Building » Tadcaster – St Joseph

Tadcaster – St Joseph

St Joseph’s Street, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire

A church of some character and recognisable as the work of George Goldie of York, who concentrated architectural decoration on the distinctive west facade. Changes to both the interior and exterior (especially the rendering of the west front) have removed much of the original High Victorian character but the single internal space remains dominated by the fine continuous open roof. There are no fittings of historical  interest,  but some well-executed twentieth century figurative stained glass.

St Leonard’s medieval chapel of the ancient Vavasour family seat Hazlewood Castle (just southwest of Tadcaster) became the focus for Catholic worship until the family gave land on what was then the outskirts of the town in 1868 (although a temporary chapel had been erected in 1865 on a another site). Fr Philip Vavasour raised over £1,500 from public subscription. A new church and presbytery were built to the designs of York architects Goldie & Child, and Archbishop Manning opened the church with the Bishop of Beverley celebrating Pontifical High Mass on 31 August 1869. The two-storey school seems to have been built a few years later.

In 1966, Hazlewood Castle became a Carmelite Priory and priests came from there to St Joseph’s. It seems that the brick west facade and nave were first rendered at this time. By 1967, the interior had been reordered on Vatican II lines; the Wetherby News described the result as ‘an elegant yet completely unpretentious church’. The original high altar, wooden reredos with a large central Crucifix and four statues, altar rails, pulpit screens and font were removed. The apse walls had been stencilled and the ceiling painted with stars and an ‘angel lozenge’. In 1980 the Carmelites returned the care of the church to the diocese and following the visit of Pope John Paul II to York in 1982, the wooden campanile with its ‘peace bell’ was erected in 1983, designed in the shape of the logo used for the Papal visit. It cost £2,500 but is currently out of use. Hazlewood Castle is now a hotel and conference centre; the Grade I chapel of St Leonard remains furnished and is used for weddings.

Major internal works took place in 1985; redecoration and carpeting, new lighting and heating and the stripping of the original pews to natural wood. A new school site was found in 1987 and the original school building converted to provide a parish centre on part of the ground floor and offices that have been continuously leased since then. In 1990 the diocese demolished most of the four-bedroom attached presbytery, replacing it with a bungalow to the east of the church. In 2000,  the exterior was re-rendered in conjunction with the introduction of a new damp course; much magnesian limestone was replaced on the west front.


The church of St Joseph was built of red brick with stone dressings in 1869 to the designs of George Goldie of York. His most famous church, St Wilfrid’s in York, was completed in 1864 and his full-blown High Victorian Gothic style is evident here on the west facade. Above the modestly decorated but tall west door is a big round west window in front of which is a statue of St Joseph holding the Holy Child, standing on a slender column and under a heavy stone canopy that reaches almost to the gable apex. A wooden bell turret used to stand on top of the canopy in front of the gable.

It appears from the buried arches visible inside and out that a two-bay southeast nave chapel was intended. The nave has five bays, the easternmost on the north opening into a single bay Lady Chapel, lit by two trefoil headed lancets in the west wall. Its east side is buried in the remaining two-storey link block to the original presbytery. The original brickwork with stone dressings is still visible on the south exterior and on the apse that is continuous with the nave. The nave windows are simple pointed arch lancets and the apse has similar paired lancets to north and south.

The interior is dominated by the continuous seven-cant timber roof that runs from the west wall to the wooden chancel arch carried on stone corbels immediately in front of the apse. The darkly-stained stout plain rafters are carried on moulded timbers that project over the stone wall head moulding. All other surfaces are plastered and painted, except the red brick and stone arch to the Lady Chapel and an area of brickwork around the west door awaiting re-plastering. The original pews were replaced in the 1990s with pale wood pews from a redundant 1950s church at Seacroft, Leeds. The modern fittings are unexceptional, but there is a collection of figurative stained glass. The four apse windows of the early 1900s are by J. Jennings of Clapham (London), the two Lady Chapel windows are of 1935 and the nave windows have late twentieth century glass by Waugh of York. The wooden crucifix in the apse and a Holy Family sculpture were carved by a Polish artist in time for the 1969 centenary celebrations.

Heritage Details

Architect: Goldie & Child

Original Date: 1869

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed