From Sanctuary to main door

The Chapel Building

St Mary & St Michael has a highly unusual axis: it lies north-east to south-west, with the altar situated in the north-west rather than the traditional east.

Dating from 1750, this is probably the first Catholic church constructed in Wales after the Reformation. It was built to accommodate the many Catholics who then lived around Llanarth, but penal laws in force at the time made concealment necessary, so the original church was disguised as a tool-shed within a kitchen garden.

With the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 it became possible to extend and improve the church.Walls were strengthened and an entrance porch was added, with a gallery for choir and musicians.

A new annexe, attached to the north-east side for the benefit of the Jones family, serves as the sacristy today. In the 1880s some striking stained-glass windows were acquired and installed. In 1930, Margaret Agnes (Marga) Rope designed the striking twin windows of St Francis and St Bernard.

Now a hospital, Llanarth Court housed a girls’ school during the war. In 1947 the last family owner, Mrs Florence Roch, gifted the property to the Dominican Order, who founded Blackfriars preparatory school for boys, many of whom went on to Laxton school. They were succeeded by the Benedictines of Belmont Abbey in 1967. In 1986 Llanarth Court ceased to be a school, and the church came under the administration of the Archdiocese of Cardiff.