Aldershot - St Joseph

Queen’s Road, Aldershot, Hants

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Fine early-twentieth century church in basilican style, with applied and integral polychromy, both inside and out. The church makes a powerful contribution to the conservation area, its solid red brick massing and apsidal east end (recalling Albi Cathedral) taking full advantage of the sloping triangular site.

The architect George Drysdale (1881-1949) studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris and then worked in the offices of Ernest George and Leonard Stokes, before starting his own practice in 1911, shortly after which he made the designs for St Joseph’s church. From 1916-19 Drysdale was in Canada, rebuilding the fire-damaged Houses of Parliament in Ottawa. On his return to England he set up partnership with Leonard Stokes until Stokes’ death in 1925. Drysdale was based in Birmingham, and he had a predominantly Catholic church building practice, which included three in Birmingham and others at Weymouth, South Norwood, Ruislip and Bodmin. He specialised in variations on a basilican and Romanesque theme. 

In 1872 a site was purchased in Queen’s Road, and St Joseph’s School, plus a school chapel, opened in November of that year. A tin church was built adjacent to the presbytery in 1883, which was subsequently dismantled and moved to Belle Vue Road, North Town. The foundation stone for the present church was laid in March 1902, and the church opened in January 1913 by Bishop Cotter. The church was consecrated on 22 June 1982.

The church is described by Pevsner as being ‘[O]ne of the most impressive churches of its date, brilliantly planned on a triangular site, steeply sloping down to the central belfry and the apse on the E apex.’ The church is brick built with a pantile roof. The brickwork has a polychrome finish, with dark red and narrow banding on the body of the church and grey brick at clerestory level. The design is basilican, with side chapels with half drum roofs at the north and south sides at the west end, a central belfry and an apse at the eastern apex. The principal entrance is from Queen’s Road on the south front. Internally, the nave has four bays with windowless aisles. The polychrome decoration is of brick and glazed tiles, with dark marble columns in the apse. At the west end is a gallery with an organ, not currently in use. The church and presbytery form a harmonious group.

Diocese: Portsmouth

Architect: George Drysdale

Original Date: 1913

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II