Penarth, St Augustine Church
Penarth, St Augustine Church
St Augustine's was built in 1866 to replace a ruinous medieval church. Built of grey limestone by William Butterfield, it is considered a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic, with a stunning polychromatic interior. The church has a saddleback tower copied from the old church on the site.
There was a small medieval church at Penarth, built as early as 1242, but in 1866 the Countess of Pembroke brought in architect William Butterfield to design a completely new church on the site. Butterfield (1814-1900) was one of the foremost exponents of Victorian Gothic architecture, recreating the splendour of 14th century medieval style, and was known for his use of polychromatic colour schemes.

The result of Butterfield's work at Penarth is a superb example of Gothic Revival, and one of his finest churches. It has been described as a 'love poem' in stone. The church interior has hardly changed at all since work was completed in 1866, and provides a fascinating glimpse into the Victorian mindset. Colours dominate the interior, with shades of black, red, cream, pink, and ochre blending into an harmonious whole.

The polychromatic scheme extends to the exterior, with Bath stone dressings highlighted by contrasting pink stone from Ryader. The tower with its saddleback roof is exceptionally striking; no wonder it served as a beacon for sailors.

A later addition is the 1920 war memorial, made with Italian walnut and created by John Batten. In the Lady Chapel is a medieval churchyard cross, brought inside the church to protect it from weathering. Only one of the four facets of the cross=head can be clearly seen; it depicts a Crucifixion scene.

There is a very fine organ built in 1895 by the William Hill & Son company.

In the churchyard is a memorial to Dr Joseph Parry (1841-1903), one of the most famous Welsh composers. Among other works, Parry was responsible for 'Blodwen', thought to be the first opera composed in the Welsh language.