Darlaston - St Joseph

Church Street, Darlaston, Walsall WS10

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A steel-framed and brick church of the 1970s on a hexagonal plan, with a light and welcoming interior.

The first Mass to be said in modern times in the Darlaston area was on 17 December 1865 in the club at the Old Bull’s Head in Cock Street (High Street); the mission was served from Wednesbury. In 1874 an old Congregational chapel in Church Street was purchased and converted into a school/chapel with a small sanctuary added. The parish was erected in 1923, the predecessor of the present church built in 1930, and the presbytery in 1938. In 1962 a church hall-cum-chapel of ease was built at Bentley, from designs by Sandy & Norris.

Plans to replace the 1930 church were developed from 1977, with a new complex including a church of hexagonal plan (figure 1). Seating 226 and costing £120,000, the church was begun in January 1978 and blessed on 15 December the same year. It was dedicated by Bishop Couve de Murville on 29 June 1983. The designers were Horsley, Currall & Associates of Stafford, the successor practice to Sandy & Norris (contractors were Sandy & Co. Ltd of Stafford).

The church is steel framed and faced with red bricks. Its hexagonal plan form encouraged active participation of the laity in the liturgy, as desired by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. More prosaically, the shape is said to be a reflection of steel nuts, the manufacture of which were a staple industry in Darlaston. It has a black asbestos tile roof crowned by a fibreglass spire.

Inside the steel structure is exposed with tubular steel stanchions, linked by lattice girders. The facing material is buff brickwork. The principal lighting consists of ranges of ‘clerestory’ windows set behind the lattice girders. The setting of the sanctuary was created some 15-20 years ago and has marble steps. The most striking fitting is the Crucifixion behind the high altar, set against a carved and gilt surround; it dates from c.2000 and is in the distinctive Italian Primitive-influenced style of Stephen Foster.

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Horsley, Currall & Associates of Stafford

Original Date: 1978

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed