During the 19th Century, the Port of Cardiff grew rapidly as coal from the mines in the South Wales valleys was exported across the world. The port and associated industries needed workers and Cardiff saw a huge inward migration of people from many different communities. Housing was built to accommodate these workers and new churches were built to meet their spiritual needs. The first church building on this site was opened in 1886 to accommodate the growing Anglican population in the Parish of Roath. It was a simple structure made of wood and iron but, being very much smaller in size than the present church, it couldn't accommodate the growing local community. The present building was begun in 1897 in a Gothic and richly decorated Victorian style and consecrated for worship on the 20 October 1901.

In the 1830’s  a small group of Oxford Dons was fired with fresh enthusiasm for the Gospel and concern for the Church of England.  The group which included Newman, Pusey and Keble began a movement that was to cause immense upheaval within the Church.  It was to have lasting influence on theology spirituality, liturgical practice and even church architecture.  In essence, the members of this group re-affirmed that Church of England had, since the Protestant Reformation in the 15th Century, and in its subsequent developments in the following centuries neglected its Catholic roots and identity.  The Oxford Movement, as this group was later known, would help the Church re-discover these vital roots.  Scholarship and theological orthodoxy, combined with personal sanctity and holiness were seen to be the way to achieve a renewed vision for the Church.  The teaching of the Oxford Movement has had its lasting influence upon the Anglican Church throughout the world.

Saint Martin’s from its first days has been a child of this movement.  Here today the Catholic Faith is taught and celebrated in the beauty and order of traditional catholic worship.  The daily celebration of Morning and Evening Prayer and the offering of the Mass punctuate each day of the year.  The daily round of worship and prayer nourishes and sustains the People of God and brings the needs and concerns of the community and the world before God in Prayer.

A Wider Perspective

During February 1941, the church was bombed and very little of the original building survived intact although the Calvary did and this is preserved on the north wall at the entrance to the Holy Cross Chapel. The present St. Martin's church rose from the charred ruins in 1951 and this is the church that you see today. The new building saw the heavy decorated tracery of the earlier windows replaced with early-English type lancets, giving a more open effect, and clear glass replacing the dark green glass. The Chancel and High Altar area were also lowered considerably at the same time.

During the war years Services were held in the Vicarage, the Choir Vestry and for the most part at St. Cyprian’s the second church in the parish.  On Saturday 17th December 1955 the present Church was re-dedicated and opened for worship.

The Parish was created on 20th May 1903, having previously been a part of the Parish of Roath.

Over recent decades, the development of the building has continued, with the inclusion of a great deal of devotional artwork by Frank Roper, representing different periods in his artistic life. The Lady Chapel Altar and statue of Our Lady and Child were additions to the church in the 1970s. The three Altars in the church are all of the same style, made of granite and vary only in their size. The Font which survived the bombing continued to be used and in recent years was re-built in it present position at centre of West of the Nave.

The Cloister on the North Front of the Church was built in 2010/11. It has given the North Front of the Church on Albany Road a new and welcoming appearance.  It was blessed by Archbishop Barry Morgan on 10th April 2011 during the Solemn Mass and opened the same day by Mr Peter Harling.

It has a variety of uses. First, it welcomes and engages all who pass by. It serves as an entrance into the Church.  We have invited local artists to use it as a 'gallery', the music students and the congregation have used it as a bar, coffee shop, a place of meeting and greeting.

At Saint Martin’s we continue to celebrate and teach the Christian Faith in the Catholic Tradition building on the foundations laid in 1886 when the first Church was opened on this site.

Fr Harry North

The High Altar circa 1920

Church circa 1920

Post War Reconstruction 1955