Building » Luton – St Joseph

Luton – St Joseph

Gardenia Avenue, Luton, Bedfordshire

A large and well detailed church in the Italian Romanesque/basilican style that was so popular for Catholic churches in the interwar and post-war years. Completed in 1960, this is a late example.

In 1934 the parish priest, Canon O’Connor, raised enough funds by buy 1.25 acres of land between Gardenia Avenue and Blundell Road. In July the same year, the parish also purchased 68 Gardenia Avenue. The first church on the site was built in 1934 ,at a cost of £950.

The foundation stone for the present church was laid on 2 October 1958. Designed in an Italian Romanesque basilican style by John Sterrett, it was 120 ft wide with side aisles each measuring 11 ft wide. Seating 500 people, its estimated cost was £40,000. The contractor was Messrs. H. C. Janes Ltd.

According to information at the diocesan archive, the Union of Catholic Mothers provided the Stations of the Cross; the Children of Mary and the Agnesians raised funds to pay for the altar and a statue of Our Lady, and local school children raised money for a statue of St Joseph and contributed to the cost of the altar. The statues came from Italy. A Polish metalwork teacher from nearby Beech Hill constructed the metal cladding of the tabernacles. The mosaic in the circular opening above the main entrance,  by Anthony MacRae, was added in 1959. It depicts St Joseph as a metal worker rather than a carpenter, resonating in this town of large car factories. In about 1974 the sanctuary was reordered and the font moved to this area. The sanctuary was again reordered in the 1980s. A new organ was bought in 1979 for £5,334. The parish hall was extended in 1978/9 to incorporate the old church of 1934.


A large church in Italianate Romanesque style, with western entrance loggia and side aisles, transepts and semi-circular apse. The building is faced in yellow brick, with red roof tiles. Above the loggia, which has four arched heads with stone surrounds, the gable has an oculus inset with McRae’s circular mosaic of St Joseph at work and Lombard arcading in the parapet.

The loggia encloses a porch with original red and yellow floor tiles. To the south is a door to a side chapel (at the west end of the south aisle); to the north is a door to the repository and bookshop (originally the baptistery). Three glazed arches in the east wall provide light and entry to the nave, which is aisled. Transepts project on either side of the crossing, and the apse forms a sanctuary with a half-domed ceiling. Over the crossing is a plaster ceiling with moulded and painted decoration with a star set in a circle. The nave walls and ceiling are plastered and painted, the latter with a plain moulded cornice. The nave arcade has semi-circular arches set on circular columns with simple capitals. The aisle and clerestory windows, in metal frames, contain small panes of clear glass with coloured margin lights. The central aisle of the nave is carpeted, and the pews are of plain varnished timber. The nave has pendant lights. Two confessionals lead off the north side of the nave, and one off the south side. Niches containing statues in the east wall of the transepts on either side of the sanctuary arch. The organ is in the south transept, the sacristy leads off the north transept.  A large wooden crucifix hangs over the sanctuary entrance. The sanctuary is lit by arched windows set into the half dome; its furnishings belong to post-Vatican II reordering.

Amended by AHP 25.01.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: John E. Sterrett & Partner

Original Date: 1960

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed