Blackburn - St Joseph

Audley Range, Audley, Blackburn BB1

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A well-designed church of the early 1980s, with contemporary presbytery and parish hall. The church interior is distinguished by dalle de verre glass, probably made by the monks of Buckfast Abbey. The building replaces a school-chapel built in 1877 by Goldie & Child.

A mission was established in 1869, when three cottages in William Hopwood Street were adapted to serve as a chapel. This was served from St Alban’s until 1874, when the Neapolitan Fr (later Canon) Aloysius Maglione took over the mission. He commissioned Goldie & Child, architects of London, to design a large building in Italianate style, with a school at the lower level and an upper chapel (figure 1), on a site given by Mr Richard Shakeshaft. The church was opened by Bishop Vaughan in 1877.  A presbytery was built at the same time. A separate boys’ school was built by Canon Maglione in 1895.

Described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘Blackburn’s most bewildering building, large and uncouth’, the Goldie & Child church was demolished in 1976, and a mosque now occupies the site. The present church was built on a nearby site in 1982, from designs by Bernard Ashton of the Cassidy & Ashton Partnership, Manchester.  

The church is a well-designed, fit-for-purpose structure forming part of a complex which also includes a presbytery and parish hall.  The church consists of one large square volume, for the nave, over which is a steeply-pitched slate roof, incorporating a pyramidal glazed top.  Ancillary spaces (sacristies, narthex) and also the sanctuary are lower. The outer walls are clad in brick and articulated by buttress-like fins (where there is glass) and curved projections (at the east end for the Blessed Sacrament chapel and at the sides for the Lady Chapel and baptistery).

The main entrance leads into a low narthex with bare brick walls and tiled floor, with the church giving off to one side and the parish hall on the other. In this narthex is a stone wall tablet blessed by Pope John Paul II at Manchester on 31 May 1982 and a white marble monument to Fr Maglione, founder of the mission, which was brought over from the old church. The main space of the nave is light, lofty and top lit, with plastered and white painted wall surfaces and laminated timber roof trusses rising from a timber clad ring beam. Giving off the nave are some lower, more intimate spaces containing perhaps the church feature of the church, a series of dalle de verre windows which look like the work of Dom Charles Norris’s workshop at Buckfast Abbey. An organ (by George Sixsmith, Ashton-under-Lyne) is placed at the west end of the nave. The sanctuary is placed to the east, unusually with a low ceiling over (with further top lighting). There is a suite of solid polished granite sanctuary furnishings incorporating low relief carving, and a figure of the Resurrected Christ is placed above the sanctuary, facing towards the nave.

Diocese: Salford

Architect: Cassidy & Ashton Partnership

Original Date: 1982

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed