Cardiff Chapel

by Freda Entwistle


This red brick exterior chapel is situated on a corner site of a busy intersection, in a residential area of Rhiwbina . 

The Cardiff Chapel has a seating capacity of 300, capable of increasing to 1,100 with the opening of the lounge and cultural hall, which has a full-size basketball court and stage.

Other facilities include Relief Society, Primary and Youth rooms, kitchen, Family History Library, Baptismal Font, administrative offices, also toilets and shower facilities.  The main entrance and foyer are at the front of the building, facing the main road with a rear entrance off the car park.

The building is surrounded by grassed verges, lawns and trees with car park entrance at the rear of the building.

Historical Background

Although missionary work began in 1846, Captain Dan Jones and Brother William Phillips did not officially form the Cardiff branch until 1 January 1847.   By the end of 1848 there were 123 members reported and two dependent branches in the locality.  However, as the branch continued to grow, many families and members emigrated to Zion, leaving the branch struggling towards the end of the nineteenth century.  Due to little missionary success and poor attendance, in 1904 Heber J. Grant, President of the British Mission, closed the branch.   In 1907 Wales was adopted into the Bristol Conference until 1921 when President Orson F. Whitney organised a new Welsh Conference with headquarters at Cardiff.

In the early days and times of Captain Dan Jones in the mid nineteenth century, the Saints met in homes, rented halls and in rooms above licensed premises and continued to do so for many years into the twentieth century.  They were often cramped for space or the Saints regularly found they needed to clear and clean the room/s to be used where the previous days drinking, smoking and socialising had taken place. It was 1953 when the Cardiff branch had its own building for the first time: a large house conversion at 57 Conway Road.

As the membership of the Cardiff branch outgrew this building, the local brethren were asked to find a suitable plot of ground for the building of a new purpose-built chapel in the Cardiff area.  After several months of searching for an appropriate site, a farm of over six acres, situated in Heol–y–Deri, Rhiwbina, was purchased for £32,000.  Since only two acres were required for the chapel building, including grounds, the remaining four acres were quickly sold for housing, raising £30,000.

This purpose-built chapel now allows the Saints to use and enjoy a building which not only provides for worship but also has dedicated areas for youth and adults to have cultural, physical and recreational activities, alongside spiritual and educational development.  The chapel at Rhiwbina is currently a meetinghouse for the Cardiff and Caerphilly Wards. 

President Joy F Dunyon, Central British Mission
President Joy F Dunyon, Central British Mission

Building Committee

Led by the recently called Branch President, Alan Hughes, and the Cardiff Branch Presidency in their endeavours to plan and prepare for the oncoming building programme, a building committee was organised to contribute ideas and support during the entire process from site clearance to the official opening of the completed chapel on 9 October 1966, and included branch members  Christopher Baralos, Dorothy Entwistle, Helen Entwistle, Leah Hassan and Frederick Steele.

Ground Breaking – 10 October 1964

Although the morning of October 10, 1964, was gray and rain was falling, about 70 members of the Cardiff Branch had gathered at the corner of Heol Llanishen Fach and Heol (means ‘hill’) Deri (means ‘oak tree’) for the groundbreaking services of the Cardiff chapel – the second chapel to be built in Wales under the Church Building Programme. 

This was a happy event and, in spite of the murky skies, hearts were light and full of sunshine. Branch President Allan Hughes conducted the services. Special guests were President Joy F. Dunyon of the Central British Mission, and Sister Eileen Dunyon; Elder E. Warren Cable, Assistant British Area Supervisor, Elder J. Max Thornton, District Supervisor; President Ralph Pulman of the Mission District (Welsh District); and the wives of these brethren. Elder Edgar L. Todd is the Project Supervisor.

The Services were opened with prayer by Elder Keith L. Bailey, Supervising Elder for the District, and the benediction was given by Brother Gwynn William Hillman.

The rain, which had been falling all morning, ceased as the services began, and as the closing song, ‘We Thank Thee, Oh God, for a Prophet,’ was sung by the congregation, the sun burst through the heavy clouds and stayed long enough to see the ground broken. President Dunyon turned the first shovel of earth. In his remarks during the service he stated that there are monuments to many important men in the Cardiff area but the most important monument will be the House of the Lord, which was started in Cardiff this day. As he turned the earth the songs of the birds and the brightness of the sunshine seemed an omen from the Lord to remind us that this was His work and that His blessings will be upon us if we work diligently.  (Reported by Cecelia Todd for ‘The Builder’ monthly magazine for the Church Building Programme).

The Construction Period

10 October 1964 – 09 October 1966

During the two years of construction, Church members and volunteers were encouraged to assist on the building site in any way they could and to raise funds.   Their labours and donations contributed towards a 20% cost commitment to the building of their local chapel, a commitment they gladly accepted to have a purpose-built chapel in which to meet.  Local members spent their leisure hours, and time off from their regular jobs, to work on site at every opportunity they could, including evenings and Saturdays.

As Health and Safety Laws changed over the latter part of the 1960s this practice was discontinued and members found other ways to raise funds and make donations, still committed to their contribution.

Skilled supervisors were appointed at each site, assisted by volunteer Church Builders, who were single, young men from branches of the UK & Ireland and worked a minimum of 55 hours per week for two years, dedicating their time and effort to serve in building churches all over the UK.  They worked without payment, generally having ten shillings per week pocket money given to them from the funds raised by local leaders.  They also attended Church meetings and assisted in the spiritual programmes of the Church in their ‘spare time.’  Generally, it was known as the Church Building Programme, involving the local membership, a skilled building supervisor and the building missionaries.

Four of the young people
Four of the young people helping to build the new Mormon chapel at Rhiwbina, Cardiff


In Cardiff, the building supervisor was Elder Edgar L. Todd and his wife Cecelia from Taylorsville, Utah, plus seven full-time building missionaries: Geoffrey Nugent of Liverpool, Brian Leigh of Yorkshire, Derek Birkhead now in New Zealand, Peter Freeman from West Wales, George Copeland from Belfast, Harry Rimmer and John Weightman.

In the picture:
Geoff Nugent, building missionary, John Headington a church member from Cwmbran branch, George Copeland, building missionary and Tom Entwistle, church member of the Merthyr branch, previously Cardiff branch.

Official Opening of the Cardiff Chapel – 9 October 1966

After a long-awaited time and with the construction and furnishing work completed, the Cardiff chapel was officially opened for member use.  A service was held to mark the occasion and was led by President Alan O. Hughes, Cardiff branch.  In attendance were President Ray H. Barton, S.W. British Mission, President Dennis Wiltshire, Wales East District, and their counsellors.  Sisters of the Relief Society and a Priesthood chorus provided the choral items.

A further Church Builders Service was held in the afternoon in appreciation of the Building Supervisor, Elder Edgar L. Todd and the Building missionaries who had laboured on the building site.  All the ‘builders’ spoke during the session including Cecilia Todd who worked tirelessly alongside her husband.  Once again, the Relief Society sisters provided Choral music with Dorothy Entwistle and Lawrence Ward rendering solo items.

Now with adequate facilities for all Church auxiliaries, the Sunday School, Relief Society, Primary and Youth programmes continued to reach out to members and friends and all interested parties.

Dedication of the Cardiff Chapel by Elder James E. Cullimore, Assistant to the Twelve – 3 March 1968

(Taken from the news article published in the Millennial Star)

The beautiful new Cardiff Branch Chapel at Cardiff, Wales, was dedicated March 3, 1968 by Elder James A. Cullimore, Assistant to the Twelve.   John H. Cox, president of the Wales East District of the Southwest British Mission, conducted the services.

Speakers in addition to Elder Cullimore included William H. Harless Sr, president of the branch; Pres. Cox, Alan O. Hughes (former president of the branch); Ralph Pulman, zone counsellor in the mission presidency; Pres. Rulon H. Bradshaw of the mission; and Sister Cullimore.

Music was furnished by the Wales-East District choir, directed by Dorothy Entwistle with Sister Thora A. Harless, accompanist. Vocal solos were presented by Olive Williams and Dorothy Entwistle.  Joan Corcoran directed the congregational singing. . .

... The chapel site was purchased in 1961 and in 1963 President Rupert Corcoran was released and Brother Alan O. Hughes, a Chartered Civil Engineer, named president, in preparation for the construction programme soon to follow. Ground breaking was held 10th October 1964.

Supervising Architect was Donald O. Hendon, A.R.I.B.A. who notes that the original site of six acres was reduced to one and a half acres (4 acres were sold for a building house development project). The building was completed in 1966. The building contains 11,500 sq. ft. with an interesting roof over the Cultural Hall supported by precast concrete beams and the monopitch roof over the classroom wing follows the contours of the land. The Profilit glazing in the Chapel is an unusual feature. The chapel seats 230 and total seating in view of the pulpit is 600. The building cost approximately £100,000.

Pres. Hughes was released in January 1967 returning to the Newport branch and shortly to Rugby, England to continue his professional career.

The original chapel had a central ‘quadrant’ area, a garden patio, surrounded by classrooms and corridors, where many a primary class held their lessons during the summer months.   Some years after the dedication, this area was reconfigured into the Relief Society room and Family History library.  As of Dec 31, 1967 the branch had a membership of 453 persons.  


50th Anniversary Celebration – 2016

Members and friends of the Cardiff Ward and Stake celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the official opening of the Cardiff Chapel on 3 September 2016.  Under the direction of the Stake Presidency, Stake Church History Specialist Selina Jenson organized a programme of commemoration, activity and refreshment.

“An exhibition of the chapel under construction greeted those attending the celebratory symposium showing how the building has been used to serve the Saints and community . . . members who had been involved in the building of the chapel shared their memories of times they struggled to do all that was required of them.

A wonderful indoor picnic was held followed by a presentation of certificates to those who had been blessed, baptised, or married in the building and those who worked on the building in the 1960s.

In his concluding remarks, the stake president said the building was not only a place of worship or activities but ultimately a place where people’s lives are changed for the better.”         (Arnold Jones, UK & Ireland Church History Advisor)

Cardiff Branch – Central British Mission

Reported by Sister Cecelia F. Todd for the Church Builder Magazine January 1965

Many of the sites in Great Britain where our chapels are being built have interesting histories.   The site for the Cardiff Branch chapel is no exception.

Rhiwbina is a part of Cardiff, Glamorgan County in South Wales.   The Cardiff site in Rhiwbina is at the corner of Llanishen Fach and Heol Deri.   The word “Deri” means “oak tree.”   There is an old oak tree on the top of the hill by the Church site, which was struck by lightening, and for many years was a landmark in that area.   “Heol” means “hill,” hence the name “Heol Deri.”

It is believed that an early Roman camp existed on Rhiwbina Hill.   Roman pottery, coins and tile have been found there.

Tradition states that a great battle between the Roundheads, who were the followers of Oliver Cromwell, and the Royalists, who supported the King, took place in an area just to the northeast of the chapel site.   Oliver Cromwell is believed to have been born in Llanishen Fach, a large house just east of the chapel site.

There was at one time an iron ore mine nearby. The nails in the old buildings on the site were made from this iron ore.   The ore was carried out of the mines by donkeys as there were no roads coming out of the mines.

In the 10th and 11th centuries, the surrounding territory was owned by lords and barons.   There are several old castles in the Cardiff area.   The land was farmed by tenants.   A free tenant paid rent and could transfer or sell his ground.   Bound tenants were territorial serfs wholly dependent upon the lord’s will.   Cottars were peasants who had squatted on the land.   They paid rent and hired out as labourers to the lords.   Castle Coch, located within two miles of the Cardiff chapel site, has been beautifully restored.

Agriculturally the land here has been very rich and good wheat was grown here.   At one time corn was also grown here.   The average rainfall is 40 inches per year, and wet days average 151 per year.

The old buildings on the site, which were torn down to make way for the chapel were dated from 1820, the year in which the Prophet Joseph Smith received his vision.


Photographs and details of the Chapel Site Before Construction

Provided by Elizabeth Wright member of the Cardiff branch

These old buildings are part of the Deri Farm, which was built in 1820. The buildings were pulled down prior to the Ground breaking service. Old wooden pegs, bolts, nails, horseshoes etc. were sold and the money contributed to the branch budget. The upper rooms over the cowsheds were used as a meeting room, canteen and site offices. 

Recollections from Lynne Barry member of the Cardiff Branch

“Local members were expected to give of their free time to do some of the manual work on the site, and this was estimated to cut the cost by 20% 

There were a group of about twelve young people in Cardiff at that time, and we would spend all our free time up at the site. We would dig trenches or move piles of bricks ready for the bricklayers. The site had formerly been a large farm, and one of the long, two storey barns was left standing to store materials and tools downstairs and to have a meeting place upstairs. This upstairs room would also hold a barn dance or other activity most Saturday evenings. “


British Mormon Choir Perform in Cardiff Chapel – 1966

On December 10 the British Mormon Choir performed a Christmas Concert at the new chapel in Cardiff, South Wales. One of the outstanding features of the evening was the performance (for the first time in the British Isles) of the ‘Christmas Festival’ by LeRoy Robertson, as arranged by Frank Clifford.

Frank Clifford, a recent convert in the British South Mission, was one of the four guest conductors. The others being Frankland Gilbert of Weston-super-Mare, Lorraine Cannon of Stroud, and Ray H. Barton Jnr., President of the Southwest British Mission. Gordon McNee of Cheltenham was at the organ.

The reception of the choir certainly justified the hours of practice and the long journeys that some of the members had to travel. In order to participate, the members from Cornwall had to stay overnight.

The choir is now an established feature and will continue to give concerts, probably on a quarterly basis, in various parts of the British Isles.  (Reported in the Millennial Star, February 1967)


Fire in Cardiff Chapel – about 1970

Within a few years after the dedication and during a Sunday Fast and Testimony meeting, Rupert Corcoran, Branch President, noticed smoke appearing at each end of the facia board at the back of the chapel.  He alerted his counselor, Bert Williams. to investigate.  Brother Williams later said that he found the boiler room and the room above ablaze with fire.  President Corcoran said, “In one hour our lovely new Chapel was devastated, with the cultural hall, stage, baptism room, and chapel wrecked with water, blackened with dust and burned timbers.”  

In the coming weeks, members set about cleaning the soot before the Church Building department sent Brother George Foot to oversee the repairs and refurbishment, which took almost a year to complete. During the period of repairs, meetings in the chapel were able to continue in the Relief Society room, which was still intact.


Important individuals associated with the place

Alan O. Hughes

In 1963 Alan O. Hughes, a 33 year-old Chartered Civil Engineer from North Wales and recently living in the Newport branch area at Ponthir with his wife, Pamela, and three children, was called as president of the Cardiff branch, in preparation for the construction programme soon to follow.  

The branch continued to meet at 57, Conway Road, Cardiff throughout the construction period of the new chapel at Rhiwbina.   In the 1968 Dedication programme distributed to the membership the then president of the Cardiff branch, full time missionary, William H.  Harless Snr. of California, USA, wrote:

“It should be said again at this point that President Hughes’ major contribution was the guidance of the Cardiff branch and cooperation with the Church Building Department during the important period of designing and planning the Chapel building and the period of its actual construction.   Designing and planning began soon after President Hughes was sustained in early 1963 and extended to the time of the Ground Breaking Ceremony.”

The Ground Breaking Ceremony took place on the 10 October 1964 with President Hughes conducting the proceedings.  He remained in the branch throughout the construction of the building, encouraging members to assist in preparing the site for tomorrow’s build and initiating fund raising activities amongst the membership.  He worked tirelessly behind the scenes as liaison between the Church Building Department, the Building Department of the Cardiff Council and the newly formed Building Committee of Cardiff Branch members.

President Hughes conducted the Official Opening meeting of the chapel on 9 October 1966 and was released from office in January 1967 when he returned to the Newport Branch.  

Shortly afterwards, on receiving promotion for his work as Engineer in charge of the newly constructed tunnels of the M4 at Newport, he moved to Rugby, England to pursue his professional career.  He returned for the dedication of the chapel in March 1968 when he was one of the principal speakers.

In 1991 Alan Hughes received an OBE for his services to the Highway Industry from Queen Elizabeth II.  


Elder Edgar Leroy Todd, Building Supervisor

“Prior to accepting a call to be a Church Building Supervisor in Great Britain, Elder Todd was Building Supervisor for the Taylorsville Stake Centre, Utah, USA (and others in the area).   Elder Todd closed his Building Contractor’s business to fulfill his calling to serve in Cardiff.  He arrived with his wife, Cecelia, and youngest daughter, Ilene, in Cardiff September 1964. 

The Todd family soon gained the love and respect of the Cardiff members through their diligence, hard work and gospel endeavours.  Whilst in Cardiff, Elder Todd served on the Branch Presidency and Sister Todd served as a counselor in the Relief Society Presidency.

Cardiff Branch President, Alan O. Hughes, said, when Elder Todd knew I was going to write about him he said, “Just say that we are ordinary members of the Church.”  President Hughes added, “If these are just ordinary members, then the Church is indeed blessed.”

Taken from the Official Opening Programme

Written by President Alan O. Hughes


Elder James A Cullimore, Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Utah born James A. Cullimore became President of the Central British Mission in 1960.  As such he was well known and loved by the saints in Wales.  

On his return to the USA, Elder Cullimore became Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April 1966 until October 1976 when he was granted general authority emeritus status.

At his funeral services in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square Wednesday, June 18, President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of Elder Cullimore as a man of good cheer, a man of talent, a man of peace, a man of love, a man of God. He was a man without guile who loved everyone and was eager to serve wherever called.


Joy F. Dunyon, President of British Mission

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah to parents of pioneer ancestry, Joy F. Dunyon served as a missionary in the North Central States Mission.  On completing this mission, he returned home to Utah. Shortly afterwards, he was called to serve a second mission in the same district specifically to complete the new mission programmes he had initiated.

In 1963 he was called to be President of the Central British Mission with headquarters in Birmingham, England.  He served there for three years and was responsible for laying some of the groundwork for many of the stakes that exist in England at the present time. Also working with British priesthood holders in preparing them for the key stake and ward positions when the time for making those stakes arrived. He was also instrumental in the building of seven ward chapels, which were constructed during the time President Dunyon was Mission President.  Additionally, Joy F. Dunyon has always been active in community organizations in and around the area in which he lived.

Sources for this historical information

  • Church History Library Catalog
  • Millennial Star
  • UK & Ireland Church History Newsletter 2016
  • The Church Builder Magazine 1964-1966
  • Member Historians: Rupert Corcoran, Elizabeth Wright, Avril Verrall, Lynne Barry, Julie Farr, David O. Hughes, son of President Alan O. Hughes.
  • Official Opening of the Cardiff Chapel Souvenir Programme (see below)
  • Dedication Programme of Cardiff Chapel by Elder James A. Cullimore
  • News clippings of the Western Mail and South Wales Echo

Souvenir Programme of The Official Opening of The Cardiff Chapel – 9 October 1966:


Construction period 10 October 1964 – 9 October 1966


Almost done


Cardiff Chapel today!

Cardiff_Chapel-Today.jpg Freda Entwistle
Photograph by Freda Entwistle