Building » Monks Kirby – St Joseph

Monks Kirby – St Joseph

Brockhurst Lane, Monks Kirby, Warwickshire CV23

A neatly designed small church of 1991-2 by John D. Holmes, the big roof creating a surprisingly spacious interior. 

In 1866 the Eighth Earl of Denbigh first used the chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart at his nearby Newnham Paddox house for Catholic worship, after his succession to the title the previous year. He had converted to Catholicism in 1850 on a trip to Italy. A mission was established in 1869 and the chapel became a Mass centre soon afterwards. In 1873 he invited the Sisters of Charity from his other estate at Pantasaph, North Wales, to found St Joseph’s convent and school in the village of Monks Kirby. In 1874, a school-chapel was built by Lord Denbigh, to serve for the mission and convent school. It seems he gave the whole convent site to the diocese soon afterwards. The Sisters of Charity were succeeded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1923.

The house and chapel at Newnham Paddox were demolished in 1952 and the convent chapel dedicated to St Joseph was then used for parish worship. A diocesan archive note records that some furnishings and vestments were given to the church of the English Martyrs in Hillmorton, Rugby (qv, not built until 1966). The Sisters of Mercy left in 1977 and the Congregation of Mary, Mother of the Church (Mater Ecclesia) came to St Joseph’s Convent in 1982. After an experimental sharing of premises with the Anglican village school from 1972, St Joseph’s school was closed in 1997 and the Revel Church of England Primary School occupies its buildings; it includes Catholic teaching in its curriculum and Fr Matthew is a Governor. The Congregation of Mary, Mother of the Church left St Joseph’s Convent in 1998, and from 2000-02 Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Brotherhood occupied St Joseph’s. After being empty for some years, the buildings were sold by the diocese and have been converted into five houses.

Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville blessed the foundation stone of St Joseph’s parish church on 17 December 1991; the church was opened in 1992 and consecrated in 2011. It cost about £80,000 to build, with the parish supplying some of the labour. John D. Holmes of Leamington Spa was the architect and it won a Rugby Civic Society Design Award in 1993. However, the church is not mentioned in the Monks Kirby Conservation Area Appraisal of June 2010. A reordering of the sanctuary took place in 1996.


The church is orientated northeast-southwest, so that the altar faces northeast. For the purposes of this report it will be presumed to be at ritual east.

Faced in red brick under large pitched roofs covered with artificial slates, St Joseph’s is a square church with a short eastern sanctuary, shorter north and south glazed and gabled extensions and a west end narthex recessed behind the south side. The west end roof is crowned with a small, louvred spirelet, below which the gable apex is glazed with a four-light diamond-shaped window. There is a dentil brick eaves around the church and the windows are in bronzed metal with dark brick cills. The smaller windows (such as the three to the west wall of the narthex) are topped with slightly protruding dark brick triangles and are subdivided into triangular shapes. The two large north and south gabled windows and entrance doors are similarly divided, and this is a feature of John Holmes’ work.

The main entrance is glazed, with the foundation stone set into the west nave wall. The narthex includes the sacristy at the southwest with a confessional, a WC and the west door into the church; there are three west windows. The interior is dominated by the steeply pitched roof faced in horizontal (east-west) pine boarding, but its great height means it is not oppressive. Two slender laminated trusses rise from the ground like crucks to be bolted together at the apex, which has no ridge. A purlin each side pitched less than half way up runs at the apex of the north and south gabled windows and is useful for securing light fittings. The low side walls and the gable end walls are of a purple/red brick, as is the generous sanctuary arch. The sanctuary walls are plastered and its plaster ceiling stencilled, as is the soffit of the sanctuary arch. There is no east window, but small triangular-headed side windows give the space ample light. The main space is lit by the two large side windows and the large diamond shaped window at the apex of the west wall.

The small arched windows to each side of the sanctuary arch contain the only stained glass, both of 1977 by Hardman celebrating the nine hundredth anniversary of the foundation of St Edith’s priory. They were retrieved from the convent chapel; St Mary is on the north and the figure of St Edith on the south was given by the Anglican parish ‘in common celebration’. The pews and Stations are also from the convent chapel.

The sanctuary was also originally partly furnished with salvaged pieces, but in 1996 the present platform was created with polished granite and timber fittings. The platform now under the tabernacle on the east wall was the original site of the priest’s chair and displays what appear to be five consecration crosses. The font stood in a sunken area until the present platform was extended over it.

Heritage Details

Architect: John D. Holmes

Original Date: 1992

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed