Building » Todmorden – St Joseph

Todmorden – St Joseph

Wellington Road, Todmorden, West Yorkshire OL14

A large and plain stone-built interwar church, built in the garden of West Lodge, a villa of 1834, which is now used as the presbytery. The house and the church make a positive contribution to the local conservation area.

From September 1864, Mass was said in various temporary locations, including a room over an iron foundry (1864) and a room at the Oddfellows Hall (1866). In 1868, the mission was officially founded in a room in Back Ridge Street, with Fr Thomas Francis Kelly the first mission priest. In 1870, land in Ridge Street was for sale, which Col. Charles Towneley bought for the mission. He also paid an annual stipend for the priest of £50 (later reduced to £25 and paid until 1909). A two-storey school-cum-chapel was built in 1873-6. The school on the ground floor opened on 1 January, and the chapel was opened in May 1876 by Bishop Herbert Vaughan (later Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster).

In February 1914, the care of the parish passed to the Servite Fathers. In January 1915, they bought from Dr Lawson Russell his house ‘West Lodge’ with surrounding land in Wellington Road. The house had been built in 1834 for Thomas Edward Hammerton, a solicitor. The area was locally known as ‘Suthers Field’ and until 1834 had been owned by Joseph Suthers, a manufacturer of reeds or healds, essential for the cotton industry. In 1915, the Servites moved into the house which became known as The Priory. In 1925 a school was erected in the east corner of the site for £349.

On 8 September 1928, the foundation stone was laid for the current church by the Very Revd Joachim McCarthy, Servite Provincial. He also opened the church on 7 April 1929 at which occasion Bishop Henshaw preached the sermon. The architects were Byrom & Noble of Bury, who also designed the similar and slightly earlier church at Newchurch-in-Rossendale (qv). The contractors were Messrs Dryland & Preston. The marshy site required reinforced concrete foundations. The cost of the building was £4,000. The original altar was carved by Ferdinand Stuflesser of Ortisei. (The old school-chapel was demolished after the Second World War.)

During a reordering in 1965, the reredos and the two panels depicting the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order were hung on the west wall in the gallery. Parts of the 1929 altar were reconfigured as a lectern. During the post-war years, a new two-storey school was built in the west corner of the site, after which the 1925 school was demolished. In September 1975, the Servites handed the care of the parish to the diocese. In recent years, a small kitchen extension was added at the northwest.


The church was built in local rock-faced sandstone with ashlar details, a slate roof and red terracotta hip and ridge tiles. The foundations are apparently of reinforced concrete. The vestries are constructed of brick in stretcher bond, faced with stone. The plan is rectangular, with small-scale ancillary wings on the north side. Nave and sanctuary are covered by the same pitched roof, with half-hipped gables. The narthex bay at the west is slightly narrower than the main building.

The west elevation has four oblong ground-floor windows between angle buttresses and two short central buttresses, with the foundation stone of 1928 in a central position. Above are three lancets of equal height and a louvered gable opening. Below the cill of the lancets is a band with blank paterae which continues for one bay on the return elevations. The south elevation has the main entrance at the west with an oblong architrave frame, as well as seven lancet windows between buttresses. The north elevation is similar, but the sacristy and confessional block at the northeast blocks the lower half of some of the windows. The new kitchen and toilets block at the northwest adjoins the church at the narrower west bay; there may have been originally a second entrance door. The east side has a low three-sided apse with pairs of oblong windows in the outer canted sides. Under the east gable is a louvered ventilation opening.

The narthex under the west gallery houses the stair, a repository and a small meeting room. The six-bay nave has a boarded and panelled ceiling. Between the slopes of the ceiling are bands with paterae, from which the lights are suspended. Beside the three west windows which have stained glass panels with a sword and Marian emblems, are the two panels from the original reredos.

On either side of the chancel arch are side altars to Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart and St Joseph, each with a statue on a corbel (and originally a timber canopy) above a timber altar (without the original reredos panels). The frontal of the St Joseph altar depicts the Death of St Joseph. The altar, lectern and tabernacle stand are all of timber with tracery carvings, incorporating parts of the original altar and reredos. There is modern hanging crucifix painted on timber, based on Italian Pre-Renaissance examples. The Stations of the Cross are painted and framed timber reliefs.

Heritage Details

Architect: Byrom & Noble of Bury

Original Date: 1929

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed