This beautiful church originated in 1812 when a small chapel was built on the current site. During 1839 the old chapel was demolished and the current church built in its place, the first in Wales to use the metal pillars that give it such grace and light. The construction of St Mary’s took place around the same time as the Chartist uprising, and chartist rioters actually passed the church in 1839 and ordered workmen to join them, however they declined and took no part in the attack on the Westgate Hotel.
In 1901 the original east window images of Our Lady, Saint David and Saint Woolos were moved to the south aisle and replaced by a dramatic window of the Assumption of the Virgin by John Hardman, who worked with the Pugins. Also note the memorials from both World War 1 and World War 2, which together record the names of 243 parishioners who gave their lives during the wars.
1800 – Newport Catholics (about twenty) celebrated Sunday Mass at Caerleon, once a month.
1812 – A small chapel was built on the site now occupied by Saint Mary’s.
Mr. John Jones of Llanarth Court gave the land and stone, together with £500 as an endowment.
1836 – Fr. Edward Metcalf OSB became Rector.
Newport’s population was now 10,000 with 1,300 Catholics, mostly poor Irish immigrants.
1837 – Mr. J. Scoles prepared plans for a new church and schools.
1839 – The old chapel was demolished. In November the Chartist rioters passed the new building and ordered the workmen to join them. However they declined to follow the order, and took no part in the attack on the Westgate Hotel. The MONMOUTHSHIRE MERLIN notes that the considerable number of Irish people in the town were not involved in the disturbance.
1840 – (Nov.) Saint Mary’s opened with Pontifical High Mass. Dr T. Brown, Vicar Apostolic of Wales, preached to a congregation of 800 with 28 priests
1847 – Father Dominic Cavalli, a Rosminian Priest, became Rector and immediately faced a cholera epidemic, risking his life through his selfless service to the sick.
(Saint Mary’s Boys and Girls schools opened with 250 pupils.)
(Twelve men visited the heads of families in their homes to collect a penny, a subscription to (support the schools, because the children were the poorest in the town, according to the Merlin.)
1850 – Brother George Clarkson, a Rosminian Brother was appointed Headteacher. The Department of Education were so impressed with him that they offered him the post of H.M.I., but he remained at Saint Mary’s, serving for 30 years.
1869 – The original Church tower had no parapet or pinnacles, these were added in this year.
1874 – A peal of 8 bells were placed in the tower and the Angelus was rung on Lady Day 25 th March.
1892 – Father Cavalli died. There were now over 5,000 Catholics in the town and 1,000 in Catholic Schools. The community collected and spent £30,000 on the schools between 1880 and1900.
1921 – Saint Patrick’s Altar and the War Memorial Tablets containing 198 men of Saint Mary’s who gave their lives in the First World War, were erected.
1948 – The Second World War Memorial was placed in the Lady Chapel. It records the names of 45 parishioners who lost their lives between 1939 and 1945.
1973 – The centenary of the arrival of the Sisters of Saint Joseph was joyfully remembered with the celebration of High Mass by Archbishop John Murphy.
2002 – After 150 years of service to the people of Saint Mary’s the Rosminian Fathers withdrew from the Parish. Their achievements in this time have been immense. We offer them our thanks and prayers. In addition to Saint Mary’s there are now 7 other Catholic Churches in the City, the oldest of these being Saint Michael’s in Clarence Street.