Building » Plymouth (Devonport) – St Joseph

Plymouth (Devonport) – St Joseph

Raglan Road, Devonport, Plymouth, Devon

An attractive and functional modern church incorporating features from Joseph Hansom’s previous church on another site in Devonport.

The first church of St Michael and St Joseph was opened by Bishop Vaughan in 1861. This, the second mission in the city, was a large limestone church at Mutton Cove, Devonport, built to accommodate 800 and designed by Joseph Hansom, architect of the cathedral. Hansom’s pupil Herbert Gribble (later architect of the London Oratory) added a chancel, north aisle and Lady Chapel in 1884.

Wartime bombing of the Devonport area and subsequent decline and depopulation, coupled with various fabric problems, led to a decision to close the church and replace it with a smaller one closer to the centre of the parish. The Hansom/Gribble church was closed in 1984 and the site redeveloped with flats. The present church of St Joseph was built on the site of the old Raglan Barracks in Stonehouse, which had been acquired from the Ministry of Defence for £11,000 in 1964. A new school was opened on the site in 1972, but the church came later. It was designed by Christopher Bilson (builders Harris & Sons of Plymouth) and was opened by Bishop Restieaux in November 1985. The church seats 220 and incorporates various features from the old church.


By the architect’s account, the client, Fr Nannery, said ‘I want a building that will be recognisable as a church’, and the form and internal arrangements, while modern, are distinctly ecclesiastical. This character is enhanced by the reuse and incorporation of fittings from the old church.

The church is approached from the car park through a modern version of a traditional lych gate into a small forecourt area. The exterior presents a series of steeply pitched slate black-coated steel gable roofs, with white and grey rendered walls and modern oriel windows to the office buildings (originally a presbytery) and the parish hall projecting to the left and right of the recessed entrance. Gabled porch leads into the narthex, with reset windows from the sanctuary of the old church on either side of the entrance, incorporating stained glass of c1884. Also in the narthex, a holy water stoup from the old church and the new foundation stone, cut from one of the corner stones of the old church.

The interior is an attractive single volume space with exposed laminated timber beams and pine boarding to the soffits. There are a series of triangular dormer windows as well as further windows with clear glass at ground level. At the east end new stained glass windows by Peter Reading were provided over the sanctuary and side altars (Blessed Sacrament reserved on the right, with the brass domed tabernacle from the Hansom church, Lady Chapel to left). Statues from the old church in recesses at the back of the nave.

Heritage Details

Architect: Christopher Bilson

Original Date: 1985

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed