Tilston Road, Malpas, Cheshire SY14
© Copyright Julian Osley and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.
The church was converted from a former agricultural (probably stable) use in the late 1940s. It is a building of some historic interest and charm, with an atmospheric interior. It adjoins a late nineteenth century house and later buildings erected by the Sacred Heart Fathers. The buildings are under threat of redevelopment at the time of writing.
The building which now serves as St Josephs appears to have originated as stables, the brickwork and architectural form of which suggest an eighteenth century date. However, the 1875 Ordnance Survey map does not mark the buildings. The 1898 edition of the Ordnance Survey records the existence of both the stables and The Beeches, the grand mansion which stands to the west of St Joseph’s and is dated 1883.
The Beeches was bought by the Sacred Heart Fathers after World War II for use as a scholasticate. The stables were converted for ecclesiastical purposes; the southern part of the range for use as a church for the local community with the upper floor of the northern part partitioned to house seven small oratories for private prayer. In the 1960s the growth of the college of philosophy and theology saw a sizeable wing constructed immediately to the west of St Joseph’s. In 1974 St Joseph’s College became a retreat and conference centre. The buildings and sixteen-acre site have recently been sold by the Sacred Heart Fathers to Ashbury Homes. It is understood that the 1960s wing is to be demolished and the (currently disused) mansion converted to apartments. The management of Ashbury Homes have consented to the diocese continuing to use St Josephs for the time being.
The 1946 conversion of the southern part of the stables range was undertaken with both care and flair. The originally square-headed window openings were remade as lancets, the cast-iron frames replaced with timber frames housing lead and glass panels. So as to better indicate the building’s new ecclesiastical purpose the west opening was also given an arched head (the ramp and hand rails are more recent additions).
Within the church the element which best tells of the building’s former use is the exposed brick dado. In or after 1946 this primary brickwork was evidently thoroughly cleaned and a coat of varnish applied. The transformation of the former stables to a space for worship was undertaken with some ingenuity. The utilitarian timbers of the roof were lent a church-like appearance through the application of a dark stain and the addition of a simple corbelled and cusped bracket beneath the ends of each truss. What Plumb (p.30) describes as ‘Moroccan-style’ lamps hang from the rafters. The long rectangular space has a central aisle with rows of wooden pews running up to the raised dais of the sanctuary. Arch-headed doors either side of the sanctuary give access to the sacristy and the oratories above. The architectural form of the door openings is emphasised by generous architraves. Similar architraves frame the nave doors and windows and continue on the north wall to frame the crucifix. The finely-worked wooden altar has been brought forward as part of post-Vatican II reordering. There is a crucifix against the east wall. The two stained glass windows in the sanctuary depicting the Sacred Heart and the Assumption were installed in 1953.
Architect: Not established
Original Date: 1946
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed