Building » Poole – St Joseph and St Walburga

Poole – St Joseph and St Walburga

Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset

Architecturally of its time: modern in style, traditional in plan. The church is distinguished by its original and more recent artefacts, the John Green Stations of the Cross, the font, Buckfast stained glass and carved statues.

As the Poole and Bournemouth area expanded towards the end of the nineteenth century there was a growing need for new churches in the area. In 1892 Bishop Graham promoted the idea of a mission to serve the Branksome area. The mission was established and the first St Joseph’s church opened in 1895. It was originally intended that the church would become a school, with a larger church proposed. In fact a church hall was built in 1925 and a school was opened in 1931. In 1926 a temporary hall was erected to serve the area of Ensbury Park and St Bernadette’s church was opened in 1933.St Joseph’s parish was again subdivided with the building of the church of Our Lady of Fatima at Upper Parkstone in 1950. St Joseph’s was still overcrowded, but the outstanding debt from the building of the Our Lady of Fatima delayed the setting up of a building fund for a new church until 1958. It was expected to cost £30,000 and the plans by P. N. Lamprell-Jarrett of Archard & Partners were published in 1959. Site preparation began in August 1960, the foundation stone was laid on 30 April 1961 and the church was opened on 20 February 1962. It was designed to seat 450, 300 more than the old church. At the time it was the largest church to be built in the diocese since the war. The final cost had risen to £48,000, a debt cleared by 1977 when the church was consecrated.

A new presbytery was built in 1963 and the old church and presbytery were demolished in 1986. Reordering took place in 1990, with the removal of the altar rails and the reduction of the number of steps in the sanctuary. The altar was brought forward and reduced in size, with some of the spare stone incorporated into an ambo to replace the pulpit.


St Joseph’s church has the altar facing southwest but for the purposes of this description all references to compass points assume a conventional east facing altar. The church is built of reinforced concrete columns and steel trusses, faced in golden-brown bricks and roofed with pantiles. It comprises an aisled nave, sanctuary with side chapels and sacristies beyond, a southwest baptistery and a northwest tower set slightly back from the west front. Although set in a dip the church is raised over a crypt, compensating for the awkward topography. The aisles have flat roofs. The west front is set awkwardly towards the narrow end of the site. It is gabled with the centre third of the façade recessed, with pilasters strips dividing the entrances and glazing above into three. The set back tower is slightly longer in its north/south axis. On its east and west faces it has tall bell openings asymmetrically placed. The side elevations are somewhat incoherent, with thin horizontal windows for the aisles (set at high level), interrupted by larger windows for side chapels. The main nave windows are tall and narrow and divided into two lights but also interrupted by horizontal windows. Pevsner/Newman refers to ‘the restless pattern of vertical over horizontal windows denotes a system of galleries’. This is not strictly accurate as the upper horizontal windows seem to be a design choice and do not relate to the galleries inside. The lower, blind, elements to the windows do relate to the interior galleries. The same curious horizontal versus vertical glazing is repeated in the large north and south sanctuary windows, which are divided by brick piers into a tripartite composition. On the south side the former baptistery projects at the southwest corner, fully glazed to west and east. The land falls away to the east, enabling two-storey accommodation for sacristies and the crypt chapel. The latter was never used as a chapel but became the church hall.

Entry to the church is by the main west doors into a full-width narthex with a timber and glass screen to the nave. The impression within is of a broad and lofty space. The aisles are no more than passages, almost the same height as the nave and divided from it by square columns, their lower parts fluted to the west face. These support the gallery which runs around all three sides of the nave. The galleries have stone fronts and incorporate the Stations of the Cross carved by John Green, a pupil of Sir Jacob Epstein. The sanctuary is narrower than the nave but is still a very large and lofty space, well lit from the immense north and south windows. Tripartite openings on either side with lightweight metal grilles. A crucifix is the only object on the otherwise featureless east wall. South of the sanctuary there is a corridor to the sacristies and stairs to the crypt, and Our Lady’s chapel with a pierced ceramic screen to the corridor. In the chapel a six-light mullioned and transomed window with coloured glass with roses, relating to Our Lady and the Rosary. Hanging on the wall is a gilded and painted reredos in a fifteenth century Gothic style. Also in the chapel is a carved wooden statue of Mother and Child, by Tom Praetor of Taunton. In the adjoining reconciliation room is a reset panel of Victorian glass depicting the Virgin. On the north side of the sanctuary is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel with an eight-light mullioned and transomed window with coloured glass depicting the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Further coloured glass is in the main west window, an abstract design but with a patronal emblem in each corner and a north aisle chapel window. All is of good quality and was made at Buckfast Abbey and installed in 1990-91. At the west end of the north aisle is a tapering cylindrical stone font of striking design, the wooden cover with a stylised eagle. In the north aisle chapel are two carved statues,St Joseph and St Walburga, also by Tom Praetor.

Heritage Details

Architect: Archard & Partners

Original Date: 1962

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed