Building » Wesham – St Joseph

Wesham – St Joseph

The Presbytery, Mowbreck Lane, Wesham, Preston PR4 3HA

Large and relatively cheap red brick gothic revival church built for cotton mill workers.

The presbytery is located behind the church in Mowbreck Lane. This lane led to Mowbreck Hall, the home of the Westbys, a Catholic family with distinguished relatives, including Cardinal Allen. Visitors to the hall included Edmund Campion. At the time of Bishop Petre’s visitation in 1750 there were 120 communicants attending the chapel at the hall. From this sprang Pugin’s church at Kirkham (qv).

The expansion of Westby, which is coterminous with Kirkham and separated by the railway line, started with the arrival of the railway in 1840 and the building of cotton mills and workers’ houses.  At the time of a census in 1883 there were 525 Catholics in  Wesham.  Fr  Hines  of Kirkham  sought  funds  to  build  a  new  church,  and  the Billington family of Kirkham (who had also contributed to the cost of The Willows at Kirkham and the church at Westby) contributed £6,012, thereby almost entirely covering the cost. A site was found at the end of the lane leading to Mowbreck Hall and the foundation stone laid on July 13 1884 by Bishop O’Reilly of Liverpool. The dedication to St Joseph (the Worker) was not uncommon with new churches in industrial towns. The church was large, built to accommodate 400-500, and was consecrated on March 18 1886.   At a subsequent opening Fr Bilsborrow (see Grange- over-Sands) spoke on the contribution during penal times of the Catholics of Lancashire in ensuring the survival of the faith: ‘Lancashire was the backbone of Catholicity in England in those days as it is now and the Fylde was the backbone – the cream – of Catholicity in Lancashire’ (Quoted in Singleton, p 44).

A school followed in 1890, and a cemetery in 1895. The presbytery appears to be contemporary with the church, and is built of the same red brick.

A  large  and  relatively  cheap  gothic  church  in  Early  English  style,  with  lancet windows and plate tracery, built in the Ruabon red brick used  by Sinnott and Powell elsewhere (e.g. at Pilling). Tall west front with a central projecting porch and polychromatic carving (the Flight into Egypt) in the tympanum. Bellcote on the gable.

The interior consists of a nave and aisles, with a flat east wall and uninterrupted views of the altar and pulpit.  The detailing is somewhat crude (e.g. the simplified capital on the granite columns of the nave, the debased hammer beam roof). While there are no individual fittings of outstanding merit, worthy of mention are the early C20 marble altar rails, still in situ, the stone pulpit (with marble trim) and the reredos with scenes from the life of Our Lady and St Joseph (1948). The benches are plain.

Heritage Details

Architect: Sinnott and Powell

Original Date: 1886

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed