A description of St Gabriel’s and St Augustine’s in 1915

[From J. Pugsley,  Church life and thought in Swansea (Swansea : Albert E. Davies, printer, 1915).]

(p. 22)

St. Gabriel’s Parish

This is the sister parish to Christ Church, and like it is the only other outpost in Swansea proper of definite life and practice. For some years past it has been worked on the same lines and conceptions as the sister Church, and with the formation in a portion of the parish of St. Augustine’s temporary wooden building, since replaced by a permanent brick structure, the mode of worship at this Mission centre has synchronized with that of Christ Church. Recently, the Altar lights have been adopted at the Mother Church as well, and with this addition the standard use throughout in both parishes is now practically identical. Naturally, holding and teaching together precisely similar ideas and conceptions, the relations between each parish for a considerable period have been fraternal and reciprocal. Both districts, too, formed originally portions of the huge parish of St. Mary, and for some years the services at St. Gabriel’s also were conducted on Evangelical lines, with a monthly Evening Communion, but on the advent of the Rev. John Simon (now Vicar of Brynmawr) to the Curacy — after holding a similar position at St. Matthew’s Welsh Church — he, and others, with the hearty consent again and assistance of the late Vicar, the Rev. John Pollock, founded and built up St. Augustine’s Mission, by means of which a fresh era of life and thought gradually permeated this parish too, so much so, that on the regretted decease of the Vicar, it had become another strong centre in the town of definite and consistent Churchmanship.

Mr. Pollock’s views — and he always resented any imputation of a change in them — are best portrayed in the letter — written not long before his death — which appears in the concluding portion of this brochure. I now bring this synopsis of past events to a close, having outlined as briefly as circumstances would permit, the principal local clergy and laity, who, in the past, and at the present time, have essentially contributed towards changing the atmospheric conditions of some of our parishes from their former Puritanical gloominess and heaviness, into brightness and robustness, but in due acknowledgment to yet another prominent layman connected locally with the “Oxford movement” whose name has not already been noticed, but who also in years past did yeoman service on its behalf, I must include the late Mr. Richard Glascodine. He, verily, was a patriarch in the Israel of the Church, and filled for many years various offices at Christ Church, viz., peoples’ Churchwarden, Diocesan lay reader and representative. Mr. Glascodine passed peacefully away at his later Sketty residence, in the Church’s faith and fear, full of years, and good deeds.

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I now continue to relate in corresponding order, and as concisely as possible, the further progress which has marked the spread of the “Oxford Movement” in, and around, Swansea, from the year 1906, to the present time.

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St. Gabriel’s Church

The sad, but not unexpected, death of the late beloved Vicar of St. Gabriel’s in the early part of 1911, after a declining illness of several years duration, and the preferment of the Rev. John Simon, by his Bishop, to the living of Brynmawr (the first Curacy served by the present Vicar of Christ Church), caused much anxious foreboding on the part of the parishioners with regard to the appointment of a successor, who would worthily continue the work of these respected priests on lines identical with the past, but all fears were thankfully dispelled when it became known that the Vicar of Swansea, as patron, had offered the benefice to the Rev. M. H. L. Williams, Senior Curate of Spitalfields Parish Church (the parish by the way in which the former Vicar of Christ Church commenced his ministerial labours), by whom it was accepted, and who is not only loyally and faithfully carrying on Mr. Pollock’s good work on the same lines as successfully accomplished by him before his demise, but is also steadily advancing and consolidating it to an appreciable extent.

The Lenten Season of this year, as before stated, has witnessed the adoption of Altar Lights, and the institution of a daily Eucharist at the Mother Church, which, I reiterate, is the wish of the Vicar to retain permanently, providing sufficient Communicants are forthcoming to warrant its continuance. [Footnote: This is still being continued here.] Moreover, commencing with Low Sunday last year, a Choral Eucharist, with sermon, at 9.30 a.m. was inaugurated every Sunday at the same Church.

The congregational memorial to the late Vicar, consists of a polished marble Sanctuary floor, and corresponding Altar Steps, of pale green, the substitution of brass standards for the hitherto iron ornamental work of the Altar rail, and the entire completion of the Oaken Reredos. The marble decoration has since been extended to the Chancel floor and steps, thus bringing these into complete harmony with the Sanctuary itself, besides adding dignity and refinement to the entire eastern portion of the building, and finally, to complete these embellishments, an Oak Rood Screen, richly gilded, surmounted by a lofty Cross, designed — as far as circumstances permitted — upon the characteristic treatment of mediaeval woodwork in Wales, has more recently been added, forming a welcome acquisition to the beautifully carved oak Reredos and Pulpit which characterize the interior of this stately and costly edifice.

The Screen is the gift of the brother of a deceased lady parishioner, and constant worshipper at St. Gabriel’s.

The cost of the other improvements was defrayed partly by Colonel Morgan (one of, the Churchwardens) — an ever generous benefactor to this Church and parish — and the remainder by the congregation. It had been hoped the South Aisle Chapel, already in existence, would have been fitted up with an Altar, and other requisite accessories, and utilized for early Celebrations, and the daily services, as a suitable memorial to Mr. Pollock, but it was deemed preferable to beautify and adorn, instead, the Sanctuary proper, which required additional enrichment as more befitting the place of the celebration of the Church’s highest act of Christian worship.

On Mr. Simon’s preferment, shortly anterior to the Vicar’s lamented death, the Bishop had appointed the Rev. Gwilym Smith — then Curate-in-charge of St. Martin’s, Dunvant — to take charge of St. Gabriel’s parish, and on the advent of the new Vicar, Mr. Smith remained there as Senior Curate, a position he maintained with eloquence and acceptance until his preferment in 1913, by the Lord Chancellor, to the living of Prendergast, from which Rectory, as previously stated, the Rev. D. Akrill Jones came to Sketty. Mr. Smith proved himself a capable successor to Mr. Simon, whose praiseworthy work was continued in precisely the same manner and method as heretofore.

The present Senior Curate of the parish is the Rev. D. Vaughan Williams (for a period attached to St. Peter’s, Newton), who further continues the teaching and practice at St. Augustine’s on lines identical with its foundation. This gentleman is now also Priest-in-charge of the Children’s Mission of the Good Shepherd, which has the Parish Hall with an apse properly fitted up, and an Altar, fully vested and adorned, as a place of assembly, from which quarter an annual Good Friday procession of Clergy, Conductors, and the children, perambulate portions of the parish.

The services at this second Mission — which originated with some enthusiastic young lay people, since the advent again of the present incumbent,— are performed on lines rather more advanced than those ordinarily observed at either of the Churches, and are largely attended on Sunday and Monday evenings.

The Choral Celebration at the Mother Church, on the greater Festivals, takes place at 8.30 a.m., but at St. Augustine’s, on these occasions — from the inception, practically, of the older building—there is a sung Eucharist at 11 o’clock, as-well as a regular monthly one on each fourth Sunday, at the same hour. Father Samson, of the “Community of the Resurrection,” at Mirfield, conducted in December last a week’s “Teaching Mission ” at the parish Church, with, it is hoped, much beneficial result. St. Gabriel’s parish, by the way, was the first in the town to start a contingent of the Church Lads’ Brigade.

I cannot terminate events relative to the progress of definite principles in this parish without referring to the demise, at his new residence in Cardiff — whither he had removed from Swansea — of Mr. Edward Arthur Smith, whose keen advocacy of the Catholic faith in all its fulness and practice, whilst resident here, will of necessity be long remembered by Church folk inhabitants. Mr. A. E. Smith was an earnest worker in many phases of the old and new St. Augustine’s buildings, and Sunday School, and considerably through his efforts and perseverance the permanent structure owes its existence. He, yet again, with the sympathy and co-operation of the late Clergy, was mainly instrumental in moulding the type of worship at St. Augustine’s on its present sound and reverent lines, for the due performance of which, he — wholly in some instances, and materially in others — contributed the necessary adjuncts. His intense zeal and diligence for the spread of the full Catholic faith in Swansea, and in other centres, will long be cherished in respectful remembrance.

Some reference to the unbounded liberality of Colonel Morgan, R.E., towards this Church and parish is here necessary, and must by no means be overlooked. As Vicar’s Churchwarden since its formation, and as owner, practically, of the whole of St. Helen’s district in which the parish is situated, his princely gifts include the presentation of the valuable plots of land upon which both Churches, the Vicarage House, and the commodious Parish Hall stand erected. Among other munificent gifts, it may be said, the entire cost of the spacious Chancel of St. Gabriel’s Church was defrayed at his own expense, in memory of a brother who fell in the Abyssinian War of 1868, and lies interred in St. Gabriel’s Cemetery in that country, hence the change of the dedication of the Church from St. Michael, as originally dedicated, to that of St. Gabriel as at present.

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The late Rev. John Pollock on the Welsh Church

The late Vicar of St. Gabriel’s wrote me early in the year 1910, as follows, “We are suffering from the negligence of our predecessors, and the awful apathy of Church people in the past, and everything cannot be righted in a few years.

The advance must come through the Church as a whole, and we have made great strides in the last 25 years. Even in Swansea thing’s are different. The Evangelical to-day is not slovenly as he was. Even in Welsh country places there is a vast improvement.

The improvement in teaching will follow by degrees. We are, of course, apt to blame the clergy, but in Wales we must remember the sources from which the clergy are largely drawn — the Protestant Non-conformity of their family for generations — this cannot all be unlearnt in a generation.

As the Church goes stronger, the clergy will be recruited from its own body, rather than from Non-conformity.”