Conwy Road, Colwyn Bay, LL29 7LG
An imposing and little-altered church in a prominent location within the Colwyn Bay Pwllycrochan Conservation Area. It was built in 1898-1900 from designs by Robert Curran, whose only other identified Catholic church is Our Lady of the Assumption, Latchford (Diocese of Shrewsbury), with which it has close similarities. It was financed by Mgr James Lennon, in memory of his brother the Rev. John Lennon. The church is an assured if rather old-fashioned essay in the Decorated Gothic style first promoted by A.W.N. Pugin. It suffers from the lack of its intended steeple, but the lofty interior is convincing and contains three good carved stone altars and associated fittings, as well as six stained glass windows by Harry Clarke dating from 1912. The presbytery was also designed by Curran and complements the church.
The mission of St Joseph’s Colwyn Bay was entrusted to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in January 1898. Colwyn Bay had previously been part of the Llandudno mission and was served from there until 1895, when Fr Rockcliff, a secular priest, took up residence in the town and said Mass in the lounge of the Imperial Hotel. At this time the number of summer visitors and residents was rapidly increasing, and when the Oblates took charge they quickly found a site for the erection of a church and a wealthy benefactor came forward. This was Mgr. James Lennon, a retired priest from Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, who undertook to finance the construction of the church at his own expense in memory of his brother Dean John Lennon. The foundation stone was laid on 10 August 1898 and the final cost was £12,000. The architect was G. W. Curran of Bradford, the contractor Thomas Brown of Chester. Other donations included the monstrance and silver chalice, which came from Simonscourt Castle, Donnybrook, Ireland in 1899; the high altar, Lady altar and Sacred Heart altar in 1900-1901; St Joseph’s statue on the exterior of the church in 1914; and the stained glass by Harry Clarke in memory of Henry and Elizabeth Burne dating from 1912. The organ came from the Jerusalem Chapel in Penmaenmawr in 1995. A lithograph drawing in the church by Curran indicates that the building was intended to have a tall northwest spire above the tower, which is now capped off with a castellated parapet. The presbytery was built at the same time as the church, also from designs by Curran.
The church has a linear plan, oriented east-west, with a northwest corner tower. It incorporates a porch in the base of the tower, a nave, north and south aisles, apsidal sanctuary and side chapels. It is built of irregular coursed cream-coloured sandstone with red sandstone dressings and Welsh slate roofs. The west front is steeply gabled with a large four-light Geometric-traceried window within a deeply moulded pointed arch. Below is a similarly moulded arch to the west doorway flanked by paired granite shafts and with double doors with strap hinges. A moulded string course at sill level links the base of the west window to flanking stepped buttresses, one of which belongs to the tower. There are lean-to aisles to the north and south sides, the former extending from the rear of the tower. The tower has angle buttresses, a moulded surround to the porch doorway in the north elevation, and above it an elaborately carved niche with a white marble statue of St Joseph. The top stage has a tall lancet window in each of the three outward facing elevations. The north and south aisles have cusped two-light windows with hood moulds and the clerestory windows above are of three lights with flat heads at eaves level. Stepped buttresses delineate the bays of the aisles. At the east end of both aisles are attached single bay chapels with steeply-pitched roofs and coped gables with cross finials. Gables have traceried two-light windows with quatrefoils. The polygonal apsed sanctuary has two-light windows of the same type as the chapels. A small sacristy is attached to the sanctuary.
Inside, the tall five-bay nave has pointed arches to the aisle arcades which are supported on polished red granite columns. The arch-braced timber roof trusses are carried on slender attached shafts rising from corbels at the intersections of the nave arcade arches. The sanctuary roof is also of timber and has stencil decoration in the spandrels. Each of the chapels has an elaborate carved stone altar, that on the north side depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Cusack, and on the south side is the altar to Our Lady, carved by Boultons of Cheltenham, both 1900-1901. The high altar is in similar style. The marble altar screen remains in place. At the west end is a choir and organ gallery, set above the narthex, which is separated from the nave by a pitch pine timber and glass screen that is original to the church. The baptistery at the southwest corner is now used as a repository. The organ, which came from the Jerusalem Chapel in Penmaenmawr, was made by Peter Conacher and Co. of Huddersfield and was rebuilt by George Sixsmith in 1995. Of particular interest are six stained glass windows in the south aisle of 1912 by Harry Clarke. There is additional unidentified stained glass in the sanctuary windows that dates from 1925. In the south chapel is a tablet set in a Gothic frame dedicated to John Joseph Lennon, Rector of St Gregory’s Weld Bank, Chorley who died October 12, 1897, in whose memory the church was erected by his brother Mgr James Lennon in 1900.
Architect: Robert Curran
Original Date: 1900
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed