Llanelli Parish Church about 1905 - Photograph courtesy Llanelli Reference LibraryWith the Restoration of Llanelli House still awaited [2008], it is an apt moment to look at another “Restoration” carried out in Llanelli, which also took a long time to complete and was rather more drastic.

In 1891 Rev J.L. Meredith pressed for repairs to be carried out on the fabric of the Parish Church and in1901 he obtained a report from Mr Bodley, a famous church architect on the state of the Church and what might be done to preserve it. Mr Bodley’s Report contained the following:-

“Having inspected this church I beg to report upon its character, and its present state. In character it is one of simple Welsh manner, the fabric is in a very unsatisfactory state. It is very ugly, without interest or beauty or dignity. The great gaunt expanse of wall at the eastern end of the nave is very unsightly and incongruous. I cannot but strongly advise that the church should if possible be rebuilt”.

In February 1902 a meeting of the Parish Church Building Committee took place to consider Mr Bodley’s report. It was unanimously carried that the Church should be rebuilt and that Mr Bodley be asked to prepare plans for a 700 seat church at a cost of no more than £8,000. When in 1903 the plans were shown to the committee, it appeared that the Church would lose the traditional Cruciform shape. The plans were rejected. By now illness and subsequent disabilities caused the Rev. Meredith to bid farewell to the parish of Llanelly, at this final meeting he said " I had hoped to have had the Parish Church restored as soon as the Parish was free of debt but to my great disappointment I have not been able chiefly owing to illness to see this accomplished”.

The Rev. D. Watcyn Morgan was appointed to the Parish in 1904, and he commissioned the architect Mr E Bruce Vaughan F.R.I.B.A of Cardiff. The conclusions of his report, was similar to Mr Bodley’s, he stated that:- “I propose to remove the modern tower staircase, and west gallery, opening out the old tower arch into the church, carefully rebuild the jamb, which has been removed for the purpose of this, staircase. The tower’s copings, mullions and embrasures of the parapet should be taken down and rebuilt with the old stones and new copings supplied. The niches on either side of the west window should be restored by the insertion of new pieces of stone to match the old, and filled with statues. The decayed stones replaced and joints raked out. The rest of the church should be rebuilt on the old foundations with the ‘vanished spire’ added".

The plans were approved and on Tuesday May 23rd 1905 the last service was held in the old Llanelli Parish Church, and the following morning workmen from T. P. Jones, Builders, Llanelli arrived to take possession of the building.

The work proceeded quickly, and on Tuesday January 8th 1907 the Church had been handed back and the workmen had departed. Throughout the restoration the Building Committee had but one objective in view, namely to make the Old Parish worthy of its great historic past and still more worthy of its greater future. The end product is the Church which is still lies at the heart of the Town.

Photograph by kind permission of Llanelli Reference Library

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