Building » Birmingham (Nechells) – St Joseph

Birmingham (Nechells) – St Joseph

Thimblemill Lane, Nechells, Birmingham B7

A cemetery chapel of 1850 and church and presbytery of 1871-2, by A. W. and E. W. Pugin respectively. The church was restored after the war by Giles Gilbert Scott. The large and undulating burial ground, with its monuments, mature planting, historic boundary wall and lychgate make an attractive oasis in an area of post-industrial blight. E. W. Pugin’s school buildings do not survive.  

The name Nechells is said to signify a wood. The area became part of the Borough of Birmingham in 1838, at a time of great population expansion. In 1850 land was purchased on Thimblemill Lane for a Catholic cemetery, the first in Birmingham. A churchyard wall, lychgate and cemetery chapel were built from designs by A. W. Pugin, the chapel at a cost of £800. In 1867 a resident priest was appointed. According to the list entry the cemetery was partly financed by Birmingham Town Council and the mortuary chapel built because of concerns about leaving coffins in churches overnight. In 1867 a resident priest was appointed, and in 1871-2 A. W. Pugin’s chapel was extended with a nave and chancel, built from designs by E. W. Pugin. The new church was opened by Bishop Ullathorne on 21 April 1872. The old chapel remained as the Lady Chapel. E. W. Pugin also designed the adjoining presbytery and the original St Joseph’s school buildings, now demolished.

In February 1880 The Tablet reported:

‘A beautiful memorial window has been presented to this church by Mr Joseph Whitehouse, art metal worker, of Birmingham. The window is in three compartments, the central figure being that of our Lord, with the figures of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph on either side; the lower panels containing figures of SS. William, Henry, and Aloysius. The window is in memory of Mary Ann Whitehouse and William Henry Whitehouse, mother and son of the donor’.

The church was restored and redecorated after the Second World War by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It was consecrated by Bishop Couve de Murville in 1999, and the interior was again restored in 2001-01.

List descriptions



Roman Catholic cemetery chapel enlarged as church. 1850 mortuary chapel by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin; enlarged in 1872 by Edward Welby Pugin; restored 1945 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Ashlar with 1872 works in red brick with stone dressings. Slate roofs with coped gable ends. PLAN: Chancel and Lady Chapel are the 1850 mortuary chapel to which was added in 1872 the nave, north aisle, west porch, north west mortuary chapel and south presbytery. Decorated style 1850 work and free High Victoria Gothic 1872 enlargement. EXTERIOR: The ashlar chancel and Lady chapel have 3-light decorated style geometric and reticulated tracery east windows with -small quatrefoils above and 2 2-light north windows with reticulated tracery; buttresses with set-offs, moulded plinth, moulded eaves and gable copings with apex cross. The red brick and brick-dressed nave has 3 tall south windows, each with foiled light over pair of lancets. West end has gabled bellcote, gabled porch with carved tympanum 2 lancets above with foiled light above flanked by statues in niches with corbel colonettes and canopies. North gable of mortuary chapel has foiled light above 3 small lancets. North aisle has 4 3-light depressed 2-centred arch windows. The presbytery attached to north side is of red brick with stone dressings of 2 staggered gable-ended ranges with gable crosses, 2 storeys, mainly sash windows, those on first floor of gable ends have stone relieving arches. INTERIOR: 2-bay arcade between chancel and Lady Chapel with compressed foliated capitals and 4 shafts. 5-bay north arcade with unusual reeded piers, the reeding rising as mouldings in the scalloped capitals. Painted timber roofs, the nave and north aisle have braces on small corbels, the nave arched; chancel roof by Giles Gilbert Scott. Mensa of Lady Chapel altar by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and wooden reredos of circa 1950 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Circa 1850 stone high altar with wooden frontal; wood and gilt reredos of 1902 with five circa 1900 Birmingham Arts and Crafts tabernacle with chased silver doors. Edward Welby Pugin pulpit. Circa 1850 chancel east window by Pugin/Hardman. Good circa 1900 Stations of the Cross in late Gothic German style. Giles Scott benches and decorative schemes.

Note: In circa 1850 Nechells began a separate Catholic cemetery amidst financial difficulties. The 1870 expansion of the cemetery was partly financed by Birmingham Town Council and the separate mortuary chapel was built because of concern of leaving coffins in churches overnight (a requirement of Catholic burial liturgy). Source: Buildings News 1872, P.342.

Listing NGR: SP0885289024 

Churchyard wall and lychgate


Churchyard (formerly cemetery) wall and integral lychgate. Circa 1850, probably by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Brick in bond of headers and alternating stretcher and header courses, of red brick with burnt headers in diaper pattern and with blue brick pitched coping. Small lychgate at centre built of brick with stone quoins and coping to end gables and with tiled roof.

Note: The R C church of St Joseph (qv) was originally a mortuary chapel to the cemetery, of which this wall and lychgate forms the south east boundary and main entrance.

Listing NGR: SP0886088979

Heritage Details

Architect: A. W. Pugin; E. W. Pugin

Original Date: 1850

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II