Church in Focus: St Joseph’s, Newbury

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Today we continue our tour of Portsmouth Diocese, visiting St Joseph’s in Newbury, Berkshire. The town, located in the valley of the River Kennet, lies on the edge of the picturesque Berkshire Downs.

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In 1790 Woolhampton was recorded as one of Berkshire’s Catholic congregations, served by priests touring the mission stations on horseback. From this grew the Newbury and Basingstoke missions.

In 1852 Father Robert Hodgson, spiritual director at Woolhampton, started a mission to serve the Catholics of Newbury, who were destitute and few in number. In 1853 priests from St Mary’s Woolhampton purchased a site at 105 London Road, with its adjoining land, and established the first mission there. An existing early 19thcentury house became the presbytery. Father Hodgson was the first resident priest, and set up in the house a small preparatory school for St Mary’s, Woolhampton. In 1864 a small church was built adjoining the presbytery, at a cost of £800. This was to remain in use until the building of the present church in 1928, at which time it became the church hall.

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The present church was built in 1926-8 by Canon Francis Green who, it is said, raised funds for the rebuilding by collecting from successful punters boarding the train after race meetings at Newbury. The foundation stone was laid on 19 January 1926, and the first service held on 21 November 1928. It was built in a cruciform plan to the designs of W.C. Mangan, who had in the previous year worked on major extensions to Pugin’s church at Reading. The builders were Hoskings and Pond Ltd of Newbury. On account of the poor ground conditions, a specialist firm (Simplex and Co. of Victoria St, London) was brought in to build the foundations and campanile (clearly inspired by Bentley’s work at Westminster), at a cost of £2062. The overall cost was about £20,000.

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