Weston-Super-Mare - St Joseph

Camp Road, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset BS23

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A small church of the 1850s in early Gothic style by Charles Hansom, built under the patronage of Joseph Ruscombe Poole, the Bishop of Clifton’s lawyer. It was seamlessly extended in 1893 by Canon A. J. C. Scoles. The stone-built group of church, (later) presbytery and boundary wall together make a positive contribution to the local conservation area.

The mission in Weston-super-Mare was founded in 1806 when Fr Pascal O’Farrell OFM of Bristol bought Greenfield Cottage. In c.1858, Joseph Ruscombe Poole
(d. 1890), a Catholic convert and philanthropist, and lawyer to Bishop Clifford, purchased Westgate House for the purpose of donating part of the land for the church. He also paid the architect and builder and provided an annual stipend of £50 for a resident priest. John Hugh Smyth-Pigott, the owner of a quarry on nearby Worlebury Hill, donated the stone for the church. Charles F. Hansom designed a small church, comprising a nave and chancel which could be extended at a future point. The foundation stone was laid by Poole’s eight-year old son on 8 July 1858 and the church opened in time for Christmas the same year.

In 1893, the planned extensions were carried out to designs by Canon A. J. C. Scoles and included side chapels, a sacristy, and an organ loft. The side chapels were donated by the Smyth-Pigott family. In 1901, the present presbytery was built to the west of the church. The church was consecrated on 26 October 1958. In the late 1990s, the site of the former parish hall was redeveloped with housing and in February 1999 the current hall to the east of the church was opened. The retired Bishop Mervyn Alexander was the last resident priest (2001-07). Since then, the church has been served from the two other parishes in Weston super Mare, Corpus Christi and Our Lady of Lourdes (qqv.). The presbytery is let to a Polish chaplain.

The church was built in 1858 and extended in 1893. The materials are locally-quarried stone with Bath stone dressings. The roof has modern pantiles and uPVC rainwater goods. The plan comprises a nave with short side chapels; attached to the east is the sacristy. The three-bay side chapels are built in the same lancet Gothic style as the original nave with pairs of lancets set between buttresses. The west gable has a circular window with tree trefoils, while the west gable has three lancets. The sacristy at the east has its own pitched roof, like the side chapels, but is placed perpendicular to the axis of the church. It has a carved roundel with a cross in the south gable. The west entrance porch belongs to the adjoining presbytery of 1901; the original entrance survives inside, in the west wall.

The six-bay interior has an open scissor-truss roof. At the west is a timber organ gallery containing an organ by Halmshaw & Sons, Birmingham, probably c.1893. Beneath the gallery is a small confessional. Two moulded arches on chamfered pillars on each side lead into the side chapels. St Joseph’s chapel to the north has a timber reredos above a marble tablet commemorating Joseph Ruscombe Poole, the donor. In front of this stands the octagonal stone font, with coloured marble colonnettes and a timber cover with pierced Gothic carving. The Lady Chapel to the south has a marble altar with carved colonnettes and a Marian monogram and was donated by Maria Knight (d. 1904).

The sanctuary retains its wrought-iron rails, altar and reredos. The reredos has angel finials and six niches divided by coloured marble colonettes and containing painted saints by Dom Theodore Baily OSB of Farnborough Abbey (1958), three on each side of the tabernacle and gabled monstrance throne. The (later) sacristy is accessed through a door behind the reredos. Above, the east window has Victorian patterned stained glass and seven narrative panels, including the Crucifixion at the centre. The Lady Chapel south window has a fine Annunciation scene dated 1920. Several other windows, including those in the two west bays of the nave and the porch, have late nineteenth-century patterned glass. 

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: C. F. Hansom; Canon A. J. C Scoles

Original Date: 1858

Conservation Area: Yes

Modifications: 1893

Listed Grade: Not listed