St Peter's Parish - A Brief History

The first Catholic Church in the Bargoed area was opened on 2 February 1903 in Brithdir, a corrugated iron shed opposite the Cemetery.  It was set-up by Father Dent, Parish Priest at St. John’s, Rhymney for 26 years and paid for by Catholic miners giving up two days pay.  He travelled from Rhymney.  This building was sold in 1916 to the British Legion who renamed it the ‘Sword and Dagger’.


Father Dent, by then Canon Dent, purchased the present building in Usk Road in 1916 (built in 1903).   Until he moved to Tonypandy in 1921 he continued to serve Bargoed from Rhymney, travelling to and fro on the train.  The opening of the Church, dedicated to St Peter (on the Graig), was marked by a procession from Rhymney, led by a fife and drum band.


Parish life flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, as evidenced by a photograph of the St Peter’s Sunday school in 1922 showing 184 children, 6 adults and the priest (Fr. O’Donovan?).


Sunday School


In addition, the parish could justify retaining a curate from the mid 1930s until 1963, to assist the parish priests in their work.


In 1933-34 the church was transformed ‘from the chapel into a proper church’, by Fr. Mahoney.  The principal change involved ‘turning the church around’ with the altar centrepiece being moved to a newly extended sanctuary built on the eastern end of the building.  The sacristies were removed from a position at the eastern end of the church to their present location, where they were integrated into reinforcement necessary to help the building withstand the pressure of Usk Road.  A pulpit was presented to Fr. Mahoney by the parishioners at Dowlais, his previous parish, to complete the job.


Sanctuary in 1975


Mass centres were opened at Tirphil (workman’s hall) and Tiryberth (Scout hall) in 1938 and there was a small Catholic chapel in Markham.   Tirphil and Tiryberth were closed in 1943, with buses for St. Peter’s being substituted.  Services in Markham continued until Fr. Boyle’s time, whence all services were concentrated on St. Peter’s.  The altar was used in the Oratory established in the presbytery in Park Place.


Unusually, there has never been a presbytery directly attached to St. Peter’s, partly a result of the view even when the present church building was acquired in 1916 that it was a temporary measure until a permanent site could be found.  The first presbytery was ‘Penrhos’, a large house in Hillside Park.  This was sold and replaced by another property in Hillside Park during Fr. McDonagh’s sojourn as parish priest in the post war period.  Later, the diocese purchased 46/48 Park Place as a presbytery and parish centre.  Park Place retained these roles until 1999, when needing a considerable amount of renovation the parish could not afford, it was sold and replaced by a smaller property in Capel Street in Bargoed – probably the closest the presbytery has been to the church itself, but this was sold in 2009, following our merger with Abercynon Parish.


Prior to the transformation of  St. Peter’s in 1933 efforts were made to secure a more accessible site for the church in Bargoedl.  By the early 1970s major repairs were needed to the fabric of the Usk Road building, besides modernising the interior to cater for the liturgical changes brought in Vatican II.  History repeated itself, as yet again a new site was sought without success, consequently the Usk Road building was renovated, with an enlarged sanctuary with the altar moved forward to a more central position, new sacristies, a toilet, a gallery and new suspended ceilings and lighting.  While the bulk of the work was completed for the Christmas services, rededication of the church by Archbishop John Murphy did not occur until  7 April 1976.  In 2001 further refurbishment, including repainting the sanctuary and refacing the exterior took place, providing us with the church we have today.


Sanctuary in current arrangement in 1981


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