(Text from a pamphlet published in 1954 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Church of St. Luke.)
A Brief History
We are celebrating in this year of Our Lord 1954, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church of St. Luke. The actual date was Thursday, the 7th July, 1904, the ceremony being performed by the Bishop of Llandaff.
It may come as a surprise to those unacquainted with the history of St. Luke's to know that its roots go back some considerable time prior to that date, although its age cannot, of course, compare with the many ancient foundations in the Diocese. In March 1857, Canon Hawkins, then Vicar of the Parish of St. Woolos, addressed an appeal to the parishioners and all interested in the spiritual welfare of the Parish, in which appeared the following statement:-
"The population of that part of St. Woolos not included within the District Parish of St. Paul, cannot be less than 10,000 and will ere long exceed that number, and it must be painfully evident to all thoughtful members of the Church in this town how insufficient her present appliances are toward enabling her to maintain the position she ought to hold as a Teacher of the people, and especially as charged with supplying Spiritual instruction and comfort to the poor. What I think we are called to provide with the least possible delay is a building capable of accommodating 300/400 persons somewhere in the neighbourhood of Banes Well wherein Divine Service may be performed. I have much pleasure in being enabled to state that a site has been kindly granted for such building and I hope ere long to have an opportunity of explaining to you more particulars of the details of my proposed scheme."
It is evident that this appeal to the conscience of the parishioners soon bore fruit, for on April the 15th, 1857, at a Public Meeting in the Town Hall, it was decided to open a Subscription List and to solicit contributions to erect, at a moderate cost, a building suitable for public worship in Baneswell on a site generously presented for the purpose by Sir Charles Morgan, Bart. A Committee was formed consisting of the following Members:- Octavious Morgan, Esq., M.P. ; Sir Thomas Phillips; Rev. W. Feetham ; Messrs. S. Campbell; W. S. Cartwright; Henry J. Davis ; ?. Gratrex ; D. Harrhy; R. P. Jones; Charles Lyne ; F. J. Mitchell; John Morgan; Thomas Morris; I. J. Nicholas; F. Powell, Jnr. ; R. Toogood.
As a result of this effort the foundation stone of the building, erected and furnished at a total cost of £884 10s. 0d., and known as St. Mark's Chapel of Ease, in the Parish of St. Woolos, was laid by Lady Morgan on the 27th August, 1857. On the 15th April, 1858, it was ceremoniously opened for Divine Service when the Lord Bishop of Llandaff preached in the morning, and the Archdeacon of Monmouth in the evening.
The Parish Records reveal that the rapid increase in the population of Newport was creating ever new problems for the Church. At a, meeting on 16th December, 1861, with this problem in mind, it was decided to take steps to form a separate Ecclesiastical District to be called the Parish of St. Mark, and a Public Meeting was held in the Town Hall on 13th January, 1870 in order to enlist general sympathy and financial support for this purpose. The outcome was the laying of the foundation stone of the present St. Mark's Church by Lady Tredegar in July, 1872, and the Church was consecrated and opened for Divine Service by the Lord Bishop of Llandaff in 1874. The Reverend Thomas Llewellin Lister, Curate of St. Woolos, was appointed the first Incumbent of the new Parish.
Here we have the explanation why the Chapel of Ease of St. Mark had to change its name to that of St. Luke.
In 1882, the Rev. Edward Hawkins resigned and the Living of St. Woolos was offered to, and accepted by the Rev. William Conybeare Bruce. It is interesting to note that this was the first appointment to this Benefice by the Bishop of Llandaff. Previously the Patronage was vested in the Bishop of Gloucester.
At the St. Woolos Easter Vestry meeting of 1893, the following interesting information was recorded:
'' That the leases of two houses at the rear of St. Luke's would fall in at the end of two years and that the renewal of the leases had been refused in view of the possibility of the enlargement of St. Luke's Church."
A digression is in our perusal of the history of St. Luke's but its relevance will soon become clear. Archdeacon Bruce in 1895 once again drew attention to the need of providing a new Church as soon as possible to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population. Lord Tredegar was approached and he provided a site in Risca Road for this purpose. The Archdeacon proposed building a church named after St. Gwladys, the wife of St. Gwynllyw (St. Woolos) as a Chapel of Ease to the parish church. The matter was deferred owing to the difficulty of raising the necessary funds concurrently with the exhaustive canvassing for funds for a new hospital in the town. Two years later application was made to the Archdeacon on behalf of the St. John Baptist Mission for the transfer to them of the site of the proposed St. Gwladys Church and to separate for them an Ecclesiastical District from the Parish of St. Woolos. It was agreed to transfer the Risca Road site to the St. John Baptist Mission, subject to the consent of Lord Tredegar, the donor. Reasons for adopting this course were both financial and doctrinal. The St. Woolos Parochial financial resources were strained in order to maintain the Church Schools, making it impossible to undertake new building operations at that time and to provide for an additional curate which the scheme would make necessary. It was felt, too, that the St. John Baptist Mission which had been working in the parish for over 20 years and had many devoted communicants and workers, possessed strong claims for help in finding a permanent home. Efforts to find a permanent home in other parts of the town had failed. A point which has been recorded in support of the transfer was that the teaching of St. John Baptist Mission was not in harmony with that of the parish clergy and this resulted in an intolerable strain on all concerned and especially upon the vicar of the parish of St. Woolos who was responsible for all that was taught and done within his parish. The upshot was that the transfer was agreed upon and Archdeacon Bruce sought permission of Lord Tredegar to put it into effect. This was readily given, and at the same time Lord Tredegar very generously promised to give the site of the houses in Railway Street behind the east end of St. Luke's Church. In the Press, there appeared simultaneously the announcements of the severance of the separate Ecclesiastical District for St. John Baptist Mission and the intention to rebuild an enlarged St. Luke's Church which would extend from Bridge Street to Railway Street. It is evident that the Parish of St. Woolos was now to devote its full energies to further the latter scheme.
A building fund was opened for subscriptions and tremendous efforts made to raise the sum of £4,000, the first estimated cost of the new building. Towards the end of the year 1901, the Vicar of St. Woolos, Archdeacon Bruce, resigned the Living and was succeeded by the Rev. Benjamin Lloyd. One of his first acts was the formation of a committee consisting of the churchwardens of St. Woolos and Chapel Wardens of St. Luke's, with the sidesmen of both churches and clergy ex-officio. This committee invited tenders for the erection of a new church according to the plans prepared by Messrs. Habershon and Fawckner of Newport and Cardiff. The tender of the builders, Messrs. A. S. Morgan, amounting to £4,240, was accepted and the contract signed (one can but wonder what the cost of so large a building would be now, fifty years later). In addition to this sum, with various extras, architect's fees and the sum of £310 (the purchase price of the lease of one cottage in Railway Street), the total sum required was estimated to be £5,000.
The laying of the foundation stone of the new church took place on the 3rd September, 1903. A large number of people attended the service, which was conducted by the Vicar of St. Woolos, the Rev. Benjamin Lloyd, and witnessed the ceremony which was performed by F. J. Mitchell, Esq., J.P., of Llanfrechfa Grange, who was the only surviving trustee and the only surviving member of the committee formed to erect the original Chapel of Ease opened in 1858. Mr. Mitchell was presented with a silver trowel by the Architects. Among those present on the platform with the Vicar and Mr. Mitchell were the Reverends Canon Harding (Monmouth), Canon Bedwell (Caerleon), D. Bowen of Bassaleg, J. E. Dunn (Griffithstown), Gower Jones (St. Luke's), L. E. Richardson (St. Woolos}, W. A. Peters (St. Paul's), and F. W. Cropper (Seamen's Institute). Mrs. F. J. Mitchell, Llanfrechfa Grange, Messrs. A. J. Stevens, J.P. ; H. S. Lyne, T. Cordy, C. H. Gillard, J. Davies, J. A. Gaccon, E. H. Fawckner (representing the Architects), and A. S. Morgan (representing the contractors). (A photograph of this ceremony is still extant but unfortunately not in good enough condition to reproduce in this brochure).
During the building of the new church the worship of the church continued elsewhere. Early in 1904 there was a general Mission held simultaneously in the Parishes of St. Woolos, St. Paul's, Holy Trinity, St. Mark's, All Saints' and St. John Baptist, and it is recorded that the Mission Services for St. Luke's were held at the Town Hall.
By July, 1904, the new Church at St. Luke's was completed and opened for Divine Service on Thursday, July 7th. As early as1 5 o'clock in the morning and again at half-past seven, the only relic of the old building, the one-tongued bell, called the people to Church for the Celebration of Holy Communion. At 11 o'clock came the Service of Dedication and Mattins. There was a large congregation and the Service opened with the Hymn "Blessed City, Heavenly Salem," accompanied by Mr. A. J. Gaccon, Organist at St. Woolos. During this Hymn, Clergy and Choir processed round the Church. As there were 50 choir boys and as many men, the long hymn was hardly finished before all had taken their places in the Chancel. Dedicatory prayers were offered by the Bishop of Llandaff at the Font, the Pulpit, the Lectern and the Altar; then followed the Service of Mattins, conducted by the Rev. Gower Jones, assisted by the Rev. E. L. Richardson. The Lessons were read by the Rev. T. L. Lister and Canon Bedwell. The Sermon was preached by the Bishop, who took for his text the last two verses of Psalm 24 which had been sung, "Lift up your heads O ye Gates, and be ye lift up ye Everlasting doors : and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory : even the Lord of Hosts, He is the King ol Glory." The Bishop in his address said that those words may have been sung at the Dedication of Solomon's Temple when the Ark of the Covenant was taken there; he spoke of the wanderings of the Ark - the Symbol of the Presence of God - and concluded with the remark that the pertinent question which all present that day should ask themselves was whether they were saved by the Power of Him who was among them that day in St. Luke's. That was why Churches such as they were dedicating that day were being erected because it was there that God's work was chiefly done.
After the Service there was a public Luncheon at the King's Head Hotel, attended by the Lord Bishop of Llandaff, the Mayor of Newport (Councillor W. Phillips), many visiting Clergy and Lay-members of the Church.
As previously stated, the Church occupies the site of the old Church, together with the ground upon which formerly stood four cottages facing Railway Street, The Church therefore extends from Bridge Street right through to Railway Street, the total length being some 142 feet and the breadth 60 feet. The Church consists of Nave, flanked; by side aisles, a spacious Chancel, Side Chapel, Organ Chamber and two vestries for Clergy and Choir. The Architects adopted the early English style of Architecture as being simple and suitable to an inexpensive building which of necessity must be plain. The walls were carried up in local stone with free stone dressings. The West elevation fronting Bridge Street is surmounted by a Bell Turret, the top of the Cross being 70 feet from the ground. Approximately 800 people, including 50 in the Choir stalls can be seated. The aisles are divided from the Nave by five Arches resting on stone columns. The Chancel arch is 33 feet in height. Considering its position, having buildings very close on either side, the Church is exceptionally light. The windows are all lancets, glazed with tinted lead lights, with the exception of six which have since been replaced by stained glass windows. The Aisle and Clerestory windows have three lights but at the East end there is a very large window of five lights and at the West end a large three-light window. The floor of the Chancel is tiled and the aisles and vestries are laid with wood blocks. To these structural details a brief description of the furnishings may be of interest. The Organ is that of the former Church which had been thoroughly overhauled and rebuilt in the organ chamber by Messrs. Vowles of Bristol. The font also came from the old Church and is traditionally placed at the West door; the seating consists of pews of Canadian Pine. The Oak Pulpit was presented by the Wardens and Sidesmen of St. Luke's and the oak Lectern with the figure of an Angel, which now stands in the Lady Chapel was presented by the Rev. Gower Jones's Bible Class. The Pulpit was erected by Mr. T. Frederick from the Architects' design and the same local Craftsman designed and carved the Lectern. A number of the windows are now of stained glass representing Biblical themes; these have been presented to the Church from time to time. Those in the North wall running from West to East bear the following inscriptions:-
1.To the Glory of God and in grateful memory of Robert John Parsons, Sidesman of the Church. Erected by Public Subscription.
2. To the Glory of God and in remembrance of Ellen Maria Littlejohns. Erected by her Son, Alexander Littlejohns.
3. To the Glory of God and in memory of Henry Wallace Dowdall. Given by Mrs. Dowdall.
4. To the Glory of God and in memory of Henry Wallace Dowdall. Erected by Jane Corras.
5. To the Glory of God and in memory of John James and Ada James. Presented by their Family.
The two stained glass windows in the South wall record the following words:-
1. To the Glory of God and in Beloved Memory of David Henry Griffiths, Vicar of St. Woolos, 1908 - 1926, Archdeacon of Monmouth 1921 - 26. Erected in Commemoration of the Monthly Men's Services.
2. To the Glory of God and in memory of John Hoddell who served this Church as Sidesman and Church Warden, 1907-1936 ; also of his wife Gertrude.
Entering the Church one's attention is immediately drawn to the Altar and Reredos, above which towers the five lights of the stained glass East window. The Altar is of wood, the front carved and embossed and decorated in Gold, Blue and Red. The Reredos is also of carved wood and decorated; it consists of five panels; the centre panel is recessed and carries the carved figure of Our Lord depicted as The Good Shepherd, His Right Hand extended in Blessing, the left arm carrying a Lamb and Pastoral staff.
The design of the large East Window is intricate and varied. In the top half of the centre light Christ is depicted as King, crowned and robed with the Cross in the background, saying to the world, "My Peace I Give Unto You." The lower half shows the figure of the Blessed Virgin holding the Christ Child and tended by Angels. The two immediate lights portray Adoring Angels, Archangels and figures of wounded Servicemen. The two outside lights contain the figures - head and shoulders - of St. George, Dewi Sant, Caradog, King Alfred, Saint Gwynllyw, St. Gwladys, St. Cattwc, St. Dyfryg, the Bishop of Llandaff, Lord Tredegar and Admiral Nelson. There is also the full figure of St. Luke, the Good Physician, supporting a wounded soldier. A Wall Tablet bears the following words:- "The East Window is erected to the Greater Glory of God and in grateful commemoration of the sacrifices and service rendered by the women of Newport and Gwent during the Great War 1914-18." A second tablet records the following words :- "The Reredos is dedicated as a companion memorial to the East window, Ascension Day, 1922."
The Brass Communion rail was presented by St. Luke's Women's Guild in 1909 to the Greater Glory of God and in appreciation of the work of the Rev. Benjamin Lloyd.
The Pulpit was presented by the Wardens and Sidesmen of St. Luke's. The brass Lectern was presented by William and Jane White in memory of their son, Alfred John, who lost his life in the 1914-18 War, and for the safe return of sons and sons-in-law.
The Communion plate includes the following gifts: a Silver Chalice and two Silver Patens presented by Lady Tredegar in 1859 (These are inscribed St. Mark's, reminding us of the original name of the Chapel of Ease); a Silver Chalice presented in 1911 by William Sully a church warden; a Silver Alms Dish given in memory of Mary Platt in 1934; a large Water Cruet given by Mrs. Wilson and a Silver Wafer Box and Set of Cruets presented in memory of James H. Davies by his family.
The Vases on the High Altar and the Missal Stand inscribed, "In memory of John Henry and Florence Ellen Swallow" were presented by Kathleen Swallow. The Processional Cross was purchased in 1953 out of monies left to the Church by Alexander Littlejohns. It carries the inscription, "To the Glory of God and in memory of Alexander Littlejohns, a generous benefactor and life-long member of this Church."
The Font Ewer was given in memory of Hannah Saysell by Harold Saysell and his family.
The Lady Chapel contains the following gifts: A Credence Table given in memory of Mrs. D. Frost Jones; Vases and Candlesticks the gift of John Gabb in memory of Elizabeth Clara Gabb, and the Oak Screen was presented by Mrs. Gates in memory of her father, John Platt, Church Warden from 1907-1920.
The above list of gifts is by no means exhaustive, for many and varied gifts have been made by others, especially the St. Luke's Sewing Guild. Over the years the Guild has also handed to the Church Officers many hundreds of pounds, the result of devoted and unremitting labour.
To mark this special year of Jubilee the following gifts have been promised. A new Credence Table for the High Altar by Miss Edith Parry in memory of her sister Ethel, gifts by the Churchwardens, and a new stole by Mrs. Radford.
St. Luke's has always been well served musically. The choir is mixed, consisting of ladies, men and boys. The men and boys are surpliced, and to specially mark this year the ladies will in future wear caps and gowns. Miss Edith Watkins (later Mrs. Humphries) was the organist during the last days of the old church, when services were held in the Town Hall, and during the early years of the new Church. Her successors were Mr. R. Poole, Mrs. H. Edwards, Mrs. Powell Davies, Messrs. H. Taylor, G. Page, J. Thomas, Miss K. Swallow, Messrs. R. B. Clarke and P. J. Carney. The last-named is our present organist and Choir Master.
More closely associated with St. Luke's in its early days than with the rest of the Parish were the Church Army Sisters who took care of the Mission Room in Waters Lane; the first and probably best remembered being Sister J. V. Day, still living in retirement at Caerleon.
A tower of strength to the new Church of St. Lukes for the first decade was the Men's Bible Class, which at one time numbered some 80 members, and it is worth noting that some half-dozen members of this group became ordained Priests. It was also from this Bible Class and the St. Woolos and St. Luke's Institute that the Men's Service Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Mr. J. H. Swallow, who became Mayor of Newport. This Committee arranged a monthly Men's meeting addressed by the Venerable Archdeacon D. H. Griffiths on subjects, of the Committee's choice. It was the Great War of 1914-1918 that dealt this Men's organisation a death blow.
As is right and proper, members of St. Luke's have always loyally supported the various organisations of the Mother Church St. Woolos. Recent experiments, however, in running certain independent groups have met with resounding success. The St. Luke's Young Wives, under able leadership, is a body growing in strength, and a new branch of the Girls' Guildry is succeeding beyond expectation. These successes augur well for the future of the Church.
The first Vergers of the present St. Luke's were Mr. and Mrs. Bale, who with their family later emigrated to Australia. They were succeeded by Mr. and Mrs. James Davies, who served 25 years; Mr. and Mrs. Woodman who served 2 years, and Mr. and Mrs. Williams, the present vergers, who have held the position for 17 years.
These reminiscences may be fittingly closed with a tribute to the Jubilee Committee and all those friends of the church who contributed so generously to the Jubilee Fund. It was in 1950 that the Reverend F. T. Secombe, the then Curate in charge of St. Luke's, convened a meeting and pointed out that the Golden Jubilee of the church occurred in 1954 and it was time to commence preparations for its Celebration. A Jubilee Fund was started with a target of £1,000 to be used for various Church needs. The most urgent was the complete renewal of the lighting system, which was inadequate and failed to meet modern safety standards.
Members of the congregation and parish were invited to subscribe regular weekly sums. Subscribers were divided into groups, each of which was made the responsibility of a voluntary collector. The scheme has proved wonderfully successful. Amounts thus subscribed, augmented by the proceeds of parish functions and private donations has ensured reaching the target by Jubilee Week. The Church is deeply grateful to all who have so generously subscribed to and for the Jubilee Fund. It can be recorded that some of the purposes for which the fund was raised have been achieved. A new and satisfactory lighting system has been installed and the church has been furnished with new hassocks.
A Goodly Heritage
Most of those who laboured fifty years ago to provide in the centre of Newport a worthy house of God, have passed to higher service in their Lord's Kingdom, but St. Luke's remains as an abiding monument to their faith, devotion and love.
On this the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of our Church we give thanks to God for the heritage which they have bequeathed to us and to those who come after us. They laboured and we enjoy the fruits of their labour. As with so many of our more familiar blessings, we tend to take this goodly heritage for granted. In order to get a true perspective, try to imagine the destruction of St. Luke's as the result of some sudden disaster. What a gap would be created in the spiritual life of our Parish and of Newport. Seen in this light we appreciate more clearly our debt to our spiritual forbears of 1904. Their faith in God's Church and its future is manifested by the size and quality of the building which they erected to the glory of God.
To-day we are the stewards entrusted with the privilege of worshipping in, and caring for, this house of God. Now is our opportunity to prove worthy of those who have gone before Today there is a seat for each one of us in St. Luke's, a place at the altar rails. They are ours now. Soon the day will dawn when others will occupy these places and we shall have passed to the bourne whence no traveller returns.
Will the people of fifty years hence recall with gratitude our faith and zeal? Or will they regard the nineteen-fifties as a somewhat barren period in the life of St. Luke's? The answer to that question depends on you, the Church people of St. Luke's, and those who live in the area surrounding the Church.
The people of St. Luke's certainly have a wonderful opportunity to serve. Fifty years is a comparatively short time in the life of a Church, but in these two generations a worthy tradition has been established. Senior people at St. Luke's remember with pride the glory of past years. Again, we have literally on our doorstep a great task to hand. Within earshot of the Church bell there lives a population who could fill even the spacious St. Luke's several times over.
Here is our field of service, the field to which God calls the people of St. Luke's.
Our task is great; our opportunity is great. What trust Christ has in us! Give Him our Trust in like measure and He will provide the means and strength whereby we may triumphantly fulfil our high calling.
Let the present and future equal the achievements of the past. So shall we prove worthy of our heritage.
As Vicar of the Parish, I am proud to have such a fine Church in our midst; I am proud of those who serve her so faithfully and well; and in God's name I call all those who owe her loyalty and service to shoulder their responsibilities and opportunities and write a new and glorious chapter in the history of St. Luke's.
R. ELLIS EVANS,
Dean of Monmouth and Vicar of St. Woolos.