Devizes Road, Wroughton, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN4
One of three identical designs produced for churches in the Swindon area in a climate of post-war austerity, with later sympathetic additions. Notable features include the glass in the east window and the modern baptistery setting.
In 1873 a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes was built on W. W. Codrington’s estate at Wroughton House, from designs by A. J. C. Scoles. Here local Catholics were able to attend Mass until 1891, when presumably the estate passed into non-Catholic ownership.
The present church was one of three post-war churches built by Canon John Noonan of Holy Rood, Swindon, at a time when building restrictions were in operation. Here and at Swindon, St Mary and Wootton Bassett (qqv) it was decided to erect permanent buildings which would make ‘reasonably satisfactory churches … which could lend themselves to conversion to church halls when the size of the parishes warranted the erection of larger churches. The churches were sited so as to leave room for a future church’ (Catholic Building Review). All three were built from designs by R. J. Beswick & Son of Swindon, to a similar design and materials. A feature of each was the high sanctuary, raised on a large number of steps to make it suitable for future use as a stage for a parish hall.
The church of St Joseph, which opened in 1954, was designed to seat 200 and cost approximately £6,800. It was served from Holy Rood until 1962, when Canon Joseph Leahy moved into premises recently vacated by a religious order, the Missionary Servants of the Holy Ghost (who moved into a new mother house in Wroughton, designed by Gerald O’Brien of Ivor Day & O’Brien, which opened in 1969). St Joseph’s became an independent parish in 1969.
In 1988, it was extended with a western narthex and north aisle, along with a new presbytery, financed in part by the sale of land to the rear (developed with housing). There have been subsequent internal changes and improvements.
A small church, built in 1953-4 using a reinforced concrete truss and cavity walls, faced externally with random courses of artificial stone, with artificial stone surrounds to the windows and concrete tiles to the roof. Originally consisting of a nave and chancel with south sacristy, in 1988 the church was extended with a narthex at the west end and a north aisle and additional sacristy/store, using similar (and possibly in some cases reset) facing materials (but the north additions and the side bays of the narthex are flat-roofed). The original 1953 foundation stone has been reset and a 1988 datestone added on the narthex. The original east and west gables each contain a circular window, that at the west end now obscured by the raised gabled centre bay of the narthex. At the sides, the bay divisions are marked by pilasters, each with a pre-cast bellmouth capital, those on the north side possibly reused. The side windows consist of triple lights divided by mullions, metal framed and with leaded divisions and opaque glass. A chimney stack abuts the eastern gable wall.
Inside, the walls are of fair-faced brick. The roofs are supported on reinforced concrete knee arches, with the ceiling lined with varnished pine boarding (over or replacing the original insulating board), presumably of c.1982, and continuing into the aisle as a flat ceiling. The nave floor was originally covered with thermoplastic tiles and the sanctuary with hardwood blocks; both are now carpeted. A Gothic arch separates the sanctuary from the nave, and the sanctuary is raised upon five steps.
Glass includes a dalle de verre east window with Eucharistic symbols (chalice, bread and fish) in the manner of Dom. Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey (date not established) and a window in the north aisle, The Baptism of Our Lord, by Andrew Taylor of Devizes, 2004. The latter forms part of an attractive baptistery area at the east end of the aisle, with stone flagged floor and a circular Portland stone font on fluted drum, with mosaic inlay to the bowl and a perimeter inscription THE SPIRIT OF GOD MOVED OVER THE WATER. Other furnishings include a stone Lady altar in the north chapel, 1955 (inscription on side), with a large ceramic panel of the Virgin and Child over, and mosaic panels on the south wall and around the west door (signed EH) depicting martyrs and saints, including St Maximilian Kolbe, martyred at Auschwitz in 1941.
Architect: R. J. Beswick & Son
Original Date: 1954
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed