St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, Regent Street, Wrexham.
WREXHAM is the Episcopal seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of Menevia which covers all Wales with the exception of Gwent (formerly Glamorgan and Monmouth). St. Mary’s in Regent is the cathedral church and the bishop’s residence is in Sontley Road, Wrexham.
The first Bishop, in 1898 when the Diocese was created was Dr. Francis Mostyn, member of a distinguished Welsh Catholic family, the Mostyns of Talacre. He later became first Archbishop of Cardiff and was succeeded in the Diocese by Dr. Francis Vaughan, who on his death in 1934, was succeeded by Dr. Michael McGrath, who also became Archbishop of Cardiff in 1940. Dr. Daniel Hannan was Bishop during the war years and Dr. John Petit took office in 1947. He was succeeded in June 1972 by the Right Rev. Langton D. Fox.
Early adherents of the Roman Catholic faith suffered persecution in Wrexham as elsewhere, and the first Catholic martyr in Wales was Richard Gwyn, a local school-master, who was hanged, drawn and quartered in Wrexham Beast Market in 1584, He was later beatified and in 1970 was canonised recognising him as a saint. Today Richard Gwyn’s memory is honoured annually by a procession to the spot where he was executed, an unrepentant Catholic to the last.
The growth of Catholicism in Wrexham came with the industrial revolution which introduced many immigrant Catholic families to the area, including one or two generous benefactors, such as the Thompson family who came to develop the local iron industry. It was Richard Thompson who provided the first Catholic Chapel in 1828, the year preceding the Catholic Emancipation Act.
The building of St. Mary’s Church, (now the cathedral) coincided with the granting of the borough charter in Wrexham in 1857. The church, like its predecessor, was built by Richard Thompson, then of Stansty. The Catholic faith in Wrexham found another staunch friend in Mr. John Beirne, a successful brewer who was the first Roman Catholic Mayor of the borough in 1877, and was organist of the church for 32 years.
Past Rector of St. Mary’s was Canon A. A. Evans who succeeded in 1947, Monsignor Nightingale who had a long and notable ministry of 34 years.
Activities of the Catholic community have developed in many directions during this century, notably in the provision of St. Joseph’s Comprehensive School, St. Mary’s Primary School, both in Wrexham and St. Anne’s Primary School in Queens Park. To meet the growing needs of the Queen’s Park estate, St. Anne’s Church, an interesting octagonal-shaped church, was opened in April, 1962. Full-time priests serve the communities of Queen’s Park, Llay, Overton and Ruabon in the district.
Bishop Peter Brignall, is the third Bishop of Wrexham, succeeding the Rt Rev Edwin Regan, Bishop emeritus of Wrexham.
Born in Whetstone, London, he was ordained as a priest by the Rt Rev Langton Fox, Bishop of Menevia in 1978 and was incardinated as a priest to the diocese of Wrexham on the 12th February 1987.
Bishop Peter was appointed Cathedral Dean of in 1999 and Vicar General of the Diocese in 2003.
On the 27th June 2012 he was appointed Bishop of Wrexham.
Wrexham & District Official Guide 1975
“Saint Richard Gwyn”, Diocese of Wrexham
Edwin Hubert Burton and John Hungerford Pollen, Lives of the English Martyrs, Longmans, Green and Co., 1914, 143.
The Angelus”, October 1978, Volume I, Number 10; “Saint Richard Gwyn” by Malcolm Brennan
Catholic Online Saints
Edwin Burton, ‘The Venerable Richard White’, Catholic Encyclopaedia, vol. 15, p. 612 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912)