Building » Cardiff (Cathays) – St Joseph

Cardiff (Cathays) – St Joseph

New Zealand Road, Cathays, CF14 3BR

A brick interwar church in Italian Romanesque style designed by Cyril Bates for the Rosminians. Funded partly by a generous private bequest and handsomely fitted out, the church is a variant on Bates’s earlier church of St Joseph, Port Talbot. It forms a good group with the adjoining school and presbytery, and the bell tower is a local landmark.

In 1913 the Marquess of Bute gave a one-acre site in New Zealand Road on condition that a permanent Catholic church should be built within ten years. In the same year a prefabricated corrugated iron church was erected in the southwest corner of the site, the building having previously served for fourteen years as the church of St Alban at Splott (qv). A separate parish was established in 1921, under the control of the Institute of Charity (Rosminians). A parish hall was built at the rear of the church in 1922 and in 1926 St Joseph’s Catholic school was built fronting Whitchurch Road. The architects for the school were F. R. Bates & Son (inscription on the front of the building).

In the early 1930s Mrs Edith Elinor Callaghan, the widow of Mr T. J. Callaghan of Penarth (and benefactor of the church there), left £10,000 towards the cost of building a new church. The foundation stone of St Joseph’s church was laid by the Archbishop of Cardiff on 9 October 1935 and the church was opened by the archbishop on 26 October 1936. The new building was designed by Cyril Bates of F. R. Bates & Son, and was in the same Italian Romanesque style he had used for St Joseph Port Talbot (qv) in 1930. The interior was richly furnished, with marble high altar and Lady altar, polished English alabaster communion rails with gilded wrought iron gates, stone pulpit and font all executed by W. H. Best of Cheltenham. The internal joinery was of American, Australian and Japanese oak.

The Cardiff Diocesan yearbook for 1937 noted that ‘provision has been made for a presbytery, which will be begun at once’; the neo-Georgian building attached to the church (figure 3) was presumably also designed by Cyril Bates.


The church is not orientated; the liturgical east end faces to the northwest. All directions in the following description are liturgical unless otherwise stated.

The building is in the Italian Romanesque style. The exterior is faced with hand-made Coleford red brick laid in Flemish bond, the roof coverings are of hand-made Staffordshire tiles. On plan it comprises a nave and tall sanctuary under a continuous pitched roof, with narrow flat-roofed passage aisles to the nave and a southeast chapel. A tall brick campanile is attached to the southwest corner of the church. The gabled west front has a wide central door with a decorated stone surround and paired round-headed windows above, all set under a tall triple-stepped stilted brick arch. Placed over the doorway is a large stone figure of St Joseph. The west ends of the flat-roofed aisle have single tall round-headed windows. The campanile is of four stages with a pyramidal tiled roof; it is rectangular on plan and set in the same plane as the west front. At the base of the south side is a doorway under a copper tented canopy, the second and third stages have small slit windows, the fourth stage has triple round-headed openings on the longer sides and double openings on the shorter sides, with a brick balcony in front of the western openings. The aisles each have five pairs of round-headed windows, while the sanctuary has four round-headed windows on each side and a blind eastern wall.

The interior has plastered walls and terrazzo floors. The nave has an open timber roof with collars, king and queen posts. At the west end is a gallery with bowed ends, now underbuilt to form a narthex. On either side of the nave are five tall unmoulded arched openings with small slit windows above at clerestorey level. The side walls of the main arches are pierced at low level with the round-headed openings of passage aisles. The paired aisle windows have clear glazing with coloured borders. At the east end of the nave is a simple round-headed arch to the sanctuary which is raised four steps above the nave. The sanctuary ceiling is flat with cross-beams.

The sanctuary has been reordered. The original elaborate communion rails have been removed, but the marble high altar, gradine and domed housing for the monstrance survive (the altar brought forward and the tabernacle now placed under the domed housing). Also surviving are the five-sided pulpit and the drum font on a fluted base, both of Corsham stone, and the oak nave benches. The coloured cast stone Stations of the Cross are probably those installed in 1936. The sanctuary and aisle windows have figurative stained glass of the 1930s, while other windows have tinted cathedral glass.


The church was listed Grade II in June 2023, following Taking Stock. List description at:

Heritage Details

Architect: F. R. Bates & Son

Original Date: 1936

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II