Building » Denbigh – St Joseph

Denbigh – St Joseph

Bryn Stanley, Denbigh, LL16 3NS

A small church on a hilltop site, chiefly of interest for its innovative structural design and stained glass. It is one of a small number of churches that were designed in the 1960s with a thin skin roof structure that had the advantage of providing a flexible space without internal supports at an economical cost. As combined with clerestory strip windows, this gives a sense that the roof is floating. Stained glass includes full height dalle de verre glazing in the baptistery by Jonah Jones.

A mission was first established at Denbigh by the Jesuit Fathers in 1853. In 1863 a chapel was built on land at Bryn Sychar, reputedly at the expense Fr Arundel S.J., a member of the Arundel family of Wardour, near Salisbury. For many years the church was served at weekends by seminarians from St. Beuno’s. In 1910 a house was built beside the chapel to provide permanent accommodation for a priest.

In the twentieth century the chapel became too small for the growing Catholic population, and after much fundraising a new church and adjoining presbytery was built and opened in 1968. It was dedicated to St Joseph by John Petit, Bishop of Menevia. The church was built on a square plan, with baptistery and sanctuary arranged on the diagonal axis. The architect was Gwilym Parry Davies of Denbigh and the contractor was Hugh Jones and Son, also of Denbigh. The cost (including the presbytery) was £25,000.


The church is built of loadbearing pale brown brick with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof thus avoiding the need for internal columns. The roof, which has a mineral felt finish gains strength from membrane tension in the form of a double layer of tongue and groove boards with timber joists between, providing a clear ceiling line with no interrupting beams. This and the clerestory glazing that extends around the perimeter walls in the form of a horizontal strip gives an illusion that the roof is floating. In effect it is restrained by holding down bolts within the cavity of the walls, and at the two opposite corners are large reinforced concrete buttresses to which the roof structure is anchored. The windows are aluminium framed, and the timber fascias have been replaced in upvc.

The plan is a square with one corner sliced off at a diagonal from which a fully glazed octagonal baptistery projects. Alongside this is the entrance, which leads into a narthex. Originally there was a Lady Chapel separated from the narthex by a partition, but both rooms are now joined up to create a meeting room and space for refreshments after Sunday Mass. The sanctuary is set on the diagonal and is raised up by a single step with a large altar made from Trevor grey granite. This and the tabernacle are lit by concealed vertical window strips. The walls are painted white and the floor is surfaced with quarry tiles. The dalle de verre stained glass windows around the walls of the church were designed by Peter Morton who worked at Pilkington Glass and represent the colours of the rainbow. The panes above the tabernacle show the mysteries of the Rosary and the Angelus bell. The baptistery, which remains in use, contains an octagonal stone font and a large dalle de verre window designed by Jonah Jones depicting the Baptism of Christ. Sacristies run along the inside of the other side wall and correspond with the narthex.       

Heritage Details

Architect: G. Parry Davies & Associates

Original Date: 1968

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed