St Joseph’s Rectory, 40 York Road, Southport PR8 2AY
Tel: 01704 568313
Email: birkdalecatholics@rcaol.org.uk
Parish Priest: Fr Atli Jonsson
Deacon Bill Ball

St Joseph

St Joseph's BIrkdale, Southport
PR8 2AY

The church of St. Joseph was built because the then Bishop of Liverpool, Dr. Goss, wanted churches to be built near to the people they served. The chapel of St. Marie on the Sands had become too small for the congregation by the mid-1860s. The population in the neighbouring Birkdale had grown from 1,286 in 1861 to 3,375 in 1871. This growth continued into the twentieth century, so it was decided to found a new mission to meet the needs of the time.

As the great Gothic revivalist Augustus Charles Pugin worked on Scarisbrick Hall, his son Edward Welby designed and oversaw the building of the church in Birkdale.   Thomas Weld Blundell, who had started a development called Birkdale Park consisting of neat villas and mansions, gave land at the corner of York Road and Albert Road (now Saxon Road), to build a church, and a house for the priest. The congregation consisted mostly of poor Catholic labouring families that lived on the east side of the railway. The estimated cost of the new church was £3,000 of which Thomas Weld Blundell generously donated the first thousand. The builder who was chosen for the work, Mr Livesey of Scarisbrick, built it for £2,050.

Bishop Goss came to lay the foundation stone on 15 October, 1865.  The Southport Visiter described this ceremony and said that Bishop Goss “was assisted by Canon Hedson, Canon Henry Fisher and Canon J. Fisher.  All these dignitaries were clad in their canonicals, and with their attendants, presented a very striking appearance.  The Bishop, with his fine portly figure, his rich robes, his mitre and crozier was especially noticeable.  The first part of the service was, of course, all in Latin, and was held on a platform before which a large cross was erected.  Afterwards the Bishop and the rest of the clergy passed to a higher platform, and there the stone was blessed and sprinkled with holy water and laid in place.  Prayers were then offered, including the invocation of the Saints, and the Bishop finally proceeded to consecrate the ground, walking round the site of the church followed by the other clergy and sprinkling it with holy water.”  The paper estimated that two thousand people attended the ceremony, a third of whom were not Catholics.

The church was formally opened on 10 May, 1867.  Again, Bishop Goss was in attendance, assisted by Canon James Fisher and Canon John Wallwork. High Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Dr. Fisher, with Canon John Walker and Fr. Charles Teebay as deacon and sub-deacon.  The Visiter reported that “most of the influential families in the neighbourhood were present and that many from Liverpool also attended.”  Later in the day the Bishop assisted at Vespers and Benediction.  On both occasions a collection was taken raising nearly eighty pounds!

The first priest at St Marie’s, Fr. Abraham, had retired to Birkdale and donated the church bell.  

The Weld Blundell Family continued to be great benefactors to the Catholic Church in Birkdale.  They gave land for St Joseph’s, stipulating that it was to be used only for a church and a rectory.  A century before, the same benefactors had given land for a school to be built for the children of their tenants which opened in 1750 and was called Birkdale Day School.  Over a hundred years later the number of children had grown and the need for a larger school prompted them to donate land in Everton Road for St Joseph’s school.  Later a church and presbytery were established adjacent to the school which then was renamed after the patron of the new parish, St. Teresa of Avila.