We want to return forgotten garden to its former glory, say volunteers

A dedicated group of friends in Whitchurch are working to restore historic St Mary’s.

TUCKED behind a stone wall on Old Church Road, it is entirely possible that people who have lived in Whitchurch their whole lives do not know the history of St Mary’s garden.

Once the site of the 13th century St Mary’s church, the grounds have undergone dramatic change over the centuries. 

St Mary’s Church was abandoned in the Victorian era due to the growing population of the area and was demolished in 1904. 

Over the ensuing years it has fallen in and out of disrepeair but a group of volunteers, known as The Friends Of St Mary’s, have been working to revive the garden since 2017, meeting monthly with a Cardiff Council Park Ranger.

The volunteers have spent their time cleaning the graves, clearing away old dead plants and providing spaces for new species to flourish and tending older plants.   

Among the preserved plants is a 400-year-old Yew Tree (originally planted in 1641) which is among one of the oldest trees in South Wales. 

Park Ranger Rhodri Hughes is an example of how much the area means to people in the village.

“I’m a local lad, my father used to come here with his lunch when he was at school,” he said. 

“We want to return it to its former glory.”

Who owns the land?

In 1972 Cardiff City council took over the area and began turning it into a public park and garden.

When graves were uncovered where the church grounds used to be they were carefully exhumed and moved to the outer edges of the garden, with some of the old headstones being preserved to line the footpath. 

Over time it fell into disrepair again and by the early 2010s was once again completely overgrown.

In 2017 the Whitchurch Women’s institute stepped in and assembled the first volunteers who would become the Friends of Whitchurch. 

The group’s aims are to create a peaceful and welcoming park for all residents of the village to enjoy while still preserving the historical and personal value of an area where many families still pay their respects to their loved ones.