In Glamorgan’s Country Garden
by Hazel Norfolk
Church–visiting still seems to be one of the pleasantest and most civilised of pursuits. In our parish we have a small treasure hidden away with an atmosphere that will delight. In our small hamlet of Southerndown, our small church named All Saints stands secretive behind wooden gates, protected from the winter winds that howl and beyond the menace of the westerlies, but close to the cricket pitch. This is the only church that I have found that can boast of being multi-tasked. You can worship on Sunday and in the evening glance (occasionally) towards the local team battling for runs.
This small church was built when Southerndown was a favourite holiday resort for the
gentry. An example is Richard Price, brought up in Bridgend who advised
Shelburne and William Pitt. His memoirs tell of his daily swim during his
periodic visits to South Wales at both Southerndown and Newton.
Walter Coffin an industrialist and chairman of the Taff Vale Railway
Company spent two or three months in the Autumn in Southerndown,. Another
well-known philanthropist was Henry John Randall. Henry John Randall was a
local historian born in 1877 a solicitor who later spent his professional life
with Randall, Llewellyn and Verity (solicitors). He was very generous in
bequeathing a trust for a charity having as its objective ‘for payment in
support of a clergyman or Scripture Reader for Service in Southerndown Reading
Room’ (This was the building that proceeded All Saints.)
Southerndown Road station was opened at Castle upon Alun, and pony and cart would transport the gentry from the station to Southerndown, where there were, at that time the two hotels – The Marine and Dunraven.
Probably it was through the need to leave their womenfolk, for a leisurely stroll, or to
peruse the latest news, that these gentlemen felt the need of a reading room to
read the latest newspapers. Such a reading room was established built with the
permission of the Earl of Dunraven on his land.
This building was a corrugated iron structure with drop tables secured to the walls and was opened on September 18th 1876. In the May it was opened between 10am –5pm. It was closed from September and throughout the winter months.
It was not only the gentry who worked to transform this first building, into a
place of worship, although Southerndown was fortunate to have the patronage of
the Earl of Dunraven, and the Lindsey Family. Families, who also came to
Southerndown, saw in the reading-room an ideal local building to have Sunday
worship. Thus there emerged the need for a clergyman and the Randall Trust
financed this need. The reading room was consecrated and became known as the
Southerndown Mission Room. Services were held on alternative Sunday mornings
and evenings in 1877. Soon a Sunday school was started and by 1888 members were
trying to obtain grants for an infants school during the winter months. This
was the start of Southerndown Mission, a local committee run institution, but
where services were held by the Church in Wales. Readers were employed to
help with worship, and to work within the community. A choir and drama group
was organised, and there were outings and fetes. Joseph Thomas was one such Reader,
the pulpit is inscribed with his name, and he together with Miss Margaret David kept a flourishing Sunday school at All Saints’.
It was not until 1908 that there was a feeling to change the building, to a church. Feelings discussions, committees, and more discussions until finally in 1967 under a Glamorgan County Council road widening scheme, the Mission Room was demolished and a small modern Church was built and called All Saints.
The Church is the sister church of two wonderful Norman built churches in the Parish of Ewenny and St. Brides Major, and yet its kudos is its difference. Its simplicity has a
charm of its own. Built of wood, its’ inside is of oak furniture and full of light. Its contrasting image and structure in no way detracts from the feeling of peace, as the rays of light strike all around illuminating the altar.
Following the closure of Horeb Baptist Chapel the chapel chair together with
some of its devoted congregation travelled to Southerndown where they found
much solace in the simplicity of the Church.
The church is well worth a visit, but unfortunately it is usually locked except for
services and by appointment. This small church has had a devoted and friendly congregation over the years. There is always a welcome for anyone who wishes to come to a service. It is easily accessed, with convenient parking outside. There is usually evensong at 6.00pm on the first, second and third Sundays of the month and Holy Eucharist at 8.30am on the second Sunday and at 6.00pm on the fourth.
And the future? The church’s congregation though small has been expanding. A kitchen, all-access toilet, ramp, carpet and new windwos have been added during the past few years.
All Saints’ members hope to provide a building for spiritual worship and prayer, yet providing amenities and comfort for all. A little star shining in the firmament of our beautiful Vale.