A description of St Gabriel’s and St Augustine’s in 1906

[From J. Pugsley,  Reminiscences of “definite” church progress in Swansea & neighbourhood during the last twenty years (Swansea : Albert E. Davies, printer, 1906)]

St Gabriel’s Church

My last descriptive Church in Swansea is that of St. Gabriel, really the final ecclesiastical district again detached from the Mother Parish of St. Mary by the late Vicar of Swansea, (now Dean of St. David’s) through whose indefatigable labours as before stated, this and several other Churches and Mission Rooms were erected during his incumbency here.

I believe I am correct in saying that at the time St. Gabriel’s (or St. Michael’s as the district was then called) was in course of erection, it was generally hoped its services would be of a somewhat different type to that which practically prevailed in all the other Churches of the town, so that at least one Church would be free from the domination of the traditions and patronage of the Parish Church, and the new building vested in independent patronage, probably in that of the Bishop of the Diocese.

Churchmen of all shades of opinion contributed towards its erection, but after its final completion, the Vicar of Swansea again acquired the patronage and appointed as first Vicar. the Rev. Vincent Young, who had been conducting services in the district for eighteen months in a temporary iron structure.

With regard to the general patronage question of the recently formed parishes in the town, as I explained in Part I, it is exclusively in the gift of the Vicar of the Parish Church, which living is well known to be securely vested in pronounced Evangelical Trustees, and consequently there is not the slightest safeguard that in the event of vacancies occurring in the two parishes which are at present worked — and that admirably —on moderate lines, and in strict accordance with legal pronouncements, the teaching and services will be continued on similar principles, in a manner acceptable to the congregations of both Churches, and as in the case of Christ Church, to which the people for many years have been more or less accustomed. An unfair method of arrangement surely.

I have a distinct recollection of being present at the first meeting which was held at the old Agricultural Hall under the presidency of the late Bishop Basil Jones, to consider the necessity of promoting Church extension in the town and district, at which the then Vicar of Swansea was also present, and during the discussion which took place, the question of the patronage of the proposed new churches was introduced by a zealous layman of the neighbourhood, who in the course of a weighty speech, called attention to this most important subject.

He pointed out that in a large town like Swansea, there was ample room for all shades of opinion, and he considered that two of the contemplated new edifices should be in the hands of the Bishop of the Diocese.

The Bishop subsequently expressed entire agreement with the gentleman as to the necessity of providing Churches in such a large centre in which services of various types should prevail, so that people who did not care for the method adopted at one Church could attend another, but as it will have been observed already, this just and equitable recommendation was eventually entirely disregarded, and as far as St. Gabriel’s was concerned, the services after its consecration were conducted in precisely the same manner as that in use at all the other newly erected Churches here, strictly Evangelical, with the usual accompaniment of Evening Communion.

On Mr. Young’s resignation of St. Gabriel’s, and preferment to a living in an English Diocese, he was succeeded by the Rev. John Pollock, then senior Curate of St. Mary’s, during whose vicariate a marvellous transformation in the character of the services has taken place, and this with practically the unanimous approval of the entire congregation, as evidenced from the facts of the Communicants’ roll having increased this Easter to 461, as compared with 160, in 1891.

St. Gabriel’s Church and Parish is now considered one of the most vigorous and largely attended churches in the town.

The teaching given is of a definite and healthy character and in perfect harmony with the Book of Common Prayer.

The ritual observed is of the simplest description, and merely consists of the Eastward Position and Coloured Stoles.

There is a beautifully carved Reredos and Pulpit, and the Altar ledge is adorned with a Cross and flower vases.

Daily services and weekly and Saints’ day Celebrations are in existence, with an early Choral Eucharist on the greater festivals.

Needless to say, the first progressive step taken by the Vicar was the abolition of Evening Communion, and it is also gratifying to add the “Three Hours” service on Good Friday has been observed here for some years.

In fact this, and the neighbouring Parish of Christ Church, are still the only places in Swansea proper, in which this truly Evangelical and simple form of devotion, finds a place in the services for that day.

St. Gabriel’s parish was the first in the town to start a battalion of the Church Lad’s Brigade, and now boasts of an exceedingly strong and smart contingent, other parishes have since formed detachments, viz., Christ Church, St. Mary’s, and Kilvey.

It is only right to state with regard to St. Gabriel’s, that Colonel Morgan, owner of nearly the whole of the estate of St. Helen’s district, in which this church and vicarage is situated, has acted from its commencement with the utmost munificence, not only presenting the valuable plots of land upon which both these edifices stand, but in addition thereto defraying the entire cost of the beautiful Chancel of the Church, in memory of a brother who was killed in the Abyssinian War of 1868, and who lies interred in St. Gabriel’s Cemetery in that country, and hence the change of dedication from the original St. Michael, to that of the present St. Gabriel.

Colonel Morgan has also shewn his liberality to this Church and Parish in numerous other directions, and has held the position of Churchwarden from the time of the former’s Consecration.

St. Augustine’s Chapel of Ease

For some years the Vicar worked single-handed in the Parish, until the Rev. John Simon was licensed to the Curacy, having relinquished his former Curacy at St. Matthews.

Mr. Simon has worked assiduously in the parish for ten years, and may be said to have been the means of infusing a more marked and distinctive tone to the Church’s ministrations in this particular locality.

Chiefly to his instrumentality the present chapel of Ease dedicated to St. Augustine owes its existence.

He originally conducted the services in a temporary wooden structure, which from the beginning became noted for their heartiness and extreme reverence.

Here the Eastward Position, Altar Lights, Coloured Stoles, and a Choral Eucharist on the fourth Sunday in the month, were first introduced into the parish, and so rapidly did the Communicants and general congregation increase, the latter on Sunday evenings particularly, that it became absolutely necessary to provide a more commodious and substantial building.

Colonel Morgan again chewed his generosity by presenting a further piece of land for the site, and with the united assistance of both congregations, St. Gabriel’s and St. Augustine’s, aided by outside friends and sympathizers, a plain but suitable building of brick, adjoining the West entrance to Brynmill Park, was speedily erected, and formally dedicated by the Bishop of St. David’s, in May 1905.

The ritual is precisely the same as characterized the services at the old building, except that a processional Cross, presented by the scholars and teachers of the Sunday School, has been used on festivals since the date of opening.

One noticeable feature in the Choral Eucharist at this Church, is the singing of the “Benedictus Qui Venit” immediately after the “Sanctus” instead of before the prayer of Consecration as is usual in the vast majority of our English Churches. In the first Reformed Prayer Book, of 1549, the “Sanctus” and “Benedictus” are inseparable, forming one complete hymn of praise, so that its revival at St. Augustine’s is unmistakeably Anglican in origin, and clearly in accordance with the mind of the first English reformers.

The same custom prevailed at St. David’s, Morriston to my knowledge during the early years of the Rev. Watcyn Morgan’s incumbency, but am unable to say if it is still continued. I understand it is likewise the use at St. John’s, Hafod.

A most successful Mission on distinctive Church lines was conducted in November last in both the Churches of St. Gabriel’s parish, which is destined to leave a lasting impression in the minds of many of the large congregations who were privileged to listen to the words of counsel and sacramental truth which the eloquent missioners did not hesitate to proclaim with all the means at their command.

On two successive Sundays the parish Church was filled with men only, who entered heartily into the spirit of the services, and on the last day of the Mission a celebration of Holy Communion was held at St, Augustine’s at the early hour of 4.45 a.m., exclusively for working then before proceeding to their work.

There were of course daily celebrations at both Churches during the progress of the Mission, and several administrations on the morning of its termination.

One result of this Mission has been the formation at St. Gabriel’s, of a devotional Guild for men, called St. Michael’s, which is being conducted on sound Church principles, the members of which commemorated their first Anniversary this year, on the festival of their patron Saint.

Choral Evensong with procession was held on the day itself, and a corporate Eucharist took place the following morning (Sunday).

A branch of the Church of England Men’s Society was further inaugurated after the Mission, both in this and the sister parish of Christ Church.

Another outcome of the Mission, was the introduction at St. Augustine’s of a weekly early celebration, and the appointment of servers at this holy ordinance.

There being only two clergy to minister to the wants of the congregations at both these Churches, Mr. Simon is compelled to hold the dual capacity of being Curate-in-charge of St. Augustine’s, and assistant priest at St. Gabriel’s, and prior to the holding of the Mission, St. Augustine’s people were content with two celebrations in the month, an early one on the second Sunday at 8 a.m., and Choral on the fourth at 11 a.m.

The privilege of a weekly Eucharist is gradually being fully appreciated. Last Easter Day, the Communicants at the 6.0 a.m. service at St. Augustine’s numbered 156, and at the Choral celebration at 10.30 a.m., 30, making a total in both churches of 647.

A flourishing Guild exists for boys and girls, known as the “Young Crusaders,” by means of which the rudiments of definite teaching can duly be implanted in the hearts and minds of the future generation of Church folk.

The same reverential awe which formed so marked a feature in the old building, pervades the new, and to all appearance this Church is destined to take its place—so long at least as the present clergy are attached to the parish—as another centre of sound Churchmanship in the town of Swansea.

At this point it is singularly fitting some allusion should be made to the loss the 11 faithful ” of St. Gabriel’s and St. Augustine’s Churches has sustained in the removal from Swansea to Cardiff, of Mr. Edward Arthur Smith, during whose fifteen or sixteen years’ residence in the town, has been foremost in promoting the spread of Catholic principles in our midst.

Mr. Smith for some years attended Christ Church, and was the originator of the Altar Lights at that Church, but of late years had been a regular worshipper and helper at the former Churches.

It will, I venture to think be conceded generally, this gentleman was foremost in advocating the many recent improvements which have taken place with respect to the character of the services at the parish Church of St. Gabriel, and also to a great extent in moulding the type of worship at St. Augustine’s.

He was elected the first president of the Guild of St. Michael, and on the introduction of Servers at St. Augustine’s, became one of that number, besides acting as Cross bearer at the new Church, and Sacristan at the old building.

He was also Superintendent of its Sunday School, and one of the Committee of the local branch of the Church of England Men’s Society, recently formed in the parish.

His business transactions necessitated him being from home the greater portion of the week, but in spite of this, he was always ready to devote Sunday after Sunday throughout the year to the service of the Church and Sanctuary, and in teaching to others the principles of the Catholic faith, of which he was so zealous an exponent. Swansea’s irreparable loss will be Cardiff’s immense gain, and the best wishes of his many admirers— mingled as they must be with deep regret at his departure — will accompany him to his new home, where amidst the more Catholic atmosphere of St. German’s, his unwearied energy will still further be utilized towards extending the great cause he has so much at heart, and which he so intensely loves.