History of Our Lady & St Joseph Carlisle

The History of our Church

A priest, Fr. Saul, came to take up residence, but the congregation was too small and too poor to support him and he had to depart. On December 22 1800, Fr. Joseph Marshall arrived. He had means of his own and he was generously supported by the Fairbairn family. By 1818 the number of communicants had risen to 300 and the little chapel on West Walls was no longer adequate.

In 1824 the new church of St. Mary & St. Joseph was opened in Chapel Street at a cost of £2,309. In 1846 Fr. Marshall died after serving for 46 tears in Carlisle. His successor was Fr. Luke Curry, later Canon Curry. He was succeeded in 1879 by Canon Waterton.

On Whit Monday, May 18 1891, the foundation stone of Our Lady & St. Joseph’s was laid by Bishop Wilkinson of Hexham and Newcastle. A long procession from Chapel Street via Lowther Street to Warwick Square resulted in a vast congregation for the ceremony. At a subsequent luncheon the Bishop proposed a toast to Canon Waterton who was to spend many anxious days over the work of building the new church. He foresaw the further assembly of the local Catholics who in a year’s time would be gathered to witness the opening of the new building erected to the service of God and Holy Mother the Church. However, it was 60 years before the actual consecration took place. This was on Tuesday August 5th 1952 and was carried out by Bishop Pearson (for Bishop Flynn) of Lancaster, Bishop McCormack of Hexham and Newcastle and Abbot Byrne of Ampleforth.

Building the Church

There seems to be no record of the names of the contractors and craftsmen who were responsible for the building of the original church. However, extensive alterations were carried out between 1951 and 1952 when Monsignor R L Smith was the parish priest:

  • Architect – W C Mangan of Preston
  • Designer – Vincent Hull of the above firm
  • Joiners – J H Reed of Carlisle
  • Wood and stone Carving – William Galloway of Newcastle
  • Statues and crucifix – Ferdinando Stuflesser, Bolzano, Italy
  • Stations of the Cross – Burns Oates and Washbourne, London, and carved by the brothers
  • Tabernacle, High Altar – Blunt & Wray of London
  • Tabernacle, Lady Altar – Hayes & Finch of Liverpool
  • Sanctuary painting – W Boyd of Carlisle
  • Aisles and chapels painting – G Fisher of Carlisle
  • Heating – Rowell and Co., Newcastle
  • Electrics – G Bowman & Co., Carlisle
  • Draperies – Watt & Co., London
  • Stone Altars – J Whitehead and CO., London
  • Masons and plasterers – JR Bell, Carlisle
History of Our Lady & St Joseph Carlisle

There are two shields on the East Wall above the High Altar with symbols relating to the Mass. On the Gospel side is the wheat and chalice, and loaves and fishes on the Epistle Side. The Altar itself is of Pericot Portland stone. Its mottled cream surface blends well with the natural oak panelling, the reredos, and the pilasters that rise up to the canopy. The altar, which is hollow in the centre, weighs four tons and five hundred weights. Sealed into the High Altar are the relics of SS Illuminatus and Illumina.

The two side altars are also constructed of Pericot Portland stone. The Lady Altar has the relics of SS Christianus and Blanda and St. Joseph’s altar has those of SS Redemptus and Laetantia. Crestings, panelling, pilasters, and canopy are all of English oak.

Local Craftsmen lightened with glowing colour the rich carvings with which he roof was originally decorated. Between the shields is a Cumberland rose.

The two side chapels have statues of oak depicting Our Lady and St. Joseph. The sanctuary is more richly decorated than the nave because there is no chancel arch to mark the division between the two. The two statues at the rear of the church were carved by the Belgian Dapre brothers; that of St. Anthony was donated by St. Vincent de Paul Society, and that of the Sacred Heart by Dr Gerald Sheehan.

The empty niches either side of the altar have now been filled with carved statues (L-R):

  • St. Augustine
  • St. Margaret Clitheroe
  • St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)
  • St. Martin de Porres
  • St. Theresa of Lisieux
  • St. Francis of Assisi
  • St. Anne
  • St. Vincent de Paul

Compiled by Larry Poland, DECEMBER 1989

The history of this parish begins in 1798. From the dark days of the Reformation until that time there is no evidence of even the most modest Catholic chapel in Carlisle. In the reign of Henry VIII, the Augustinian Canons had left the Cathedral and the Franciscans and Dominicans had been driven out of the city.

The memory of the sites on which their foundations stood is preserved by the modern Friars Tavern and Blackfriars Street. Sometime before 1720 the Warwick family invited the Benedictines to Warwick Bridge and they served the persecuted Catholics of Carlisle as best they could

In 1798, the Fairbairns who owned the Bush Hotel on West Walls converted some property behind the inn and erected a small chapel.