A short history of the Catholic Church in Llandudno
Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church
The Welsh Mission
Father James Jenkins
The Vision of Father Mulligan
Laying the Foundation Stone
The Opening of the New Church
The Death of Dean Mulligan
The Next Hundred Years
This abridged history of the church and parish is mostly taken from the booklet published by Monsignor Kelly, the parish priest in Llandudno at that time, to celebrate the centenary of the present church of ‘Our Lady Star of the Sea’ in 1993.
The booklet and the historical research on which it was based was largely the work of Mrs. Margaret Amiel and Sister Madeline Dunphy and it records a remarkable story of faith and continuity.
Saint Tudno and Blessed William Davies
Records of Catholic history in North Wales prior to the Reformation show that the faith was always strong in Wales. Many towns and villages derive their names from local Saints and everywhere there are Parishes named Llanfair from the dedication of the Parish Church to Saint Mary.
In the 5th Century there are records of Monastic Schools being founded and Seminaries established throughout the land. A great development of monastic life took place.
One such seminary was that of SS Dunawd & Deiniol at Bangor Iscoed on the banks of the River Dee near Chester. It was here that Saint Tudno was trained for mission. Saint Tudno established the Church on Cyngreawdr (the great rock – the Great Orme). The Ogof Llech (a small cave on the headland, difficult of access, but with a clear spring of water) was Saint Tudno’s cell.
Saint Tudno’s ancient church with its modern cemetery is built on the north facing side of the Great Orme over two miles from the modern resort. It has been heavily restored many times until nothing remains from Saint Tudno’s day. The church, built and rebuilt by Catholics over many centuries, achieved its final form in the 15th century, before the onset of the reformation.
The roof blew off in 1839 and it was not restored until 1855. It has a few ancient features, the font dates from the 12th century, there are early sepulchral stones, there is a beam in the chancel wall bearing a carved serpent, and there is a remarkable medieval carved wooden emblem under the roof high above the chancel step depicting the ‘stigmata’ or five wounds of Christ.
Such an emblem surviving in Wales is almost unique, only one other is known and it is in the neighbouring parish of Llanrhos. Otherwise the furnishings are modern.
Since the Reformation there have been few records of Catholic households and the Priests who served them. English influence was very strong in the area, especially along the road to Holyhead, the main route to and from Ireland. Here the law was rigorously enforced which made it difficult for a Priest to minister to his people. Priests had to move secretly from one Catholic household to another and the penalties for discovery were cruel torture for the Priests themselves and also for the households who gave them food and shelter. Consequently many of the landed families drifted away from the practice of their religion, anxious to show their loyalty to the Crown, and safeguard their estates, by conforming to the latest wishes of the Queen.
It was here in Llandudno that Blessed William Davies worked and it is a happy circumstance that we share the centenary of this Parish with the 400th anniversary of his martyrdom in 1593. William Davies was born in Croes yn Eirias, which is now part of Colwyn Bay. In those days it was a small hamlet included in the parish of Llandrillo yn Rhos. He was educated at St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford and took his degree in 1582, was ordained Priest at Rheims in April, 1585 and was sent almost immediately, at his own request, to serve in the mission in North Wales where he knew the need for Priests was very great and where he was well aware of the dangers he faced.
He had many friends in this area, people who had known him since boyhood, but, of course, the very secrecy of his movements means that few records are available of the families he served. However, it is known that he was a friend of Robert Pugh of Penrhyn and that they were linked together in an interesting and important event on the Little Orme.
From May 1586 life became even more difficult for Catholics. The Queen was incensed to learn that laws against ‘recusants and obstinate persons in religion’ had not been enforced.
The local Magistrates were accused of negligence and ordered to condemn forthwith the unlawful assembly of Catholics. This was an order that could not be ignored, even by Magistrates sympathetic to Catholics, but a friendly warning was given to Robert Pugh and William Davies and they were able to escape, taking refuge, along with several others, in a cave on the Little Orme. They remained there in comparative safety for about nine months and even managed to produce a small book on a printing press they had hidden there.
The book was ‘Y Drych Gristianogawl’ – ‘The Christian Mirror’ and its importance lies in the fact that it was possibly the first book ever printed in Wales. In April 1587, the cave was discovered and the local Magistrate, Sir Thomas Mostyn, informed. He went to the cave with a large band of people but did not enter – preferring (so it was said) to wait until the following day. He left several of his own men on guard, but when morning came – it was found that all the cave dwellers had managed to escape!
Nothing more was known of Robert Pugh and William Davies until five years later, in March 1592, when they were arrested in Holyhead, Angelsey. They had gone there to assist four student Priests on their journey to Valladolid in Spain, but all six persons were arrested – Robert Pugh being the only one to escape. The others were thrown into Beaumaris Castle dungeons where Father Davies regularly said Mass. Beaumaris rapidly became a centre for all the Catholics of Angelsey.
William Davies was convicted at the next Beaumaris Assizes of being a Priest, but popular feeling was so strong in his favour that he was removed to Ludlow, where attempts were made to represent him as having conformed. When these attempts failed, he was sent to several other prisons, before eventually being returned to Beaumaris to be tried again. At the Assizes he was sentenced to death and put in the ‘Black Alley’ in Beaumaris Castle. When the day of his execution came, the deed had to be postponed until men from Chester could be hired to carry out the sentence. Not one person in Angelsey would have anything to do with it! William Davies was butchered on July 27th 1593, and parts of his body were affixed to the castle gateways of Beaumaris, Conwy and Caernarfon.
By the 17th Century the Creuddyn Peninsula (site of present day Llandudno) was almost the last refuge for Catholics in Caernarfonshire, but in spite of great bravery, fierce determination and great devotion to the Faith, Catholic families were simply not able to continue to support each other and their Priests in the face of such terrible oppression, and so the restoration of Catholicism in North Wales lapsed; for the time being it slumbered, awaiting the advent of more tolerant days when Priests and laity might once more openly celebrate their Faith.
Early Days – The Welsh Mission
Father James Jenkins
Between 1688 and 1840 this area was part of the Western District administered by Vicars Apostolic with the rank of Bishop. In 1840 the Western District was divided into two and Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Wales became the Welsh District with Bishop Brown OSB as Vicar Apostolic. In 1850 the Diocese of Newport and Menevia (with Bishop Brown as its first Bishop) was created as a sufragan See of the Diocese of Westminster.In 1867 Bishop Brown of Menevia sent Father James Jenkins to Llandudno to set up a Mission for the very few Catholics in the area. His parish was very large; from Rhyl in the East, along the coast to Bangor and as far South as Dolgellau, including the dozens of hamlets up the valleys and in the mountains.
The early days of the Mission in Llandudno are vividly described in the following extract from the notes of Dean Mulligan, (Father Jenkins’ successor) kindly handed by his nephew, Father Reilly, to the Llandudno Advertiser and published on May 12th 1906.
“In May 1867 a two-storied building, situated in Ty Gwyn Road, which had formerly been used for the purpose of Turkish Baths, was purchased from Mr. Thomas Williams, Chemist, for £350, and the upper storey adapted to the purpose of a Chapel and the lower one so altered as to do service for the Priest’s residence. While the necessary alterations to the building were being made, Mass was celebrated in the house of Michael Costellor in Cwlach Street, for two or three Sundays. The Chapel was opened for Divine Service in June 1867 and dedicated to Our Blessed Lady under her title of “Star of the Sea”. The Rev. James Jenkins came to reside in the dwelling rooms under the Chapel as Priest of the Mission. The number of Catholics then in Llandudno and neighbourhood was very small, the number attending Mass on Sundays being under 20 and these few were chiefly servants in the lodging houses of the town.
“Father Jenkins, who was in feeble health when he came to Llandudno, died in the Mission Chapel house on 20th. March, 1869 and is buried in the cemetery of the monastery Pantasaph, Holywell, and he was succeeded by the Rev. Patrick Mulligan, who was charged with closing down the Mission.”
It was obviously not in Father Mulligan’s mind to close down the Mission. He belonged the same breed of determined Priests as his predecessors of the 16th and 17th Centuries who fought against all odds to keep the Faith alive. To Father Mulligan is credited the first establishment of the Parish, although at first this progress was agonisingly slow. There were so few Catholics. The Baptismal Register records an average of only four baptisms per year for the first ten years of his ministry.
An 1877 Handbook to Llandudno, Edited by Richard Greene, has the following comment:
” Wales is not favourable to the progress of Romanism, consequently there are very few
residents of that persuasion. They have a Chapel, situated in Ty Gwyn Road, which was
formally the Turkish Baths Establishment. Mass is performed every Sunday at 8am and
10am and evening service is at 6pm. Mass on weekdays is at 8:30am. Resident Priest is Father P. Mulligan.”
The Vision of Father Mulligan
Llandudno was expanding very rapidly at this time. Its popularity as a holiday resort, the growing fashion of taking a yearly holiday at the seaside, the easier access to the town from the Industrial Lancashire towns by means of the Railway. All these contributed to a great increase in the number of visitors, and consequently to the number of residents in the town. It became necessary to build an addition to the Chapel and in 1882 a new wing was added, capable of holding 40 more persons. This also served as a Sunday School, with a corresponding addition to the dwelling rooms underneath. There was no provision for a day school. As the town continued to grow and the numbers of Catholics also grew and it soon became obvious that the new wing was not large enough and that a new church would have to be built.
This posed an urgent problem, for whilst the summer visitors swelled the congregation for three or four months of the year, at the end of each summer season the church once again became dependent on its small resident population. In 1891, the Advertiser reported a Church and Chapel Census of the town.
Sunday – November 22nd. 1891
Total number of inhabitants in Llandudno 7333
Attendance at English Services 1092 (from 8 places of worship)
Attendance at Welsh speaking Service 879 (from 11 places of worship)
Attendance at Roman Catholic Chapel 79
With great determination, Father Mulligan set about the task of finding a suitable site for the church. After many setbacks, an excellent site of approximately half an acre was purchased from Lord Mostyn for the sum of £1210 – plus other charges that were already attendant on that piece of land. In 4 years, by much hard work and many fund-raising efforts on the part of the parishioners who were very well supported by the townspeople, the sum of £3000 was raised, and with this in hand a start could be made on a new and handsome church to accommodate 500 worshippers. What extraordinary vision Father Mulligan had – to build a church out of all proportion to the size of his congregation, to foresee the future needs of the Catholic Community and visitors to the town!
The church was to be built from the designs of Mr. Edmund Kirby of Liverpool, by Mr. J. D. Williams of Knighton, Radnorshire. It was to cost £5000 and the whole of the main building was to be completed in ten months! The Weekly News of September 17th 1891 gives a very full description of the proposed church:
“The design is to be Gothic with Yorkshire stone facings and dressings of Runcorn stone. The church will include two aisles, nave, baptistery, two side chapels and sanctuary, with columns of Runcorn stone along each side. The roof will be of pitch pine, as will be the floor, the latter being laid with encaustic tiles in the nave and aisles. There will be a fine traceried window at the East end of the church. It is also intended to erect a presbytery at the end of the church as soon as funds allow. The inside measurements of the church are 83ft by 24ft., of the sanctuary 20ft by 11 ft 3in., of the side chapels 11 ft 3ins., by 10ft., and of the baptistery 12ft by 10ft. The main entrance will be from Deganwy Street and the church will be crowned with a fine tower, which however, will at present be left in abeyance.”
Laying the Foundation Stone
On the morning of Thursday September 10th 1891 (a beautiful day of brilliant sunshine from a cloudless blue sky) the Right Reverend Dr. Knight, Lord Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury, laid the foundation stone of the new church in the presence of a very large number of people, both within the enclosure and crowding round the outside of the palisade.
Shortly after 12:30pm, the Right Reverend Dr. Knight accompanied by a number of priests, walked up the carpeted path to the raised platform where the foundation stone was ready. In the course of a most impressive service he blessed the stone – a square slab of marble with a cross cut deeply at each corner and tied round with blue ribbon – and placed it in its foundation, blessing the stone again and sprinkling it with holy water. Dr. Knight then walked round the foundations of the church, blessing and sprinkling them also.
In a short address after the laying of the stone, the Bishop referred to the fact that a Welsh Bishop was present at the council of Sardis in 347AD, where the Creed of Athanasius was proclaimed, and that today, more than 1500 years later, it was in the spirit of that same faith that the foundations of the new church were being laid. He gave thanks that today people were able to gather in peace, which had most certainly not always been the case, and he hoped that when the church was built those not of the Catholic Faith would be tolerant and judge for themselves, rather than listen to the rumours and the falsehoods spoken about the Catholic Church.
His Lordship appealed to all who wished to contribute to the funds to do so at the close of the service, after which he pronounced the Solemn Blessing. Many people passed by the raised platform, placing their gifts on the foundation stone, and the considerable sum of £200 was collected.
In the afternoon, the Bishop presided over a reception at the Imperial Hotel with many fine toasts and speeches. Father Mulligan said how grateful he was to all who had made the day possible. He knew that the new church would prove a welcome addition to the town and would promote the interests of Llandudno. (In the past it had been felt that many Catholics had not visited the town owing to the lack of adequate Church accommodation). He also said that he would always value the kindness and support shown to him and the very great assistance given by many people in the town. The proceedings ended with the Chairman of the Town Commissioners proposing the health of Father Mulligan “than whom” he said “no man was more highly regarded in Llandudno”. Indeed Father Mulligan must have been an extraordinary man to make such an impact on the rather close communities (at that time) of Chapel and Church of England.
The Opening of the New Church
It was in August 1893 that the visit occurred of the Lord Mayor of London for the opening of the new Catholic Church, the realisation of Father Mulligan’s long cherished dream. Tuesday August 15th. 1893 saw Llandudno buzzing with excitement at the arrival, by special train at 6 o’clock, of Sir Stuart Knill, Bart, Lord Mayor of London. He was met at the station by several of the town’s dignitaries, Rev. Father Mulligan and several Catholic laity, and ensconced in grand style to the Marine Hotel, through the streets of a town festooned in his honour with flags and bunting bearing inscriptions of ‘Welcome – A Thousand Greetings’. The bells of the Holy Trinity Church rang a peal of welcome.
Sir Stuart spent two days in the town and on the Wednesday a great procession was organised which made its way along the Promenade to the Happy Valley where Sir Stuart was presented with an illuminated address. Mr. Riviere’s orchestra entertained the vast crowds before the procession re-formed, to return to town via the Marine Drive, round the Great Orme to Abbey Road where the brass band waited to lead the procession back down Mostyn Street to the Marine Hotel. The banquet given that evening was a sumptuous affair and the celebrations ended with the floodlighting of most of the Hotels, The illumination of the Great Orme and a magnificent display of fireworks.
The following day, Thursday 17th August 1893, was declared a Public Holiday and Sir Stuart joined other distinguished guests at the opening of the new Catholic Church, dedicated to Our Lady Star of the Sea.
The completion of the building had been considerably delayed by the difficulties encountered in securing the foundations. Because of the nature of the soil in the area, a thick bed of concrete had to be laid to ensure the safety of the building. The resulting church was a most handsome building and a fitting stage for a most impressive ceremony.
The Most Rev. Archbishop Scarisbrick, OSB, was the officiating prelate, assisted by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Riddell, Bishop of Northampton, and the Rt. Rev. Dr. Knight, Bishop of Shrewsbury. His Eminence Cardinal Vaughan, Archbishop of Westminster, was received at the main entrance of the church by a large group of clergy and was conducted up the nave to the accompaniment of the Choir of St. Werburgh’s (Chester) singing ‘Ecce Sacerdos Magnus’. The choir was under the leadership of Mr. Oakes and was augmented by the Llandudno Pier Orchestra, conducted by Mr. Arthur Payne. The sermon was preached by His Eminence the Cardinal.
The ceremony was followed by a luncheon at the Marine Hotel, hosted by Father Mulligan. On the following Sunday, His Eminence Cardinal Vaughan celebrated Mass both in the new church and in the old chapel in Ty Gwyn Road, where the Lord Mayor also attended.
When the church was opened it was used only during the summer months. In the winter the resident congregation continued to worship in the old Chapel in Ty Gwyn Road. In those early days the church was not complete – there was no Sacristy, just a lean-to hut which served the purpose, nor was the Presbytery built until a year or two later. A harmonium was used instead of an organ.
The Death of Dean Mulligan
13 years later, on Friday May 10th 1906, Father Mulligan died. He had been in Llandudno for 37 years and was very much respected in the town for all his charitable works and for his interest in anything appertaining to the welfare of the town. The whole town mourned the loss of this highly esteemed Priest.
Born in Columblilli, County Longford, Ireland, in the year 1835, he was educated in Carlow College and afterwards at All Hallows, Drumcondra, Dublin, where, in 1858, he was ordained Priest. He came to Shrewsbury Diocese, serving at Bangor for some time before transferring to Bollington. After seven years ministry there he had to return to Ireland because of ill health.
In 1869 he came to Llandudno and began his mission here with only half-a-crown in his pocket! When he had been in Llandudno for some time he was made a Canon of the Shrewsbury Diocese and when that Diocese was divided into two he was made a Dean in the Menevia Diocese.
His funeral took place on Tuesday May 14th.1906. The Solemn Requiem was held at 12 o’clock and the celebrant was the Rt. Rev. Francis Mostyn, D.D., Bishop of Menevia. The Church was full and a large crowd gathered outside the Church. Every shop and office in Llandudno was closed and every cab and horse-drawn vehicle hired. Fourteen carriages and pairs followed the coffin as the cortege went from the Church up to Saint Tudno’s Cemetery on the Great Orme. It was a very wet day, but the dense crowds of mourners seemed impervious to the rain as they lined the streets of the town to pay their last respects to the Priest they had loved and who had been such a faithful friend of the town.
A Tribute to The Very Reverend Dean Mulligan
(Printed In the Caernarfonshire and Denbigh Herald, May 11th. 1906)
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright;
for the end of that man is peace.” (Psalm 37- 37).
My words are all too weak to tell his worth,
But in a language far more eloquent,
His deeds speak of this man, whose life on earth
Throughout its span, in doing good was spent.
He needs no trumpeter – with louder voice
His charity unfailing rings out clear
To help the poor – to serve them was his choice
And lives were brighter for his presence here.
He lived the faith he preached – I have no stone
To cast at him, this self-denying priest;
And were our right to heaven good works alone,
‘Midst its bright throng he would not stand the least .
I know no door to shut him out – though Rome
Some say is antichrist, “the man of sin”,
But if love gain admittance, he’s at home,
Though “sects” – as such – can never enter in.
My being a Protestant can help me naught
Nor could a thousand creeds gain paradise,
My freedom of your city Christ hath bought
And none but “Christians” ever reach the skies.
And this man was an Israelite indeed,
A thorough Christian – patient and kind to all;
One who could see a flower in every weed
And good in all men – even in those that fall.
“De mortuis nil nisi bonum” -Well? –
I speak that I do know, in alI I say;
As far as human knowledge goes, I tell
The simple truth of him now passed away.
Though dead, he liveth in the hearts he won,
This man I called my friend for twenty years;
His greatest merit is the work he’s done;
His finest epitaph – his people’s tears.
Dean Mulligan’s place was taken by Canon Ratcliffe from Bangor. He was born in Lancashire in 1852 and while quite young boy came under the influence of the late Dean Mulligan, who probably had quite a lot to do with his decision to enter the Priesthood. As a boy of 12 years he went into college to begin his long course of training. He completed his studies at Ushaw and was ordained in 1874. He worked in many Parishes – Morley Hill, Shrewsbury, Hyde, Dukinfield, Oswestry and Stockport, but his longest ministry was in Bangor where he had stayed for fifteen years. He worked hard to improve the efficiency of the school and served on the School Board, where he fought hard with great skill and determination for the rights of Catholic children. He also took a keen interest in training the choir.
As Parish Priest in Llandudno he continued the work on the Church building by the addition of a Sacristy, High Altar, and Altars to Our Lady and St. Joseph. He had the plain stone pillars carved, the roof timbered and a pulpit installed. The statue of Our Lady over the Lloyd Street entrance porch was erected about this time, through the generosity of a private donor. All this and he still managed to reduce the debt by more than a thousand pounds! A tidy sum in those days!
He was appointed Provost of the newly formed Menevia Chapter in 1909. In 1919 he welcomed the Loreto Sisters from Manchester to Llandudno and looked forward to the opening of a good school. He invited the Superior to take charge of the Children of Mary in the parish and also asked that the Sisters instruct adults and children.
Provost Ratcliffe died on May 21st 1920. There was a very large gathering at the Church to celebrate his Requiem Mass, most of the congregation coming from Llandudno and district, but there were also present many people from other parts of the country who had known and loved the Provost. The choir came over from Bangor especially as a tribute to the great work he had done in forming, building up and training choirs during his years in Bangor. He was buried in St. Tudno’s Cemetery on the Great Orme.
The Loreto Sisters
In reply to a request from the Superior of Loreto Convent, Moss Side, Manchester, for a Loreto Foundation in Llandudno, his Lordship Bishop Francis Mostyn wrote, on 30th. November 1918, “I should be very pleased to allow you to open a house there and feel certain that you would succeed there and do untold good”. With such encouragement, plans were made to purchase Eithinog and a group of nuns from Loreto Convent, Moss Side, moved in on 3rd. September 1919 and were welcomed by the Parish Priest, Provost Ratcliffe.
The School opened on 21st. September 1919 with approximately 25 boarders and 15 day pupils, including 3 boys. Events moved quickly – more accommodation was required – Clifton Lodge came on the market and was purchased in October 1920. By 1922 the two houses were linked by the Concert Hall and three large classrooms and formed the fine frontage we still see on Abbey Road. In 1924, thanks to the generosity of Sr. Imelda Fairclough’s parents, the Convent Chapel of the Holy Family was built and was solemnly opened and consecrated by Bishop Francis Mostyn on 2nd July 1925. By 1931, the building of the Novitiate was completed and the Novices moved from Moss Side to Llandudno.
The increasing number of pupils, boarding and day, necessitated the building, at the rear, of further residential accommodation, cloakrooms and specialist rooms for Art, Music and Science. By 1946 the third house, Bronmeillion, was finally acquired and opened as a Junior School.
With further extensions and the raising of the roof of the original building, spacious classrooms and extra bedrooms were provided. With the building of the large Science Lab. by 1951 and the Domestic Science Room by 1956 the main school building was nearly complete, but numbers required more classrooms, so two prefabricated buildings were put up in 1965.
The lawns in front of the School were the only areas for Games, but in 1930 a hen-run on the opposite side of Abbey Road was purchased and converted into Tennis / Netball Courts. Hockey was played on the Oval once a week until the quarry adjoining Eithinog was purchased from the Mostyn Estate and made into a much needed Hockey and Sports Field.
In 1921, Loreto invited H.M.lnspectorate to visit the School. The small school was inspected and recognised as efficient. Formal recognition of Loreto Convent Boarding and Day School as an “Efficient, private, non-grant-earning Primary and Secondary School for pupils with an age range of 3 -18 years” was given by the Ministry of Schools, on 1st December 1948. A further General Inspection in 1956 reported the school ‘excellent’ in every way.
Great attention was always given to the teaching of religion and the celebration of the Liturgy and Sacred Music. The annual visits of the Diocesan Religious Inspectors resulted in very good reports and great praise of Staff and Pupils – always with words of encouragement and appreciation added by Bishop Daniel Hannon and his successor Bishop John Petit.
With the re-organisation of schools in Llandudno in 1970, the main part of the building was used as a Middle School. The Community lived in the Bronmeillion block. As the Convent Chapel was no longer needed it was dismantled by 1974 and its furnishings sent to other poorer churches. The Novitiate building, after the Novices moved out, was used for Retreats, Charismatic Groups and Christian Family Weeks, and gradually the Retreat Centre evolved and provided the facilities for students and adults, Religious and Clergy, various Renewal Programmes, Marriage Encounter, Prayer and Counselling programmes.
The Middle School closed in 1987. In response to many requests for private retreats, a massive refurbishing and restoration of Clifton Lodge was undertaken to provide en-suite rooms, group rooms and kitchens for those making private or directed retreats. The Hall is the venue for many Diocesan / Deanery / Parish day events. Eithinog is the Provincialate and Convent for the Second Community and Ignatian Outreach.
Loreto continues to serve the church as a retreat and conference centre.
Canon Francis Xavier Thompson (1920 to 1937)
The Very Revd Canon Francis Xavier Thompson was the next Parish riest to take up the responsibility of adding to the beauty of the church whilst at the same time trying to reduce the debt – which still stood at £1000. Various events were held to meet expenses – Whist Drives – Dances – (at the Arcadia and at the One Ash Hotel) – and Bazaars. Canon Thompson said “The Church was built for the accommodation and comfort of visitors, and it is confidently hoped that visitors will respond generously to this appeal for the clearing off of the remaining debt”.
(The debt at that time was £500).
They did respond magnificently by wiping off another £100, and then one of the Parishioners, Signor Gicianto Ferrari, made a handsome donation of £400 and cleared the debt completely. With the Church free of debt the way was now clear for some more improvements to be undertaken. Each year some specific work was tackled. Electric light was installed in the body of the church in 1922 and exterior repairs and painting attended to. In 1923-24 the appearance of the Church was quite altered by the panelling of the Sanctuary ceiling and side aisles and complete interior decoration. 1924-5 saw the building of the much needed new organ and the installation of an electric Kinetic blower. After this came extra seating, repairs to the High Altar and side Altars and extensive repairs to the roof of the Church and Sacristy.
Canon Thompson was also determined that his predecessors should be honoured with a lasting memorial in the Church and he set about organising collections and events for this fund. After a lot of hard work he had sufficient means to install the two beautiful windows behind the High Altar, one of Saint Patrick and the other of Saint Thomas, in honour of Patrick Mulligan and Thomas Ratcliffe. In 1922, the first Nuptial Mass took place in the church when Harry Longworth married Minnie Breeze. Canon Thompson was born in Dolgellau in 1876 and was ordained at St. Bueno’s by Bishop Mostyn in July 1900. He had worked in Flint, Brecon, Talacre and Connah’s Quay,where he was Parish Priest for 9 years, before coming to Llandudno in 1920. He had never been robust and in 1937 he resigned on account of ill-health and became Chaplain to Loreto Convent. He celebrated his last Mass on February 13th 1955, and he died in Sandford Nursing Home on the 18th of that month. His body lay in the Convent Chapel until the 20th., when the Requiem was celebrated by the Bishop of Menevia in Our Lady Star of the Sea, He was buried in St. Tudno’s Cemetery on the Great Orme.
Canon Frederick Furniss ( 1937 to 1943)
He had the burden of the war years to contend with when the greatly increased congregations owing to the influx of Civil Servants moved from London and the presence in town of American troops lead to a very heavy workload. Canon Furniss resigned in 1943 through ill health and died in 1956. He is buried in Pantasaph Cemetery.
Canon Austin Pozzi ( 1943 to 1971)
Canon Pozzi knew Llandudno well; he had been curate to Provost Ratcliffe in 1912. He was born in Welshpool in 1885 and was ordained by Bishop Mostyn in 1908. He served in Flint, Bangor, Saltney and Holywell before returning to Llandudno, in 1943 to replace Canon Furniss.
A great occasion for the church occurred in 1947 when The Most Revd William Godfrey, Apostolic Delegate to Britain consecrated Bishop Petit as Bishop of Menevia. There was a great procession from the Town Hall to the Church and the Papal Flag flew over the Town Hall, alongside the Dragon of Wales and the Union Flag.
Canon Pozzi’s great ambition was to build a Catholic School for the children of the area. This eventually saw fruition when he laid the foundation stone of the ‘Stella Maris’ Primary School on April 24th 1960. Declining numbers had brought the closure of the Convent School and its building was adapted for a ‘middle school’ in 1970.
Over the years he had seen the membership of the Church grow to more than 1600, and he had also seen closer co-operation between the different Churches in the town. He took a keen interest in the general affairs of the town, and was well known for his support for any project beneficial to the people of Llandudno.
Vatican II recommended great changes in the Liturgy, including the use of the vernacular, enabling the congregation to participate more fully in the celebration of the Mass. After the familiar format of the Latin Rite, English seemed a very poor substitute, until it was realised that a greater involvement in the Liturgy brought its own rewards and an even greater appreciation of the beauty of the Mass. At this time more ecumenical services were being held in the town and Canon Pozzi played a prominent part in supporting joint services with the other Churches.
Canon Pozzi died on May 20th.1971, aged 85 years. The vast congregation numbered nearly 500 at his Requiem which was celebrated by the Rt. Rev. Dr. J.E.Petit, the Bishop of Menevia, the Rt. Rev. Langton Fox, Auxiliary Bishop of Menevia, Monsignor Cashman, Provost of the Menevia Chapter, and Monsignor Rees, Shrewsbury. The Rev. J.Calvin Thomas, Chairman of Llandudno Council of Churches, the Rev. Trevor O.Evans, Vicar of Llandudno and many Clergy and Ministers of other Churches of the town were present, as also were representatives of the Loreto Convent in Llandudno and other Loreto Convents.
Canon Pozzi’s ‘little children’ played a prominent part in the service, as was to be expected. The Choir was made up of approximately 100 boys and girls, and the Lessons and Bidding Prayers were read by the children. Those who were not involved in the actual service formed a guard of honour when the coffin left the Church. Canon Pozzi always had a sincere and enthusiastic interest in everything appertaining to the School. He delighted in his frequent visits to the classrooms – disrupting them, yes, but revelling in the spontaneous greetings from the children. A tribute to Canon Pozzi from the teachers of the School at that time reads:-
“School, to Canon, was alive, colourful – an exciting experience.
The Staff were his friends,
The activity was his tonic,
The laughter was his exhilaration,
The happiness of the children was his fulfilment.
School was his heaven on Earth”.
Canon Pozzi was buried with his predecessors in the grave in St. Tudno’s Cemetery on the Great Orme.
Canon John O’Donovan
(Curate at Llandudno 1958 to 1971 & Parish Priest 1971 to 1982)
Like his colleague and predecessor in ministry, he was closely involved in all aspects of Catholic education in Llandudno.
One of the highlights of his Ministry here was the Consecration of the Church on November 4th 1980 by the Bishop of Menevia, Dr. Langton Fox. Although the Church building was 80 years old, it had never been consecrated – it was ‘dedicated’ at the time of opening. Plans had been made for some time for this Ceremony to take place, but the deaths of Canon Pozzi and of the former Bishop of Menevia, Dr. J.E. Petit, meant that the consecration had to be postponed.
In accordance with the directives on the Liturgy (Vatican II) the Celebrant was now to face the congregation and so a new altar was installed in the Sanctuary. This altar is a memorial to the late Canon Pozzi. After anointing and consecrating the altar, having placed the Relics therein, the Bishop was led to the Baptistery to bless it and the Baptismal water, after which he consecrated the walls of the Church and blessed the congregation.
Father O’Donovan brought the Paschal Candle into the Church and from it all the other candles in the Church were lit. In his address to the congregation Bishop Fox gave a brief outline of the history of the Parish, recalling the time when Roman Catholics in Llandudno were very few indeed. Dean Mulligan had initiated the building of the Church and had welded all local Roman Catholics into an active congregation, and since that time the story had been one of sustained growth both in the Parish and also in the field of education.
After 24 years at Llandudno, Canon O’Donovan left in 1982 for vital work in Llanelli in South Wales before returning to Ruthin as Parish Priest of Our Lady Help of Christians.
The Parish Schools
Stella Maris School -Ysgol Seren y Mor
Loreto Middle School
Blessed William Davies School -Ysgol y Bendygaid William Davies.
The Foundation Stone of Stella Maris Primary School was laid on 24th. April 1960 by Canon Pozzi, in the presence of Bishop Petit and a large crowd of Parishioners. In his address the Bishop spoke of his deep feelings of gratitude to Almighty God that “we meet here today to lay this Foundation Stone. Your prayers and your work have borne fruit after a very long time of waiting”. He went on to thank publicly all those who had made the building of the school possible, especially Canon Pozzi who had never lost heart even in the most difficult times, and all the Parishioners who had devoted so much time and effort to raising £24,000 towards the total cost of the school, which would be about £45,000. He pointed out that the whole amount must be met by the Church, as no grant would be received towards the capital cost.
The School opened in September 1961 with Mother Consiglio as Head Teacher and a staff of four teachers. Within a few years the number on roll grew to approximately 300 pupils and the school building had to be extended to accommodate the extra scholars. The school gained such an excellent reputation for the Religious Education, academic progress, and cultural and sporting activities of the pupils that the increased numbers on roll indicated the need for re-organisation.
It was decided, therefore, in 1970, to make Stella Maris into a First School for children up to 9 years of age, and to open Loreto Middle School for boys and girls of the 9 -13 years age range, with the hope that in time the age range would be 9 -16 years. The Middle School in Abbey Road was housed in the complex formed by Eithinog – Main Hall – Clifton Lodge, which had been part of the Loreto Convent Boarding and Day School.
For seventeen years this new ‘Loreto Middle School’ (incidentally the only Middle School opened in Wales) served the educational needs of young people aged 9 -13 years from Llandudno as well as Llandudno Junction/Conway and Penmaenmawr Parishes. For the time of its existence it had a reputation of good academic standards and cultural and sporting activities, and was a significant influence in the faith formation of the young people. Many were the efforts by School and Diocese to have it extended to cater for children up to 16 years of age, but the decreasing population meant that the numbers never existed to justify this extension.
In 1987 the decision was made to close the Loreto Middle School and open a school for pupils of 4 – 11 years in the Stella Maris Buildings. Because of legal requirements the name of the new school had to be different from the other two existing schools. This re-organisation came at the same time as the beatification of the English and Welsh martyrs. Among them was our local priest, Blessed William Davies, and it was decided as exceedingly appropriate to name the new school after him. It was a great joy that on the occasion of the beatification ceremony His Holiness Pope John Paul II gave a personally signed blessing to the new school.
Mr. W.T. Morgans, who had been Headteacher of loreto Middle School throughout its existence was appointed Headteacher of the new Primary School. He retired in July 1992. A good school, like other institutions, marches on its nourished feet! This has been done for Stella Maris School and Blessed William Davies School through the dedicated service of Mrs. June Hughes, who has been in charge of catering from the time the schools were opened in 1961.
Canon Matthew Kelly (1982 – 1998)
In 1982, on the appointment of Canon O’Donovan to be Parish Priest of Llanelli, Canon Matthew J.Kelly, who was then Parish Priest at Holywell, was appointed to succeed him. History repeats itself! Canon Pozzi had left Holywell for Llandudno, Canon Kelly had succeeded him by one remove in Holywell, now he succeeds him by one remove in Llandudno! Also, it was a return to Llandudno for Canon Kelly who had been ordained Priest in the Loreto Convent Chapel here in 1963.
Since 1982 there have been a number of changes in the Church and parish life. A complete redecoration of the Church was done in 1986; the baptismal font was brought to the sanctuary area and the old baptismal chapel turned into a ‘quiet room’. To match the new baptismal font, a new ambo was also installed and in order to integrate the altar into the new installations a new frontispiece in matching stone was affixed to the altar. All these additions are in stone matching the original stonework in the Church. One of the Loreto Sisters designed the symbolic incisions of a Dove on the font, an Eagle, on the ambo and a Pelican feeding its young on the frontispiece. The Lady Chapel was adorned with a beautiful new statue of The Madonna and Child, carved in Italy from a single block of wood.
In 1988 Canon Kelly celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his priestly ordination and on this occasion was named a Prelate of Honour by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, with the title of Monsignor.
In 1990, the 70 year-old organ in the Church had come to its life’s end. After faithful and valiant service it had to be replaced. We had the good fortune to discover that a chapel in Bangor no longer needed the organ serving that Chapel and it was purchased and re-built in Our Lady Star of the Sea.
Given all the demands on the parish over the years – the building of the Church, the Presbytery, the new (Stella Maris) School, then Loreto School, the re-organisation to create Blessed William Davies School, – the Parish had never managed to acquire a Parish Hall or Meeting Rooms. In 1988 the large house immediately opposite the Church – ‘ Gowerdale ‘ – came on the market and this was purchased at a cost of £85,000 and refurbished and re-decorated at a further cost of £40,000 in order to create a Parish Centre. What a boon this has been to the Parish, but also to the whole comunity since the Centre is used by all the Parish organisations and inter – denominational groups as well as other social groups from the town. [Gowerdale was totally refurbished in 2002 as a joint Parish and Diocesan Centre and given the name ‘Stella Maris’].
In 1992, the Parish was host to the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, when, he formally visited the Diocese. As part of that visit His Excellency concelebrated Mass with the Bishop and Priests of the Diocese, with most of the Religious Women and Men of the Diocese and a large congregation present.
Great changes have happened in the life of our Parish in the last 100 years; greater changes will, no doubt, happen in the next 100 years! It is good to be able to record that the life of the Parish is keeping pace with the many changes in the Church which have taken place over that period – very notably since the Second Vatican Council. We can be extremely grateful to all those who have handed so much on to us; our great responsibility is to enhance that giving, so that in 100 years’ time our contribution to the life of the Parish can be noted and acknowledged.
To Monsignor Kelly came the great joy of the centenary celebrations of 1993.
The above history was originally written and published as an illustrated booklet to mark the centenary and to which Monsignor Kelly wrote the preface. It was compliled by Mrs. Margaret Amiel and Sr. Madeline Dunphy.
Monsignor Matthew Kelly died tragically in Liverpool in 1998, his identity not being discovered for some days, with great distress to his family and parish. By this time he had moved to Prestatyn on account of ill health. Following his funeral, Fr Antony Jones, his successor at Llandudo, held a memorial Mass for him in Our Lady Star of the Sea, when the church was full to overflowing.
Father Antony Jones (1998 –2016)
Father Antony Jones came to Llandudno from Pwllheli, where he had served as Parish
Priest from 1982. He came with his Welsh Terrier Hwyl. His initial days in Llandudno were marred by four bereavements in his immediate family over a very short space of time; this and the stress of moving parish, resulted in his suffering total exhaustion. He was off work for three months. In his absence, Fr David Lee of Llandudno Junction, took charge of the parish.
The Parish Council
Returning to the parish, his first task was to create a viable Parish Council. He enlisted the help of Mr Bill Homewood and together they hammered out a constitution for the new Parish Council which consisted of members representing both the parish and individual groups within the parish and which proved itself over the years. It is now a model PC of which the Parish is rightly proud and which serves the Parish with genuine concern for the
furtherance of the Kingdom of Christ in this place. Mr Homewood was its first Chairman.
Fr Antony also re-established the Finance Committee which dealt with Gowerdale, one
of the biggest problems facing the financial viability of the parish. The property Mgr Kelly had bought as a Parish Centre had never really been properly attended to, Mgr Kelly being too occupied with the School work with which he was totally involved. It was decided to refurbish Gowerdale from top to toe, creating a Parish Centre of the first floor and part of the second, with the rest of the building being converted into a flat for rent, preferably for a property warden. Fr Antony personally oversaw the whole of the refurbishment which included even the reordering and landscaping of the grounds.
It was decided that the Diocese would share the cost of the refurbishment and that the finished property would serve both as a Diocesan Centre as well as a Parish Centre. This purpose it has achieved most successfully ever since, with the local authority and other
groups also hiring out the rooms. The flat, which had been initially inhabited by Stan and Marie Cannon, was then occupied by Brian and Pauline Stewart, who served as the first Directors of the Centre. The property’s name was changed from “Gowerdale” to “Stella Maris”, to keep alive in the Parish the name of the school which initially bore that name.
In 2006 the Finance Committee felt that, in order to free up the priest more easily
to perform his priestly duties, a property manager was needed to oversee the ongoing and time-consuming maintenance needs of the listed church, the listed presbytery and Stella Maris. Father Antony invited John Dennison to this post which he kindly accepted, bringing to it a wealth of managerial experience and efficiency.
Perhaps the most well known person in the Parish at this time was Sr Jennifer, whom Fr
Antony invited to be his Parish Sister. She was known and loved universally throughout the Parish as a result of her serving twenty years in Stella Maris, the then Primary School, serving first as infants’ teacher then Head Teacher.
Originally a member of the Loreto Community, Sr Jennifer felt in 1976 that her vocation lay elsewhere. She renewed her religious vow and promises before Bishop Fox and became a Diocesan Sister. Her allegiance from then on was to the Bishop of the Diocese.
Before leaving her teaching profession in 1987, Sr Jennifer had bought a house in
Caroline Road, which she named Seren y Mor, the Welsh translation of Star of
the Sea. From 1987 to 2007, Sr Jennifer used her home for the benefit of others. First of all she was asked by Mgr Hannigan to take diocesan children-in-care for holidays. This was followed by various other groups of handicapped children and adults from England and Ireland who came with their carers.
Soon sisters from all over the country were coming to Seren y Mor throughout the
year for their holidays and retreats, where they felt safe and enjoyed peace and the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel. Several priests also took advantage of the opportunities that Seren y Mor held out to them.
As well as this work for the wider Church, Sr Jennifer was increasingly involved in the
Parish, taking Holy Communion to the sick, training the altar servers, caring
for the sacristy and attending to anything the Parish Priest asked of her. In 2007 she took the decision to donate her house and home to the Diocese, a gift which Bishop Regan accepted with wondering gratitude. He decided to convert it into three flats for retired priests, with Sr Jennifer occupying the ground floor for the duration of her life.
The transformation of the property took almost a year and a half. Mr John Dennison was personally in charge of overseeing the work and could take legitimate pride in its fine outcome.
While this work was being undertaken, Sr Jennifer moved into the Presbytery. As Fr Antony was on sick leave for several months during this time, Sr Jennifer’s presence in the Priest’s House proved quite providential.
In 2004 Sr Jennifer received the Papal Award Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for her work for the Parish and for the wider Church. Bishop Edwin came to Llandudno to present the
award and there were scenes of great rejoicing throughout the Parish.
Fr. Moses Amune, MSP ( 2016 – 2019)
Fr. Agbor Frederik Isek, MSP (2019 – 2021)
Fr. Innocent Abonyi, MSP (2021 – till date)