A history of the Parish

Formal Roman Catholic worship returned to Maidenhead in 1867. William Wilberforce (eldest son of the Abolitionist William Wilberforce) had bought the manor of Ives Place, where the present library / town hall are situated. Being a convert to Catholicism, he allowed his study to be used for the celebration of Mass. The first priest was Fr John C Robertson and the Mission was dedicated to St Mary the Immaculate. Later in the year Wilberforce converted the Old Bull Inn into a Chapel and Priest’s House. The inn was part of his estate and stood on the High Street, where St Ives Road is now.
The next development, in 1871, was the erection of the Catholic School at the corner of Forlease Road and Bridge Street. This was made possible by the energy and foresight of the town’s fourth Catholic priest, Fr Richard G Davis, and the continuing generosity of William Wilberforce who donated the site and contributed to the costs. The school was a Gothic design with accommodation for 96 children in two rooms with the usual ‘out offices’ and a playground behind. For some years the schoolroom served as the town’s Catholic Chapel.

In 1879 Canon John Scannell acquired a ‘finely situate’ acre of land as the site for a Parish Church and set about raising funds to erect a building to accommodate the town’s growing Catholic population. The eminent architect Leonard Stokes was appointed and the builders were Messrs Silver and Sons and Filewood. Fearful of incurring large debts, only part of the original design was initially built and that at a cost of £3,018. The opening ceremony and dedication of the church to St Joseph was performed by the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Rev Dr Virtue, on 18th December 1884.

Within 30 years the congregation had outgrown the modified church and gained some affluent benefactors, particularly the Coleman and Outram families. Leonard Stokes was again approached and re-worked his original design. This time the building was entrusted to the firm of Messrs J.K. Cooper & Sons and cost nearly £5,000. The result was a church with a longer nave, two transepts and a raised sanctuary. Altars dedicated to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart were placed in the transepts with stained glass windows above. Stained glass also filled the windows of the Sanctuary and nave. The stained glass is of exception quality, with those on the west side of the church being made by the renown company of Hardman of Birmingham. The font, Stations of the Cross, bell and pews all date from this time. Externally the most dramatic change was the addition of the tower and spire. Bishop William Cotter officially ‘re-opened’ the church on 26th May 1914.
Following the tragedy of the Great War, a Memorial Hall was added to the side of the church in 1920. The same team of Leonard Stokes and Messrs Cooper & Sons were contracted again. The beautiful reredos and altar by R S Bolton of Cheltenham were installed as a gift from (the late) Edmund and Marie Coleman in 1928. After Vatican II in the 1960s, major changes were made to the Liturgy. To accommodate these changes the altar was moved forward to its present position.
St Joseph’s was again extended in 1965, this time at the southern end. A balcony with seating was added, with additional seating on the ground floor. A Baptistery was built and an entrance created for access to both church and hall.

In 1891 a Presbytery and a new building for St Mary’s School had been built to the north of the church, the school standing where the car park is now. The school moved to its present position, further along the Cookham Road in 1974. In 1985, the parishioners were in need of additional facilities and the old presbytery was felt to be unsuitable for the needs of today’s priests. It was therefore demolished and a Parish Centre with a number and variety of rooms was built. A new house for the priest was constructed to the rear of the site.
To celebrate the Millennium, parishioners raised funds for a number of projects and changes are still being made, with the necessary approval of the Historic Churches Committee. The 1960’s Baptistery had not been used for some years as it was too small. The font donated by Louisa Coleman in 1914 was moved to a more prominent place at the foot of the Sanctuary. The former Baptistery was converted to a ‘gathering space’ and better position for the Repository. The brass altar rails were positioned in front of the side altars. The doorway to the Baptistery was blocked up and in this position now stands the beautiful carved statue of St Joseph that was unveiled and blessed in 2008.


With the aid of a grant, floodlighting has been installed, lighting the church tower as a symbol to the town of the presence of our faith. The Presbytery has also been extended, providing more suitable accommodation for the priests and for the first time providing an office for a Parish Secretary and a small meeting room.
St Joseph’s Parish originally covered the town of Maidenhead and a lot of the surrounding area. From 1942 to 1967 our priests served the parish at Wargrave, the church - Our Lady of Peace - being built in 1964. The same year (and in a similar style) St Elizabeth’s Church in Cookham was opened. This latter continues as part of the Parish. A second primary school for Maidenhead was built on Altwood Road in 1963. This was originally called St Joseph’s and also served as a Mass Centre. Bishop Worlock formally created another parish covering the west of Maidenhead in 1970. The church was built and the school re-dedicated to St Edmund Campion in 1982. Mass has been said in various other centres in the area, including Woolley Hall (1884-1912) and Cox Green Victory Hall (1962-1969). As with parishes throughout the country, St Joseph’s is a living community, which has seen many changes, and will no doubt witness many more.

 A history of the building

Leonard Stokes (1858-1925) was a highly talented Catholic architect who undertook many commissions for his Church. He was articled to S.J. Nicoll in 1874. He went on to spend time in the offices of James Gandy, G.E. Street, J.P. St Aubyn and T.E. Collcutt and commenced independent practice in London in January 1880. He was Pugin Student in 1880 and travelled in Germany in 1881 and Italy in 1882. St Joseph’s is one of his earliest works (the Sacred Heart, Exeter, 1881-6, was begun before St Joseph’s). With J.F. Bentley he was one of the most innovative architects working for the Catholic Church in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

Stokes’s original design for St Joseph’s, which involved a crossing tower and larger transepts, was never completed. His nave dates from 1884 and is a good, imaginative Decorated piece and has an unusual octagonal porch. His northeast tower and east end of 1913-14 are to a new design. The tower makes much attractive use of interplaying flint, brick and stone, and has an Arts & Crafts character. An extension at the west end of the nave, dating from 1965, presents a very prominent face of the building when approaching from the town, and has done nothing to enhance its appearance. The interior detailing is interesting and original. The east end makes much use of marble and alabaster to create an atmosphere of restrained beauty.

A mission was established in Maidenhead by William Wilberforce, son of the anti-slavery campaigner of the same name. Wilberforce junior purchased the ancient manor house at St Ives Place, where he set up his chapel. The first priest was appointed in 1867. In 1871 a Catholic school was started and the schoolroom here was used as a chapel.

In 1879 the present site was acquired for a church and the young Leonard Stokes was instructed to prepare designs. The church was built between August and December 1884 at a cost of £3,018 (The Universe says £6,025 for the church, school and presbytery). The sanctuary, sacristy, transepts, and tower were added to new designs by Stokes in 1913-14.

In 1963 planning permission was gained to extend the west end to designs by Max G. Cross of Geens Cross & Sims of Bournemouth. The work was completed in 1965 (builders: Halfacre & Young). In 1985 the present parish centre, designed by Daniel Lelliott Krauze, was opened, the old presbytery having been demolished and a new house built. Major repairs were carried out to the west end in 2004-6.

The church is oriented north so all directions stated here are ritual.

The church is cruciform with a northeast tower over the north transept. It has an octagonal north porch and square east end. It is in a free Decorated style under red, plain tile roofs, and is faced with flint and red brick and stone dressings. There is no clerestory. The nave windows are of two lights and have varied Decorated tracery. The east wall is blind and has horizontal flint and freestone bands, and a large freestone cross. The tower is a prominent feature, built in three stages, with a top stage with twinned two-light Decorated windows and featuring brick and freestone vertical strips. Behind the parapet is a leaded spirelet. The south windows of the south transept and the side walls of the sanctuary all have three-light Decorated windows: the north transept window is of four-lights. A confessional is placed to the east of the north porch. The original five-bay nave was been extended by a bay in 1965 which has contemporary detailing, notably a large five-light window with plain mullions and a wide strip of artificial stone some one-third of the way up from the base. Above the arched head of this window is further glazing up to the apex of the roof. A large south porch and repository was added at the same time.

Inside the walls are bare red brick, enlivened by freestone details in the window arches and in bands both below and between the windows. A very individual feature is the pairs of brick wall-shafts between each bay of the nave and which rise to pairs of arch braces in the roof. The nave has a wood-block floor. The chancel arch rises from plain brickwork jambs and has four orders of brickwork in the head and a freestone label. The east wall has an arch over a recessed plane of brickwork. The sanctuary floor has wooden blocks of different kinds of wood.

Extensive use is made of green marble (Creffolino, Sienna and Chelasto) and alabaster to adorn the east end: it is used in the sanctuary screen, sanctuary dado, and the raised pulpit. There is a prominent reredos with three canopied niches with saints either side of the central canopy over the tabernacle. The font, moved to its present position near the north transept in 2000, is dated 1914: it was by then a somewhat old-fashioned, Victorian design: octagonal with carvings on the bowl and supported by a green marble quatrefoil shaft. The benches in the nave appear to date from 1884 and have ends with trefoiled heads and rounded elbows.

Stained glass: there is extensive stained glass in the church but none of it dates from before 1900.