Building » Shirebrook – St Joseph

Shirebrook – St Joseph

Langwith Road, Shirebrook, Derbyshire NG20

A red brick Gothic Revival church of the early twentieth century, built to serve an expanding mining town. The exterior is modest, the interior quite stately. The character of the building has been somewhat compromised by later additions and by the loss of the original sanctuary fittings and painted decoration, but much good stained glass remains.

Shirebrook grew as a mining town from the late nineteenth century. Mass was said from 1900 in a converted barn, and then in a building intended as an isolation hospital. The man put in charge of the mission was Fr Charles Froes. He purchased the site on Langwith Road in 1905-1906 from the Duke of Devonshire, and built the present church at a cost of £2,500. The foundation stone was laid on 5 October 1907 by Bishop Brindle (foundation stone in north aisle). The church was built by Irish labourers, and the early congregation was drawn from the local colliery. Fr Froes died in 1930 and is buried in the churchyard.

The Shirebrook Official Handbook & Coronation Souvenir wrote on May 12 1937:

‘The interior of St. Joseph’s Church is very pleasing with its semi-Gothic windows and well proportioned arches supported by ten carved stone pillars. The much admired fresco on the chancel wall is the work of a Manchester artist and it bears the crest of the Froes family. Visitors, to whom the church is open daily, invariably express surprise at finding such a beautiful church in a mining township’.

In 1964 a flat-roofed narthex was added at the west end of the church, as well as a sacristy giving off the north side of the chance, both in contrasting engineering brick, from designs by Bartlett & Gray of Nottingham. The cost of these works, which also included redecoration and rewiring, was £8,200. More recently (at the time of the church’s centenary in 2007) the 1960s narthex was replaced with a new and wider narthex designed in a rather more sympathetic, contextual manner. The church interior was redecorated at the same time.


A small Gothic Revival church built of red brick laid in English bond, with sandstone dressings and a steeply-pitched machine-made tile roof. The church consists of nave and aisles, apsidal sanctuary, with a former baptistery (now converted to a WC) giving off the north side. Later additions include a sacristy giving off the north side of the chancel, in contrasting style and materials (flat roof and engineering bricks) and a more recent (2007) and more contextual western narthex. The nave and aisles are of four bays, the external bay divisions marked by stepped buttresses with stone offsets. Within each bay are two-light trefoil-headed windows. There is a larger west window of four lights and the sanctuary has a canted east end with three-light windows on each face.

The narthex leads into an entrance lobby area and then though a pair of modern doors into the nave. There are indications of a former west gallery, now removed. The internal bay divisions are marked by Gothic arcades with carved foliated capitals (recently colourfully repainted) and circular piers. The walls are plastered, with the earlier stencil and mural decoration now lost or painted over. The nave has a rather thin hammerbeam-type timber roof. There is a wide chancel arch and a narrower, lower chancel of two bays, with timber roof. The high painted dado around the sanctuary is a recent attempt to reintroduce a little richness into what had become, post-Vatican II reordering, a rather bare space. There is a long shelf against the east  wall  carrying six  large  candlesticks  and  the  tabernacle,  and  a plain  modern forward altar. An original font with circular drum with inset trefoils is now placed at the east end of the south aisle. The seating consists of modern benches, and the floor is carpeted.

While the clerestorey windows have Cathedral glass, the aisle and sanctuary contain some good stained glass, much of it by Robertson & Russell of Sheffield. Windows of note include that at the east end of the south aisle to Celestine Froes OSB (d.1882, uncle of the parish priest?), and that to Elizabeth Jane Druett (d.1908) at the east end of the north aisle, possibly by Burlison & Grylls.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1907

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed