The original Parish was that of Llandrillo-yn-Rhos, but with the growth of Colwyn Bay and the increase of population there was a need for a church building closer to the town. A map of 1865 shows an entry “intended site for church”. This is where the present church now stands, though the structure that is now Saint Paul’s was certainly not the first building to be put up, even though it gives the appearance of being in place for many years.
The congregation first met in a carpenter’s shop in Ivy Street, which used to stand on what is now the car park, and the first service took place on June 18th 1871. After a year a mission room was built where the present church now stands and was opened by Bishop Hughes on the anniversary of the first service in the carpenter’s shop.
An iron church was erected and was opened on June 23rd 1880, again on the site of the church of today. After six years, on October 31st 1886, this New Colwyn Mission Chapel was burnt down, allegedly by the Mochdre tithe rioters who had previously been condemned by the Vicar, Venables-Williams. Services continued in the Public Hall, now Theatr Colwyn. The fire was a mixed blessing as it marks the beginning of the history of the present church building, with the vicar and congregation setting about constructing a permanent stone building.
Meanwhile in 1888 the Bishop of St. Asaph set about creating a Colwyn Bay ecclesiastical parish with the enthusiastic co-operation of Venables-Williams, who would be inducted as its first Vicar, whist also remaining Vicar of Llandrillo yn Rhos. However, when a new Bishop insisted on appointing a new Vicar for the proposed new parish, Venables-Williams raised objections to the parish’s division, taking his concerns as far as Parliament. A 582 name petition was submitted and Venables-Williams wrote to Queen Victoria – all to no avail – as in 1893 the ecclesiastical parish of Colwyn Bay was established. Within days of the Order of Council being made, Venable-Williams wrote an open letter expressing his anger and bitterness about the decision.
The present church building was built in stages:
- on July 13th 1888 the broad and spacious five bay nave, with its narrow passage aisles and transept was consecrated;
- on April 7th 1895 the chancel, with the choir stalls and sanctuary in the east end, was consecrated (although apparently to the original 1887 design)
- on November 12th 1911 the tower was dedicated, with its clock and one and a quarter ton bell and
- in 1922, the Memorial Chapel was dedicated, with the names of those who fell in the First World War, along with the two windows to the memory of the boys of Dinglewood School who also fell in that war.
The tower which we see today is to a revised design without a spire, originally the tower was to have a spire.
More recent changes to the church have been the rebuilding of the organ in 1960 when the console was also moved to the south transept. Fifty-six miles of minute telephone wire connect the keyboard to the main body of the organ. In 1980 the church was totally refurbished, carpeted, and new under floor heating installed, and in 1987, with the re-establishment of the choir, lights were placed on the choir stalls.
St. Paul’s occupies a prominent location in the town centre, standing in an important green space in the densely built up area. The church is a particularly fine example of the work of John Douglas, (1830-1911). John Douglas was a highly regarded and well known provincial architect of his time. He practiced in Chester and his work may be seen in the North West of England and in North Wales, and locally in Old Colwyn and Bryn y Maen.
The church is built of local limestone with contrasting red Runcorn sandstone dressings. The roof is in greenish slate laid to diminishing courses. The skilful combination of the two stones – grey and red – may be seen on all the elevations and on the tower. The sandstone has been chosen for the gable parapets, string courses, window tracery and doorways.
Note on the eastern elevation facing Rhiw Road the large window, the date 1894 on the chancel and the window on the north side of the east end with the four quatrefoils.
On the north side buttresses divide the nave and isle into bays. A plaque on the north side records the date 1887 with the names of Wm. Venables Williams, Vicar and John Porter and Daniel Allen, Churchwardens.
The bold, massive and noble buttressed tower dates from 1910-11, also in limestone and red sandstone. This tower was the last work of John Douglas – sadly he did not live to see the tower finished. Each of the elevations of the tower are different – the eastern face has a wide arched entrance, with a statue above, leading to a large open gated porch. Note the commemorative stone dated September 29th, 1910.
The plan of the church is very simple having a chancel with an organ chamber and side chapel on the north side and clergy and choir vestries on the Southside. Its ‘openness’ distinguishes the main body of the church, [the nave.] The style is simple and the material is local limestone faced with Helsby Rock Red sandstone. Going towards the east end of the church, we come to the chancel with the choir stalls and above the altar there is the reredos carved to the design of Mr Caroe by Messrs Boulton of Cheltenham – it depicts as the main scene the events at Emmaus and Jesus being known ‘in the breaking of the bread’ to his disciples. This was erected in 1935.
The East window, at the far end of the church depicts the Lord reigning in glory, flanked by adoring angels. Below is the Ascension of Christ with the words ‘Ye men of Galilee why stand ye gazing up into heaven.’ Below this is Saul meeting with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. The other parts [lights] of the window show the Gospel writers and the archangels and apostles. The West end window was erected in 1920; the main centre light is of the Crucifixion and on one side Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of Jesus. The other side is of St. John and the centurion.
At the western end of the nave, a vestibule, or porch, was added as a war memorial, inscribed – 1914-1919 “OUR GLORIOUS DEAD”.
The churchyard is enclosed by iron railings. Note the steps, with ornate lamps, which lead to the entrance in the tower.
The adjoining church hall, of 1895, is also by Douglas and Fordham.
St. Paul’s Church is a notable local landmark and is an excellent example of late Victorian church architecture.