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Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph

A Grade II Listed Building in Leicester, City of Leicester

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Latitude: 52.6371 / 52°38'13"N

Longitude: -1.0729 / 1°4'22"W

OS Eastings: 462839

OS Northings: 304771

OS Grid: SK628047

Mapcode National: GBR FWJ.ZK

Mapcode Global: WHFKH.HZB7

Entry Name: Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph

Listing Date: 30 March 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1422953

Location: Leicester, LE5

County: City of Leicester

Electoral Ward/Division: Thurncourt

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Leicester

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Evington St Denys

Church of England Diocese: Leicester

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Church of St Joseph, Uppingham Road, Leicester 1967-8 by Thomas E. Wilson.


The Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph, Uppingham Road, Leicester was built 1967-8 by Thomas E. Wilson.

MATERIALS and PLAN: the body of the church is a circular 'drum', 80ft in diameter, constructed of reinforced concrete, faced with Stamford stone buff brick. A slim 80ft bell tower faced with golden quartzite sits on the Uppingham Road side flanked by the main entrances, which are incorporated into a glazed timber enclosure with swept copper–covered roofs. The floor of the church is Claytile and Granwood paving.

The structural frame and staircases are constructed in reinforced concrete. The balcony is reinforced concrete cantilever main beams with subsidiary steel beams and timber joists. The main columns form a circle of about 68ft in diameter; reinforced concrete columns linked to the main frame are built into the cavity wall, the overall diameter being 80ft. Ancillary accommodation, to the rear, but attached to the main body of the church, is in brickwork with handmade brown-grey facings. The tower is built independently of the main building to avoid any transfer of weight to the main structure.

EXTERIOR: the approach to the church is completely paved providing a large gathering area with tapering, stone-paved approaches leading to each primary entrance. The stone paved areas also guide the individual in a processional way around the exterior, to the two side entrances (leading inside to the side altars) and to the adjacent Priest's house (not assessed as part of this designation). At first floor level of the church a series of slit windows, graduating in length, are positioned on both sides of the circular form. Smaller rectangular windows encircle the ‘drum’ at ground floor level starting either side of the glazed timber enclosure. A clerestory is set back behind a plain parapet beneath a shallow-pitched roof. The bell tower stands central to the sweeping copper-covered roofs beneath which are the timber and glazed entrances. Simple sculptures depicting the disciples adorn vertical timber mullions either side of the bell tower. The tower stands 80ft high, equal to the diameter of the main body of the church.

To the south-east (rear) of the church, a flat-roofed range, built in brick, fans out, following the circular plan form. Along this range a central timber and glazed door is flanked on each side by regularly spaced, timber casement windows under a flat, fixed canopy. The canopy provides a covered walkway between the presbytery and the priest's sacristy. A late C20 – early C21 porch has been added at the angle between the main body of the church and the single storey range providing access to the western side of the church. At a similar time a former entrance to the rear of the church on the eastern side was extended to provide a covered link to the 1950s church hall. The canopy, link to the church hall and the church hall itself are not of special interest and are excluded from the listing.

INTERIOR: the church is entered through the timber and glazed enclosure on either side of the bell tower. Through the main entrance, a curved, glazed screen under a gallery forms a narthex, with seating originally designed for parents with small children. A small square baptistery space, with a simple, circular stone font is positioned on axis with the tower and the high altar. The walls are of bare-faced brick with the concrete frame exposed; an inner ring of concrete columns bush hammered with a finish of local aggregate, supports the roof. The roof itself comprises varnished diagonal pine boarding between laminated beams, the structure provides a concentric, star formation radiating from a central acrylic dome which provides additional light to the centre of the church. The gallery front remains as originally designed with vertical oak slats on a wrought iron frame to enable contouring. On axis with the sanctuary, tower and baptistery and positioned on the gallery is an impressive modern organ with a traditional case built to high specifications and in keeping with the church architecture.

The sanctuary is positioned on the circumference of the building, raised on two polished stone steps. At the rear of the sanctuary is a low stone wall topped by a screen of timber verticals. The wall itself is part of the original design but was reduced in height slightly when the timber screen was added. On the rear wall above the sanctuary the organ pipes flank a crucifix sculpture, the ensemble being highlighted in daylight hours by three vertical light tubes positioned externally between the parapet and the clerestory. Original timber seating radiates from the altar with gallery accommodation above allowing the congregation to be as near to the altar as possible. Beyond the seating the stained glass added in 2002 gives the impression of the sun rising behind the font, radiating across the full width of the stair well, providing dramatic light to the staircases. The sweeping and curved staircases comprise reinforced concrete with simple brass handrails, the whole emphasised by the corresponding, rising and sweeping of the roof line (externally expressed with a copper covering).

A concrete beam in the wall, fixed at balcony level, is recessed to allow stone facing as a string course which continues around the rear sanctuary wall. Seven Stations of the Cross, depicted as copper or brass relief plaques, are positioned on this either side of the nave, illuminated by copper wall lights beneath.


The site for the church was given in the 1930s by F. J. Bradford, a Leicester builder and a leading local Roman Catholic. The parish was created in 1938 and a church hall was built in the early 1950s. The hall served as a church until the new church was built in the late 1960s, at the instigation of Fr. James Leahy. The brief was for a building to seat about 700 people, and the cost was approximately £107,000. A circular plan was chosen to allow the congregation to be as near as possible to the main altar, and to maintain a good sized area for external landscaping and avoid being too close to the existing church hall.

In 2000 the sanctuary was altered; two steps up to the altar were removed and the original altar, a rectangular block of Ancaster stone, was replaced with white stone fittings from the Chapel of the Convent Hospital in Nottingham, formerly belonging to the Blue Nuns. At this time the low wall to the rear of the sanctuary was lowered and a screen of vertical oak timbers was added to provide privacy to the side altars, flower room and boys' sacristy behind.

In 2002 a stained glass window by Harry Cardross of Goddars and Gibbs was installed in the windows of the narthex under the gallery.

Reasons for Listing

The Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph, Leicester, 1967-8 by Thomas E Wilson is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: its striking architectural form is expressed through a diverse range of materials to provide a building of real quality in its materials, composition and detailing; 

* Interior: it has an interesting plan and its fixtures, fittings and embellishments are of good quality both in terms of their design and materials, with the impressive stained glass windows by Harry Cardross adding to the buildings interest;

* Degree of survival: the building, including its internal fixtures, fittings and embellishments, has survived virtually intact;

* Historic interest: it is a good example of a post-war Roman Catholic church where design and plan form express the liturgical developments that took place after the Second Vatican Council held in 1962-5.

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