Two views of St Margaret's, "The Marble Church," Bodelwyddan, Clwydd, N. Wales. John Gibson (1817-1892). 1856-60 (from the laying of the foundation stone to the consecration). Exterior: gleaming locally quarried limestone in different finishes, with slate roofs in a honeycomb pattern, and a tower with flying buttresses, two sets of pinnacles, and a slender spire. The listing text describes it as "a massive tower and spire which reaches to over 60m" — it can be seen from far around. Interior: a variety of marbles, including red Griotte (chancel piers), Belgian Red (nave arcades) Anglesey marble (columns of the nave) and Sicilian marble (floor paving). Simon Jenkins describes the church as a "Victorian swagger church" (74), putting nearby St Asaph's cathedral in the shade, and the listing text explains that its Grade II* listing was given because it is a "leading work of the Victorian High Gothic movement in church architecture under aristocratic patronage, containing exceptional materials and craftsmanship."

The church was built as a memorial by his widow to Henry Peyto, 16th baron Willoughby de Broke, who had died in Warwickshire in 1852. Lady Margaret had come back to her own family seat in Bodelwyddan, and it was at her wish that the parish was created (it had formerly come within the area served by St Asaph's) and the church erected. The heads of the bishop and Queen Victoria are carved on the moulding labels of the east window. Gibson designed the church in the Decorated Style with Geometric tracery, and, according to the listing text again, "appears to have had an unlimited budget for materials and workmanship." Jenkins says that it cost the (then) incredible sum of £60,000. The communion rails, choirstalls and pulpit were all carved by Thomas Earp. Other well-known craftsmen were involved, including, later on, W. D. Caroe, who designed the fittings in the War Memorial chapel. The result is so dazzling that Jenkins finds the stained glass windows by Ward and Hughes, Michael O'Connor, and even the one by Burne-Jones here, somewhat overshadowed. However, John Murray's contemporary Handbook for Travellers in North Wales seems equally impressed by the stained glass, singling out the east window, by O'Connor, as "the most exquisite" (68). It seems worth mentioning, too, that the bells came from the Whitechapel Foundry (listing text).

Photograph top left by Colin Price, photographs top right and lower right, and commentary, by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images 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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.]

References

"Church of St Margaret (the Marble Church), Bodelwyddan." British Listed Buildings. Web. 1 November 2015.

A Handbook for Travellers in North Wales. London: John Murray, 1861. Google Books (free ebook). Web. 5 July 2016.

Jenkins, Simon. Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles. London: Allen Lane, 2008.


Created 5 July 2016