish, Penarth & Dinas Powys".

A brief history of St. Marys, Dinas Powys

At the turn of the 20th century the Catholic population of Dinas Powys was not more than about 12 families who attended Mass at Penarth. Children were taught Catechism at the home of one of the families.

As the population grew it was decided a church was needed in Dinas Powys and one of the families, that of Mr STEPHEN CRAVES, who lived at The Gables on the Common, bought the ground - then just a waste patch - on which the church was built.

It was formally opened by Archbishop Mostyn of Cardiff on 20th July 1922 and then consisted of the present main section with a confessional and vestry to the right of the altar where the choir now sits.

It was designed by another parishioner, Mr. JOHN GRANT who was architect to the Marquess of Bute.

The size of the Catholic population of Dinas Powys is unknown but numbers did not warrant a permanent Parish Priest and for six years the Parish was served by priests from St Joseph's church in Penarth.

In 1928 Father CONWAY, became the first full time priest in Dinas Powys.

Father CONWAY stayed for about five years until Father Johnson, who was Parish Priest in Dinas Powys until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, succeeded him.

During the war the Parish was served by several priests most of who only stayed for small periods of time.

The first post war priest was Father Noel, followed by Father Kelly in 1948.

1954 - 1965
Father JAMES McANIFF came to Dinas Powys in 1954 and was here until his sudden death at the end of 1965.

It was during Father McANIFF's period as Parish Priest that pews were installed in the church, which previously had housed wooden chairs.

Father McANIFF together with the help of parishioners physically built the church hall. He also planned to move the presbytery from Stacey Road to opposite the church in Edith Road - a move which was made later by his successor, Father THOMAS NULTY.

1965 - 1978
Shortly after his arrival Father THOMAS NULTY began a move to extend the church to its present size - a decision widely thought necessary to cater for the Catholic population of Dinas Powys which had by now grown to more than 1,000. The extension, which cost £26,500, was officially opened on 8th May 1970 by Most Reverend John A Murphy, Archbishop of Cardiff. The architects were F. R. Bates. Son and Price and the builders were Cyril Williams of Newport.

1978 - 1997
Father RAYMOND O'SHEA replaced Father NULTY in 1978 and remained in Dinas Powys until 1986 when the Parishioners organised a farewell concert for him in the PARISH HALL.

Father JOHN KELLY followed Father O'SHEA as Parish Priest. Shortly after his arrival in 1986 Father KELLY established the Parish Advisory Council whose members including youth representatives, were elected by Parishioners.

When Father KELLY was appointed to a new Parish in 1990 he was replaced until 1997 by Father MICHAEL RONAN who was the last Parish Priest to live in the Village.

1997 -
IN OCTOBER 1997 the Archbishop decided to "twin" the two Parishes of Dinas Powys and Penarth to meet the growing problem in the Diocese of the shortage of priests. The arrangement, with the priest living in Penarth, has continued ever since.

From 1997 St Mary's has been served by Fathers MATTHEW JONES and ANDREW MAGGS (both 1997 to 2000) and Father MATTHEW HEMSON (2000 to 2002) and Monsignor JOSEPH BOARDMAN (2000 to date) is the current Parish Priest.