The church is located close to the oval, the site of cell of the early Celtic Christian hermit, St Isan, known as St Isan’s well, and there is still, in existence, a large pond fed by a spring at the spot. Christ Church is one of three post second world war Anglican places of worship to be build in Cardiff. The Church in Wales was keen to respond to the rapid expansion of North Cardiff in the 1950s and 1960s and even earlier in the 1930s and in particular to serve the areas around Roath Park and lake.
The land on which the church and adjacent church hall now stands was purchased just before the Second World War in 1939. In 1937 at a specially convened parish meeting of Llanishen parish church it was decided that a scheme for providing a church to serve the lake road district be proceeded with. A committee was formed to advance the scheme and there was considerable financial support as a result of public appeals. In April 1939 the site for the new church was bought in lake road north, for the sum of £800, out of the funds collected, and the land was vested in the representative body of the church in wales. Owing to the war the plans for the church were forced into abeyance, and because of the ban on the erection of churches following the war the building of Christ Church did not commence until the 1960s.
The work on the church building was started in 1963, the foundation stone being laid on 27 may 1963 by Mrs Rita Gibson. The architect was H Norman Haines and the church was built by Norman E James Ltd. The consecration service was held on 11 march 1964 by the right Revd Glyn Simon, bishop of Llandaff. The church became a daughter church to St Isan Llanishen, along with St Denys Lisvane, St Faith Llanishen and Ton-yr-Ywen Heath, and remained as such for thirty years until it was created a parish church with a parish of its own in 1993. It was consecrated as the new parish church at a service held on 8 September 1993 conducted by Bishop Roy, Bishop of Llandaff.
Following its beginnings as the centre of the new parish of Llanishen Christ Church, it has undergone several name changes in order to locate it more precisely. In June 1998, following a decree by Bishop Roy of Llandaff, the name was changed to parish of Cardiff Christ Church and more recently, on 2 April 2001 following a decree by Bishop Barry of Llandaff, the name of the parish was amended to parish of Christ Church, Roath Park, Cardiff.
Christ Church is built on a square open plan with pronounced glazed gables projecting in three directions and supported internally on concrete pillars. The low aisles are faced with brown brick. The pitched roof is supported by steel lattice trusses on a reinforced concrete ring beam, itself in turn supported by four reinforced concrete columns. The pitched roof covering is natural slate, while the flat roofs are covered with asphalt. Due to the uneven nature of the ground, it having been marshy due to brick working in the earlier part of the century the foundations had to be specially adapted. The design has been influenced by the church of St Paul’s, Bow Common, London (architects, Maguire & Murray), but it is on a simpler scale. Instead of the usual alignment east and west, the altar end at Christ church is facing to the north west.
Various features have been added to the church during the decades, first as a daughter church to St Isan and subsequently as a parish church in its own right. It includes many interesting metalwork features designed by the sculptor, Mr Frank Roper.
Frank Roper: The Sculptor in Metal
Frank Roper was born on 12 December 1914 and died on 3 December 2000 aged 85 years. He was born in Haworth, Yorkshire where his grandfather had a stone-carving shop. He attended Keighley School of Art, where he met his future wife Nora Ellison, and together they went on to study at the Royal College of Art.
Frank Ropers important church commissions are the lettered panel for the tomb of Bede at Durham Cathedral (1970), the Lady Chapel screen at St Davids Cathedral (1973) and his Crucifixion at Peterborough Cathedral (1974). With his wife he made architectural glass, and important examples of their work can be seen at St Peters Church, Chippenham (1968).
Outside his ecclesiastical commissions Roper worked on such pieces as mythical figures and animated constructions.
His association with Wales, and in particular with Cardiff began when, after appointments at art colleges in Lincoln and Sheffield, he was appointed Vice-Principal at Cardiff College of Art in 1947, where he remained until his retirement in 1973. He tended to think of teaching as a temporary measure, and was happiest when creating his own works of art. He established a foundry on the ground floor of his home in Penarth, where he executed many of his commissions.
In the 1950s he became interested in aluminium as a medium for sculpture, and invented the process of lost-polystyrene casting. During this time he worked closely with George Pace, Jacob Epstein and John Piper in the restoration of Llandaff Cathedral.
Many of the metalwork features within Christ Church have been designed and made by Frank Roper. Some of them represent the original furnishings, while others have been added at later dates. The exterior of the church also displays a number of decorative features designed and made by him.
The high altar or holy table, occupying the central position in the church, is cast in reinforced concrete. It was installed in 1964. Frank Roper designed this as well as a similar one for the Lady Chapel. Its vertical faces are fluted and a Maltese cross (8½ high x 8½ wide) is incised in the centre of the north face of the pedestal. Around the base of the pedestal runs the following inscription on the west, south and east sides IN MEMORIAM NORMAN MURRAY INGLEDEW 1880 1963. (Note: the altar is thought to have been installed back to front, as the Maltese cross should have faced the congregation). Norman Murray Ingledew was the owner of the land when it was purchased in 1939 for the future building of Christ Church. Incised into the altar top are one central cross (3″ square) and another four crosses: one at each corner. The elevated floor surround within the sanctuary is of slate.
[Instead of the usual alignment east and west, the altar end of Christ Church is actually facing north west.]
Missal Stand and Sanctuary Candlesticks
The missal stand is an angled wooden book rest used on the altar and mounted on a cast aluminium frame/support by Frank Roper. The pair of sanctuary standard candlesticks standing on either side of the altar are in cast aluminium, also by Frank Roper. These were original fittings.
A processional cross designed by Frank Roper, with a cast aluminium head painted gold and with the cross in sun motif and a wooden shaft, is carried in procession and placed immediately in front of the altar in a special slot at the foot of the altar pedestal during services. There is no permanent cross on the altar.
The communion rails to the east, west and south sides of the sanctuary are in afrormosia wood supported on slim steel posts.
Above the altar is a suspended altar canopy or baldachino in cast aluminium, with three glass lights inlaid in the lower panel and depicting the Trinity (in the form of sun, lamb with flag and dove) and Chi-Ro and Alpha and Omega symbols in panels above. The whole structure is suspended from the roof by three wires and with two altar spotlights mounted on the lower panel. This distinctive feature was also designed and executed by Frank Roper.
Pulpit and Lectern
Against the north wall and to the west and east side of the high altar stand the pulpit and the permanent lectern. Both are constructed from cantilevered reinforced concrete, springing ambo-style from the rear sedilia dais and approached by two steps.
In each case the floor finish and stair treads are of slate. The concrete seat is corbelled from the north wall and is covered with a red leather cushion; the aluminium balustrade with afrormosia handrail designed by Frank Roper supports an angled hardwood book rest and the cast aluminium reading lamp, with a curved metal stem, springs from a hardwood post on the side. These lamp brackets were designed by Frank Roper and added to the pulpit and lectern at a later date.
Bishop Coat of Arms
Behind the altar against the north wall is the sedilia bench where the clergy and assistants sit facing the altar and the congregation. Above the vicar’s central seat there is a small coat of arms in cast aluminium by Frank Roper portraying the crest of the Bishop of Llandaff. It is oval in shape, painted blue and containing two keys and crossed sword, the symbols of St Peter and St Paul, two of the saints to whom Llandaff Cathedral is dedicated. The oval is surmounted with three bishops’ mitres representing the three Celtic saints to whom the Cathedral is also dedicated: St Dyfrig, St Teilo and St Euddogwy.
Placed above the pulpit and affixed to the north wall is a crucifix (height 4 feet), with the figure of Christ in bronze by Frank Roper. This was installed during the early 1980s. The curved gold-plated onto copper escutcheon has a blue painted aluminium backing sheet which was mounted behind the figure in 1994.
The small credence table, from where the bread and wine are delivered to the altar during the Communion service, is made of Welsh slate with cast aluminium support by Frank Roper. This projects from the north wall on the east side between the permanent lectern and the door from the nave to the sacristy room.
Flower Container Shelf
There is a shelf for flower containers in Welsh slate with cast aluminium support by Frank Roper. This matches the credence table and is situated in a similar position on the opposite side of the north wall between the pulpit and the door from the nave to the choir vestry room.
Christ in Majesty Plaque
A plaque with a figure depicting Christ in Majesty inset in a cast aluminium temple-style frame and sculptured by Frank Roper is attached to the north wall of the nave above the confessional desk.
The confessional Desk has a cast aluminium frame by Frank Roper, and is appropriately positioned beneath the plaque depicting Christ in Majesty.
The sacristy bell, by Frank Roper, is affixed to the main north wall of the church outside the door to the sacristy room, where the clergy prepare for services. This bell is sounded for quiet before a service starts. It was purchased from gifts received and was installed in 1998.
The font is positioned to the south of the choir pews and stands on the slate baptism dais. The font and cover are made from cast aluminium. The font is circular and is 9″ in height and 16.5″ in external diameter. It is mounted on a cast concrete rectangular fluted pillar (echoing the altar pedestal) with a height of 31″. The circular font cover is in cast aluminium and formed in the shape of the holy dove descending. Both the font and cover are the work of Frank Roper. The font ewer, a tall jug with lid, is in cast aluminium and also by Frank Roper. The lid is formed in the shape of a phoenix arising from the fire symbolising spiritual rebirth.
The church has two hymn number stands designed and made in cast aluminium by Frank Roper. The first is supported by a square section metal post with three feet and was made in 1964. This stands adjacent to the font dais and the choir pews. The second is supported by a round section metal post with metal housing at the floor. It is placed near the choir vestry, and is bracketed to the pew end. This was made in 1994.
Advent candle ring
The Advent candle ring, to match the paschal candlestick holder, was given as a memorial gift in 1993.
Wardens wands or staffs of office
The pair of churchwardens wands can be seen on each side of the main door at the back of the nave. The head is in the form of a small gold and black painted cross, and the staff is made of black painted ash wood. The design is by Frank Roper. They were the gift of John Percival and John Walrond on leaving office as sub-wardens in 1986.
The sacristy is the room situated at the north east end of the nave. A crucifix in bronze, height 20.5″, with copper escutcheon by Frank Roper, is fixed to one of the walls. Also in the sacristy is a Holy Water Scoop, which was installed at the same time as the sacristy bell, already mentioned.
The altar in the Lady Chapel is similar to the High altar, although slightly smaller, and is cast in reinforced concrete. It was designed by Frank Roper and installed in 1964. It is positioned against the south wall, and there is no inscription. Incised into the top is one central cross (2.5″ square) and another four crosses: one at each corner (1.5″ square). The height of the pedestal is 3’2″.
There is a small missal stand, being a wooden book rest on cast aluminium frame/support by Frank Roper.
Outside the Church
Outside the Lady Chapel and alongside Lake Road North can be seen a small Memorial Garden for the burial of parishioners cremated remains. It is delineated with a broken circle of small paving stones and was consecrated as burial ground by the Bishop of Llandaff in September 1997. Inset into the centre of this grassed area is a circular plaque in bronze with the inscription Christ Church Memorial Garden 1997, the gift of the family of the late Mr Colin Ash. This is also Frank Roper’s work.
On some grass next to the Lake Road North pavement to the south-east of the building is sited the fluted formal church notice board in cast aluminium and with cast aluminium surround by Frank Roper. It is mounted on two rectangular reinforced concrete pillars and painted with essential information as to the names of parish clergy, vicarage, times of main services etc.
Calvary with Crucifix
Outside the main entrance facing onto Lake Road North is a Calvary with crucifix in cast aluminium, height 49″ and width 38.5″ designed by Frank Roper and fastened to a single three ton block of local stone from Llanfabon, near Nelson in the Rhymney valley to the north of Cardiff.
Creation Plaque & Lettering
Adjacent to this, on the exterior south wall of the Lady Chapel is a Creation plaque, with four sections displaying birds, fish and flowers also designed by Frank Roper. The four separate panels (26″ high x 21″ wide) are in cast aluminium and were later painted white, after originally being mounted unpainted. The two upper panels depict doves facing downwards and inwards, while the lower panels represent two open flowers with foliage (left) and three fishes (right).
Also affixed to the outside wall of the Lady Chapel there is lettering in a bold Celtic style and cast in unpainted aluminium proclaiming: Christ Church Parish Church on the church’s most visible frontage. This is the work of Frank Roper and was erected in 1997.