A church on the site of St Margaret of Antioch's dates back to 1100. Despite the white-washers and vandals of the Reformation, much has lasted or been restored in a traditional style (note the vicars belonged to the Oxford Movement - the 'Anglo-Catholic' group at one time led by the future Cardinal Newman, and the Marquess of Bute who had the church rebuilt was himself a Catholic).
As their website says:
The church of St Margaret of Antioch, the parish church of Roath, Cardiff, is an interesting one.
There was a chapel here – ‘the Chapel of Raht’ – soon after 1100, founded by the Norman Lord Robert Fitzhamon, as a Chapel of Ease to his Priory Church of St Mary in Cardiff. A little whitewashed building, thick-walled and low, served the needs of this ancient hamlet, inhabited since Roman times, and now, for the Normans, the home farm for the castle, its pastures supplying meat, fish, butter and cheese.
St Mary’s and its chapels were given by Fitzhamon to his monastic foundation of Tewkesbury Abbey, which provided clergy, wine and wax to the chapel of Roath until the Reformation, and in return received its tithes. The ghost of a long-dead Benedictine chaplain is said to haunt the church to this day!
In 1766, John Stuart, son of former Prime Minister the Earl of Bute, married Charlotte Jane Windsor, the heiress to the Welsh lands of the Herbert family. Through this marriage he acquired Cardiff Castle and vast tracts of land throughout Glamorgan. In 1792, he bought a parcel of land called the Friars Estate, which included the living of the Parish of Roath, and when his wife Charlotte died in 1800, he built a family burial chapel or mausoleum here, adjoining the chancel of the church, and with space for 48 coffins. This was intended to be the resting place of his family for generations to come.
In 1839, the second Marquess of Bute, his grandson, opened Cardiff’s first dock, and this, together with the canal and the railway, led to Cardiff’s becoming a major port, the iron and coal of the Glamorgan valleys exported all over the world. The local population boomed as a result of this industrial growth, and the little church in Roath was by then too small to cater for the needs of the people.
In 1868, the old church was demolished and the third Marquess, now aged 21 and a Roman Catholic, brought in local architect John Prichard, restorer of Llandaff Cathedral, to build a state-of-the-art Gothic church. The new church opened, to great acclaim, in 1870, though without Prichard’s planned tower and spire.
Ten years later, the Marquess rebuilt the Mausoleum, incorporating it into the body of the church. Because of the family’s Catholicism, no further burials took place.
In the later years of the 19th century, Roath was a flagship parish in the Anglican Communion, staffed by young energetic clergy inspired by the Oxford Movement, and taking Word and Sacrament to the people of this corner of Cardiff, ‘more like a colonial town than anywhere else in Britain’!
Tour of the ChurchFrom outside the church looks rather plain, its dark grey Pennant sandstone topped by a stumpy tower, raised as a War Memorial in 1926. The surrounding churchyard, though full to capacity, has lost most of its gravestones, in a 1969 attempt to ‘tidy it up’! But the churchyard wall survives, parts of it dating from medieval times, much older than the building it surrounds.
Rebuilt in the 1880’s, this chapel is a deluxe version of the style of the church, with profuse foliage carving, a brick vault and a beautiful mosaic of Christ in Majesty high on the west wall.
The fine pipe organ was originally a 3-manual built by Bevington & Sons, but was raised into an organ loft to create the space below for a choir vestry by Hill Norman & Beard and re-built as a 2-manual in the early 1950s. In 2008 it was further updated by conversion to digital logic and switching.
To be ready to celebrate the Millennium, in 1999 St Margaret’s installed floodlighting as part of a national scheme to floodlight churches, and received partial sponsorship of the capital cost from the Millennium Commission. The running costs are met by church members donating each week in celebration or memory of family events or loved ones.