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St. Jospeh at 9 Binford Place, Bridgwater, Somerset TA6 3NJ England UK - St Joseph's Church Bridgwater.

St Joseph's Church Bridgwater.

St Joseph is situated on the west bank of the River Parrett, which was once a hub of industrial activity in Bridgwater. It was initially opened and dedicated on 22nd June1882 by Bishop Cliffod. 100 years later the extension and parish room was built and dedicated in 1982 by Bishop Alexander. But this wasn’t the first church of St Joseph here in Bridgwater. The parish of Bridgwater has a long history which you can check out fully via the link. So why not have a look at our history and the photographs of the church. Or better still stop by and visit the church for mass where you will receive a warm welcome from everyone there.

St Joseph’s Bridgwater


Diary of a church 1882 – 1982


Since the time of the reformation, which according to history, started in 1517 in Germany when Martin Luther nailed his ninety five theses on ‘The power of indulgences’ to the Wittenburg castle church door. Thus began the persecution of the Catholic church. Yet trouble didn’t start then in England but took many years to arrive in the embodiment of a King.


The English reformation began in 1529 when a young King (Henry VII) wanted an annulment to marriage and was denied by the pope. This causes many problems for the catholic church and is wasn’t until the second Relief Act was passed in 1791 could Catholics, once again start building churches and schools. And although this has little to do with the St Joseph’s church it is always worth remembering our history.

Before the current church was built in 1881 there wasn’t a parish, as such here in Bridgwater. Yet there were Catholics living in and around the town. Which is where our history starts.


In 1807 Lord Clifford, who lived at Chudleigh in Devon owned property in Cannington. He allowed his Cannington home to be used as a convent for Benidictine nuns who were one of only five missions in Somerset at that time for the public celebration of mass. The convent chapel was eventually named “Cannington Mission Of The Holy Name” in June 1831 with William O’Meara as then priest-in-charge. From here the mass returned to Bridgwater in 1845 when Jacob Illingworth began a weekly celebration in a private house in the town for a group of Cathloics living there at the time.


February 14th 1846 the first Catholic church, in Bridgwater was built and openly celebrated mass since the reformation began. This church which was built on the east side of the river in Gordon Terrace just off Cranliegh Gardens served as both church and school. It was served from Cannington until June 5th 1852 when the first resident priest Thomas Rooker was appointed. But after 36 years the congregation had grown to over 200 including children. And so another church building had to be built to serve the people of Bridgwater.


In 1882 the current original building of St Joseph’s church was open in June 22nd by Bishop Clifford. The building stands on the west bank of the River Parrett. It cost a total of £886-10-0 (old monetary system of pounds, shillings and pence l.s.d.) which didn’t include the purchase of the land. It was designed by the current rector Fr Scoles  and most of the funding came from his close friend and parishioner, Phillip Hewett. The general populace back then could hardly afford to eat and pay rent let alone subscribe to help fund the building of a church.


In March 27th 1883 a year after the opening our the new church saw the opening of a new school building on what is now King Street. It had a total of 18 pupils on the first day. Also of note that year is the opening of the new town bridge which is situated at the end of of the road the church is built on and known now as Binford place.


1885 The Sisters of Charity came to Bridgwater and lived in a house on King St near the school where some of then actually taught.


1888 The Sisters opened a laundry service to help pay their way. It was designed by Fr Scoles and they initially employed 20 young girls.


1891 The sisters departed Bridgwater in June and then in July Fr Scoles was sent to Yeovil. Fr O’Meara a curate from Taunton is sent to Bridgwater.????? PP??????


1892 A new stone pulpit is erected in the church to the right of the sanctuary. Fr Calway was the first to preach from it.


1893 Fr O’Meara is recalled to Ireland.

1894 No parish priest sent for some time. After 11 visiting priests Fr Wadman was eventually sent as parish  priest.


1907 St Joseph was consecrated by Bishop Burton on it’s 25th anniversary.


1914 August 4th saw the start of world war I for England and Canon Wadman died on this day. Dr Browne became the parish priest in this year.


1915 Bath was installed in the Presbytery


1918 November 11th the end of World War I. Fr Browne is very ill and passes away aged 41, from flu on the 15th November. There were many suffering flu around Bridgwater that year.


1919 Fr Iles is appointed as parish priest. He started a memorial fund to Fr Browne which is ‘The Calvary’ scene on the north wall of the church (side chapel.)


1920 Canon Scoles, the first parish priest of the current church, died December 22nd in St John’s Wood. He was 77 years of age.


1921 The holy Name mission at Cannington closes.


1926 Francis Grimshaw, was ordained after studying in Rome.


1927 Fr Iles is sent to St Georges Taunton and our new parish priest is Fr Cashman


1932 At Easter, Fr Cashman is transferred to Bedminster, Bristol. During the five years in our parish he installed electric lights in the church. There was a large amount of unemployment diring this year (2.5 million, estimated) so there was no spare money. It was a good job Fr knew how to install electrics. The new parish priest is Canon Davey.


1933 Society of St Vincent de Paul (S.V.P) was started in the parish. There was a lot of poverty in the town due, mainly to the large numbers of unemployment. Many of the needy parishioners received vouchers for coal or food form the S.V.P.


1934 A branch of Catholic Women’s League was started in the parish.


1936 Plans to extend the church were prepared but with the level of unemployment around it seems unlikely that the funding can be found.


1937 A new factory is opened (April) in the Town to make ‘cellophane.’ As a result unemployment starts to go down in the area.


1939 Canon Davey is transferred to Taunton as chaplain to for the Franciscan nuns. His health had been failing of late and parish life was becoming harder for him. Fr Byrne is the new parish priest. Bishop Lee visited to administer confirmation. He also informed the parish of his intent to open a convent for the Sisters Of The Holy Rosary. The payment for rents of the benches in the church is abolished. War is declared on September 3rd. There are many new faces in the parish, mainly due to the increasing number of evacuees. The sisters arrived at the convent on Durleigh Road. October 7th the convent chapel is opened on the feast of Holy Rosary. Also during October the sisters opened a school.


1940 Our parish priest has been sent a curate, Fr McCarthy. Work started on renovating the old school building. It has been closed for over 20 years. Both priests and members of the parish give up their spare time to carry out the repairs. The school reopens with 59 children and staffed by the sisters of the convent. 24th August the first bomb fell on Bridgwater killing seven people, two of which were parishioners of St Joseph.


1942 Ernest Pry of Polden Street Bridgwater, was ordained to the priesthood in Paignton, Devon on March 2nd. Fr Bryne is suffering from cancer and is very ill. Most of the parish duties are been carried out by Fr McCarthy with help from Fr Power, who has returned to his home town and is the nephew of Fr Brynes.


1943 Fr Bryne died July 2nd. His body was brought back to Bridgwater for the requiem and for the burial in Bristol Road Cemetry. Fr Timothy O’Connell is appointed as parish priest.


1946 The Knights of St Columba founded a council in Bridgwater.


1947 Fr Grimshaw, an old boy of the parish, was consecrated Bishop of Plymouth.


1948 Bishop Lee died. Fr O’Connell also died three weeks after the bishop.


1949 Fr Supple is acting as parish priest. New priest can’t be appointed until there is a new bishop appointed to the diocese. July 26th Joseph Rudderham is consecrated Bishop of Clifton. Fr Ryan from Glastonbury is appointed as our new parish priest.


1951 A summer fate is held in the grounds of the convent for the first time and was a grate success. It is likely to become an annual event.


1952 Television comes to Bridgwater. The Knights of St Columbra erected the first public Christmas Crib in a shop window in the High Street.


1953 Parishioners sent a letter to the President of Poland condemning the persecution of Catholics in Poland.


1954 Pope Pius XII declared this year as a ‘Marian Year.’ Francis Grimshaw was appointed Arch bishop of Birmingham. Fr Aherne was replaced by Fr O’Brien as curate. Microphones and speakers are installed in the church.


1955 There has been an evening mass now held at St Joseph’s since January. Fasting before Holy communion is now only one hour.


1956 Fr Ryan purchased some land near to the Girls Grammar school for the purpose of building a new primary school that is desperately needed.


1958 Fr Ryan is relocated to Bristol and Fr Morrissey from Sailsbury is our new parish priest. Also this year Pope Pius XII dies and is succeeded by Pope John XXIII.


1959 A site in Fairfax road was purchased for the building of a new church. Bingo evenings were held in the parish to raise money, and raised over £50 a month. Fr O’Brien left and was replaced by Fr Daly.


1960 Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Fisher visited Pope John XXIII. A new tabernacle was purchased for the church, costing £52


1962 Fr Morrissey re-introduced the Society of St Vincent de Paul. The building of the new school began with the foundation stone been laid on October 3rd by Monsignor Provost Canon Iles.


1963 Fr Morrissey and Fr Daly both left the parish on April 23rd. They were replaced by Fr McReynolds and Fr Dee. The new school ‘St Joseph’s primary’ was opened on September 2nd at a cost of £60,831. There wasn’t an opening ceremony as the Bishop was in Rome attending the Vatican council. Pope John XXIII died and was succeeded by Pope Paul VI.


1964 April 30th Bishop Rudderham came to open and bless the school. A mass centre was opened at Sydenham Community Centre. Fr McReynolds introduced the [arish to ‘Good Stewardship’ in a campaign which was launched at a free parish dinner held at Blake hall. This dinner was a grate success at raising the morale of the parish.


1965 Archbishop Grimshaw of the Birmingham province died March 22nd. At Easter the language of the mass was changed from Latin to English. Fr McReynolds arranged a dinner for the over sixties of the parish. Vatican Council II held it’s last session.


1966 VOX POPULI, the first parish magazine was published at Easter. A mass centre was opened in Cannington and the first mass was held there on June 5th.


1968 In January abstinence of meat on Fridays’ has been abolished, but old habits die hard. Fr Dee was sent to Wellington and replaced by Fr Gordon who only stayed a few weeks before been replaced by Fr Carpenter. The papal encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’ was published and caused quite a stir in the parish and other parishes.  Further changes to the Liturgy have been made by the Vatican council II. Concerns about legalising abortion led to the formation of a local group of the Society For The Protection Of Unborn Children.


1969 A new three year cycle of readings at mass is introduced as laid down in the Vatican II. Members of many different congregations in Bridgwater including those from St Joseph’s took part in a Good Friday procession through the streets of Bridgwater. Fr McReynolds read the Passion at the service held at the Cornhill.


1970 Canonisation of Forty Martyrs in Rome on October 25th. Money raised from donations and coffee mornings and other social events to send a parishioner as a representative.


1971 Keith Hardless ordained to the priesthood in St Josephs’ Church.


1973 Fr Carpenter was transferred to Stow-on-the-Wold as parish priest and was replaced by Fr McGlinchey


1976 School debt is paid off.


1977 Fr McGlinchey our curate is replaced by Fr Peach.


1979 The Co-operative building adjacent to the church was purchased for £20,000 to provide a site for rebuilding the church or building an extension. A fabric committee of twelve parishioners was elected at a parish meeting. This committee along with the parish clergy is to be responsible for providing a larger church


1980 Demolition of the old Co-op building stated on October 27th.


1981 Building of the extension to the old church commenced in May. A steering committee consisting of members of the fabric committee and representatives from the major parish interest groups was set up on September 27th to organise celebrations for our centenary year. The new extension was used for the first time for Midnight mass.


1982 The Centenary Year – A year of celebration.


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