Interior of St Augustine's Church, Penarth, Wales

St Augustine's Church. William Butterfield (1814-1900). 1865. Interior: "brilliantly polychromatic" in shades of ochre, pink, red, cream and black; exterior: local grey rock-faced limestone, with Bath stone dressings and shafts of pink Radyr stone "very sparingly used" (Newman 489). High on Penarth Head, at the south-west tip of Cardiff Bay, Penarth.

Exterior of the Church

Left to right: (a) South side of the church, indicating length of nave. (b) West front with tower and entrance porch. (c) Close-up of tower. (d) View from Penarth Head. [Click on thumbnails for larger images.]

With its tall (90' high) tower serving as a beacon to sailors, St Augustine's replaced the older "wretched ruined" parish church in 1865 (Illustrated Guide 118). The earlier church had become inadequate anyway, as the population of Penarth had begun to balloon on the back of Cardiff's success, and with the building of Penarth's own docks. Moreover, it was fast becoming a fashionable resort for people throughout the area. As a sign of its new prestige, local landowner Baroness Windsor chose a sought-after architect and footed the bill for the new church herself. The outside is rather stark, with the tall, almost separate tower designed in response to the demand for a landmark, its saddleback roof paying tribute to that of the previous church. But the interior is marvellous, spacious, "warm, light and colourful" ("Open Days at Restored Church"). Richard Thompson also notes the surprising contrast between "sea-grey" church crouching above the harbour and "the startling daring of the unexpected interior" (243), considering it one of the two finest interiors of this period of Butterfield's career. The other one he mentions is the slightly later All Saints, Babbacombe, in Devon (328). Both are seaside churches and there is something of the seaside atmosphere in the cheerful interiors hidden inside them.

Photograph of interior: Cadw, Welsh Assembly Government (Crown Copyright). We are very grateful for permission to reproduce this photograph. Photographs of exterior (2009), and text, by Jacqueline Banerjee, 2009/11. [You may use the exterior photographs (only) without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL.]


The Illustrated Guide to Cardiff and Its Neighbourhood. Cardiff & London: Western Mail Ltd, 1897. Internet Archives. Web. 4 April 2011

Newman, John. Glamorgan (The Buildings of Wales series). London: Penguin, 1995.

"Open Days at Restored Church" Cadw site. Web. 12 April 2011.

Thompson, Paul Richard. William Butterfield. London: Routledge, 1971.

Last modified 12 April 2011.