Building » Castleford – St Joseph

Castleford – St Joseph

Pontefract Road, Castleford, West Yorkshire

A rather old fashioned building for 1890, with a traditional aisled plan and little embellishment. The post-Vatican II internal character is much enhanced by a good set of stained glass windows by Joseph Nuttgens of 1972.

Although worship took place in various local private houses, the first Catholic chapel in the area was built by the Hon. Mrs Apollonia Bland at her house in Kippax Park in 1829, served by Jesuits from Pontefract. It ceased to be used in 1849. In 1871, a chapel-cum-school  was  opened  in  rented  rooms  in  Castleford  itself,  until  a  new school funded by Sir John Austin MP was built on the present site, opening in 1877. It had folding screens to enable the hall to be used as a church and included living accommodation for the first resident priest, Fr Gustave Thoron. Parts of that building still survive within the primary school directly to  the east of the church. Bishop Cornthwaite sent Fr John Hewison to take charge of the new parish in 1880 and he raised funds for the present church to be built in 1890-1 to the designs of Edward Goldie. The presbytery attached to the northeast of the church was built in 1901.

In 1920 the chancel was decorated with murals depicting the Apostles, Evangelists and other saints as a memorial to Sir John and Lady Austin, by a Belgian artist. Shortly after his arrival in 1936, Fr John Comerford substituted the large pulpit with a smaller one, removed the large brass corona light fittings and ceiled the nave. A grotto and War Memorial were built in the presbytery garden to the north of the church in 1956.

Major changes were made 1958-1960 by Fr Daniel Mulvihill. Internally, he painted out the 1920 mural, installed the forward altar, replaced the 1890 stone altar and tabernacle with dark veined marble, removed the 1936 pulpit and painted the pews. He also built the western narthex and inserted double lancet windows in the aisle walls between the original single lancets. None of the latter is in accordance with the plans by J. Langtry Langton held in the Diocesan archives, so presumably local builders were employed. Fr Mulvihill also began the enlargement of the school in1967.

His successor, Fr Bernard Battle reversed some of his changes (taking down the nave ceiling, stripping the paint off the pews) but most importantly, he commissioned new stained glass windows from Joseph Nuttgens. They were installed 1972-75 in the double lancets and those single lancets without glass. Fr Battle also commissioned the triptych and shrine house for the southeast altar from Mr McDool (an architect from York), which was painted by Joseph Nuttgens.

Fr William Finnegan (1989-96) carpeted the aisles and sanctuary and created the disabled access to the side of the porch.

The church is actually reversely oriented, with the main altar at geographic west. All references here will be to liturgical compass points.

 Edward Goldie (who had taken over his father’s practice in 1887) designed a church to seat 500, with a five bay aisled nave and chancel of red brick with stone dressings and slate roofs. A small timber frame chapel, the Austin Chantry, is attached to the south aisle and the presbytery is reached through the sacristy at the east end of the north aisle. The Chapel of Our Lady is at the east end of the south aisle, connected to the chancel by two Caernarvon arches.

 The utilitarian flat roofed narthex built in about 1960 is also of red brick and stone dressings. It has a c1300 Gothic style west door but hides a better detailed Early Gothic gabled west doorway with flanking quatrefoils that projects from the wall below the five light round headed west window. At the apex of the west facade is a stone corbelled bellcote with stone spirelet. The nave clerestorey has small cusped spheric triangle windows corresponding to single lancets at aisle level. The double lancets  of 1960 upset this  original austere balance,  though  undoubtedly give the interior more light; the protective grilles are crudely surface mounted.

 The open nave roof with its many closely spaced rafters dominates the interior, an effect helped by the many timbers of the lean-to aisle roofs with two principal trusses to  each  bay.  The  five  bay  arcades  have  two-chamfered  orders  on  short  round columns, motifs reproduced in the chancel arch. The short square chancel has an open barrel roof. All the windows have stained glass; the three lancet east window contains a Crucifixion scene possibly of 1910, the five lancet west window has grisaille and coloured medallions, some single aisle lancets are of early 20th century date, but all the double lancets and some singles are good work by Joseph Nuttgens of 1972-5. Nuttgens also painted the triptych and shrine house over the altar dedicated to Our Lady at the east end of the south aisle. The statue was carved by a Mr Butterworth. The Austin Chantry has stained glass in its timber framed side walls and contains a painted Pieta.

The six cusped arches of the 1890 reredos that flanked the central tabernacle remain somewhat incongruously above large panels of dark green veined marble that replace the former stone altar. The present altar is of Portland stone. The pews are in the form of benches with arm rests at each end.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Goldie

Original Date: 1890

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed