St Edward's History: Fire 1919

St Edward's on fire
St Edward's on fire, 19th September 1919

On Thursday, 11th September 1919, between 12 noon and 1 pm, the first St Edward's Church was destroyed by fire.  That very evening, the Committee met at Roath Church House and resolved to rebuild a stone or brick church on the same site.  Rev. Wellington spoke feelingly of the awful blow and of his faith that the Almighty would help them to build a better and a nobler Church.  He suggested that for the time being the Congregation should meet in Roath Church House.  Three days later, the first Sunday services were held in the hall of Roath Church House, with the choir on the stage and the congregation in the body of the hall.  Mattins was sung at 11am, and Evensong at 6.30pm, Rev. Wellington preaching at both services.  The "Preacher's Book" for this period survives, and the subjects of the sermons are recorded as "Our corporate Duties" and "Faith" respectively.

After the fire
St Edward's after the fire

A fortnight before the fire, on August 27th, a meeting at Roath Church House had decided that there should be a Parish Church War Memorial.  Immediately after the fire, in the October Parish Magazine, it was suggested by Canon Beck that the parish make a permanent St Edward's Church as a memorial for the whole parish, of those who fell in the War.

The Union Assurance Society Ltd paid the full insurance value of £2500, but would not entertain any claim with respect to the new organ, which was not included in the Policy of insurance.  The salvage was put out to tender, and produced a further £95 (the highest of ten tenders).  The first St Edward's was demolished in October 1919.

Wreckage of the chancel
Wreckage of the chancel

The Vicar, Canon Beck, was ill at the time of the fire.  He was able to attend a meeting of St Edward's Committee on 5th October, but it was to be his last.  He resigned on 28th October after 40 years in the Parish, 36 of them as Vicar.

Many items survived the fire and were stored for use in the new Church.

The cause of the blaze of 1919 was never established.  At the time it was seen as a terrible disaster, but with hindsight it could be argued that the destruction of the iron church made possible a re-building programme which eventually produced a better church building and a greater sense of identity for the congregation than may ever have been achieved without the fire.