Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 03, 2020
Webpage updated: May 10, 2021




The Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of Saint Mary and Saint Boniface is situated in Wyndham Street West, Plymouth.

The Altar  of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Plymouth.
From a postcard.

The interior and altar of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Plymouth.
From a postcard.

When the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth was formed in 1850 it comprised the counties of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.  Plymouth was chosen as the name of the Diocese because they could not use the name of an existing Church of England one.

The Right Reverend George Errington was the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Plymouth.   He was ordained by Cardinal Wiseman in the Church of Saint John at Salford, Manchester, on July 25th 1851.

William Vaughan (1814-1902) became the second, and more well-known, Bishop.  Cardinal Wiseman ordained him at the Church of the Holy Apostles at Clifton, Bristol, July 10th 1855.

A similar interior view of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Plymouth
From a postcard.

When Bishop Vaughan decided that a new building was required to replace the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Mary the Blessed Virgin  in East Stonehouse and make it befit its new status, he purchased a part of what was known as "Five Fields" to the north of the Town.  An appeal was launched to raise the money needed for the building and 1,000 was immediately promised by Mr Edmund Bastard, a local man.  The architects chosen were Messrs Joseph A and Charles F Hansom of Clifton in Bristol, who became well-known for their design of the Hansom Cab.  The builder was Mr S Roberts of Stonehouse, his tender of 3,804 being accepted on May 22nd 1856.  Work started on June 22nd 1856, the Bishop's House, which fronted on to Cecil Street, being ready for him to move in on September 23rd 1857.  The Cathedral was opened for public worship on March 25th 1858 although it was not consecrated until it was free of debt, on September 22nd 1880.

The War Memorial Chapel at the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Plymouth.
From a postcard.

It is in the Early English cruciform style and consists of choir with aisles, transepts with eastern chapels, nave aisles and a spire, some 205 feet in height, which was added to the top of the tower in 1866.  There was seating for 604 people.  The tower contained one bell.  The expense of the spire was met from the offerings made to the Bishop of Plymouth, Doctor Vaughan, in 1889 to celebrate his 50th year of the priesthood.

The Bishop's House.
From a postcard.

The sacristy forms a separate building which leads to the Bishop's residence.  The stained western window was presented by the diocese to commemorate the completion of the twenty-fifth year of the consecration of Bishop William Vaughan on September 16th 1880. 

Bishop Vaughan in fact stayed for 47 years.   When he had started there were 23 priests in the Diocese and 23 missions.  At the end of his lengthy period of service there were 100 priests, 13 male religious houses, 28 nun's houses, 4 orphanages, 27 elementary schools and 5 schools for older children.   Bishop Vaughan was regarded as the founding father of the Plymouth Diocese.

The carved stone reredos was erected in 1889.  In 1904 a memorial window, with tablet beneath, was erected to Bishop Vaughan who died in 1902.  A large restoration project was undertaken by Mr F Walters from 1920 to 1927, which included the colourful Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.  In 1921 the lady chapel was transformed and a diocesan memorial to those from Plymouth Diocese who fell in the Great War was erected.  Also in 1921 the organ was placed in the chapel that had been designed for it and a new altar of the Sacred Heart was erected in the transept.

Further restoration work was carried out in 1956-57 by Mr Hugh Bankart.