Building » Upton – St Joseph

Upton – St Joseph

Moreton Road, Upton, Wirral CH49

A carefully planned and well constructed building in an attractive village setting. The church was designed by Adrian Gilbert Scott and built in 1953-4 in a late Gothic Revival style, with touches of modernism in its interior form. It has been sympathetically reordered and retains its original character. The quality of materials and workmanship is high.

The Faithful Companions of Jesus were founded in Amiens in 1820 by Marie Madeleine de Bonnault d’Houet. They came to Upton Hall in 1863 and ran a boarding school, erecting new buildings within the grounds. They also opened a ‘poor school’ for the benefit of the neighbourhood. In 1875 a barn was converted into a chapel. The remains of the foundress were brought to Upton from Gentilly in 1904, though they were moved again in 1980 to Broadstairs in Kent.

Initially the parish included Moreton and Leasowe, but in 1923 they were separated from Upton and formed into a new parish. In 1954 a new church was opened on the opposite side of Moreton Road to the designs of Adrian Gilbert Scott. At the opening, Scott declared that it was the smallest church he had designed, and likened it to a beautiful village maiden.


[Written before the spot-listing of the church. See also list entry, below].

The church was built in 1953-4 to the design of Adrian Gilbert Scott, the younger brother of Giles Gilbert Scott, with whom he worked on a number of church projects. It is built of narrow grey/brown bricks in a stretcher bond, with sandstone dressings. The style is Gothic, overlaid with moderne inflexions. The plan is complex for a small building. It has a nave with a sanctuary, two pairs of transepts, a narthex with west gallery and a broad west tower. Sacristies wrap around the walls of the sanctuary, confessionals fill the spaces between the transepts, and a baptistery and porch adjoin the side walls of the nave at the western end. The main elements have hipped pantile roofs, which stop short of the eaves, whilst all the minor elements have flat roofs with parapets. The tower is buttressed and its top has chamfered corners and wide crenellations. The west doorcase and the belfry opening above are dressed in stone with an idiosyncratic mix of Gothic and Art Deco notched motifs

Whilst the exterior is largely conventional in form and character, the interior is more individual. The sanctuary, tower and each of the four transepts are separated from the nave by straight-sided hyperbolic arches, all constructed of reinforced concrete. The dado wall surface is faced in thin slabs of grey limestone laid in random courses, with plastered surfaces above. The sanctuary is paved in buff and brown marble, and the high altar, which has been brought forward, is offset by a shallow pedimented reredos in a moderne style. The altar furniture is otherwise more recent, and the altars to the two side chapels, which occupy the larger eastern transepts, are not by Scott. The original marble altar rails were removed when the sanctuary was reordered. All the original joinery, including the narthex screen, the doors, and the skirtings is of oak. The pews have probably been brought in from another church.

List description


Summary of Building:Roman Catholic church, 1953-4, by Adrian Gilbert Scott, stripped Perpendicular Gothic style, buff Wellington brick with ashlar dressings, ‘Lombardic’ tile roof, cast-iron rainwater goods.

Reasons for Designation: * Architectural quality: a striking and bold stripped Perpendicular Gothic exterior employing a blend of modern and traditional influences, and using high quality materials, including buff brickwork, sparse ashlar ornamentation and a Lombardic tile roof. *Architect: designed by the notable architect, Adrian Gilbert Scott who trained under Temple Moore and specialised in ecclesiastical commissions for the Roman Catholic Church. *Intactness: survives little altered and retains the majority of original features. * Interior quality: the interior contains good quality fixtures and fittings, and has an impressive simplicity of design that incorporates Gilbert Scott’s characteristic camel-vaulted arches and tall dado of Blue Horton stone contrasting with pale plastered walls above.

History:Upton’s first Catholic place of worship since the Reformation was established in a chapel at Upton Hall, which was bought by the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus in 1862 and established as a convent and boarding school for girls. The first public mass was held in 1863, but as numbers grew new premises were required and a large barn was converted into a convent and mission chapel in 1871. In 1931, it was recognised by the parish priest, Father William Corcoran, that a new church was required for the increasing Catholic population. However, funding could not be found and it wasn’t until 1945 when a new priest, Father Stone, arrived that fundraising began. Father Stone approached Adrian Gilbert Scott (1883-1963, son of George Gilbert Scott Jr) for the commission, whose brother Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. A site opposite Upton Hall was chosen for the new church (to be known as St Joseph’s) and construction began in February 1953. The foundation stone was laid by the Right Reverend John Murphy, Bishop of Shrewsbury on 5 July 1953 and the church was opened by the Bishop on 31 August 1954. The church was consecrated by the Right Reverend Eric Grasar, Bishop of Shrewsbury on 18 October 1979. In advance of the service, the church was redecorated and the altar was brought forward to its current position (prior to this the church had been using a portable altar). In 1983 the church was redecorated again, the original pendant lights were removed, the sanctuary light was replaced and the reredos was altered.


PLAN: Church is aligned north-east – south-west and is set back from Moreton Road with a car park in front (south-west side) and gardens to south-east side. South-west tower with flanking baptistery and enclosed porch, side chapels to north-east end of nave, sacristies wrap around sanctuary to three sides.

EXTERIOR: Plain leaded glazing to all windows. South-west front elevation with tall 3-stage tower to centre with near full-height, stepped clasping buttresses and stylised, crenellated parapet. Tall, pinnacled stone doorcase to ground floor centre of tower contains wide doorway with timber 2-panel double doors incorporating small, paired, slender glazed upper lights, three small Tudor-arched lights above and blind cusped arcade to top of doorcase. Belfry stage with large, open, 4-light window with a similarly styled surround to that of the doorway below with paired Tudor-arched inner lights flanked by single outer lights in the same style; all with louvres. Tower’s side returns with near full-height, gableted buttresses set to rear, 2-light cusped and ogee-arched windows to second stage, 2-light belfry windows in same style as those to front. Two low single-storey, flat-roofed projections flank tower to each side; that to north-west side contains the former baptistery, that to south-east side comprises an enclosed entrance porch with a carved stone door surround to the south-east side containing double doors identical to those to front, carved shield above, raised parapet above entrance with cross finial. Small, single leaded-lights to south-west ends of each projection. Nave is lit by tall 2-light windows with cusped ogee-arched heads. Full-height projections set to each end of nave on each side; those to north-east end (containing side chapels) project further and are lit by shorter 3-light windows with cusped ogee-arched heads to north-east and south-west sides, those to south-west end (shallow shrine projections) have windows to south-east walls in same style as those to nave. Projections on each side of nave are separated by a single-storey, flat-roofed projection (containing confessionals) lit by two very small lights. Sanctuary has side windows in same style as those to nave and south-west projections. Three flat-roofed sacristies (inter-linked internally) wrap around sanctuary to three sides with single and 2-light mullioned windows, plain rear doorway to east corner contains 3-panel door. Chimney rises from north-east corner of north side chapel. Detached presbytery to north-east of church is not of special interest.

INTERIOR: Double and single internal doors are all identically styled to those to exterior. Dado of Blue Horton stone approximately 8ft high to all walls except in sacristies and choir gallery, pale plastered walls above. Brown and buff patterned quarry tile floor (now hidden under later coverings) to nave and narthex, parquet floors to sacristies. Travertine marble floor to sanctuary. Enclosed baptistery (now used as a small shop) to north-west side of narthex. Narrow doorway to south corner of narthex accesses a stone spiral stair leading to large choir and organ gallery above narthex with wide camel-vaulted arch to front, tiered seating and original pews, plain balcony front with stone copings. Stair continues up into empty tower room above. Nave contains two confessionals set to centre of each side wall, original pews, and has large camel-vaulted arches to shrine projections, side chapels and sanctuary. Sanctuary is accessed via three steps with marble altar and plain timber lectern to front. Original stepped altar platform set to rear, along with large marble and carved wooden reredos (originally gilded but now painted white), original damask panel to centre of reredos now removed. Doors in side chapels and one to south-east side of sanctuary lead into sacristies.

Selected Sources: St Joseph’s Church, Upton: Golden Jubilee Souvenir 1994-2004

Heritage Details

Architect: Adrian Gilbert Scott

Original Date: 1954

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II