Southdown - St Joseph

Sladebrook Road, Southdown, Bath, Somerset, BA2

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A small suburban church with integral hall below, built a few years after the Second Vatican Council. The interior is more distinguished than the exterior. Furnishings of note include a carved and painted panel made for the temporary Lady Chapel at Our Lady and St Alphege’s church, Bath. 

During the Second World War, Mass was said in the hall of St Barnabas, the local Anglican parish church. In 1947, a prefabricated church was built. This was replaced by the present church designed by William D. Proctor of Oatley & Brentnall, the successor practice to that founded by Sir George Oatley, architect of the Wills Memorial Building, Bristol. Work on site started in November 1968 and the church was opened by Bishop Rudderham on 20 November 1969. The builders were Messrs George Williams & Sons of Bath. The overall cost was £22,000. The short and broad plan was designed so that no member of the congregation would be further than fifty feet from the altar. The sloping site allowed for the construction of a hall below the church. A few furnishings were brought from the closed Anglican church of St Luke, Bedminster, including some pews, a chair and a prie-dieu.

The church faces southeast. This description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

The church is a steel-framed structure with walls of concrete blocks faced in Bath stone. The side walls have prefabricated stone chip panels below the clerestory windows. The plan is roughly square with a west narthex, a sacristy at the southeast, and a projecting sanctuary with canted sides. The west elevation has an eight-light window under the gable, with the mullion and transom at the centre forming a cross. The pitched roof has a dormer window on each side. The side windows are narrow clerestory bands, while the sanctuary is lit by six-light windows on each side.

The walls are plastered, apart from the sanctuary which is lined in reconstituted Bath stone. Above the stone altar hangs a timber canopy whose shape recalls, in the words of Bryan Little, the ‘winged’ headdress of a Vincentian sister. On the left of the sanctuary is the Blessed Sacrament chapel with the tabernacle on a stone support. On the right is the sunken baptistery with a Bath stone font on a convex triangular plan. Above hangs a carved and painted panel of Our Lady and the child (in memory of Percy Livingstone Parker, made by Stuflesser of Ortisei), originally from the temporary Lady Chapel in Our Lady and St Alphege’s church, Bath (qv). Once the Lady Chapel was built in 1954, the panel was moved to St Joseph’s.

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Oatley & Brentnall

Original Date: 1969

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed