There’s no need to build a church unless there is someone to go to it and the town of Porthcawl didn’t exist until the middle of the nineteenth century. The district was served by Saint John the Baptist’s church at Newton, founded by the Normans in 1189 and this is still the parish church.
During the Industrial Revolution, a brand new harbour was built at Porthcawl to export coal from the pits in and around Maesteg. It never became a very big port, but before long people came here to live and then to spend their holidays—so there was a need for a church.
The first church was set up beside the harbour in 1866. Later, as the town grew there was need for a school as well as a church and a ‘National School’ was opened where the Co-operative Supermarket stands now (which is why the street next to it is called Old School Lane). This was built by the church and had a dual-purpose hall, used for worship on Sundays. The town continued to grow and a larger corrugated iron church was opened in 1893 as a temporary building on the ground where the present church stands.
Work on the present church began in 1912 and the nave and chancel (the main part of the church) were completed by February 1914. The architect was Mr George Halliday from Cardiff. It cost £9750, which was all raised locally. (At today’s prices this is well over £1 million). The architect’s plans included a Lady Chapel and choir vestry: these were built in 1964 to mark the 50th anniversary of the building. The plans also included a tower: the money for this has never been raised.
The first thing you see when you come in is the font, where people are baptised or christened. You can’t become a Christian until you are baptised, so the font is the nearest thing to the door in most churches. Next to the font stands the Easter Candle, a large decorated candle which is lit for the first time on the eve of Easter Day, when the whole church is in darkness. It is lit to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. From here we light the candle given to everyone newly-baptised to remind them of the light which Jesus gives.
On the left as you enter stands a carved statue of Mary and Jesus. Visitors are welcome to light a prayer-candle here.
The most important place in the church is the altar. This is where we celebrate the Mass or Holy Communion.
Behind the altar is the reredos with statues of Jesus and Saint Peter to the left and Saint Paul to the right.
The stained glass window behind the reredos, designed by Karl Parsons, is a memorial to some of those killed in the First World War. Find out more about this stained glass and Karl Parsons here.
To the left of the Altar is the Lady or Mary Chapel, with its etched screens telling the story of the Birth of Jesus. The Blessed Sacrament is Reserved in the Chapel; it is set aside for quiet prayer.
At the other end of the church, the Rose Window is completely new – designed and installed in 2004.
The organ was originally in Worcester Cathedral.
In the body of the church (the nave) stands the pulpit and the lectern with its eagle, which is a sign of the Gospel or Good News of Jesus flying out over the world.
The Church, however, is made up of people, not stones – it is there to share the gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ. It is a place where people meet together to listen to God’s word, to be taught the faith, to receive Holy Communion and to pray, ask forgiveness and give thanks.
When you visit All Saints, please take time to sit, be still and offer to God all that is on your heart. Give God time to speak to you. Thank you.