St Mary's Square Swansea City_of_Swansea Wales
Christianity first reached the Gower through Celtic missionaries. However, it was only with the arrival of the Normans that a church was first built in Swansea, possibly as early as the twelfth century. The Church of England was hampered in its response to the rapid industrialisation and rising population of Swansea from the mid eighteenth century onwards. Ineffective attempts to augment the seating capacity of St Mary’s were eventually superceded in the reign of Queen Victoria by the construction of new churches. Initiated by two dynamic Incumbents, Edward Burnard Squire and James Allen Smith, this ‘Church Extension’ has continued with fits and starts until the present day. The climax of Smith’s ministry was the reconstruction of St Mary’s itself in the 1890s when the fourteenth century chancel and tower with the eighteenth century nave were replaced by a unified Early English gothic design of Sir Arthur Blomfield. One of Blomfield’s draft designs, showing a spire that was never built Blomfield’s church was beautified internally throughout the early twentieth century, but tragically burned to the ground in February 1941 as a result of German bombing. Reconstruction took until 1959 to plan and execute. Financial reasons necessitated the design by Percy Thomas and Sons adopt the footprint of the Victorian edifice, although much of the internal decoration reflects more contemporary ecclesiastical art. Rebuilt almost in its entirety, St Mary’s possesses a rare artistic unity, product of the great vision of successive vicars Jack Thomas and Harry Williams.
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