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Parish Church of St Mark

A Grade II Listed Building in Gabalfa, Cardiff

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5021 / 51°30'7"N

Longitude: -3.196 / 3°11'45"W

OS Eastings: 317083

OS Northings: 178803

OS Grid: ST170788

Mapcode National: GBR KDC.BH

Mapcode Global: VH6F6.KH8W

Entry Name: Parish Church of St Mark

Listing Date: 4 May 2018

Grade: II

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 87713

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: On the east side of North Road, approximately 250 metres south of the North Road (A470) – Eastern Avenue (A48) Gabalfa interchange. The church is set behind original perimeter railings and brick wall

County: Cardiff

Town: Cardiff

Community: Gabalfa

Community: Gabalfa

Built-Up Area: Cardiff

Traditional County: Glamorgan

History

The original St Marks Church had been constructed in 1876 on the junction of North Road and Whitchurch Road to serve the growing suburb of Maindy. The area of Maindy and Gabalfa continued to develop up to the Second World War as a busy suburb of Cardiff, but it was the development of a new approach to transport planning and the improvement of the national road network under the Macmillan government in the1950s and 60s that eventually necessitated the replacement of the original church with the present building.

The first plans for the construction of a new road interchange in the North Road / Whitchurch Road area intended to ease the increasingly developed and congested northern suburbs of Cardiff would have retained the church beside a new roundabout and new dual carriageway of Eastern Avenue. In the early 1960s however, (possibly as a result of the 1963 report ‘Traffic in Towns’ by Professor Colin Buchanan), more ambitious plans were developed for a comprehensive new road system that necessitated the removal of the church as well as surrounding housing and a theatre. The church continued in use until 1968 and was then demolished. By May 1969, a £4m project designed to ‘remove congestion in North Road and Western Avenue’ was under way: According to the South Wales Echo of May 14th it would carry North Road on a ‘graceful flyover’. It is now known as the Gabalfa Interchange.

As part of the redevelopment, land was provided for a new church further south along North Road and in1963, plans for a new church, hall and vicarage were drawn up by Lord Mottistone, partner at the London architects Seely and Paget. He was architect to St Paul’s Cathedral, St George’s chapel, Windsor, and Portsmouth Cathedral, and was responsible for repairing many buildings damaged during the Second World War, including Lambeth Palace, Eton College and many London churches.

The open layout and square shape of the site lent themselves to a new approach to planning, in line with ideas introduced by the Liturgical Movement: this advocated more compact planning and an open layout, fostering a more participatory style of worship.

The first plans for a new church survive in the church archives and show a hexagonal building with gabled sides and central lantern, a central tower on the west side and lower flanking structures housing chapel and other spaces. A rectangular hall adjoins on the south side. A separate vicarage is attached to the rear.

These first plans had to be modified when a large mains sewer bisecting the northern part of the site was discovered, and following the death of Lord Mottistone, new plans were drawn up in 1965 by his former assistant, Anthony New, also of Seely & Paget. One of his sketches for the design of the new church was accepted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1965. These plans retained many of the elements of the earlier design, including its elongated polygonal plan, west tower and chapel, but with changes to the orientation of the hall and the detailing of the roof.

Construction began on 1st December 1966. The foundation stone for the new church was laid by the Bishop of Llandaff during a ceremony on St Marks Day, Tuesday 25th April, 1967 and construction was completed the following year. The structural engineers were EJ Cook Co and the main contractors were E Turner and Sons, Penarth Road, Cardiff. The total cost was £95,433.

The church was consecrated on 1st May 1968 with Dr Glyn Simon, the Bishop of Llandaff, officiating at the ceremony. At its consecration the church was described by the first vicar, the Reverend GG Watkeys, as ‘Modern, but not ugly modern’ and as ‘a good compromise between the classic architecture of the original St Mark’s and the need of the new one to fit in with the landscape and needs of the modern community. Altogether it is a lovely church’.

The design is based around portal frames of laminated Douglas Fir which form the basic polygonal structure.The timber is glued together with Aerodux resorcinol-formaldehyde, an adhesive produced by John Blandand Co. Ltd. It is a type of glue introduced in 1943 and used largely for the manufacture of timber aircraft and boats and ideal for close fitting jointing. Laminated timber in this form had been used for construction from the nineteenth century but it was in the post war years that Britain was a world leader. The Festival of Britain featured a number of laminated timber structures, including parabolic entrance arches in Douglas Fir and casein glue. Its development and use in architecture is a transfer of knowledge and technology from wartime manufacturing, adapting the capabilities of the material to enable new forms of building.

The church was designed to seat 200 in an open lofty space with capacity for more. The chapel is a miniature version of the main church with seating for 60 for smaller weekday services. It was designed to be independent in order to minimise running costs but can be connected to the main church by folding doors.

The stone font and brass lectern were transferred from the old church but have since been disposed of. The pulpit was designed for the new church but has since been disposed of. The stained glass from the east and west windows, dedicated as war memorials were also relocated from the earlier church, as were the two accompanying brass plaques and a further plaque added to explain the relocation. The bell in the new west tower was cast in 1614 by John Draper of Thetford for the church of St Nicholas at Feltwell, Norfolk. It was sold to St Mark’s to raise funds for restoration works.

Alterations were first proposed to some of the ancillary spaces in 1983, with a faculty granted in 1991 and carried out in 1993. The main entrance was enclosed with a glazed timber screen with new entrance doors. The day-to-day entrance was relocated to the side door (and is still in use as this) with the former main entrance retained for emergency access and Sunday use. The former main entrance lobby became a meeting room for weekday use.

Alterations also carried out in 2017 to replace the cover of the flat roof of the single storey ancillary spaces with a synthetic rubber membrane, opening up of the entrance lobby and reception area and other works to the vestry corridor and hall stage.

Exterior

Church in modern style. Double height pentagonal plan with lower enclosing entrance and support ranges to south and west. Detached west tower, linked to the main entrance with a canopy roof. Hall to south side. Constructed in ‘Windsor Grey’ Leicestershire brick and reconstituted Cotswold stone blocks, copper, fibreglass and rubber roofs. A mixture of windows, mainly metal originals, with some timber and uPVC replacements.

Main part is constructed of 10 large Douglas Fir half portal frames, arranged in a circular pattern coupled together with a steel ring beam and faced externally in brick. Frames support a hipped roof rising to central glazed lantern perched at the apex, with a cap and spike in green fibreglass (to mimic the copper roofs elsewhere). The main roof of the church, as well as the roof of the adjoining hall are in copper. Western roof slope broken by a projecting hipped gable with staggered rows of concrete mullions framing glazing in-between.

North-west and south-west walls with high level plain two light top opening windows. North elevation mostly glazed with 7 tall windows of plain glazing separated by brick piers, further wider window at east end. At rear curved screen wall of stone separated from main church by a window panel of small glazing, lighting the east end of the church. Enclosing the south side is a continuation of support buildings with double doors up a flight of steps. High level windows to S wall. Further screen wall links to Vicarage and includes foundation stone from the earlier church ‘TO THE GLORY OF GOD – THIS STONE – WAS LAID BY – MRS BUCKLEY – THE VICARAGE – GABALFA – 25TH JUNE 1927 – TAKEN FROM THE OLD CHURCH 1968’.

Single storey stone range enclosing the western side with to left polygonal chapel building with pyramid roof, wide full height windows in two north elevations, double doors to west side. Continuing the western elevation is the entrance and support range, flat roofed with skylights. Main entrance (altered – partly enclosed) with pyramid skylights, followed by support entrance (now main entrance) and then 5 narrow windows lighting original clubroom (now office and kitchen) with wide combined door and window to right return. Taller rectangular hall building set back to right side, in brick with south elevation mainly glazed. Support buildings continue behind the Hall to rear. All under flat roofs with skylights.

Attached to the main entrance but essentially a separate structure, is the tall square west tower. Constructed of reinforced concrete with an open ground floor stage forming a covered entrance porch. Upper stage infilled with brick, flush to the front and rear but set diagonally to the sides. Open bell stage has flat topped gable on each side and is topped by a cross at 75 feet from ground level, made of transparent fibreglass (originally illuminated internally) on a green fibreglass cap. On the front of the tower at the base of the brick infill is a relief in artificial stone of a winged lion with knight’s head, the symbol of St Mark, holding an open book with the name ‘SAINT MARK’.

Interior

The Church is entered through a door directly under the tower, this is now not in regular use but instead double doors to the right of centre lead to an entrance hall in the single storey support range. Double doors to the left lead into the church proper.

The main church structure is formed from 10 large half portal frames of laminated Douglas Fir which support a central ‘eye’ 31 feet above floor level. This is covered by a glazed lantern. Walls in brick except entrance wall and curved east wall which are in stone. Glazed north wall with to E Christ in Majesty blessing St George stained glass. Pangapanga wood block floor with heating underneath. Pews and priests chairs (and originally pentagonal pulpit) of Idigbo timber. Prayer desk from old church. Centrally suspended 30 lamp brass candelabrum of Danish design. 4 stage ceiling of afromosia boarding, close fitting to the base, and progressively more open and radiating open boards in the upper bays. Cantilevered organ gallery over the west entrance, played from a console near to the vestry door on the south side of the chancel.

Chapel with stained glass from old church, depicting Christ (NE window), St George and St David (NW window), St Mark, and St Michael (SW window) dedicated as war memorials in new frames with 3 accompanying brass plaques. Cross made from pitchpine taken from timber used in the construction of the old church. Communion rail remodelled from the old church as is the panelling behind the communion table.

Flat roofed support range extends south and east from entrance in space between church and hall. Meeting room converted from former main entrance, Hall to south side sharing access and administration rooms of the main church building. Foundation stone on S wall ‘TO GOD’S GLORY – GLYN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF – BLESSED THIS STONE ON – ST MARK’S DAY 1967 – DURING THE REBUILDING OF THE CHURCH – FIRST CONSECRATED 26 SEPTEMBER 1876’.

Reasons for Listing

Included for its special architectural interest as an exceptionally good example of a post war church that illustrates in its bold plan form and innovative use of materials many of the key elements of ecclesiastical architecture, the changes in building and material technology, and the progressive spirit of its period. Notwithstanding minor changes from the late C20, it has survived largely as built.

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