Upminster - St Joseph

Champion Road, Upminster, Essex RM14

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A late Gothic Revival church of 1939, with a plain interior. It retains most of the original furnishings in the sanctuary and side chapels. Modern stained glass has been installed in the west and east windows. 

A Mass centre existed at Upminster in 1882-88 at Hill House (also known as Minster House or Upminster House) on St Mary’s Lane, while it was owned by Countess Helen Tasker, benefactress to a number of building projects in the Diocese. A first church on the corner of Sunnyside Gardens and St Mary’s Lane was opened in 1923. The architect was Mr Mead and the builders Messrs G. Makings of Romford. In October 1923 the parish was erected. The current site in Champion Road was acquired in 1931 by Mr Michael Healy of Dawlish, the father of the first parish priest, Rev. Michael J. Healy. A second temporary church was erected in 1932 on the site of the current presbytery. In 1934 the adjoining plot was bought for the school and in 1936 the Diocese bought the church site from Mr Healy for £2,300.

The foundation stone for the current church was laid on 25 March 1939, containing a bronze container - a gift of Mr Mahoney of Bow - with the Bishop’s document, a copy of the Catholic Times and several coins. The church was opened by Bishop Doubleday on 28 October the same year. The architect was Donald Plaskett Marshall of Marshall & Archard, London. The contractors were Messrs H.W. Wilson Ltd of South Ockendon, and the masons A. Pilgrim & Sons, Ilford. The cost of the church building was less than £7,000. The original marble-faced high altar was installed in 1946 and moved forward during post-Vatican II reordering.

The church is built in brown Crowborough stock brick laid in English bond with stone dressings and a tiled roof. The plan is rectangular, comprising the apsidal nave and side chapels under a single pitched roof, and flat-roofed side aisles. At the west end, the nave projects one bay beyond the aisles, forming the narthex framed by two octagonal turrets. The sacristy at the southeast is a large, pitched-roofed structure. The two turrets flanking the gabled west front accommodate the gallery stair at the southwest and the repository at the northwest. The Tudor-arch doorway with flanking rectangular windows forms a shallow porch under a gable topped by a statue of St Joseph with the Christ Child by Joseph Cribb, pupil of Eric Gill. The west window has simple plate tracery in Portland stone of two lancets and a circle, filled with abstract modern stained glass. Above is a ventilation opening into the roof space and a gable cross. The three-stage turrets have string courses above the first and second stages. Their bases have matching white stones: that on the south being the foundation stone, the other is blank. The south elevation has clerestory windows framed in brick and corbelled brick cornices under the eaves of the nave and aisles.

There are two side entrances into the narthex, that on the south side now disused. The internal entrances to the two turrets have elaborate wrought-iron gates. The six- bay nave has a pointed barrel vault with transverse arches articulating each bay and forming cruciform piers. The aisles have low, flat ceilings. Each bay has three windows and a single clerestory window per bay, all of metal, filled with clear glazing. The westernmost nave bay has the gallery with a glazed timber screen below.

The easternmost bay of the north aisle is contained in the side chapel’s roof slope and is thus higher than the aisle. A single window in this higher bay has a modern stained glass window of St Joseph, of the same style as the remaining stained glass windows at the east end. (The west window is of a different style.) The Lady Chapel has a stained glass window of St Mary with the Christ Child to the north. The Chapel retains the original stone reredos with a guilloche border and carved lilies around a canopied statue of the Madonna and Child in front of a blue stone background. Below are the tabernacle and a stone altar.

At the northeast corner to the sanctuary is the polygonal stone pulpit. The five-sided apse is stone-faced up to the springing of the vault. Two side windows have stained glass of various sacred symbols, including the dove, candles, a scroll and the ChiRho (north window), and three jugs, vines, three fishes and two loaves. The apse vault has a dove with a sunburst and the inscription ‘In cruce latebat sola Deitas at hic latet simul et humanitas’ (from the hymn ‘Adoro te devote’ by St Thomas Aquinas). The stone reredos has a canopy with the inscription of ‘Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus’ over three pointed arches with a crucifix. Set against the east wall is a marble-faced tabernacle stand, carrying the large cylindrical brass tabernacle. The altar is also marble-faced.

St Joseph’s chapel at the southeast has a timber altar and tabernacle. A statue of St Joseph stands in front of the stone reredos comprising a pointed arch with the inscription ‘Cui nomen erat Joseph’ and dado-height stone panelling with two vases on either end. In the arch to the sanctuary stands the font, an unusual assembly of a circular stone bowl on a wrought-iron stand with a square timber cover. At the west end of the south aisle is a large statue of the Sacred Heart. The narthex has a tile floor while the nave is carpeted. The Stations of the Cross are rectangular casts. The timber benches are plain, apart from the front pair in the nave which has fronts carved with tracery.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: Donald Plaskett Marshall of Marshall & Archard

Original Date: 1939

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed