Old Road, Bromyard, HR7 4BQ
A plain but well-detailed design of the 1950s, making a modest contribution to the local conservation area.
The first Catholic church of modern times in Bromyard was built in 1913, by Fr Denys Matthieu OSB, a monk of Buckfast Abbey. This lay in Frog Lane, and was apparently built to Fr Matthieu’s designs. The first recorded wedding at the church, in June 1917, was that of the Irish republican politician Terence MacSwiney and Muriel Murphy (MacSwiney died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison three years later).
The present church was built in 1956 after the land was acquired and funds raised by the Rev. Daniel Brislane; the first service was Midnight Mass at Christmas that year. The architect was Alexander Graham FRIBA of Worcester; this appears to be his only Catholic church. St Joseph’s was designed to seat about 90, and the original intention was for a presbytery giving off the liturgical north side at the east end, linking with the sacristy via an enclosed ‘cloister’. The estimated cost was £7,700, excluding furniture and fittings. Economies prevented the building of the attached presbytery; this was added later, as a detached building to the liturgical southwest, nearer the street frontage.
The church was consecrated on 10 May 1986. Today it is served from Leominster, and the presbytery is let.
The church is orientated north-south, but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. with the altar to the east.
The church was built in 1956 to a traditional longitudinal plan, consisting of wide aisleless nave, south chapel, sanctuary and western narthex under a gallery. It is of cavity wall construction, externally faced with golden-buff coloured bricks laid in stretcher bond, the pitched roof of interlocking dark brown clay pantiles. The entrance front is simply treated, with a curved copper-clad canopy over the oak gothic doorway (re-used from the old church?) and a plain cross applied to the gable above. The round-arched windows at the sides are paired and (in the south chapel) tripled; they have been renewed in uPVC, with pseudo-leaded panes and opaque glazing (the original windows are described in the CBR account as containing ‘small Flemish-pattern glass’). The raised gable over the sanctuary has a central brick pier with recessed windows in the returns providing indirect top lighting to the interior. Below this is a triple arcaded ‘cloister’ linking the sacristy and the intended presbytery on the south side (not built).
The church is entered under a western gallery, which has been extended forward with a curved front and a mainly glazed underside. The original baptistery at the west end has been converted to a piety shop, and the font relocated. The main body of the nave is a single space, divided into four bays by full-height laminated timber arches with exposed purlins and painted boarded ceilings between. The walls are plastered and painted white (originally they were light beige in the nave and lavender in the sanctuary). A Lady Chapel gives off the south side of the nave near the sanctuary, now with a confessional/reconciliation room giving off. The sanctuary is separated from the nave by a central arch with smaller side arches, and is dramatically lit from above by an arched opening over the reredos containing a crucifix. The timber panelled reredos continues the triple arched theme, with the tabernacle placed in the central arch and statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady in flanking niches. The walls on either side are panelled, and on the ceiling above is a flat painted canopy originally over the high altar. The altar has been moved forward since the Second Vatican Council to allow for westward-facing celebration of the Mass. The sanctuary and nave floors are carpeted (the 1956 account says the sanctuary floor is ceramic tiled, others of timber strip). The other chief furnishings of note are in the Lady Chapel, and include a wooden statue of the Virgin and Child (presented by Belmont Abbey and apparently recovered from a stream; it is evidently of some antiquity) and three modern stained glass windows of traditional character by Jim Budd of Kington, Herefordshire.
Architect: Alexander Graham
Original Date: 1956
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed